A Solid Offering that Isn't as Solid as the Previous Entrys
PlatformOVERALL
Nintendo Entertainment System0.00
Overall 0.00
Ambition is a really risky thing. In one route it can make a game amazing and completely revolutionize the medium all together. In another route it can be too much for the experience and completely ruin the entire game. After playing Kojima's latest epic I can confirm that from my experience this game sits directly in the middle.

For the one person who doesn't know. Metal Gear Solid 4 is the last entry in the mainland series. The series involves the player being literally in a sci-fi spy fiction world as the player controls a legendary soldier, usually given the title "Solid Snake", as they infiltrate the map using stealth to transfer room to room however they please (whether it being go quietly without seeing or silently taking the enemy(ies) down) with the main objective revolving around destroying a Metal Gear (a type of high tech futuristic war machine) . The series is often known for it's polished and fun gameplay as well as the complicated story and excessive amount of cutscenes.

Before I can give any praise or critic to this game I feel that it would be best if I'd go over the setting, design, and core gameplay first.

The game starts out with a cutscene of Snake being deployed in the middle of a warzone somewhere in the Middle East. His mission is to assassinate a world-wide terrorist known as Liquid (yes this is REALLY oversimplifying things but trust me if I'd have to explain the whole story I'd need to go through AT LEAST 4 pages of content before I could continue on with this review). During the first few moments of gameplay the dazzles you with it's CG quality graphics and special effects and animations throughout the area that really make the game feel like a real-life battlefield. The purpose of these moments are to give the player a feel for the game as this is often Metal Gear tradition.

The first thing that the player will notice is that the game has adapted a complete 3rd person viewpoint like the one found in Subsistence. The next thing the player will notice is that much of the controls and options layed by previous games in the series are still intact. With the exception of shooting and attacking now being performed by the "R1" button, as well as having the player lean against the wall in a forward manner by pressing the "/\" button instead of just pushing the control stick toward the wall to do a back press, as well the codec now being on the start menu. Everything else is still present and done the same way. CQC, First Person Viewing, Static Circle (from MGS:PO) Ducking, Crawling, Wall Pressing

Saying this there have been some significant changes. Gunplay has been significantly reconstructed. The game has adapted to a semi over the shoulder viewpoint that has become the recent trend in the market. However it just isn't the viewpoint that is more crafted for shooting but the players options as well. For example as the player holds the "L1" button to aim they have the choice of also pressing the "/\" button to aim the gun in first person view as they can now move the character around freely while still aiming at this viewpoint. The player can also fall on with their back on the ground while still being able to aim and shoot at enemies. Grenades have also become much more accurate and easy to use as the player can now hold the "L1" button and aim by moving a market point on the ground with the control stick.

While manually selecting what camoflague the player wears is still an option, the game defaultly presents the player with "octocamo" a camoflague that automatically picks the best camoflage the blends in with whatever texture (whether it be wall, ground, crate, or door) at the time. While this may sound like it makes the game too easy it really doesn't as it makes the player concentrate on more important matters then "what do I wear?"

As the game progresses the player is given the option to buy weapons, bullets, and special items as well as the ablitiy to customize their weapons with features like handle grips, laser pointers, rifle scopes, etc. It really comes useful when trying to find that "perfect weapon" during some tough situations.

Another new item is the Mk.II (which is obvious homage from "Metal Gear Mk.II" in Snatcher) which is a robot the player controls to infiltrate areas with its invisiblity feature as well as stun enemies with its shock attack. Storywise the Mk.II is a way for Snake's "assistant" (Otacon) to follow him on his missions via live video recording feed.

There are other different and new features such as the ablity of being able to roll left and right as well as the saving being done by selecting it on the start menu screen instead of calling in from codec, almost a complete removal of the enemy radar, and control instructions avaliable through the select button.

As the player progresses it becomes obvious that this game is a true next generation experience. They often said "next gen starts with Metal Gear Solid 4" and for once the intense hype might have been right. Even when the intensity from the opening slight dies down their is never a time where the player doesn't feel like they aren't in the middle of a deserty city battlefield as the sound, animations, and detail in the environments make everything come together. The buildings are crafted well both inside and outside as from the outside the player can see their deteriation and from the inside you truly get a sense that someone was once living here with pots, bottles, beds, cans,and rubble, running about. The echos of machine guns and bombs circle the air. And troops on both sides in a heated battle demostrated by their lively animations and developed A.I. the NPC's truly bring the feeling of war to reality.

Metal Gear Solid 2 surprised anticipating fans as the game did not take place in a ship with Solid Snake (as that was only the intro) but more so on an oceanic industrial oil rig with a new young main character Raiden. Metal Gear Solid 4 mirrors this only with the surprise being that the game takes place in  a different location. There are a total of 4 main acts the player must complete in which all of them take place in a different location (with one of them taking place in two). In a disapointing lite neither of them have quite as a strong atmosphere as the first but the majority do bring out some really strong next generation environments.

Now that these things are explained for you, the reader, it is time that I give my thoughts on this game. It truly does technically push gaming to the next level as the environments, atmosphere, graphics, and animations are amongst gamings best. The Metal Gear universe truly has never been brought to life with this much detail. The cutscenes while long as ever are much more fun to watch and truly do look like a movie the majority of the time due to the games CG quality graphics. The story and plot have never been as fleshed out as ALL of the missing pieces in the Metal Gear Saga finally come together.

While those praises are strong something definately does not deserve any praise. The core gameplay of Metal Gear Solid is gone. The using your enviornments to the fullest to trick or kill enemies while progressing through map to map is finished. Instead the game migrates from Tactical Stealth Espionage Action to Tactical Sneaking Espionage Action. There is very little that resembles the old Metal Gear games in terms of gameplay. Levels are designed to replicate lifelike environments instead of being throughly designed with fun in mind. The majority of the game works with the player following a set path (with a marker on the map as aid) while trying sneaking up to an enemy and taking them down with a gun. I know this could be said about the previous ones but in actuality this isn't true. The previous ones were in detailed environments where the player used the scenery around them to progress toward the enemy before sneaking away for them or taking them down as there were seperate maps that had multiple patrol enemies in given positions. The majority of the maps in this game during human enemies are extremely big taking place in vast open spaces. The only thing to do most of the time is to either shoot the enemy from afar or slowly crawl toward them on the ground waiting for their backs to get turned then kill them and progress to the next enemy. Even when some areas replicate that found in previous games they still don't feel as tightly developed or as fun due to the A.I. being a little too smart as the patrol patterns and just overall thought of the enemy has been complexed up a bit.

It also really doesn't help that the game constantly seems to be switching what the player should be doing. One moment you're infiltrating a military base, the next you're tracking someone in a trail,the next you're escaping from a base machine gunning enemies while someone is driving you out of there, the next you're following someone part of a secret organization, and then you are once again escaping from an area via vehicle while someone drives and you gun down enemies. Thinking of it part of a reason why this doesn't feel like Metal Gear Solid is because there is very little infiltration during the entire game.

Another negative keypoint, while is just opinion, is that due to the game taking place in multiple areas it loses its "feel". Shadow Moses defined MGS, The Rig defined MGS2, the Jungle defined MGS3, MGS4 isn't really defined by any enviornment. To me the area you explore itself lends much of the atmosphere and setting of a Metal Gear Solid game. I see it much similar to how the Metroid series. Moving from one place to another really detracts from the whole "feel" of it. The gameplay isn't all bad though as it definately delievers with the boss battles as well

Overall I have mixed feelings about this game. It delievered with its promises of being a true next generation experience as well as more then delievering on the story, but it really falls together on its core gameplay which is mostly due to these things. While the "next generation" (shouldn't it be "current"?) level design is a feat that even lends its hand to gameplay as I found myself having to reapproach myself from navigating through blunt hallways to living breathing worlds it definately takes away from the design that made Metal Gear METAL GEAR as the stealth/action is mostly missing. And while the A.I. is impressive it was dumb A.I. that kept me going back map to map in the previous Metal Gears just to fuck around with enemies. While it delivers in story and conclusion in detailed cutscenes I really wished that much of what happened in the cutscenes actually happened by me playing the game. It's really hard to explain. It would be like saying to Final Fantasy fans that Final Fantasy XIII's story and cinematic pacing is as good as VI, VII, or X (just using examples of the most praised ones) but has a mediocre combat system and archanic level design.

Conclusion: Hideo Kojima took a lot of risks with Metal Gear Solid. At the time the only games that were really cinematic and focused on storytelling were JRPG's and Adventure games. Most developers didn't think that gamers would tolerate cutscenes and heavy dialogue for games of other genres (especially one that is a branch of the action genre). Kojima took the risk on behalf of his visions of gaming coming true and they paid off with a critically and commercially acclaimed game that set new standards for the industry. It seems that he's pushed gaming to it's limit again with this entry of the Metal Gear series but it seems that the ambition has overrode the concept. It definately isn't the flawless masterpiece people make it out to be, hell it isn't even the best Metal Gear game. Kojima really should learn the balance between powerful tech/ambiotion and skill/core gameplay when venturing into these waters. But as  the game is it is still a very entertaining and enjoyable experience. If you're a Metal Gear fan the story alone is a reason to check this game out. If you're a gamer it definately isn't an experience you'd want to miss, it just isn't what it was made/what most make it out to be.

Final Word: "A Great Experience that has Suffered from Over-Ambition"
Posted by Punk Rebel Ecks Wed, 07 Jan 2009 07:06:59
 
Thu, 08 Jan 2009 00:19:51

Very well written review. I didn't feel the same way about the gameplay though. I totally understand what you are saying but I think MGS3 started the movement toward open environments and more about blending into your environment to get around enemies rather than the pac-man style of previous MGS games. I found MGS3s gameplay to be way better, it creates a sort of playground in every area for you to approach the enemies in many many ways. MGS4 took that forumla and expanded it even more, added better gunplay and enemy AI, basically created the ultimate gameplay playgrounds with so many ways to play that I found myself replaying sections over and over. MGS4 to me easily has the best gameplay of the series.

As for the loss of "feel" because of the changing of locations, very valid complaint. It doesn't have that same uniform feel as all other MGS games. But I enjoyed it cause it felt like worldwide adventure, for once it truely felt like the entire world is in danger. I think it fit with the grand finale experince of this game.

The only area I feel this game is not as good as previous MGS are the boss fights and the story.

 
Thu, 08 Jan 2009 04:10:18
Hmm well seems that we are in oposite ends. IDK I just really didn't enjoy how they changed the gameplay.
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