Apr 20, 2011

[Games] Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)The Metal Gear game franchise has been around since 1987 although most gamers probably best remember the game from its original PlayStation debut in the game Metal Gear Solid (The Twin Snakes). And yes, I have to admit that I'm part of that group since I certainly never got my hands on the NES version nor did I ever have an MSX2 console unit, which is understandable since this was never really sold outside of Japan.

The franchise is best known for its mix of realistic military-style combat with a greater emphasis stealth and infiltration tactics. Many attribute the beginning of the entire stealth game genre to this franchise and it's understandable why the game has remained popular over the years and has triggered multiple sequels.

With almost ten games in the entire franchise, it's only natural that the developers attempted to sort of tie things up rather neatly in order to resolve the many different plot threads over the years. It's interesting to note that the game has managed to remain in a single story universe all this time and thus the universe of Metal Gear is definitely a very rich and fully-developed one. This game was designed to be the closing chapter to the entire franchise, although I expect they'll continue to develop new games set in-between the others should financial needs push them strongly enough.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots like its predecessors is a stealth action game but this time taking an over-the-shoulder third person shooter perspective as opposed to the predominantly overhead camera in past games. Like the original game, it was directed by Hideo Kojima. The game released on the ten years after the first Metal Gear Solid game and twenty years after the original Metal Gear game. This game is a direct sequel to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.

The year is 2014, 9 years after the plot of the original Metal Gear Solid game and the incident at Shadow Moses. Military action has become a major economic driving force and many private armies have taken control with the aid of nanomachine-enhanced soldiers. Liquid Ocelot, the villain in previous games, has re-emerged with plans to hijack the master control network for these nanomachines known as Sons of the Patriots. Solid Snake, the protagonist from prior games has been approached once more by his former commanding officer Roy Campbell with one last mission - to finally kill Liquid and stop his plans. Snake agrees and is dispatched to the Middle East where Liquid is believed to be.

Thus the game puts you back in control of Solid Snake with the support of other familiar characters like Ocelot and now Sunny, the highly intelligent and gifted girl rescued in Metal Gear Solid 2. Along the way he also meets Dreben 893, an arms-dealer and Rat Patrol 01, a military unit led by Meryl Silverburgh, the same Meryl from the first Metal Gear Solid game and niece of Roy Campbell. As his mission progresses, it is discovered that Liquid now has the ability to disrupt and even control nanomachine-enhanced soldiers and equipment. In addition, Liquid is supported by another familiar face in the form of Vamp together with four cyborg-enhanced women known as the Beauty and the Beast Corps who have abilities similar to the original FOXHOUND group defeated in Metal Gear Solid.

The game features a lot of the familiar elements from the past game including various stealth tactics, realistic representation of weapons, close quarters combat (CQC) and the option to finish the game utilizing purely non-lethal methods of neutralizing enemies. In addition, the game now has a Pscyhe Meter that represents the effects of various stressors on Snake such as being hunted by enemies. Failure to reduce Psyche by smoking or resting will result in difficulty in aiming, Snake experiencing back pain or other negative effects.

Otacon remains largely active in the game through the Metal Gear Mk.II, which is a tiny robot that largely remains invisible until the player needs to interact with Otacon or his skills are needed to hack into doors or other computer systems. Another new feature is the Drebin's shop, which allows the player to purchase weapons and ammunition using "Dreben Points" earned throughout the game. The costs of these items vary depending on the prevailing safety conditions.

The game is beautifully rendered in terms of the quality of the animation and the complexity of the sequences. The in-depth storytelling probably accounts for the additional reason the installation was divided into smaller segments done between chapters or acts as the game is divided into instead of one massive installation up front. The game makes full use of the PlayStation 3's capabilities by giving the player a wide variety of options for getting past enemies, significant environmental effects and smarter enemy AI.

The story is also quite well done, although a tad convoluted at times. Considering the game links back to the first 1987 release means a LOT of back story getting resolved in this one title. While it's possible to play the game without extensive knowledge of all that has happened before, you will lose out on a lot of the gaming experience without sufficient context. Plus the game has little moments when you can trigger flashback images during cut scenes, revealing how the current story links to the past. The overall plot is pretty much Hideo Kojima's opus in terms of the story development for this series and a great example of how you should properly end a franchise.

At the same time, the cut scenes for this game are some of the longest I've seen compared to past games so expect a lot of time where you're not actually fighting enemies. But keep watch for that orange circle indicating a link to past events - if you miss out on the toggle chance, it'll show in your final statistics at the end of the game. It's not quite the same level of interaction in games like Heavy Rain, but it does help make the lengthier scenes a bit more bearable. Besides, this is meant to end the series so we have a LOT of ground to cover.

A Gekko from Metal Gear Solid 4.Image via WikipediaThe game has a wide variety of disturbing enemies from the enhanced female army of FROG soldiers, the multi-limbed Scarabs and the creepy mooing Gekkos. The added challenge of these forces really stresses the importance of stealth action as much as possible, thus differentiating the game from your typical shooters. But darn, I'll never think of cows in the same way ever again.

The best thing about the game remains the mix of humor and references to past games seeded throughout the title. Beyond the obvious parallels with the Beauty and the Beast Corps, the game has a number of clever ways of referring to past titles. The best moment is when you actually return to Shadow Moses in the game's latter half, thus having you go through the original encounter from Metal Gear Solid with the updated graphics engine. Just watch out for the Gekkos!

While I was never a major fan of this genre given I personally have a very short Psyche Meter and do horribly with games as stressful as this, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots remains to be a stellar game that I'd strongly recommend to any fan of the series. Whether you're playing the game yourself or watching your partner do so (like I did, haha), this is going to be an amazing story to unravel. It gets 4.5 crazy ways that you can no longer use to defeat Screaming Mantis out of a possible 5.

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