136th played so far

Genre: Stealth/Action
Platform: PlayStation 3
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Konami

The Metal Gear Solid series has never been a favourite of ours, whether it’s the first, second or third game, or a rather disappointing remake. There’s been a few that were better than others, with an increase as we got further into the series, but the series never really grabbed us.

To get through the games we borrowed quite a while ago, however, we do need to play this, and having left it until the end it’s become an obstacle. We haven’t felt much like it, and so have been dreading starting this game.

Our Thoughts

I’ll be the first to admit that we have been very harsh critics of the Metal Gear Solid series. We were always able to see why some others are fans of the series but it not only left us cold but also tired and mildly pissed off. This game has been sitting in our to play pile for months and months and not just because we played Sons of Liberty and Twin Snakes so close together… fun fact: there is only one Metal Gear Solid game left on the list for us to play. It’s already in our PSP game pile… supporting many others at the moment, with very few in the stack under it.

When we started this game the first that really struck me were the graphics. With memories of the original game sketched in our memories these realistic graphics looked amazing. What was even better was that these graphics have actually made the cutscenes bareable but fairly immersive. In previous games we bitched and moaned about the number of cutscenes in this game since they felt intrusive and so incredibly long since whilst they were tied to the story it was still a hell of a lot of padding. In Gun of the Patriots they were amazingly cinematic and particular phrase has to go to the team who were in charge of facial movements. In all other games of this franchise your main line of communication is a talkative portrait… now there is proper humanoid movement and it makes it so much more relateable. Okay the story is still the crazy work of a madman but it’s more fun to follow now (even if there is a villain called Laughing Octopus).

What helps here is that the radio/audio link from earlier games in the series have been replaced by a video link. You can see your advisor, not just hear him, and he’s moving around and vaguely mobile… as much as a guy at a desk can be. It also adds some personality. This is helped by the cute (and very stealthy) helper robot who follows you around and provides that video link, amongst other things.

Another great feature is the camouflage. Apparently based on the reflex of an octopus (I see a pattern here) this quickens the gaming pace compared to the systems previously in place so there is no need to constantly switch in and out of the menus. You can still do so if you want, but a one-button solution is a lot easier. And it saves the pattern you’ve tuned into before… It’s another collectable! Speaking of which…

It is also the first game where I can see the drive for replayability. Unlike previous games where the play was pretty straight you can now rack up points to buy guns (and for some reason porn) at a remote vendor. This then leads to high scores for each act which can then be bested the next time you play.

Another thing I must commend here is the AI. The basics are still there – guys walking around, giving alerts when they spot you… but it feels more polished. Enemies do more of their own thing – they don’t just walk their rounds, but go from location to location, lounge at times, and these activities cover their alertness. When the two enemy factions fight, they’re distracted enough that sometimes you can walk right by them without them spotting you, or you can hide behind a corner and they won’t even turn to look.

On the whole everything just feels far more natural and immersive. The parcelling off of some stealth elements in favour of an action-based play allows for a greater deal of choice in how you play the game. Between the two of us we used both of these with Jeroen hiding in corners and skulking behind sandbags and myself headshotting the guards and rolling barrels through NPC-riddled territory in a blaze of glory.

Final Thoughts

I think, with this game, we’ve found our first Metal Gear Solid game we really enjoyed playing. True, some cutscenes still ran a bit long, but they were a lot more fun to keep up with, with a far more interesting story – it feels far less like you’re just being led from fight to fight, there’s actual characterization!

It might be a fluke, and other games in the series may turn away from these elements, but so far Metal Gear Solid 4 has been a pleasant surprise, and is actually making me look forward more to the final game in the series. Possibly in about two year’s time.

  1. […] Well we never really enjoyed this franchise. I mean Snake Eater was okay but I was blown away by Metal Gear Solid 4. Having chartered the course of this series from the original through all the major console […]