Guns of the Patriots will always have a special place in my heart. As soppy as that sounds, if there were no Metal Gear, I wouldn’t be sat here right now, hammering out words on my keyboard. Despite its many imitators, there’s just something so undeniably unique about each and every instalment in the series, Guns of the Patriots being no exception.
For many, including myself, it marked the first in a long string of much-hyped PlayStation 3 exclusives. Even among multiplatform giants such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Modern Warfare, and Assassin’s Creed, Guns of the Patriots held its own, fans certain that Kojima would deliver yet again. And he did. Holding down a stellar Metacritic average of 94, Metal Gear Solid 4 achieved universal acclaim, putting the PlayStation 3 back on the map after a shaky launch.
Its success can be attributed to a whole wealth of reasons. Not only did it look absolutely stunning, it also had the refined gameplay to match. On top of that, Kojima and the team delivered a masterful albeit bloated narrative, the likes of which we haven’t seen since. If that wasn’t enough, Guns of the Patriots even served up a unique multiplayer component which in contrast to the up and coming powerhouse, Call of Duty.
What really stood out for me and many designated fans, however, was the incredible amount of fan service to be found in the game. From the multitude of easter eggs and flashbacks to smaller things like interactive cutscenes and codec conversations, Kojima never shied away when it came to delivering fan service.
The most emblematic example of this comes relatively late in the game. With his plan in motion, Liquid Ocelot retreats to a disused nuclear testing facility in order to find a weapon powerful enough to launch his warhead. The search lead both him and Snake to Shadow Moses where the original Metal Gear Solid took place.
Although the surprise was spoiled before I reached this part of the game, it still took me aback to walk the same path I had done all those years ago. With each nook and cranny drenched in nostalgia, returning to Shadow Moses is still one of the most unforgettable experiences I have witnessed in a video game.
When it comes to downsides, Metal Gear Solid 4 doesn’t have many, even six years after launch. One obvious complaint – more often bandied about by less familiar players – was the game’s story which admittedly outstayed its welcome in parts. I still remember just after launch week trying to sneak a few minutes here and then before school. This proved to be fruitless, however, when I discovered that some cutscenes stretched well over the half-hour mark.
Despite picking up the gist of what’s going on, a great deal of replaying past games and reading wiki entries is needed to get the full context. Names such as The Patriots, The Philosophers, Major Zero, Big Boss, and Les Enfants Terible get dropped regularly, especially during that final, exhausting, movie-length conclusion.
Dumbing the story down to appease more casual fans wasn’t really an option though, unless Kojima wanted to incur the wrath of his hardcore followers. Still, having some form of accessible codex in-game could have helped further players’ enjoyment of the story.
With Metal Gear Online having been put to bed, Guns of the Patriots has lost some of its value. However, as anyone who owns the game will tell you, its the cinematic single player that sells it. Even now, when compared to games such as The Last of Us, it still shapes up well and, more to the point, feels like an actual masterpiece.