WARNING: May contain some spoilers. Only read if you are at the end or nearing the end of the game!
Metal Gear Solid 4: guns of the patriot was available for purchase in stores last Thursday 12 June 2008. I picked up my copy of the game that morning and finished the game on the night of Friday/ Saturday early morning clocking in roughly 24 hours of game play time.
Let me start off by saying that this game has blown me away. Everything about this game, is truly amazing. From the clear and crisp sound to the amazing epic soundtracks, from the extreme amount of details to the incredibly clear and smooth graphics. Technically, MGS4 reigns supreme and make the competition look like as if they date from the Nintendo 64 era. I kid you not, its hard to find flaws in this game. The storyline is excellent in its own right. Excellent however but not perfect. More on that later.
Metal Gear Solid 4: guns of the patriots is truly one of the finest games to ever see the daylight. And it can only be found on the Playstation 3.
You cannot call yourself a gamer without playing this game. Don't take my word for it though; go out and buy the game! Experience it yourself, than you will see that I am right.
That being said, I hate to say this but I am also slightly disappointed by MGS4. Its the storyline. The storyline and the conclusion is not what it seems to be. Although it has to be said that MGS4 really does tie up all the loose ends and it is sad to see Snake go. And yes, this is his final mission and future Metal Gear Solid series will probably not be about the Patriots, Snake and Big Boss. Whats disappointing is how the story evolves. Below I will try to explain myself.
Warning: may contain spoilers for those who have not finished the game.
MGS4 is not like any previous Metal Gear Solid games. In the beginning there was Metal Gear Solid 1. Snake was a retired war veteran called upon when terrorists seized control of Shadow Moses Island. In MGS1 Snake was the bad ass stud. Playing Snake makes you feel like a some sort of James Bond on steroids. Snake was cold, harsh, swift and the hero who saves the day. Metal Gear Solid proved to be one of the best games ever made and literally spawned a whole sub genre. Snake became an gaming icon rivaling even the longest video game characters.
In MGS2 you play as Raiden. Lots of folks complained about Raiden. Although it was a shock not to play as Snake, I personally never had any problems with Raiden. I don't think people actually hated him. Its just that he is Raiden. Raiden is cool and all but, and herein lies the problem, he is no Snake. People have come to idolize Snake as some sort of espionage stud. And Raiden could not fill in Snake's shoes. However, Snake did play a role in MGS2 and at turns he would make you feel like a instant noob on many occasion. Snake in MGS2 is untouchable.
In MGS3, the story goes back to the roots. Back to the cold war era, the age of ideals, and the James Bond feeling. It takes you right back to the beginning of the story and how it all began. MGS3 is a masterpiece in its own right. And needless to say, this game is one of the best games I have ever played. It pushed the PS2 to its limits and to this day still stands as one of the greatest games ever made. Snake is no longer the invincible spy. Instead, Snake starts off as a rookie at the start of this game. The rejected new blood. But by the end of the game, he will become bigger than the Legendary soldier, The Boss.
In MGS4 the tone has changed. This tone is present throughout the entire game. Snake is no longer the invincible hero. Snake has become old. His age is showing and you feel sorry for him. If it weren't for his mustache, his cigarette and trademark bandanna, some of you may even have trouble recognizing him.
No longer is he the idol that everyone looks up to. The characters in the story do not listen to Snake anymore. Meryl calls Snake 'old man' and 'senile old fool'. Raiden has surpassed Snake as the killer machine. Snake couldn't save Eva and he survives on injections. People no longer laugh about his jokes and at times Snake's ego gets a massive dent (psyche meter drops). The tone has changed.
You come to feel sorry for this old man. Time has not been kind to him at all. He is still the story's main protagonist but it is not Snake but Raiden who stops the Gekko's and it is Raiden who stops Vamp in an epic fight. It is not Snake but Johnny who gets the girl and it is Otacon who gets the hot babe. But Snake? Snake gets nothing. The only thing waiting for Snake at the end, is a bullet. While everyone were celebrating a certain bond of marriage, Snake was absent. A symbol that everyone else has moved on while leaving Snake behind. While all the other characters were in joy, Snake was in pain. Only Otacon, his best friend, knows what the pain Snake is going through. And Snake does not intend to return.
Snake has become old. He does not have long to live and you kinda feel sorry for how it all turned out for him. The formula Kojima has chosen, is different but it works.
So where then, does my disappointment lies? Its not the tone that I have trouble with, its the storyline. Somehow I am not 100% content with the story as it stands. I feel that the story could have been much more. There is a difference in what the storyline is and what the storyline could have been. I'm not satisfied with how the story developed for certain characters.
Don't get me wrong, this game is epic. Every cut scene is generated in real time by the game engine and every cut scene surpasses the other one. They are all spectacular and often makes you sit at the tip of your chair. Epic is a word that comes to my mind. The ending is mindblowingly good.
But there is something in the storyline that does not fulfill my MGS hunger and my MGS needs. Its the little things that annoy. At times, I was in disbelief how Kojima started killing off every character in the game. I know this is going to be the end of Snake's story and that is why he included every character in this game. But something just doesn't feel right. Eva, for example, got a death that is unfitting for her. Considering her role in the story, I felt like she got a death that is unworthy of her. She deserved a whole lot better. The same goes for Ocelot, Big Boss and Major Zero. Practically the whole MGS3 staff is erased in MGS4. A shame because these were actually the most interesting characters of the series.
I also didn't like how Meryl and Johnny, the piss pole of previous MGS games, ended together. I know Kojima never outright spoke about Meryl and Snake. But ever since MGS1 people assumed (and assumed for almost 10 years now) that Meryl and Snake are a pair. Much like Eva and Big Boss have a thing going on. Or how you associated Raiden with Rosemary. In MGS4 people suddenly realized that Meryl is not with Snake but with this Johnny dude. If I told you that Meryl would end up with Johnny over a year ago, I would have been the laughing stock of the net. It also doesn't feel right. Its almost feels like Johnny stole Meryl from Snake even though thats not how it is. But after so many years of assuming that Snake and Meryl are a couple, thats how it feels like right now.
Another thing of concern are the boss fights. The boss fights are good but somewhat overshadowed by MGS3s brilliant bosses. The BB corps simply lack the originality and epicness of the MGS3 boss fights.
Other things that annoy, are the uninteresting characters. Debrin is annoying and not interesting. Same can be said about the rest of the Rat Patrol squad.
Its hard to put something negative about MGS4 as there is not one big negative thing but a bunch of little and small, mostly insignificant in the grand scheme of things that annoy. This review was an attempt to summarize those small, not alway significant, little things. It has to be said though, that this is how I feel about MGS4. I have played through every MGS and its hard for me not to judge MGS4 to previous MGS games, especially the brilliant but underrated MGS3.
After finishing MGS4, there is no denying about how epic this game is. This game is a testimony of the unrivaled power of the PS3. On the technical side, MGS4 reigns supreme. However, it also slightly disappointing in the storyline department. It is for this exact reason why I feel that MGS3 Snake Eater, which is a highly underrated game by many media reviewers, is still above MGS4. MGS3 provides the perfect balance in game play, survival in jungle, action, deep storyline and charismatic and intriguing characters. MGS4 fails to surpass MGS3 in my opinion. This is not exactly a fault as it is very hard to top MGS3s brilliance.
If I have to rank the series in order, it would have to be this. Favorite series in order:
1) MGS3; Snake eater
2) MGS4; Guns of the Patriots
4) MGS2; Sons of Liberty
I can only recommend the highly underrated MGS3 to all the folk who loved MGS4. You'll be surprised at what a masterpiece Snake eater truly is. That being said, it is not a flaw to not surpass MGS3 as there is no game that surpasses MGS3 in my opinion with the exception of ancient relics like Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, and the FF series.
Final verdict: 9.8 out of 10.