Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is enchanting and exasperating in equal measure: the stunning stealth action combined with the long, drawn out narrative that weaves through the game will be elixir to you if long, ponderous cut-scenes are your thing but, if you just want to get to the action, then the last instalment in the famous franchise will often prove irritating.
What action it is, though. It’s classic Metal Gear Solid stealth gameplay ramped up to 11, and is executed with class and style. There’s plenty going on, too, with a wealth of additions making the gameplay experience even more absorbing than before.
As usual, stealth is of the essence, and it’s easy to be silent and deadly like never before. Snake moves around with a well-practised fleetness of foot and, handily, you’re wearing a high-tech suit that blends into your surroundings. Crouch near a light brick-coloured wall, for instance, and your usually dark, skin-tight costume slowly takes on the colour of the brick – making you much harder to spot. You even use the Sixaxis controller to reset the suit to it’s original colour.
This is just one of Snake’s high-tech tricks, though: the Solid Eye is another superb, helpful addition to the game. It replaces the raft of visual devices present in the other games and, instead, put binoculars, night-vision and more into a single monocle. It does have a battery that wears down if you use it too much but it’s a handy tool to have – there’s a radar that detects enemies, for instance.
The third major addition – alongside the dozens of smaller improvements – is Metal Gear Mk II. It’s a small robot drone that, ordinarily, follows you around. You can also take control of the little dude and use him to explore potentially dangerous areas, and the robot helpfully augments the usual Codec communication system with video messages.
One area that’s been scaled back, though, is the health meter – it plays so little part in the game that you really don’t notice it. Snake’s beefed-up armoury of suits and gadgets means that he’s much less vulnerable than he used to be and, so, you’re free to concentrate on the actual gameplay rather than skulking around corners and worrying about stray bullets.
All of these contribute to some stunning action: from the first stages, when you’re sneaking through a warzone, to later areas of the game – that I won’t give away for fear of spoilers – it’s exquisite.
Much has been made, though, of the interference of numerous cut-scenes throughout Guns of the Patriots – it’s even common knowledge now that Konami restricted certain publications from moaning about the length of certain cut-scenes within the game.
Well, they’re long. Some of them incredibly slow. Kojima obviously wants to include a huge amount of narrative and with this, the final game in the 20 year-old series, he’s pulling out every single stop to wrap up plot-lines. I’m not going to give anything of the story away but, suffice to say, it’s cinematic and exciting with just a bit of trademark Metal Gear Solid lunacy thrown in – so it’s everything you expect, and more.
I’ve come to the conclusion, though, that the cut-scenes will only annoy you if you let them. Sure, it can be a little irritating when you just want to play some more of that brilliant game, but the cut-scenes themselves are brilliant, too: full of stunning animation, gorgeous graphics – as is the rest of the game – and fantastic voice acting.
They’re some of the most movie-esque scenes, well, seen in a game. I can only think of PS3 exclusive Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune that may come close, and they had movie-quality production values and full motion capture with actors playing their parts totally, from motion capture to expressions and voices. Metal Gear Solid is at least as good as this, if not better, and it’s a fantastic achievement.
And then there’s Metal Gear Online – the multiplayer aspect of the title that revolves around stealth battles with up to 16 players. It’s brilliant fun, bringing a lightness and immediacy that the game, with all of its stealth and serious speech often doesn’t have. It’s free but will also be updated with regular downloadable content, and is awesome. Give it a go.
In fact, the entirety of Guns of the Patriots is a fantastic achievement: it’s graphically and technically a stunning title, with near-perfect gameplay blended skilfully with gorgeous, cinematic cut-scenes and a plot that’s a fitting conclusion to the series. So don’t complain about the length and frequency – instead, just sit and enjoy. We won’t see something like this for quite a while.