Metal Gear Solid 4 Review - Stealth Action Suffers Due to Ridiculously Overdone Story.
Genre: Action, Stealth movie
Developer: Kojima Productions
Release Date: 6/12/08
Length: 25 hours
- Creative and varied sections including stealth, on-rails shooting, and hand-to-hand combat
- Outstanding graphics, sound and production values
- All movies and codec can be skipped
- Almost half of the disc (can't even call it a game anymore) involves sitting and watching movies and codec conversations
- Repetitive gameplay isn't challenging
- Several minute installation sections riddled throughout the game
Before I start, I find it necessary to mention that I love stealth games. There is such a great sense of satisfaction in sneaking up behind a large force and taking them down individually while the rest of the company is oblivious to your existence. I really loved the first Metal Gear Solid, which was a landmark title on the PS1. The Splinter Cell series has expounded on the stealth series in its own vision and is probably the most direct comparison to the Meta Gear Solid series. Alright let's get onto the review.
The Patriots are a conspiracy theory junkies' wet dream for a group that controls private armies, which wage war to support weapons building corporations. Liquid is attempting to destroy the Patriots to create chaos throughout the world. Premature aging renders Solid Snake terminally ill as he hunts down and attempts to stop his nemesis, Liquid Snake, one last time.
The million dollar real question is whether there is any gameplay on the disc. About one-half of the game's 25 hours is spent watching movies and listening to codec. John Carmack, main programmer for many famous id games, summed it up best when he said, "Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important." If games are intended to involve interaction with controllers, then why aren't we allowed to use them for such prolonged sections? The answer? Hideo Kojima really likes movies. He should be making them for Hollywood to be seen in theaters rather than working on interactive media.
His stories are just too self-involved and detailed. He wastes time discussing people's relationships, who's married whom, and how they've dealt with cancer. You start to wonder if you are watching "The Young and the Restless" or playing a game. There are far too many details and dialogue to explain a plot that really isn't really that complex. While the story is somewhat interesting, humorous and attempts to pull at your emotional cords, it is just too self-involved. Get over yourself, Kojima!
His work would serve the movie audience better. Unfortunately, he has found a way to mind control a sizeable section of gamers to buy his games continually just to sit on their rears and watch movies. The CIA and FBI really should look into how he has been able to accomplish it. I think the irony is that his conspiracy theory stories are true. He's slowly gaining control over everyone through subliminal messages in his movies. We need someone to take him down pronto!
Many movie sections are like watching the end of a football game. "Just 2 more minutes and I'll take out the trash, honey!" slowly and inevitably turns into 30 minutes, 1 hour, etc. It's so ridiculous that the game's makers know it and indulge in it. One character actually asks you to put the controller down while he gives his speech. They have the audacity to show they know they aren't making a game anymore. Why do people live with this tripe?!? In exchange for pre-release review copies to larger sites, even Konami acknowledged the problematic cutscene lengths by demanding pre-reviews not mention these problems.
Thankfully you can skip all movie sections and cut straight to the action. You will miss the story, but after watching all the movies I can't recommend it to anyone who values their time. The only commendable movies are at the end of the five main stages.
What about the little action left for gamers? The actual sections involving gameplay aren't half bad. Surprisingly, there is plenty of variety with stealth, on-rails shooting sections, and updated hand-to-hand combat. There are cool weapons to customize and trade. The OctoCamo and Metal Gear MKII remote drone provide alternate ways to get through some tedious stealth sections.
The main problem is that there isn't enough gameplay and it isn't very different from previous games in the series. You can play the game as a first-person shooter, but there are already too many of those types of games. The stealth aspects to the game haven't changed much since the first MGS. The hand-to-hand combat is new but not very different from many other games already available. Even if you skip the movies, you get a sub-par game.
This final entry in the series also introduces the psyche and stress meters. I applaud new innovations, but I just didn't fully understand these features. The stress meter seems to increase when you aren't in good cover or in combat. Snake is supposed to be more mistake-prone with a high stress meter, but I never saw a difference. A lower psyche level is supposed to be a problem, but it never affected gameplay. Perhaps these meters are needed on higher difficulties. I was able to get through the game without paying them any heed by taking advantage of the game's simple AI and patterns.
Solid Snake needs more moves to deal with such advanced enemies. As noted, the most comparable game to Metal Gear is Splinter Cell. Each new addition to the Splinter Cell series adds new movements to Sam's repertoire. He can climb on poles hang upside down and break an enemy's neck. He can hang from a railing below an enemy and pull him down to his death. He swims underwater, cuts a whole in ice, and pulls enemies down. He whistles to attract a guard's attention, then dispatches of the guards one by one. What happens when Sam sees an enemy's shadow in a tent? He cuts a hole with his knife, sneaks up behind him and takes him down.
Snake may be an old dog, but he's learned a few new tricks for his final bow. He has some new close-quarters combat moves to throw, kill and knock out guards. Snake can also hold a guard hostage and search him for items (no anal probes thankfully). There is a wide array of weapons available along with several ways to customize them. It's just puzzling why more hasn't been implemented over the past decade.
While these new moves are appreciated, gamers expect more advances over a decade within a series. Why can't Snake use his environment better? Why aren't we enthralled by a wider variety of ways to dispatch enemies? Why aren't there more than 4-5 types of basic enemies (excluding bosses)? Why hasn't Kojima done this? He's spending all his time on his absurd movies and plot twists is the answer. This is a game. Add new ways to interact rather than watching everything cool happen during the movies. I'd like to perform some of the amazing action during those cutscenes. The more action I saw that I couldn't affect, the more frustrated I became.
The game is set over five main stages. The movies start you off in a battle-torn war zone in the Middle East. You are in the middle of some large combat zones where multiple forces are fighting each other. If you are patient, you can take advantage of each side's ensuing weaknesses. The setting is refreshing compared to the typical one-man army Solid Snake against a squadron of guards and vision cones, which the series has become known for. The combat environment isn't unique though, since it has been replicated many times since the inaugural Half-Life.
The second stage is set in the typical South American jungle we've all seen countless times. We get it. Producers liked Rambo 2. Please get past the hiding in jungles motif. The middle and later sections of the game provides some welcome variety in the gameplay. Various sections of the game make it clear that Kojima and his team have a ton of talent. If they only spent it filling games with more gameplay sections rather than the mundane movies, the world would be a better place.
No action game would be complete without boss battles. Snake will vanquish numerous bosses that are all unique, varied and set in cool environments. None of them will challenge you much though. The main problem is you will spend a good portion of your time manipulating your inventory and weapons in the middle of combat rather than actually fighting. It actually fits with the theme of the game. The game wants to take you away from any interaction as much as possible. Even the actual interactive sections involve many portions that are not interactive.
Of course, this is the PS3, so you must endure a several minute installation section before the game even loads. But wait there's more. Act now and we'll throw in several more multi-minute installation sections before each stage. Unfortunately, there's no money back guarantee on this one. It all comes to a slow and hopefully final conclusion with an even more overt slap in the face. The game ends with a ninety-minute movie to conclude the series. Ok, you like your characters and story. We get it.
It's not that I don't like a good compelling story. I just think it could have been executed better with voice-overs that allow simultaneous gameplay, such as in Bioshock or Splinter Cell. Games should always strive to include as much interaction as possible. Only take us away from playing for a few minutes and make it worth it. I'm not against a game including a short intense movie after every few levels to "reward" you for getting past a tense and difficult section. If the excellent movies at the end of each major level would have been the only non-gameplay sections in the game, the final product would be much better.
The graphics during gameplay and the movies are gorgeous. The only issue is an overt use of browns and grays. I know that Solid Snake is gray now, but does the world need to be also?
The music is both moving during dramatic sequences and energetic during action sequences. Things that should go boom, go boom loud with satisfying bass. Surround sound is executed very well to envelop you in the frenetic war zone and cautious, tense stealth sections. The very realistic bullet twings remind me of the beginning of Saving Private Ryan. Yes, they are that good.
Its become clear that larger sites praise Metal Gear Solid and other hyped games because their reviews are bought out by the publisher's large advertising budgets. "Give us a perfect score review or we'll take our ads away!" We know we aren't alone in recognizing these problems. Well, PoweredUpGamers isn't a biased site. Our review may differ from other sites, but we don't work from their positively-skewed scale that rarely dip below a 7. If we don't enjoy a game, it gets a low score despite the hype.