Metal Gear Solid 4 PS3 Review page 1
Metal Gear Solid has been one of those series that you either really got into or could not stand. Dominating PS1 and PS2 sales charts, the series and its creator have become something of a Playstation icon over the past decade, so it seems fitting that the story comes to an end for the Playstation 3. For the past few years fans have waited oh so long for the culmination of what has been one of the weirdest and most engrossing storylines in a game, and Hideo and Konami have delivered. Metal Gear Solid 4 is a game that will be remembered for a long time to come. The lengthy trailers, the interviews, the podcasts - they have all led up to this. It is a game that straddles between game and movie all the way through, delivering atmosphere and gameplay in spades. Even if you are not the biggest MGS fan, it is likely that 4 will change your ways.
When we began to think about this review we had quite the conundrum. How do we emphasise just how engrossing and incredibly amazing the story is without spoiling? It's hard, but we have to try. As you would know by now you play as Solid Snake, one of the world's most famous soldiers, trying to tie up all the ends that have been left open from the past three games. The game begins in the Middle East with Snake in the midst of a war between PMCs (Private Military Contractors) and a resistance force, something mirrored across the globe. Those of you who have played the first three games will get so much out of the story. However even those who are new to the series will find the story quite compelling, albeit without understanding a lot of the huge twists throughout the campaign. That is just the very, very base of the story with spoilers abound if we continue on.
As with MGS 3 Subsistence, the series has moved to a third person camera giving it a much more action feel. To us, this gives the game of a more pick up and play feel with the camera completely controllable unlike the previous games in the series. There is no doubt that Hideo wanted everyone to play and finish this game. There are many difficulty levels, ranging from the stupidly easy (you almost never die) through to one of the toughest challenges a game can offer you today. The gameplay itself can feel a bit cliche at times but this all depends on how you play. You can run and gun through and just use brute force to beat the game, or play it as generally MGS is meant to be played, which is with stealth. There really is only two times the game forces this upon you and players who want to run and gun will find these times incredibly frustrating.
At the higher difficulty levels stealth becomes key because Snake will take on some of the toughest foes he ever has. To go with this the developers have constructed 'Octocamo' - a quite stunning graphic effect that makes Snake like a Chameleon. Anything Snake lies on, the suit will turn to, allowing you to move without being seen. This works on every texture in the game, even those which typically you wouldn't lay on. Snake also has a number of weapons to choose from. In every situation there is a lethal and non-lethal solution. It is possible to go through the entire game without killing anyone, but it is an incredibly difficult challenge.
With the sandbox world opened up, the replay value is extremely high. One time through you might choose to kill everyone, the next time, try and play with a stealth manner. How you go about your tasks is up to you as long as you reach the point to progress further. It also helps that the gameplay just feels right with the over the shoulder camera employed for combat situations. We couldn't stop playing this and that is why it is such a shame it is over all too soon. There is a multitude of weapons in the game, with customization options which are accessed from the in-game menus. Some can be used with close quarter combat where Snake sneaks up and hits an enemy from behind, whilst others are purely used for brute force. This is why MGS 4 works so well - you construct the way you want to play the game. Series stalwarts make a return as well such as the cardboard box and dirty magazine.
The size of the game is epic in scale but the length of the game can be short. We finished it in twelve hours which compared to some of the other MGS efforts is a bit of a disappointment. It is possible to go slowly through the game and take it all in, but we would expect the average gamer to finish it in about the same time we did. This includes the cinematics but we will get to that later. However with the length of the game in mind, sometimes games can be too long and there is not one time that we felt the developers had put fluff in and wanted it to finish. There are some truly epic sequences in the game, one that fans of the series will appreciate. Just when you think you have this game figured out, a huge twist or gameplay mechanic will change and your jaw will drop yet again.
Metal Gear Solid 4 PS3 Review page 2
There is one area to the game though that is going to attract controversy for a long time to come. We may have finished the game in twelve hours but we honestly believe at least a third of that was spent watching cut scenes. It seems that you watch an epic cut scene, play for ten to fifteen minutes and then watch another epic cut scene. The amount of times we had to place down our controller due to the length of the cut scene was of a high number. Kojima Productions have put together one of the most cinematic and epic games ever made but there are times where you feel that a character takes ten minutes to cover something which could have been said in a minute or two. If we want to be cynics we would call Metal Gear Solid 4 an interactive movie; a cinematic film with gameplay elements rather than the other way around. Sometimes it seems like they were too innovative. In one particular case, a stunning cut scene plays on half the screen while you take on some enemies. It is a real shame that because of this, you miss the cut scene. Also, when you finish the game, don't do it in the wee hours of the morning, or you will fall asleep watching the thirty or so minute final movie.
Another thing slightly related which is frustrating is the loading. Again it seems every five or so minutes a load screen pops up even between cut scenes, and having to install the game between acts again is just annoying. Obviously they did not want to have a twenty minute to half hour initial install, but it just breaks up the game too much.
The places you visit (we won't go into specifics) are varied and unique. There is also a massive shot of nostalgia in there. One particular area had our jaws dropped. Those who have played right from the start of the series are in for a real treat. The graphics engine really comes through during these sequences. However what really stands out with the level design is that there is not one time where we got stuck. Sometimes you do have the radar to help, but other times you have to rely on instinct. There are many paths generally through each area, with this again reinforcing the replay value of the game.
Visually the game is an absolute treat. This shows what the PS3 can do and then some. Snake has some of the most incredible animation and detailing in a game seen, and the cut scenes, which play out all in engine, are truly astonishing. It is by far the biggest factor in building the epic atmosphere that Metal Gear plays in and will set the bar for PS3 developers to attain in their future games. From the very start to the very end you are in a visual wonderland and paired with the stunning cinematic animation and voice acting, Metal Gear Solid is going to be one of the most epic and entertaining productions this console generation. The sound is of an incredibly high standard with true dolby surround employed and a soundtrack by Harry Gregson-Williams which will have fans happy. We don't think it's a spoiler to mention that throughout the game you have an iPOD system which can play music you find in hidden areas. It is worth finding this music.
However that's not all this game has. The other half of the game takes Snake online. Metal Gear Online, originally designed as a stand alone game, is now part of the package and further enhances MGS4 gameplay. This is not your average online shooter with stealth and team work the key. In one particular mode, the game puts one player as Snake and the rest as enemies. That player who is Snake must survive. This is just one example of the incredible thought that went into this production. Other modes are typical squad based modes where Snake does not exist. Resistance versus PMCs, just like the main game and whilst a multiplayer game, there is something to be said of the graphics and sound in this mode as well. One frustration is that the game does not use your PSN ID. Instead you have to sign up for a specific ID. Let's not go down the Nintendo path of friend codes Sony.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is epic. It is a title that will be remembered for years to come as the game that truly showed what the PS3 can do. It may have taken them four years to do it, but the four years were worth it and there is no doubt that this truly ties it all up. It is a shame to see such a legendary series come to an end but we must give them credit for quitting while they are ahead. It may have its problems, but Metal Gear Solid truly is the first must own PS3 exclusive, and for that Sony will be laughing all the way to the bank. It is good enough to buy a PS3 system for. It is a game that truly must be seen and played, and while we have no doubt it has its issues, the good far outweighs the bad. This is the end, but it is only the beginning for the legendary status this series is sure to hold for years to come.