Metal Gear Solid 4 has arrived, some people will love it, some people will hate it. I, for one, am a fan of the series.
I remember playing a demo of Metal Gear Solid on PlayStation 1 many years ago, I had never played anything like it before, the way it opened up like a movie, the gameplay was clever, the mix of sneaking and action was well balanced and the demo ended with a cliffhanger cutscene… I was hooked and wanted more… needless to say it was a game I purchased and played multiple times.
So, what does MGS4 and Solid Snake’s “final” mission bring to the table…
Well, from the opening act of the game you notice how brilliant the game looks, the attention to detail is fantastic and from watching the opening cutscene, you find yourself in control of ‘Old Snake’ infiltrating a warzone to find and assassinate Liquid Ocelot. Snake is disguised as one of the local militia, who are fighting against the invading PMC (Private Military Company), The fact that neither PMC or local Militia are your enemy means you do not really need to get involve in the war raging around you however if you are spotted by the PMC they will fire upon you and hunt you down. On the other hand helping the Militia by taking out the PMC troops will work in your favour and you can walk freely among them without fear of being shot at, but shooting at Militia will mean that both forces will be after you if they see you!
I have to say this is the best looking game I have seen so far, I think Call of Duty 4 comes close but this is something else. The transition from the opening cutscene to gameplay is seamless and its very impressive in some places. The first time you play the opening level is very intense, with large, rampaging, unmanned bipedal tanks called Gekko stalking you through the war torn streets with the rousing musical score adding to the increasing tension.
So what’s new in MGS4?
First of all, Snake has aged somewhat since we saw him last in MGS2, we later learn this is due to nanomachines which he was injected with in MGS.
The Controls have been tweaked, with an over the shoulder aiming system in place which allows you to switch shoulders as you move around, this is handy for aiming while walking through built up areas. You can switch to first person mode at any time for a more accurate shot at your enemy.
Another modification to the game is the weapons and upgrade system, the weapons found on the battlefield are usually ID locked which requires you to pay a visit to Drebin, a gun launderer, he will unlock weapons in exchange for Drebin Points, these points you can accumulate by picking up multiples of the same weapon which Drebin takes off you. With these points you can purchase weapons and extra ammo, even during an intense set piece or boss battle. Weapons can also be customized with the same system so you can add such things as silencers and scopes to your weapons.
Standard Crouch and Prone moves are present as always with the added moves such as edging sideways while prone and rolling sideways while prone. You can even roll onto your back and fire your weapon or throw grenades from there.
The OctoCamo suit is a camouflage suit Snake wears throughout the game, its technology is based on the camouflage tactics that some species of octopus use to blend in with their surroundings. This suit comes in handy for evading PMC troops or Gekko by blending in with any background or surface with the touch of a button. A nice touch is that if you want to remove the pattern the suit picked up when you last used it, you can shake the PS3 controller and the it will blend back to its normal state, this can be done mid cutscene too.
CQC or Close Quarters Combat has been streamlined since its introduction in MGS3, It is a lot easier to use this time round and you will find yourself using it when a PMC Soldier just won’t move from his post! There are various moves; disarm, choke, throw to the ground, hold up and search for items, throat cut and many more. All CQC moves depend on which weapons you are holding at the time.
So Far so good, but it can’t be all good can it? In a word, no, as always throughout the Metal Gear series there are cutscenes that pop up in between short sections of gameplay, which can be a little frustrating having only walked a short distance, as well as the longer cutscenes normally at the end of each act, however in MGS4 they are some of the best you have ever seen, most are action packed, well directed and add to the story and overall experience nicely. The one major downside is the long Mission Briefings which is normally a conversation between Snake and Otacon about what to do and where to go next, while these are playing it does show a more human and vulnerable side to the ageing Snake, they can drag on a little. Whilst they are talking you can take the Mk II (A remote control robotic device) for a spin around the briefing area and pick up items which you can use in game, such as extra ammo and rations.
Once the game has finished there are a series of cut scenes that tell you what is happening to the surviving characters – the cutscenes total a little over an hour, fans of the series will watch and appreciate all the loose ends being tied up, but newcomers may not have a clue what is going on as a lot is covered from previous games.
That aside the rest of the game is simply awesome, old characters make welcome appearances Metal Gear regulars like Johnny and Colonel Campbell are there also, and the new characters are welcome additions, even the shaved, nappy wearing, soda drinking monkey!
Some of the below may be classed as spoilers but I count them as some of the highlights of the game – highlight the text to read it.
All in all the new Metal Gear game is more of what series has given us up until now, however it has been fine-tuned, tweaked and perfected playable in any way you like, stealthily sneaking or all guns blazing, the choice is yours and despite its small frustrations this is a fitting finale to Solid Snakes story, a truly a brilliant cinematic gaming experience.