Concluding my series of short retrospectives concerning the Metal Gear games is a look at one of the more divisive entries in the series, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, exclusive to the Sony PlayStation 3. Kojima is on record for complaining about the lack of power in Sony’s, at the time, latest console as it didn’t allow him to achieve his vision for what he considered to be the conclusion of the Metal Gear story. Regardless of this, the game he eventually made and released was heralded as an instant classic upon its arrival, gaining 10/10 reviews from all over the place and I even remember at least one publication calling it “maybe the best videogame ever made”! Regardless, it didn’t take long for its detractors to emerge, and complaints about the ratio of cutscenes to gameplay sections were common, as well as criticism of the inordinately long ending that attempted to wrap up a story spanning several decades. Also irritating was the way that the game installed to the hard disk drive in chapters, with each requiring a lengthy time to load, leaving players staring at a looped animation of Snake smoking whilst an ironic anti-smoking message flashed onscreen.
Something that everyone could agree on was that technically speaking the game looked great for the time, with a solid engine delivering a smooth experience that felt fun to play. There was a definite improvement in controls from the previous PS2 games and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots presented a clear leap forward in the gameplay sections throughout. Some people were a bit critical of the washed out grey and brown colour scheme present in much of the game, as this was a trend in early PS3 and Xbox 360 games, but it suited the war-torn landscapes of Metal Gear perfectly. Whilst militaristic, the art direction was also top-notch, and the Gekko bipedal walking tanks were just terrifyingly unsettling both in their visual appearance and the noises they made. Technology is also really awesome in this game and it gave us neat gadgets like the ‘Octocamo’ adaptive camouflage sneaking suit, as well as the first appearance by the new cyborg Raiden.
Fans were once again kinda robbed of the opportunity to play as ‘Solid Snake’, as in this game he has succumbed to accelerated aging and is instead dubbed ‘Old Snake’, although it is essentially the same character. The plot is a continuation of the convoluted memetic and information-control-based narrative started in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and as such requires much more suspension of disbelieve than the previous title, and at time becomes very over the top and crazy. Kojima also dabbles much more in a postmodern structure with this game, as there are not only lengthy cutscenes using the game engine, but also comic-book sections and live action footage, even involving the voice actors playing as themselves!? Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is brave and uncompromising in its approach, and I can understand why it would be so divisive amongst players. Personally I *loved* this game from start to finish, and really got wrapped up in the story, seeing it right through to the fitting and poignant conclusion. Although, I will admit to having to use a wiki occasionally to get all the subtle references to events both in real-life and within the Metal Gear series mythology.
As an end to the Metal Gear storyline, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots does an excellent job of wrapping it all up. Yes, the lengthy cutscenes are taken to all new levels of excess, but as a result it packs the narrative punch needed to finish everything off and give all characters closure; even Big Boss gets his story concluded here. Despite this focus on narrative cutscenes, the gameplay is also still excellent, with some of the finest stealth gameplay, and all the inventive boss fights that the series had become known for. The “Beauty and the Beast” unit is truly terrifying and exciting to fight against as you take them on one-by-one throughout the game.
For the longest time this was the last Metal Gear game that I played, as I skipped over Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker (tried it in the HD collection but just couldn’t get into it) and so won’t be writing a retrospective for that one, and this also concludes my ‘Month of Metal Gear’. Thanks for reading and for a full list of games written about and reviewed this month check out these other entries in my blog: