Metal Gear Solid 4

After playing MGS4 for the past two weeks, I have to say the PS3 has finally found a game worth buying the system for.  It should even please (or, at the very least, ease) critics of the series.

Let’s start with the revamped control scheme.  Whereas the 2nd and 3rd games borrowed heavily from the 1st game’s scheme and only made minor changes, Guns of the Patriots redefines the controls.  The changes don’t take long to get used too and when you do, playing Metal Gear Solid has never been this much fun.  The previous games shied away from combat, emphasizing stealth.  When you did get into combat, the controls were so awkward that you were screwed in a firefight against several soldiers.  In MGS4, mowing down antagonists is easy.  You can still be outnumbered and overpowered, but for the first time, it feels like you have a chance.  You feel like the genetically-enhanced badass Solid Snake is supposed to be.

Of course, the game still emphasizes stealth.  It’s the defining feature of the series, after all.  Stay in combat or an alert phase too long and Snake’s stress increases.  As your stress increases, your psyche meter falls.  Psyche replaces the stamina bar from Snake Eater.  As your psyche diminishes, it’ll affect your aim and how fast you heal…among other things.  Using items replenishes psyche, as does finding a quiet spot away from combat (which also decreases stress).  Using items can also restore health, similar to the previous games (thanks to the absence of the CURE system from Snake Eater).

There’s a few things absent from Snake Eater, but most of its features are back.  CQC has been revamped into a much simpler form, as has camouflage.  Camo is now much simpler.  Instead of constantly hitting pause to change face pain/camo, Octocamo blends into whatever your current surroundings are (granted you crouch/lean against something for a second or two).  The user-controlled camera from Subsistence is back, making the game infinitely more playable.

While the game is great all-around, it isn’t perfect.  There are a few minor annoyances, such as the installation phases that take place before each act (although they only take a few minutes).  This is my first experience with a PS3 console so I don’t know if this is a common occurrence in other games.  Also, load times pop up every time you enter a new area.  While this happened in all the other games, it was never this blatantly obvious.  Several commercials also air before you begin playing.  These aren’t advertisements for real-life products, but rather, tie-ins to the game itself.  All could have been cut, as they don’t really serve a purpose.  And despite taking place over five locations, the game itself isn’t any longer or shorter than the previous two installments.

Also, the biggest criticism against the series is worse than ever.  Long, lengthy cutscenes.  Granted, the cutscenes are glorious to watch and more interactive than the ones in the previous games (press X to trigger flashbacks for bonus points), but they are long.  It does nothing to dispel Metal Gear Solid‘s status as “best game you’ll ever watch”.  Two sequences easily eclipse the 45 minute mark set by Sons of Liberty, although none are the 90 minute monsters that were rumored.  Thankfully, you can pause during these scenes but beware, it counts as playing time…for those of you that care about rankings, anyway.  Reviewers hand-wave this, using the logic “well, it’s expected because all the other games in the series did this”.  What about the new gamers?  The critics of the older games who haven’t bought a PS3?  Just because the other games did it doesn’t excuse it as a possible flaw.

All in all, though, Guns of the Patriots is a damn good game.  PS3 owners should definitely pick it up and people considering a PS3 should seriously consider this game as their first purchase.

Final Verdict:  9.4 out of 10.

This is good…isn’t it?

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