In the world of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, if you have convoluted plot-devices from previous games in that series that had no answers to the questions raised, then you can fix that problem with Nanomachines™! With Nanomachines™, you can keep killer diseases like cancer at bay, make your military units competent and/or zombies who can shoot things somehow, and explain ridiculous plot devices that destroyed any writing creditability you had circa pre-2001! And thanks to this being the final Metal Gear Solid title (ahahaha nope not really), Solid Snake gets the send off he deserves. Wait, no, he didn’t. That’s what most of Kojima’s blind-fanbase truly believes (like thinking Cyborg Raiden is a good character); in actuality, this is one of the most hateful games I’ve ever played. Unlike Metroid: Other M, which had an equally stupid storyline with gameplay-intrupting cutscenes that also had questionable character development, MGS4 did whatever it could to piss me off… and no, the 2012 patch doesn’t help matters either.
So where exactly do I begin? Well, let’s first start off with the good things, which equal in few. First off, the game looks and sounds incredible; Kojima and his crack-devs pushed the PS3 to its limits and it was easily one of the prettiest games of 2008. Despite the occasional wonky looking texture, everything looks great and runs quite smoothly with no slowdown. Voice-acting, with most of the series-veterans returning, tops MGS3 in the voice-acting department in terms of overall quality, though David Hayter sounding like he’s gurgling something in the beginning of the game sounds ridiculous and Cyborg Raiden is still the worst-voice acted character in the entire series. Also, the sound-track can be customized in game with various tunes from the entire series.
Now, when the game allows you to play, you have a lot of options at your disposal. While previous games have had a major stealth focus, MGS4’s four and a half acts encourages you to be either stealthy or gun-crazy with Drebin’s gun-shop, run by a swank black guy who has a monkey. Drebin points are earned throughout the game and serve as in-game currency, allowing you to purchase various types of guns or add-ons to guns. In those four and a half acts, you can tackle getting through different areas multiple ways, making the game environments a step up from MGS3. You can also automatically obtain camouflage without have to switch it in the menu a’la MGS3.
Yet if my opening paragraph and the bolding and italized “when the game allows you to play” didn’t set off any alarm bells in you, then its now time I switch from being forgiving to a hateful asshole. At most, MGS4 is 75% cutscene and 25% gameplay. During the 75% you are watching cutscenes, you are seeing how absolutely hateful Hideo Kojima can get; but before I begin, let’s do a quick refresher of the MGS series!
MGS1: Solid Snake returns to duty to stop his twin brother from blowing up the world with a stupid looking dinosaur robot. Got a stupid remake for the Gamecube, which Nintendo wasted money on.
MGS2: Wanted to play as Solid Snake? PFFT nope, you instead get stuck with an insufferable whiny shit-head who has to listen to his equally shitty girlfriend with a plot that destroyed any writing credibility Kojima had.
MGS3: And somehow Kojima got some of it back. Set in the 60s, it shows how Big Boss became Big Boss and it has an awesome supporting radio crew. Including a semi-hot woman doctor who geeks out over movies.
And to sum up MGS4, I will say just this: nanomachines. Remember all those stupid plot devices that happened in MGS2? Nanomachines. Everyone is magically run by NANOMACHINES in MGS4 and shows, without a doubt, that Kojima never prepared to end the series properly (though in actuality he is forced to make MGS game after MGS game if the present state of him is anything to go by). Every single piece of story element is hardled so poorly that so many cutscenes could’ve been made shorter if Kojima had decent writing ability. Instead, nanomachines fix everything and the radio team from MGS3 were the founders of the Patriots. Remember Dr. Clark from MGS1? That was Para-Medic. Kojima turned her into a bitch. Remember Raiden? Well now he is emotional and like Cloud from Advent Children, and his dialog is painful to listen to.
Though while you can skip the cutscenes, MGS4’s most fatal flaws rear its ugly head; before the 2012 patch, you had to install each and every chapter which took fifteen minutes each to do. The gameplay segments, if you don’t explore and head straight to the target area, are shorter then the cutscenes. You also couldn’t pick which act you wanted to replay either; you had to go through the entire game again if you wanted to play a certain level, and the game had to re-install the levels. This obvious painfully short game was artificially lengthen by cutscenes which you can skip.
Now, I will give my praise to the controls themselves; they are functional and work properly, heck even the crouch-walk function works as a faster alternative to the crawling. However, being that I have to be an asshole, one thing that really pissed me off was the aiming controls. I have said before many times I hate right analog stick aiming, and to fire your gun, you must hold L1, aim with the right analog stick, then R1 to fire. Previous MGS games didn’t use this aiming scheme (and hell, if Kojimmy Cricket kept that scheme for MGS 3-D, it wouldn’t have been a disaster), but since Kojima wanted to be “I luv western developers!!<3”, we get stuck with this scheme. It doesn’t work, it never worked, and I don’t know why developers are so obsessed with using it.
So where does this end the review? Well, Pietriots veteran Bill Aurion has stated multiple times the MGS series died with MGS2, yet like a zombie that won’t stay down in ZombiU, it keeps popping back up. The series canon was beyond saveable without a good prequel, being MGS3, but thanks to MGS4 that game’s good cast of characters was ruined beyond repair. Peace Walker may have had good gameplay, but the story was still a horrid mess and added awful QTEs on top of that (though thankfully the voice actor for Chico voiced a much better character in a fantastic 3DS game); I have zero hopes for Ground Zeroes but the blind fanbase will eat it up (and it doesn’t help the Fox Engine makes the characters looks ugly), and The Phantom Pain will end up being MGS5. After MGS4, I can’t trust Kojima anymore; the little gameplay there was got stuck with an awful aiming scheme, the story is horrendous and thanks to it I can’t go back to MGS3 anymore because of those characters fates.
In short: don’t buy the damn game if you like MGS3, MGS1 or non-MGS games like Snatcher or Policenauts. MGS4 is Kojima at his absolute worst, a hateful-scornful game director who is lapped in making games after games in a series that just needs to die or have a non-canonical game like Ghost Babel or the Ac!d games. Yet if you are still curious, rent it and do nothing else.