Metal Gear Solid 4, review restrictions and the 90 minute cut scene

The gaming world's looking forward to MGS4, but games reviewers are leaking some disturbing reports...

The MGS4 packaging

Restrictions on reviews – of videogames or otherwise – are nothing new. Reviewers’ early access to forthcoming materials is often conditional on avoiding plot spoilers, or keeping embargos regarding publication dates. But if recent reports are to be believed, Konami has gone a stage further with Metal Gear Solid 4, insisting reviewers don’t talk about two very significant aspects of the game that might otherwise have come in for criticism…

If the rumours are to be believed (and they’re coming from very credible sources), the two really objectionable reporting restrictions imposed by Konami are that reviewers must not mention the size of the install or the length of the cut scenes. There’s no valid reason whatsoever why these aspects of the game shouldn’t be mentioned in a review. They’re not spoilers and have nothing to do with the timing of the release, so why is Konami so apparently insistent on keeping them out of reviews?

According to already-released pictures of the box art, the install is a massive 4.6 GB. Is this a bad thing? Konami must think so, or why else would it seem so keen on keeping it out of reviews? Worse still, the cut scenes are said to be huge, including at least one that’s 90 minutes long and several of over 30 minutes. You can pause or skip them if you wish, but with around 50% of the game’s playing time taken up by non-interactive cut scenes, no reviewis even remotely complete without making reference to them.

Respected American magazine EGM refused to review the game under these restrictions, a brave and principled move for which it should be commended. IGN went ahead with a review, but opened their piece with “In return for letting us play Metal Gear Solid 4 before its release, Konami issued us with a list of things that we’re not allowed to discuss. This list of prohibited topics is pretty long, and even extends as far as several facts that the company itself has already made public”.

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It seems games reviewers aren’t happy, and not without good reason. Once again, restrictions based on plot spoilers or publication dates are only to be expected, but Konami’s demands appear to be designed to stifle legitimate criticism, and this is simply unacceptable. If a reviewer’s fair comments put people off buying a title, that reviewer is doing his or her job correctly. And let’s face it – excessively large installs and insanely-long cut scenes may well have exactly this effect.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is in the shops on 12th June. You can read a bit more about it here.