Konami Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

A truly excellent game

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Konami Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
  • Konami Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
  • Konami Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
  • Konami Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
  • Expert Rating

    5.00 / 5

Pros

  • One of the greatest games ever created, satisfies in almost every way possible

Cons

  • 'Stress' concept is a bit confusing at first, a quick tutorial mode would have been handy

Bottom Line

Absolutely brilliant. Buy it. Buy it now!

Would you buy this?

Metal Gear Solid 4 is a breathtaking stealth shooter with heart, and one of the best games ever made.

Every once in a long while, a game will come along and change all the rules. Final Fantasy VII transformed the RPG genre, Resident Evil helped create a new sub-category of gaming — survival horror — and Grand Theft Auto III single-handedly reshaped the gaming landscape. And now comes Metal Gear Solid 4, a game whose potential influence on the current state of gaming is nothing short of tectonic.

It represents an artistic triumph for its director, game design legend Hideo Kojima, as well as an enormous coup for Sony and its PlayStation 3. Metal Gear Solid 4 is a masterpiece, an unforgettable game that shines like a beacon amidst a sea of mediocrity. It is not only the best Metal Gear game, but one of the best games ever made, period. If you own a PS3, put this at the top of your to-buy list. If you don't own a PS3, well, chances are you will buy one soon just to play this game.

Long time no see

One of Metal Gear Solid 4's chief pleasures is its sweeping storyline, a tale that redefines the term 'epic' yet remains grounded by its intensely personal, human side. If you're new to the Metal Gear Solid series, don't worry: MGS4 takes great pains to tell an accessible story that will enthral newcomers while providing plenty of surprises for hardcore series veterans.

In many ways, MGS4 is the true sequel to 1998's groundbreaking Metal Gear Solid. The game shifts the focus back to Solid Snake, a legendary stealth operative and hardened combat veteran. But these days, things are different. Snake is dying, ravaged by a case of premature aging that's a side effect of his modified DNA. Not only has the condition taken a toll on his abilities but on his confidence as well. The masterful storytelling portrays Snake as a tragic yet noble figure who grows increasingly disillusioned as the world crumbles around him. Snake isn't depicted as a one-dimensional superhero in MGS4, but as an old man who's grown exasperated with the harsh realities of war. This stylistic shift gives the game some serious emotional weight — it's impossible not to be touched by Snake's dilemma.

As he stares his own mortality in the face, players are forced to do the same. This game explores some heavy issues: death, aging, war, terrorism, and even the role of the US military. Even more surprising is that it handles these themes without heavy-handed preaching or grandstanding. This is remarkable stuff, particularly for a video game. Atmosphere is a great strength of MGS4: From its opening moments to the final scenes, the game paints a grim world that's at the mercy of an out-of-control war economy, a ruthless form of capitalism that thrives on bloodshed and weapons dealing.

Snake's journey to the Middle East starts out as a simple assassination mission, but quickly evolves into a far more personal quest. Past games in the series have been rightfully criticised for their ridiculously long cinematic cutscenes and self-indulgent speeches. Luckily, Kojima has learned his lesson. The cutscenes in Metal Gear Solid 4 are utterly magnetic and, with only one or two exceptions, devoid of the bewildering and bloated lectures that weighed down the earlier games. Voice acting is another strength here, with David Hayter's role as the gravel-throated Solid Snake being a performance for the ages. This is video game storytelling at its absolute best, and represents a new high water mark for the craft, easily surpassing the superb BioShock and the subversive Grand Theft Auto IV.

War has changed

First, erase all expectations of what you think Metal Gear is and how it plays. Kojima and company have gone back to the drawing board to craft a radically improved interface, and the result feels like a mix of Gears of War and Call of Duty 4, with a dash of classic Metal Gear stealth for flavour. This is an intense action game, but you'll need to think fast and stay cool to survive.

The beauty of MGS4's gameplay is that it gives the player options. As in the other Metal Gear games, you'll be charged with infiltrating heavily defended enemy installations and the method you use is entirely up to you. You can choose the direct approach (shoot first, hide later), the indirect (hide always, shoot when you must) and everything in between. There's no 'wrong' way to play MGS4. If you want to play the game as a Gears of War-style shooter, prepare yourself for one of the best shooters you've ever played. If you'd rather creep and crawl to avoid enemies as in the earlier Metal Gear games, you'll be overjoyed by the game's tactical depth.

The game's masterstroke lies in Snake's octo-camo armour, an active camouflage suit that mimics Snake's surroundings. Octo-camo makes basic hiding and sneaking an automatic affair, and lets trigger-happy players focus on the action while still maintaining a semblance of stealth. Kojima deserves major credit for updating the classic Metal Gear gameplay with so many modern elements, from the over-the-shoulder aiming style to the optional first-person camera, and integrating them seamlessly with a control scheme that's simple yet deep. To play the core of the game, you only need to use four main buttons: aim, shoot, crawl, and use. That the game squeezes so much functionality out of such a simple interface is one of its crowning achievements.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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