Metal Gear Solid 4 was the first, and so far only, Metal Gear game I have played. This will be rectified shortly when the Metal Gear Solid collection hits PlayStation Vita.
I purchased MGS4 on day one, plopped it in the drive, skipped the cut-scenes and played it for half an hour before returning it to the shelf for over a year. Then during a quiet Christmas I decided to give it another go and began to play it again. I played some more, and some more – in fact I did little else for three days solid.
You cannot rush MGS4, you have to sit back and savour every last morsel and that’s what I intend to do whilst writing the Playback.
Many criticised Kojima for his movie length cut scenes and spending years getting every last detail perfect but the end result is so gobsmackingly awesome it’s practically a work of art.
An eight minute installation prefaces the first play, during which Snake puffs on a number of cigarettes and the humour of the game immediately shines through when Snake taps the end of his fag on to the floor. ‘Always use an ashtray for cigarette ash and butts’ pops up on the screen and later an anti-smoking message appears as Snake lights up his third ciggie in succession.[drop2]Then the game begins and I admit I was struck by the same sense of bewilderment I had when I first played the game as David Hayter (the chap who plays Snake) appears in a live action film in which he is interviewed in a talk show.
A press of the X button reveals that is not one live action movie but eight, a fitness show, a game show, even a cookery program all of which are extremely glossy and packed full of CGI; it must have taken months just to create this small section.
All of the programs relate to something in the game, one advertising the health pick-up, Hayter himself talks about the eye patch he is wearing, the same Snake has in game. Is there any point to these programmes, did they need to be in the game? Absolutely not, they are frivolous and unnecessary but they are also wonderful and enriching.
And so the game begins – except it doesn’t. The next twenty minutes or so are the credits sequence in which you play for about 30 seconds before sitting back and watching five minutes of movie before another 30 seconds of gameplay.
Whilst this may sound boring it’s not because the cut scenes are movies. The production rivals that of a big budget blockbuster with a cast of hundreds, an epic soundtrack and many little touches, such as grime on the camera lens, that add to the movie feel.
During my first playthrough all those years ago I used to pause the game when I knew a cutscene was coming up and my flatmate used to come in with some fresh popcorn and we used to sit and munch away and watch the films. He didn’t care for playing the game and enjoyed watching Metal Gear Solid 4 as a movie.
It’s not the just the big plot heavy cutscenes that are long, I have just timed from the start of Act II until I get to actually play the game and it’s taken twenty three minutes before I get hands-on – it really is more of a movie than a game.
From start to finish Act III has taken me just over three hours to play through of which about fifteen minutes were sneaking through Europe, a ten minute motorcycle chase and a ten minute boss battle which leaves over an hour and half of cut scenes – have that popcorn on standby!
“Be warned if you need to ask who these people are: this is not a game for Metal Gear outsiders,” said Edge magazine in their review – but I beg to differ. As I said I had no knowledge of the series before playing it but you can play MGS4 as a standalone game, especially if you have a Metal Gear Wiki on hand.
The plot is quite simple as Liquid Snake hunts for the still living (but,er, not) Big Boss.[drop]The game is not afraid to tackle mature topics, specifically child soldiers and there is some thought provoking dialogue when Big Mama suggest kids of today are trained from FPS games. There is also rather a lot of sexual imagery such as the Beauties from the boss battles, a fair majority of the enemies are female.
Graphically the game holds up well compared to today’s titles although there is little in the way of visual effects, facial animation is rather stiff as well despite the character models being top notch. Each Act is set in a different area of the world which keeps things interesting, starting in the duty war zones of the Middle East, to the jungles of South America and then onto a foggy city in Eastern Europe.
Sound design is particularly good, notably the battle with Screaming Octopus which can be as nerve jangling as any sequence in Dead Space.
You have probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned the gameplay much and I’m not going to, you know how a third person stealth shooter works. Multiple solutions to problems, lots of weapons, occasional on-rails sections, everything you would expect. During my first play through I chose a stealthy approach which lengthens the game considerably, set the game to easy and run through all guns blazing and the levels can be completed in minutes.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is a genuine classic and can be found for less than three quid pre owned. Grab the popcorn, sit back and immerse yourself in the world of Metal Gear and watch the biggest movie on PlayStation 3.