MGS Retrospective Review: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Aug 19, 2015

This is the end, my only friend.

Solid Snake’s story comes to an end (or so it would seem) in Metal Gear Solid 4. It takes all that came before it and adds new gameplay mechanics and camera controls while improving on existing ones. Hideo Kojima and his team really worked hard to deliver a quality story that builds on everything that came before and at the same time wrap many loose threads.

Love is a battlefield! For this week’s Metal Gear Solid Retrospective review, it’s Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for the PS3.

STORY

“Is your age of heroes finally over?” – Meryl

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots takes place five years after the events of MGS 2. Solid Snake is now an old man due to circumstances related to accelerated aging. As time is running out, Snake and Otacon are payed a visit by Roy Campbell who tells them of Ocelot’s (now Liquid) recent whereabouts in the Middle East. Liquid has used his time and resources to establish several large Private Military Companies (PMCs) in his effort to destroy the Patriots and carry out Big Boss’ legacy – Outer Haven. Snake’s final mission – Eliminate Liquid!

The name's Snake, Old Snake.

The name’s Snake, Old Snake.

There are five story acts featuring various locales like the Middle East, South America and Eastern Europe. Each location has its own PMC variant and local militia fighting them. In the chaos of battle, Snake must accomplish various mission objectives mostly unrelated to the actual fighting between the two sides. This provides an interesting dynamic between the main plot and the plight of the local armed forces – a side story within the main story.

As this is Solid Snake’s last hurrah, there are many returning faces – and surprise appearances! My favorite return is Meryl. She has changed a great deal over the past nine years since we last saw her in MGS. She is now the commander of Rat Patrol 01, a U.S. military unit set up to monitor PMC activity around the world. Other returning characters include Dr. Naomi Hunter, Vamp and super-duper cyborg ninja Raiden!

As is par for the course with Metal Gear, there are many surprising revelations that propel Snake and his allies throughout the various theaters of war. Unlike MGS 2, these twists and turns actually make a bit of sense and logically move the story forward. This is good as you’ll be watching a great deal of cut scenes – I’d say they consume almost half the game! Guns of the Patriots’ story isn’t as impactful as Snake Eater’s or as original as the first MGS, but it amends for many of the transgressions occurred in Sons of Liberty and is a proper send off for Solid Snake.

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GAMEPLAY

 “I’m no hero. Never was, never will be.” - Snake

MGS an FPS? Well, if you want…yes. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots offers the player a great deal of freedom in how they wish to control Snake as well as new gameplay mechanics that make this one of the most playable games in the franchise. As with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater HD Edition, the player has complete third person control over Snake – with the added addition of full movement in first person view. I found it more useful to play in third person, but first person view became very useful when navigating areas filled to the brim with enemies.

The fighting between the PMC and the local resistance help facilitate Snake's infiltration.

The fighting between the PMC and the local resistance help facilitate Snake’s infiltration.

In an update to the camo and face paint system introduced in Snake Eater, Solid Snake is now fitted with an Octo-camo suit. When Snake is still, the suit when automatically change its appearance to reflect the surrounding environment. This is SO much better than the clumsy menu navigation of MGS 3. On that note, the stamina gauge has been replaced by the psyche gauge. As the battlefield conditions increase in intensity, the gauge will slowly decrease. Snake can increase the gauge by eating noodles, drinking a Regain energy drink, smoking, or by listening to some tunes on his iPod!

Snake can find and unlock various weapons via Drebin, a gun launderer. When you collect extra guns and gear, Snake acquires Drebin points that can be used to purchase machine guns, rocket launders, grenades, ammo and more. MGS 4 has the largest weapon selection in the series and it is worth it to check out every weapon in the game (plus Drebin points are extremely easy to collect). With the Octo-camo suit, improved gameplay controls and a beefy weapon selection – it has never been more fun to be Snake!

GRAPHICS

 “It’s not over! Not yet.” – Liquid Ocelot

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots uses Konami’s Fox Engine - and boy does it still look awesome! This game is now seven years old and looks better than most games today. With Snake now a geezer, you can really see the wrinkles on his face. All the character models look excellent with great attention to detail on the faces as well as the various clothing and weapons. The environments are extremely detailed as well and feature their own characteristics. The Middle East area is dusty and brown while Eastern Europe is dark and dank.

The FOX engine allows characters to really show their...well...character!

The FOX engine allows characters to really show their…well…character!

Regarding technical aspects of the game’s performance, it runs solidly (pun intended) for the most part. There are certain instances through where there are a lot of combatants and explosions on the screen at one time that causes the frame rate to drip quite severally and can be a real problem. Fortunately, it doesn’t occur too often and is absent in scripted action sequences. The Metal Gear series has always been known for its stellar graphics and MGS 4 continues this trend. I really looked for issues to complain about, but couldn’t find much. Top marks for sustainability!

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EXTRAS

“You’re the toughest, craziest, most hardcore badass on the planet. You’re…the shit! - Otacon

A tear rolls down my cheek.

A tear rolls down my cheek.

In addition to the main game, there is a virtual range where Snake can test out all the various weapons acquired throughout the course of the game. There are extra Octo-camo and Face-camo variations that can be collected as the player accomplishes objectives as well as after the main story mode is completed. Unfortunately, the multiplayer component, Metal Gear Online, is now longer available (don’t be sad, it wasn’t very good anyway). Other than some small Easter eggs, it’s a pretty bare bone release unless you can get your hands on the Limited Edition version which has a feature-length making-of documentary as well as an official soundtrack composed by Harry-Gregson Williams.

FINAL VERDICT

“So long as there is light…there is shadow.” – Big Mama

Overall: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is a great game that adds the best control scheme to date for the franchise as well as top notch graphics that still wow today. However, even though the story is vastly improved over MGS 2, it wraps things up a bit too tightly and some of the big revelations require significant leaps of faith in order to grasp. Regardless, Kojima-san does right by Solid Snake and gives him the proper send-off he deserves.

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