Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008) MicroReview
Hideo Kojima’s PlayStation 3 masterpiece still holds up just as well in 2015. It’s sickening to think of how much is actually going on in this game- don’t even try to “do everything” in one playthrough, it’s more about letting the incredibly complex and labyrinthine systems wash over you. I’ve gone through MGS4 several times without discovering whole areas or enemy behavioral patterns, even entire gameplay paradigms have slipped past me- and I find something new every time. Quite in keeping with its main narrative conceit (which I won’t discuss here), this is a game about oversaturation: countless statistical readouts, indulgent narrative infodumps, ridiculous choice between weapons and items you mostly don’t need, and incredible use of multi-frame cinematography all contribute to an impressive artistic cohesion by forcing your mind to be in several places at once. The story in this game is beautiful- so utterly, gleefully batshit that it makes MGS2 look positively sane. Receiving the plot in this game feels more like putting together a puzzle than enjoying a typical narrative- even if you follow the series it’s nearly impossible to put together all the pieces in your head while also watching everything play out on screen. It’s actually a hugely satisfying challenge, attempting to parse everything while watching the cutscenes, though I imagine those who don’t have an affinity for the canon won’t find as much to like in this department. The game’s pacing would also have been improved if Drebin’s post-boss CODEC calls had been optional, rather than part of the critical path.
Metal Gear Solid 4 manages to be successful at precisely what tripped up 3, by streamlining most of that game’s subpar points: mainly how Octocamo allows you to change camouflage without pesky menus, and the camera doesn’t get in the way of sneaking. The graphics are still incredibly sharp for a seven-year-old game, thanks to visual design with just the right amount of stylization to stay evergreen. I can’t say enough about this game’s impeccable Dolby 5.1 sound mix either- if you have a surround system, get ready to put it to work! Once again, Military Advisor Motosada Mori brings his A-game, and vibration design is a standout. In a curious choice, the first Act’s “mission briefing” won’t play during the game- make sure to seek it out yourself in the main menu after you’ve started Act 1 if want the whole picture. This is a game that requires a lot of baggage to play, but it’s infinitely worth it- for me, Metal Gear Solid 4 still stands as the greatest game of all time.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots / Kojima Productions / Konami / June 12, 2008
This review was conducted on the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
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