In an attempt to become part of the gaming press thus acquiring free games and press passes to such events as E3, I've decided to start reviewing games. In the past, I have put reviews on websites but nothing worth mentioning or worth linking. With 25 years of gaming experience under my belt, I feel that maybe my opinion on games doesn't suck as much as other sites. In any case, I'll be doing a variety of reviews and hopefully some reviews on games that do not get the attention they deserve. But first I'll review the game I beat not that long ago, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
If you haven't been around gaming for the past 10 years because you're new to gaming or have been playing the Atari Jaguar for the whole time, it is a small possibility that you do not know the Metal Gear Solid franchise so here's a quick summary for you. Metal Gear first started on the NES(MSX in Japan) and brought some new gameplay to the young medium of videogames. Unfortunately, it was difficult as hell. In Japan, the MSX(a computer/gaming machine made by Microsoft released in Japan during the 80s) received an amazing sequel that blew the original away. In the US, however, we received a dumb down crappy sequel that no one talks about. The name Metal Gear became known for its difficulty and sneaking around, but it was until 1998 that the series made a revival. That game was Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation. From the great graphics to the deep storyline, this game had everything going for it and created a frenzy in the US for the hero known as Solid Snake(Japan didn't like it at first but they caught on). If there was a downside, it was the 10-15 hours gameplay but that was a small blemish in the overall perfection of the game. The game would have been game of the year in 1998, yet it was eclipsed by Nintendo's masterpiece, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. After Metal Gear Solid 1, the second installment came to the Playstation 2 and again blew away the gaming public with its graphics, music, but its storyline and characters prevent the game from being a masterpiece in most people's eyes. One character in particular, Raiden, became a kind of joke in the industry. MGS3 was released year later though the game was not a sequel, but rather a prequel startling Solid Snake's father, Big Boss.
The long awaited sequel to Metal Gear Solid 2 made its appearance on the Playstation 3. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is said to be the final game featuring Solid Snake and many hopes that the game would live up to the huge expectations. The story takes place 5 years after MGS2 which is surprising considering the looks of Solid Snake. Having aged at an accelerated place, Snake no longer has the looks of the badass solider that took down Metal Gears without a sweat. Instead, he looked more like a retired soldier whose days should be played out in a retirement home. Still, Snake is brought in for one more mission to finally take down his arch-enemy, and brother, Liquid Snake. The world has changed in the past five years. The days of war created its own economy, simply called the "war economy", where companies provided their military services to those countries and groups that have the money for it. Whether this is Hideo Kojima's(creator of Meta Gear) view of the near future or today, there's a definite message that war sucks. Snake is placed among rebel armies that fight off the Private Military Corporations(PMC), to hopefully find Liquid who has control of the largest PMCs.
To explain the Metal Gear Solid games to someone that's never played them before, I've always said "The game starts off in a James Bond type mission and ends up with an X-files type conspiracy". MGS4 is no exception to the rule. There's a lot of information to absorb in this game. All questions from the previous games are answered and most are done through cinematic cut scenes. These cutscenes, that can be quite long, provide the info that many gamers have craved over the years, however, people find reasons to bitch and this has become one of those reasons. For those that have grown to love the storyline for the MGS series will find themselves satisfied by the plot in MGS4, and in a way, feel that a chapter of their gaming life has been completed.
Sneaking around has always been the backbone of the Metal Gear series. MGS4 takes stealth to a different level. Prior to MGS 3, sneaking involved slowly walking past soldiers or making noises to bring the soldiers to you while you run away in the other direction. With MGS3, camouflage was used to allow Naked Snake(Big Boss) to blend into the environment allowing soldiers to walk on by without noticing he was there. For MGS4, a device called Octo-camo(created by Snake's friend, otaku, and mech engineer, Otacon) is used to help with the stealth movements. Two other gadgets that will be used a lot are the Solid Eye(futuristic eye patch that gives info on the battlefield) and the Mark II, a small robot that can scout areas for you. The game itself can be played in 3rd or 1st person view with the object of the game to move to different spots on the map as told to by Otacon or other characters leading Snake. In some chapters, Snake will have the ability to befriend the rebellion army that he is helping. By showing them you willingness to fight on their side, they'll gladly charge the field with you providing a fair amount of cannon fodder and distractions for the enemies.
Among the many new features in MGS4, a new character named Drebin will provide you with a variety of weapons and add-ons for those weapons. You meet Drebin early in the game, and he will give you points for extra weapons you find on the battlefield(and there's plenty). Weapons range from handguns to anti-tank missiles while the add-ons can be as simple as a laser sight or a grenade launcher. Even without weapons, Snake has this close quarters combat(CQC) to take down enemies in various ways without a weapon needed. Previous MGS games had the choice of killing enemies or taking the more difficult route, knocking out enemies with a tranquilizer gun. To change the difficulty of certain areas, Snake now has a psyche meter and stress meter. These will change how well Snake performance will be on the battlefield.
As always, MGS4 shows off the system's power with its graphics. There's so much detail that you want to just spend a few minutes taking it all in. The only noticeable lack of graphic power is with some of the character's hair. Snake's hair flows realistically while other characters have the last gen hair where the hair does not move at with the movement of the character's head. The beauty can just take you back with almost picture perfect scenes that can make the best of Hollywood directors envious. The music can also outdo most Hollywood movies with another excellent from Hanson Gregson-Williams, who scored three MGS games, and Nobuko Toda that scored Metal Gear Acid 1 and 2. The score can send chills up and down your spine adding to the experience. Thankfully, the voice acting is top notch lead by David Hayter, the voice of Snake. It's obvious that rather than just speaking the lines given to them, the voice actors actually acted out the role. It easy to tell the high caliber of production when you compare them to other games.
After completing the game, you'll have plenty of reasons to beat the game again. Depending on how long you take, how many people you kill or not kill, or how many times you alert the guards, you'll be given a specific emblem. For the OCD side of you, this will make you beat the game again and again. On top of that, there are several unlocked items and weapons that come along with beating the game using specific criteria. The MGS4 goodness doesn't stop there. There's another experience waiting with Metal Gear Online. As a veteran of SOCOM, MGO reminds me of the days of 8vs8 tactical action. There are so many options when playing online and the maps, while small, provide a large area of play with all the hiding spots available. There's the typical game matches of Death Match, Team Death Match, Capture Mission, Base Mission, and new and unique to the game, Sneak Mission. The Sneak Mission allows one person on the team to control Snake while trying to make his way to the base of the opposing team. This was recently added and maybe there will be some more features added in the future. While online, you create a character and also choose which special skills you can gave whether they improve your use of weapons or help your team see enemies better. Like Call of Duty 4, your character will keep improving the more points you acquire adding some almost RPG element to the mix.
All in all, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots lives up to the hype of the Metal Gear Solid franchise. For a Metal Gear Solid fan this game should satisfy hope you had and still show that most grizzled game vet that there are still games that can surprise you.