"Did You Rike It?"
Back in 1998, Konami released Metal Gear Solid on the Sony Playstation. At that time, there hadn’t been any game quite like it. While the action-stealth gameplay was fun, it was the movie-like presentation that really brought that title to a different level. When the series landed on the PS2 a few years later, the visuals were given an overhaul helping both the gameplay and cinematic experiences further. Some would argue that this caused the decline of the series as you spent more time watching the game than actually playing, especially by the time the third installment rolled around. I was one of those people. Whereas MGS2 only became imbalanced near the very end, MGS3 had 10-15 minute cutscenes frequently throughout the course of the game. It wasn’t until a month or so ago that I saw that I missed out on a lot of fun stuff just because I didn’t give the game a chance. That’s the main reason why I tried to get back into the series by reviewing Portable Ops earlier this summer, and it’s also why it’s finally time for my review of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
It’s been a long while since gamers have been able to play as Solid Snake, and a lot has changed for our hero since then. Thanks to his imperfect cloning technology, his body is rapidly deteriorating before everyone’s eyes. There doesn’t appear to be much time left for Snake, but there’s still one last piece of business to finally take care of. . .his own brother, Liquid Ocelot. When gamers first take control of the aging hero and his quest, they’ll notice that it’s not just the hero that’s changed. You’re placed out in the middle of a desert city. This isn’t exactly the best place for a stealth mission, but you’re going to have to make the best of it. Luckily, you have a new suit referred to as OctoCamo. This device allows you to instantly blend into your surroundings just by leaning up against a wall or pressing your body along the floor.
Of course, that new camouflage technology isn’t going to do you much good if an enemy spots you, now is it? Well, that’s not as bad as it would seem as you have multiple options for taking them out in this game. As usual, you’ll eventually earn both a regular and tranquilizer pistol. Well, those are only two of the near 70 weapons you can unlock over the course of your game. Some of these can actually be purchased off of a man named Drebin, but only if you earn enough points. Taking care of non-human targets, not using healing items, that sort of thing. It works out well when you tie it into how you can use these weapons. Because of the huge arsenal that you can acquire, you can literally tear through the enemy army should you so choose to. Even if you create the dreaded Alert phase, you actually have a chance to fight out of it. That said, I chose to take the more stealthy approach just to keep up with the tradition. It works both ways, although the rewards are more generous if you don’t harm anyone as usual.
The choices don’t stop there either. In the first couple of the game’s five acts, there are actually two armies fighting it out against each other. It’s your call as to whether or not you want to get Snake involved. If you do decide to play the hero and help out the local militia, then they’ll react more positively to his presence, letting him move around freely in their bases and even giving him items on occasion. Even better, if the enemy can be driven out altogether, then you are free to move about the area without any chance of causing an Alert. This is one of the things that make this opening part of the game so much fun. There’s just so many ways to go about completing the task at hand, and it makes for a great experience.
It’s just a shame that the whole game couldn’t be like that. For whatever reason, the game becomes much more linear once you start Act 3. While I don’t have any issue with playing the game, I do have a major issue with how little playing you actually get to do here. This act took me over two hours to complete, yet only around a half hour of it was spent playing. You don’t have to be a major in mathematics to realize that it’s just way too imbalanced. Worse, the scenes that you do see feel the need to explain the same thing that they had already told you just a few minutes earlier. I guess Konami knew that this part was going to be so boring that they tried to hammer the plot into your brain. Another thing that takes you out of the experience are the installation screens that the game throws at you six times through the course of the game. They only last for a few minutes, but every time you want to play through the game, you’re going to have to go over those screens again and again.
Another detriment to the game are the actual bosses. While these encounters are somewhat fun, they sure aren’t Liquid’s men from MGS, Dead Cell from MGS2, or even the Cobras from the third game. To be quite frank, the bosses in this game come off as filler villains. You’ll see them, they’ll spew some random sentences, beat them, and then hear their backstories through a quick post-battle codec call. It’s only when you meet up with past familiar faces do these foes get interesting. The final fight of Act 4 is one of the most fun, if out of place battles in the entire game. Even if you aren’t able to get much out of the story, I think you’ll also feel by the time you’ve finished the final battle that this was a fitting end to Solid Snake’s journey.
Metal Gear Solid 4 arguably could have been the best in the series. There are so many options, and many of them are easily accessible even to newcomers. The problem with this game comes from when the action is taken out of your hands and you’re forced to sift through a boring 20+ minute dialogue sequence that could have been taken care of in less than half that time. I still wound up enjoying the plot for the most part, but I still can’t shake the feeling that this game really tried to wrap things up as quickly as it could with those large chunks of text instead of just letting the player do so themselves. As a result, Guns of the Patriots doesn’t quite reach the level of its predecessors, but I still found this game to be an overall solid experience.