Wednesday, July 02, 2008

VG review: Metal Gear Solid 4

Konami, for PlayStation 3, rated M for Mature (blood, crude hu­mor, strong language, suggestive themes, violence), $59.99.

I’m about to commit sacrilege here.

“Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriot,” the fourth and final entry in the popular series, is a good game.

Note that I didn’t say great or awesome, but merely “good.” It’s fun, to be sure, and will please fans. But best of year? It’s not even the best in the series.

Not that you’d know that from all the praise that’s been lavished on the game thus far. Expectations have run high for PS3 owners and “Metal Gear” devotees, which makes me wonder if there isn’t a bit of hyperbole going on.

Anyway, as with previous MGS games, “Guns of the Patriots” is all about being sneaky and getting the drop on a variety of faceless soldiers using everything from your semiautomatic machine gun to a Playboy magazine (no, seriously).

And, as before, you play as Solid Snake, now called Old Snake, as he’s rapidly aging due to a backstory that’s too complicated to go into here.

Snake is out to stop his cloned “brother” (again, too complicated to get into), the dreaded Liquid Ocelot, from spreading chaos. To that end he has to roam through dangerous warfare scenarios, including the Middle East and the jungles of South America.

Along the way, a number of characters from previous “Metal Gear” games show up, rewarding the faithful and also adding to the overall sense of finality.

Snake has a number of new weapons this time, including the Mark II, a little robot that can scout ahead and shock soldiers and Solid Eye, an electronic eye patch that gives you night vision and a radar-like location of your enemies during the daytime.

There’s also the Octocamo Suit, which lets Snake blend in with his surroundings chameleon-style when he presses up against a wall, crouches or lies flat on the ground.

Snake moves a bit easier now and the ability to do things like fire from the ground makes the controls seem less convoluted. I also greatly appreciated the improved camera and the auto-aim ability.

What I didn’t like are the cut scenes. Lots and lots of cut scenes. Interminably dull cut scenes spoken in drab monotones. The story has always been one of the major selling points of the series, but here they go over the top to the point where lengthy periods of installation are required in order to watch these fun-halting sequences.

Developer Hideo Kojima has always filled his games with political intrigue and philosophizing, but here it seems overly convoluted and confusing. For a game trying to say something about modern warfare, it’s telling that it separates most soldiers into two camps — faceless rebels and faceless government forces, and good luck telling between the two.

The game looks very good. In fact, I’d say it’s the best use of PS3 graphics yet. But every time when I’d admire the pretty pictures or immerse myself in the game play, I’d get confused with the controls and inadvertently blow my cover. Or I’d have to sit through another blasted cut scene.

Part of the problem might be that I haven’t finished the game. Who knows, there might be some mind-blowing spectacle awaiting me past the eight-hour mark. Unfortunately, I’ll probably have to watch a 30-minute cut scene to get there.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2008


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