Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1 or 1-16 (Online)
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So here we are, the final epic conclusion to one of the most talked-about series in recent video game history. A PS3 saviour or a miserable failure? MGS4 certainly has a lot to live up to and like the main man himself, despite having a few unsightly wrinkles it mostly succeeds.

Firstly if you’ve neglected to play the earlier titles you’ll probably struggle with the complex story and huge set of returning characters – heck, even if you’re an MGS aficionado you’ll find it difficult to keep up with the plot... but you knew that, right? The game picks up a few years after MGS2 and sees an aged Snake being pulled out of retirement yet again to stop his blood brother Liquid from messing with some sort of nano technology which could bring about the end of the world. Mix this with some pretentious symbolism and techno babble and you know this is definitely standard MGS territory.

The trademark “time to make a cup of tea/mow the lawn etc.” length cut-scenes and Codec conversations are all present and correct but Konami has seen sense and has added useful pause and skip functions this time around, along with a limited level of interactivity to certain scenes. The massive cast of pretty much every character in the series and the many plot strands can often make the story seem a little bloated, but Kojima knows fans wouldn’t have the finale any other way.

A rather lengthy install precedes the first section (and every new act) of the game, which sees Snake in a totally alien environment to what we’re used to. For one thing the grey/green tinge of old is nowhere to be seen. What we’re given is the bright and dusty Middle-Eastern location that you’ve no doubt seen in the trailers. Later on you’ll venture further afield and the environments seem like they were designed to be a greatest hits compilation i.e. all the best bits from the earlier games, which is no bad thing.

As you’d expect, the game looks stunning, easily the best visuals we’ve seen on Sony’s machine so far. Cut-scenes using the in-game graphics engine are expertly choreographed with stunning character models, and throughout my lengthy play session I only had one small instance of slow-down. If you top it off with a cracking musical score, which includes work from series collaborator Harry Gregson-Williams, it’s easy to see where most of that blu-ray disk space went.

When you do actually get the chance to control the action (yes, those cutscene length rumours were correct) you can see that there have been a number of significant changes to the gameplay. The most important and undoubtedly essential change has been with the control system.

There have been a number of improvements to try and attack the criticism given to earlier titles regarding the fiddly nature when controlling characters. The camera is now fully controllable with the right analogue stick and you can “run and gun” this time round, rather then lining up shots when stationary. Snake has also been given a number of new moves including the ability to lie on his back and shoot which is very useful when you get knocked to the ground and need to return fire. Unfortunately, whilst improved there is still a lot of work needed to make the game play as slick as it looks. Often you’ll be required to hold down more buttons than would seem to be necessary to perform a certain action, and sometimes in the heat of battle you can end up making silly mistakes like crouching or crawling when you need to be fighting. It’s certainly a step in the right direction but it’s not quite there yet.

Gadgets are a given with the MGS series and there are some really inventive offerings in MGS4 including an Apple I-Pod. My favourite though is undoubtedly the OctoCamo, which is introduced at the beginning of the game. Building on Snake Eater’s camouflage system this is the user-friendly sneaking suit given to you by series favourite Otacon. Press Snake up against any of the game’s surfaces and his clothing will automatically change to mirror this. It’s great fun watching a guard walk straight past you whilst you lie on the floor, ready to take him out the moment his back is turned.

If sneaking isn’t your thing you’ll still be catered for. Levels have been designed to incorporate both styles of play. I personally prefer to hide in the shadows with a tranquilliser gun, but my friend who also has the game likes to charge his way through in a less than stealthy manner. New character Drebin – a gun launderer - is a welcome addition to the action as he can supply you with all the guns you’ll need in exchange for the collection of ID Locked enemy firearms from fallen foes. He also supplies a number of accessories such as laser sights and scopes, which can then be attached to particular weapons. The level of customisation isn’t groundbreaking but it certainly adds depth and will give more incentive to play through the game more than once.

Throughout MGS4’s five acts you’ll be treated to the odd undeniably flashy set piece, including some thrilling on-rail chases. It’s a shame there aren’t more of these really, but the few you do control make up somewhat for the limited game interaction at times. The enemies you’ll face are incredibly well thought out and whilst never quite being as much fun as “The End” from MGS3, they still manage to throw up a few surprises when you least suspect them, forcing players to adopt different tactics.

Adding weight to the package is the Metal Gear Online multi-player game. If you’ve installed the beta, you’ll know exactly how much of a pain it is, having to register all your details with Konami etc. This just highlights how accomplished the 360 and Xbox Live is with regards to online gaming, but anyway, when you do get online you’ll be treated to a half decent action game. All the standard modes are included but the game is marred even more by the fiddly controls I mentioned earlier. Still, it’s not bad... but then again it’s not great either.

To sum up Snake’s exit is honestly more then we could’ve hoped for. It’s certainly what Sony needed for the PS3 and the constant nods and cheeky references to earlier games will appease the hardcore fans who have been waiting for so long –and that’s ultimately who this game was made for. Like the previous titles, it’s bound to split gamers in half and cause many a debate over its ‘merits’ but that just goes to prove how important the series is to people.

Sayonara Snake, we’ll miss you.

Best Bits

- Gorgeous graphics and sublime sound
- A complex and compelling storyline
- Varying ways to play the game
Worst Bits

- Needlessly fiddly control scheme
- Overlong cutscenes
- Not one to convert non-fans

by: Pedro

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