This is a repost. I up'd it late last night and made the mistake of leaving the window open for a long time, so it got bumped down almost immediately.
This blog post may contain spoilers. You have been warned.
Metal Gear Solid 4.
The game that makes both fan and foe squirm. The game that has been heralded as the forerunner in the "Games as Art" debate. The games in the MGS series have always been a love/hate for most folks. Those that allow themselves to be absorbed in the story and characters claim that the series is the best of the best. On the other hand, many say the drawn out cutscenes, the convoluted plot, and the not so user friendly controls make it hard for newcomers to get into the series.
Well, the moment of truth has arrived. The game has been out for over two weeks now, and has been debated and discussed on forums around the net. The title "Best. Game. Ever." has been thrown around a bit, and usually is countered with "Game? What game?", a dig on the LONG cutscenes present in MGS4. These cutscenes are probably one of the most talked about aspects of MGS4. Which makes sense, considering that some of them are 30+ minutes (with the ending being the longest of course). But are these cutscenes truly too much, or are they a blessing in disguise?
I was sitting in my room, fiddling around on my PS3 while my girlfriend cruised Facebook for the umpteenth time (Seriously, do they ever get sick of that thing?), and I decided I'd boot up MGS4. I had actually previously written a paper for my girlfriend's speech class detailing the first MGS storyline. The paper was supposed to be about a piece of art, and you were to describe it in great detail and explain why the audience should know about it. I had a great time with it, and the lady was able to look like a huge nerd in front of her class, which I got a kick out of.
Anyways, since she was familiar with part of the story, I thought I would show her a little bit of what I had been playing the last few days. So I load my save up, Act 4, right before the Crying Wolf boss fight. Immediately she was taken aback. She was shocked by how good the game looked, as I think most of us were when we first put in the disc. As I explained how the game systems worked such as the Solid Eye and Octocamo, she actually looked interested.
Now, my girlfriend is no stranger to video games. She grew up with Counter-Strike and Starcraft, mostly thanks to her older brother (who is now off designing the sockets for computer chips, or some other crazy shit that nobody understands when he tries to explain it). After her brother graduated and moved away for college, so too did her video game playing. That is, until she met me. Up until now we've only played a few things together, some PixelJunk Monsters here, Mario Galaxy there, nothing too serious. Not anything that you would define as a "hardcore" game.
That all changed that night, where she proceeded to watch as for the next few hours I played through those final acts. She watched every cutscene and looked genuinely sad as we each heard the terrible stories behind Wolf and Mantis, and tensed up as Raiden sacrificed his body repeatedly to save Snake. Two events in my last few hours of MGS4 stick out the most in my mind however. The hallway scene on board Outer Heaven, and the final fight against Ocelot.
As Meryl and Akiba were finalizing their wedding plans, and all hell is breaking lose outside, Snake was running down what seemed endless hallway after hallway, fighting off creepy little robots and trying to shut down Ocelot's control over the militaries of the world. As Snake neared his destination, the hallway started to heat up. Pieces of the Octocamo started to rip and fall off as Snake struggled to stay on his feet. Eventually, Snake collapses and has to drag himself along, foot by foot, inch by inch.
At this point, we were both on the edge of our seats, her yelling at me to hit triangle faster and my finger starting to cramp. And just when it looks like it'll be the end for Snake, the virus is uploaded and Ocelot's control is relinquished. We both sat back like a great weight had just been lifted off of our own shoulders. But we both knew what was coming next.
Two men. A sunset. Fisticuffs.
This is what it had all led up to. All the trickery, the triple-crossing, the mech fights, everything. This was the moment. I was about to play the single greatest moment in MGS, nay, GAMING history. And I was pumped.
That is until I died in the second stage of the fight. I swear, I caught more hell for that than when I forgot to call or when I canceled a date just hours before we were supposed to go out. I was ashamed. The pinnacle of the MGS series and I failed. I shamefully pressed continue and beat that bastard back into the ground. I had done it. It was over.
As we watched the last cutscenes, I started to wonder. Was she actually enjoying this? Did she really just sit through these last two acts and actually enjoy
herself? Or was this just one of those "Ok honey, I know you like it, so I'll sit here and pretend I like it" kind of thing?
These thoughts were soon put to rest however because as soon as I had saved my completed game, I had the controller taken from my hands. "My time to play" she said. I was in shock. "What? I thought you hated any video game that you couldn't just pick up and play?" She had repeatedly said to me that she felt playing long video games was a "waste of time." When asked why she felt that way, but would gladly sit through a 2 hour movie, she was dumbfounded. "I don't know, they just aren't as entertaining."
As she boot up her game, she explained how this game was different. "I really like how there's a fifteen minute cutscene, followed by thirty minutes of play." She felt like she was IN a movie, and not playing through your generic OH NOES ALIENS WHERE'S THE STEROID CREW?
See, her main complaint with console games is the confusing controls. All the L2s, Squares, and dual analog sticks can be daunting to a newcomer. Which leads to her other reason for wanting to play through the game. You can be sneaky! There's no pressure to get a billion headshots while swarms of aliens rush your character. You can take it slow, pausing and taking time to plan your next move. This allowed her, being new at PlayStation controls, to have a great time actually PLAYING
the game and not having to worry about not having the controls memorized within the first five minutes, or even the first five hours of the game.
For the next two nights, she was at my house, taking Snake through his last fight, staying up until 6 AM and sleeping til 2 PM. Finally, after a long weekend, she had done it. Granted, the final two acts weren't as exciting for her, but she still really enjoyed herself.
Even now, in 2008, many people still look down on video games as "for kids," and are unable to think that there can be beautiful and complicated stories intertwined with amazing gameplay. I'm sure some of you reading this had a similar experience with someone you know walking in on you playing MGS4 and just being shocked by the superb voice acting and visuals in a video game. It's hard to believe how far video games and technology have come in the last decade. When someone walks in and asks you what movie you're watching, you know that video games have reached a new level of storytelling.