Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: "Metal Gear Solid 4"

I know, I totally missed this game for almost 2 years and it's about time I completed it. But even being two years old, MGS4 is still great now and will still be, I expect, many years from now.

If I actually have to rate all the games I've played, I don't think any game deserves a perfect 10, but if there's a game that can come close to it, it's this game. Metal Gear Solid 4 truly is (close to) a masterpiece in many many ways. Hideo Kojima really outdid himself this time.

In MGS4, you play as Old Snake, or rather Solid Snake that just went through accelerated aging.

Look! You can control a robot too!

Storywise, MGS4 pieces together the loose ends of its predecessors. There is really an overwhelming amount of cutscenes, with some that can last for 15 mins (tbh, I don't know the actual timing, but I know they last very long). The motion capture is really clean, as well as the cinematography, choreography, voice acting and overall execution.

Gameplay closely follows the past 3 MGS games. There isn't a direct radar unlike MGS1 or 2. Instead it is replaced by the Solid Eye, which displays a motion sensor HUD and directly highlights enemies or items of interest. It's other functions include scoping and heat vision. The Solid Eye needs to be equipped to use and also has a limited battery life.

Camoflage at work

Camouflage is also another key focus to the game. Unlike MGS3 where you have to pick the right camo for the right environment, MGS4 conveniently comes with the OctaCamo, which automatically camouflages you based on your surroundings. You can also make Snake wear other things like suits.

Last but not least is the Psyche and Stress levels, which becomes increasingly apparent at harder difficulties. Located at the bottom of the Health bar, Psyche and Stress measures the psychological state of Old Snake. The lower the Psyche, the worse you perform. This includes your healing abilities, your combat abilities and your marksmanship. Of course, there are many ways to recovering it (like smoking).

Raging Raven fight

Now we talk about the environments. One thing I find that really puts MGS4 apart from its predecessors are the diverse places he operates in. MGS4 will have you roaming jungles, deserts, snowfields and even urban environments. In jungles you have grasses to hide into. In deserts, not so much. In snowfields, your vision gets real bad due to the not-so-occasional blizzard. Every chapter is a breath of fresh air.

And what does Hideo does best? Subtly breaking the fourth wall. Remember the time you have to switch controller ports to beat Psycho Mantis? In MGS4, Hideo smashes the fourth wall, bringing the art to a new level. He realizes that in sequels, the best thing to do is to awaken the sense of nostalgia in MGS fans. In that aspect, he really does it really well;

Breaking the 4th wall

Pressing 'O' at certain points of a cutscene flashes you blur and still screenshots of past MGS games related to the cutscene itself. The 4 bosses of the game is somewhat related to the 4 now-dead members of FOXDIE in the first MGS (Wolf, Octopus, Raven, Mantis). Heck, he even brings you back to Shadow Moses, the place where everything started.

What I realized is that MGS4 conditions the players really well to get them prepared for what's up-and-coming. The random videos at the start of the game may seem pointless, but note that it talks about octopuses, wolves, guns, etc, all loosely related to the game. Another noteworthy portion is when they make you play the first part of MGS1 before letting you play the chapter with Shadow Moses (note: MGS1 takes place in Shadow Moses).

Shadow Moses, in HD

There are returns of a lot characters: Raiden, Naomi, Vamp, Ocelot, Campbell, Mei Ling (^_^) , Rosemary, and even Eva. It's like some happy family reunion or something.

MGS4 has a fantastic array of background music and sounds. The music are all meticulous chosen and placed, inducing the right feeling to the players at the right time. The sound effects are excellent, from the gunshots, to the clicks of the Solid Eye and not forgetting the voices of the 4 bosses of the game. The laughter of Laughing Octopus, the cries of Crying Wolf, the screams of Screaming Mantis and the howls of Raging Raven...they still echo in my head until now.

Aside from the game itself, there are a multitude of easter eggs. Taking the camera only at the start of Act 4 gives you bonus photos, if you stall for 3 minutes with the second form of the bosses you get to photoshoot with them at a white room, and you can collect so-called 'iPod songs' across the game (which essentially collecting music you can play). Also you can collect faces and costumes for Old Snake, to simulate you playing another character. Faces include Meryl, Otacon, Raiden, Young Snake and even the polygonal MGS1 graphics snake.

The cast of MGS4, old characters now in HD!

Metal Gear Solid 4 is so good in so many aspects. It has great sound, music, gameplay, UI, graphics, replayability, controls...I wouldn't be surprised if it were rated at least a 9 at most sites. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of sites give it a full 10/10. Well, words can only tell so much, but I hope this conveys how awesome this game is: 'a DEFINITE 100% without-a-doubt must-try'.

NOTE: If you find the cutscenes boring, you either aren't a MGS fan, haven't played previous MGS enough to enjoy them, or you really aren't the movie type (really a shame if you aren't). Either way, I find the 'excruciatingly long' cutscenes of the game very much enjoyable.

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