sunnuntai 22. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 2008
Available on: PS3
Developer(s): Kojima Productions
Publisher(s): Konami
Players: 1 (MGS4), 1-16 (MGO)

After some deranged fans went beyond the boundaries and threatened Hideo Kojima’s life, the reluctant genius returned to direct one more Metal Gear game. Kojima himself, as well as voiceover star David Hayter vocally expressed their disappointment in perhaps the most anticipated game of the decade before it had even hit the shelves. Since Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was released exclusively on the PS3 mostly due to its sheer size, the system’s poor sales skyrocketed upon the game’s release and a fistful of perfect reviews. Fans and critics loved the game which serves as the beautiful, magnificent end to the epic saga of Solid Snake. I don’t even want to know what Kojima was going for if this game disappointed him, or how bad ass Hayter wanted his character to be, exactly.

Snake’s final stand

David Hayter : Old Snake / Himself
Christopher Randolph : Hal “Otacon” Emmerich
Christina Puccelli : Sunny Gurlukovich
Paul Eiding : Col. Roy Campbell
Khary Payton : Drebin 893
Debi Mae West : Meryl Silverburgh
Beng Spies : Johnny “Akiba” Sasaki
Patric Zimmerman : Liquid Ocelot
Jennifer Hale : Dr. Naomi Hunter / Little John
Quinton Flynn : Raiden

It’s the year 2014. The world has become a battlefield on which everything is controlled by the Patriots. The man once known as Solid Snake suffers from an unknown disease which causes accelerated aging. Despite his condition, he accepts one final mission from Colonel Roy Campbell, who now works as an intelligence officer for the United Nations. Snake’s mission is to terminate Ocelot, whose mind has apparently been completely taken over by Liquid, and restore peace to the world. In the process, he is given the chance to finally unlock his past and tie some loose ends before his imminent demise.

I don’t really go around giving out perfect tens to even the most perfect games or perfect qualities, but I’ll make this one exception ‘cause there’s just no way around it – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots looks and sounds absolutely flawless. Of course I feel we’re going to see a few even better looking games on the PS3 at some point, keep in mind that Metal Gear Solid 2 used to look phenomenal. Until then, let’s enjoy this audiovisual daydream. The effects play a bigger part than ever before. One of the game’s taglines is “No Place to Hide”, and that pretty much rings true – we literally need to use shadows and the very smooth OctoCamo technology to our advantage. The environment is HUGE, and totally unpredictable. There are bullets flying everywhere and on many playthroughs, random audiovisual details appear that weren’t there during the last one. The game is so big and diverse graphically, that it’s always exciting. The cinematics of the cutscenes... forget it, I won’t even begin to discuss the subject... they totally work, that’s it. Same goes for the new, optional flashback sequences put in to make the cutscenes a little more interactive. The FMV sequences are s-m-o-o-t-h – each time you start a new game, there’s even a full-length, satirical TV commercial or insert made in full motion. Phenomenal.

The quality of the voiceover work should be obvious to anyone who’s ever played a Metal Gear Solid game. Seeing how this is the much spoken end of the series as we know it, it is no surprise that a large host of characters from days past, all the way from the beginning return to have their say. All of the original voice actors from the first game reprise their roles, however Jennifer Hale (Naomi) and Kim Mai Guest (Mei Ling) adjust their thick accents quite a bit, they sound much better now. There are a few new characters, who play their own part in wrapping up the glorious saga. That means new voice talent makes its mark. The most notable addition to the cast is Lee Meriwether, who played Catwoman in the 1966 movie Batman – not the TV show, Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt did that one – she plays a very important key character in the game, and does an appearance in the flesh in one of the random TV spots, opposite none other than David Hayter! So, if you still haven’t witnessed the true face and voice of Dave H., now’s your chance!

The music totally deserves its own paragraph. In-game music is very, very scarce – most of the sound scheme consists of the sounds of an ongoing war – but fabulous. There are remixes of earlier tunes in the series – some of the best make a return such as “The Best Is Yet to Come” – licensed tracks from less known bands/artists around the globe, and a new, simple yet addictive tune simply entitled “Old Snake”, which serves as one of the theme songs of the game. Harry Gregson-Williams went the distance with this game, composing all of the music by himself with assistance by Nobuko Toda. That means he’s also responsible for the classic medleys which you can listen to on your iPod. Your whatwhatwhat?! Yes, Snake’s basic inventory, besides cigarettes, includes an iPod. You can listen to all sorts of music from earlier Metal Gear games, even the old school titles, as well as Kojima’s other works on the iPod any time – it replaces the background music if there is any – as well as these orchestrated medleys. There’s an array of tunes and even integrated podcasts; you can find more in all parts of the game from hidden item boxes, and if the music and podcasts aren’t enough for you, haul your ass to the “Extras” screen to download some more from the Internet. This is just too cool. Some of the music even has effect on the enemy soldiers’ behaviour, and your stats.

Hide. Even if it means losing your dignity.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was pretty much the sole reason I burnt half a month’s worth of wages back in the day. Due to the skyrocketing sales of the PS3 after the release of this one game, I had to wait for my new console to arrive for over a month even after paying for it, it was totally sold out everywhere. When I finally got the console, plus this game – and Grand Theft Auto IV – I spent the next two days in total seclusion from the outside world and almost refused to go to work. I enjoyed every minute I spent with the game, the gameplay’s simply perfect. However, on the second playthrough I noticed something. There isn’t really much to play here. Since the game was meant to do everything that used to be undone, at once, a ridiculous amount of time is spent on cutscenes. There are not a lot of Codec conversations in the game, but the cutscenes have practically doubled, and they’re extremely long. Normally, I love them and their cinematic appeal, but after the first playthrough, they really start to get on one’s nerves ‘cause they take away so much from total control. The game is divided into five acts, and each of these five acts gives you little over an hour of actual playtime. The rest is comprised of cutscenes. To compensate a little, you are given all the liberties in the world to be creative and make the experience more fruitful, and you can even interact with the cutscenes. It’s made extremely clear from the start that this is Snake’s final mission, and that his life is coming to an end. So, optional flashbacks from earlier games are added into the cutscenes, and triggered by rapidly tapping the X button. Depending on how nostalgic you feel, you get Drebin Points – from now on, referred to as DP – at the end of the act. I’ll get back to DP in a while. First, I’ll tell you what makes this “interactive movie” totally worth your while.

Snake’s basic moveset has changed. He presses against the walls face first, so you will no longer have to turn your back on the enemy behind the corner for one second. Crawling has a new, notable speed – ultra slow, slithering like a snake. It’s slow indeed, but it doesn’t affect your camo index one bit. Whenever Snake is lying on the ground, you can easily flip over and attack enemies while lying down.

Vamp vs. the suddenly awesome Raiden.
The camouflage system is back, then, but menu toggling has been completely eliminated in the game, one exception being the continued use of the backpack – this time, the backpack’s preeeetty damn comprehensible ‘cause there’s a SHITLOAD of stuff in this game. There are at least 60 different weapons, and I won’t even start with the items. Liberties, liberties... how sweet they are. Where was I? The camouflage. What you have at your disposal is a marvellous gadget known as OctoCamo. This gadget enables you to play a chameleon. You press up against any type of texture, wait for a few seconds, and voila. Your suit has the same texture. You can save these patterns if you want – up to a limited amount – and use them any time you wish in the classic way, or alternative outfits as well, but I recommend you just use the OctoCamo all the time. Like the iPod stuff, you can download more camouflage online. The online camo suits have effects in certain areas and against certain enemies. Yes, your face can be camouflaged too, but only after you’ve passed a certain point in the storyline. The facial camouflage is called FaceCamo, and it works in the exact same way as OctoCamo; it helps you in really blending into the environment and gives you optimal camouflage, the closest you can get to it without using Stealth.

You start off pretty helpless until you rendezvous with Otacon’s latest creation, the Metal Gear Mk. III. Don’t be bothered by its name, it’s actually a miniature terminal which serves you in several different ways during the course of the game. It works as your messenger, vendor and scout, and you can choose to control it instead of Snake at any time by selecting it on the item menu. It has a moveset of its own, and like in Snake’s case, button prompts usually turn up on the screen whenever it can perform a certain action, so you don’t have to worry about the complex scheme of the buttons. Otacon also gives you a few decent guns to start off with, as well as the Solid Eye, which is your best friend from that moment on. The Solid Eye is a radar with features ranging from a threat ring – which gives out the positions of enemies closest to you – to thermal, to night vision. The Solid Eye consumes batteries – extras are usually found at a very obvious, yet hidden location – and its extremely high-pitched sound inaudible to a normal human being attracts certain enemies, but all in all, you need the gadget most of the time. It’s a phenomenal little thingy. I almost forgot to mention that it scans every soldier and separates the resistance members, a.k.a. friendly soldiers, from the ones working for Liquid’s PMC’s. On a few occasions, you get to fight alongside the resistance; you have to gain their trust first, though. What’s great is that on the next playthrough, they still remember you and you’re able to hang in their bases and battle stations without getting any shit from them. Of course you CAN kill them any time you wish, if you’re a total asshole.

Snake has finally come out of the closet and is able to use CQC, the combat style introduced in Metal Gear Solid 3; a secret Codec conversation reveals why he hasn’t used it before. The CQC has impressively improved; the response is a bit better and there are more moves. Food is no longer needed, you can’t eat animals for example, but noodles are carried over from the previous game, and the game introduces an energy drink. These are used to relieve stress and replenish health, among many items with a similar purpose. You really thought they would do a Metal Gear game without the classic rations? “You got rations.” They’re here, and they still taste bad. Since Snake’s muscle suit works as a relaxant in addition to its purpose of covering his family jewels, you won’t have to cure yourself and there are no visible ailments to suffer, but sometimes Snake’s performance can slightly falter from different pains in his lower back, for example – remember, he’s old – or a high level of stress.

Snake fighting alongside the Rat Patrol 01.
One of the most important new storyline threads in the game is that all of the enemy soldiers’ guns are ID locked, so you can’t use them... until you take them to Drebin. This very mysterious new character is a gun launderer and salesman. He can easily remove ID locks and give you false permission to use the weapons. Throughout the game, you gain DP from just about everything you do. It is used as currency in Drebin’s shop, for weapons, ammunition and items. The variety of his stock grows all the time, and thanks to the returning in-game clock, you get 50% off products on certain days you play the game on. Drebin’s services, just like everything else in this game, are not available before you meet the man during each playthrough.

In this game most of the boss fights are fought against the Beauty & The Beast unit – a group of deranged, physically enhanced young women leading the PMC troops. The duels in the game are nothing short of amazing. They’re like combinations of boss fights in the earlier games, spiced up with a whole lot of new, unlimited, crazy ideas. I don’t want to spoil TOO much, but as an example I’d like to mention a boss that’s like a mix of Sniper Wolf from the first game and the infamous The End from Snake Eater, who has dozens of enhanced enemy soldiers watching her back all the time, and an incredible sense of smell. Epic. Yet, it’s not as epic as perhaps the coolest boss fight in a video game ever, which actually takes place just a while later. I guarantee Metal Gear fans’ jaws WILL drop to the floor.

Between each act there’s a mission briefing. Instead of just standing in watch and enjoying the occasional flashback sequences, you might want to try and take control of Metal Gear Mk. III and collect all the hidden stuff scattered around the Nomad ship – all of which can’t be seen – or just look at things from a different perspective, OR take some time to go through your current stats, which include just about every tiny move you’ve made during the game.

If you get tired with the main game, you can always try Metal Gear Online, sort of an expansion pack which comes bundled with all versions and try your luck against 15 avid human players under much worse conditions, meaning you don’t have OctoCamo or anything like that – at least in the beginning. I have close to zero personal experience with the online game; it was way too hard to use before all the newest patches kicked in. You needed two different ID’s and if I remember correctly, two different passwords as well, to log in to the server – and the broadband connection which I had back when the game was released wasn’t quite up to speed.

It’s pointless to try to give every basic thing away, the game is so big. Although it features the longest cutscenes in history, and it’s admittedly more about flapping than tapping, for the fans Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is one of the most beautiful and epic experiences ever on a video game console. After giving it a lot of thought, Snake Eater is still my favourite game in the series, but 4 doesn’t come too far behind. The final twists in the storyline and the scarce but perfect gameplay, not to mention the game’s look, are just too dreamy. Fans will be glad to know that the game answers all of even the most complicated questions, and ties all the knots, and if it doesn’t do that to you, you can download the Metal Gear Database for free from the PlayStation Network – regardless of whether or not you own the game. It’s like a definitive collection of files on every smallest thing dealt with in the whole series from 1987 to present day, and also includes character bios, family trees and stuff like that. The best part is that 4’s storyline threads are locked until there’s a save file of the ending on the PS3’s hard drive, so there are absolutely no spoilers.

The game is surprisingly difficult, of course the difficulty level depends a lot on your personal playing style. If you want to get the best out of the game, you should be as quiet as possible and as creative as you possibly can – and that’s hard, really hard. I recently beat the game on one of the Normal levels with no alerts, and I can tell you, I had to reset the game for many, many dozens of times... and I like to call myself a seasoned veteran of Metal Gear Solid.

One final salute.
The end is here, and it’s beautiful. This game series, as it was, gave me so much. The story had true impact on me and my life, and there aren’t many video game franchises that have done that. Like the Final Fantasy series, Metal Gear has its own world which I’m never too tired to return to. It can never be duplicated. Many have tried, and many have died. All the best to Hideo Kojima, the ambitious genius who supposedly will never understand what kind of a masterpiece he gave us with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. I can complain about the odds between the cutscenes and actual gameplay, but I simply can’t deny that even the slightest amount of gameplay in this installment is the stuff of legends.

Graphics : 10
Sound : 10
Playability : 9.5
Challenge : 9.2
Overall : 9.6


GameRankings: 93.16%

The first game to utilize a full 50 Gb, dual-layered Blu-Ray disc.

The game promotes Apple (iPod), Regain (energy drinks) and Sony Ericsson (Naomi and Vamp’s mobile phones).

Altair’s costume from Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed is an unlockable item.

“Love Theme” is used in Nintendo Wii’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008) in Shadow Moses Island, a stage based on Metal Gear Solid. Solid Snake is a playable character in the game.

Media Molecule’s famed platformer LittleBIGPlanet has an expansion pack based on this particular game available, as well as downloadable costumes modelled after Old Snake, Meryl, Raiden and Screaming Mantis.

Before Hideo Kojima finally agreed to direct the game, his production team announced Alan Smithee as the director. “Alan Smithee” is a pseudonym used by many movie directors who want to wash their hands of certain movie projects. The “Smithee” in this case was Shuyo Murata, the co-writer of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. He ended up co-directing the game with Kojima.

Hideo Kojima’s very early draft of the game ended in Snake and Otacon being executed for their crimes. The production team was furious about this, and the idea was immediately canned.

The Beauty & The Beast unit was modelled after real-life models Lyndall Jarvis, Scarlett Chorvat, Mieko Rye and Yumi Kikuchi.

The first game in which both Naomi Hunter and Mei Ling make physical appearances. Also the first game in which Johnny shows his face.

The name “Drebin” is a pun at Frank Drebin, the main character of the Naked Gun movies. Drebin launders guns, therefore “strips” them.

Sunny occasionally plays PSP during mission briefing. A PS3 system can be found in the Nomad’s kitchen.

Laughing Octopus is legitimately the first character in the series to utter the word “fuck”. Technically, EVA in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was the first character to say the word, but the English translators of the earlier game decided to replace the words “Fuck you!” – which was the correct translation – with “Go to hell!”, in one of the scenes involving EVA and Volgin.

Ocelot is the only character that has appeared in all four Metal Gear Solid games.

The audio flashbacks on Shadow Moses are from Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, not from the original Metal Gear Solid. Naomi and Mei Ling’s thick accents are therefore officially removed from the series’ consistency.

The final conversation between Snake and his father was greatly influenced by the end of Star Wars – Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

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