Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Review (PS3)

When Hideo Kojima created Metal Gear, he never expected it to be a great success, but 21 years and over 15 games later he is calling it a day, stepping down from the role as series director. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots also marks the final game for the legendary hero Solid Snake, who will be joining his creator in retirement. They say that if you’re going to go, you’ve got to go out with a bang; Metal Gear Solid 4 is more like a nuclear explosion.

The action picks up seven years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 2’s Big Shell chapter. Snake is suffering from advanced aging, similar to Werner’s syndrome, but no doctor can help him. Colonel Campbell contacts the aging hero with a request; the assassination of Liquid Ocelot. In the aftermath of Big Shell, governments have contracted their military needs to private military companies, and it just so happens that Liquid runs a dummy company that owns the five biggest PMCs in the world, and is preparing an insurrection against the powers of the world. The game begins in the Middle East, where Liquid was last spotted. Snake needs to meet up with the local resistance forces and sneak through the open battlefield in order to put an end to his nemesis.

Snake may be aging rapidly, but he’s still got a lot of fight left in him
Raiden has come a long way from the sappy codec sequences from Sons of Liberty

Nothing is ever that straightforward in Metal Gear, though. Over the course of the next 20 hours, Snake and Otacon chase Liquid across the world, reuniting with old friends and foes as well as a few new faces. Like the rest of its kin, Guns of the Patriots is very heavy on the story, practically to the point where players who aren’t fresh on their Metal Gear history can get lost in the narrative. Fortunately, there are points in the story where characters essentially take time to explain certain events that preceded the fourth game.

Story is still communicated mainly through lengthy cutscenes and codec sequences, but the team at Kojima Productions has taken some of the criticisms of past games into consideration. Guns of the Patriots certainly sets the series benchmark in terms of cutscene length, but the intensity of the action and the engrossing story quickly makes you forgive the fact that you’re not directly controlling the action. The codec is not as widely used as it was in the previous games, but it’s packing a full colour video feed, courtesy of Metal Gear Mark II, a small robot created by Otacon to accompany Snake on his mission.

Guns of the Patriots is broken up into five different acts which take place across the world. Kojima and his team have done well to keep a lid on the events of the game and the action you’ll encounter – about 95% of what you saw in the pre-release trailers takes place in the first act. You’ll really begin to appreciate the lengths Kojima Productions went to when you start seeing the events unfold; death, betrayal and shocking revelations hit you thick and fast throughout the game. Act 3 is particularly heavy in this respect, but everything that happens is so shockingly awesome that you will be picking your jaw up off the ground as the act draws to a close.

“No place to hide” was the mantra put forward in Guns of the Patriots’ early trailers, and it has a significant impact on the way the game plays when compared to its ilk. It’s not just a sneaking mission like the other games in the series; the action takes place in open battlefields where fights between local militia and PMCs are raging on. The battlefield setting gives you a little extra choice in how to proceed; you can do the typical Snake thing, and try to sneak through the streets without being detected, or you can pick a side to support and join in on the fight.

The best thing is that Guns of the Patriots executes both its stealth and open battle aspects perfectly. Stealth has always been the series’ bread and butter, and the new octocamo suit builds upon the camouflage system implemented in Snake Eater. Octocamo automatically adapts to match the environment Snake is pressed against, making it more difficult for enemies to detect him. There are also a number of preset camouflage patterns if you wish to work the old fashioned way. Metal Gear Mark II can also be utilised as a scout, and has the ability to stun guards and steal their ammo.

Taking the direct approach no longer results in punishment. Sure, there is still the usual alert status and influx of soldiers, but Snake can easily stand his ground, and if you play your cards right, the milita or PMC soldiers will provide support. The AI is unrelenting and smarter than ever before, but never seem like they’re cheating or provided with any sort of cheap advantage. Combat feels tighter than ever before; Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater both added significant improvements to combat, but Guns of the Patriots ups the ante considerably. Snake has all of the QTE moves from Snake Eater, but shooting is now done from an over the shoulder perspective with dual analogue aiming. You can even play the entire game from a first person perspective if you wish.

When you see a Gekko, you run.
The members of the Beauty and the Beast squad are as deadly as they are pretty

Regardless of the path you choose, there’s a few things you need to be wary of. In addition to the usual health bar, Snake has stress and psyche meters to manage. Stress Snake out too much, and his psyche will decline, which affects the rate at which he moves and his health regeneration. The right amount of stress can result in a combat high, which temporarily boosts all of Snake’s abilities, making him a crack shot and boosting his damage resistance. Such factors become vitally important when fighting larger enemies such as the FROGS, Liquid’s personal army and the Gekkos, the heavily armed bipedal tanks that roam the battlefield. Gekkos are pretty scary, and for much of the game Snake is not able to stand up to their onslaught, so it’s best to run or hide.

Much like every other Metal Gear game, Snake has to procure his equipment during the mission, but due to the advanced nanomachines used by the soldiers in the games, the majority of the weapons are ID tagged. Drebin, a character you meet early in the game, offers to launder the weapons for you, removing the ID tags on the ones you wish to use, and buying the ones you don’t wish to keep. New guns and ammunition can be bought from Drebin any time after you’ve met him, so you never really run out of ammo so long as you’ve got a good supply of points. The arsenal provided is far more diverse than any other game in the series to date, with over 50 weapons available for use.

Gadgets are also an important part of Snake’s inventory. In addition to the previously discussed Metal Gear Mark II and octocamo, Snake has the Solid Eye system, a device which fits over his eye and can be used as a scope, night vision or radar system. The Solid Eye will also relay important battle information to Snake, such as the allegiance of soldiers and whether weapons laying on the ground are ID tagged. The other major new gadget is the oil barrel, which takes over the role of the cardboard box. It’s not really as functional as you might have hoped, as most soldiers will see through the disguise, but rolling around the battlefield is particularly amusing. Just be careful not to roll around too much, as it can make Snake ill.

Guns of the Patriots runs for about 20 hours give or take 3-4 hours depending on your skill. The game has multiple difficulty modes as well as a number of trophy rewards for beating the game in a certain way. Some of these rewards are pretty standard Metal Gear fare, like stealth camouflage, but they’re particularly challenging to obtain – the stipulations for the most difficult item requires you to beat the game on the extreme difficulty in under five hours without being spotted or killing anyone.

When you’ve had your fill of single player action, you can move on to Metal Gear Online. The 16 player online action is the perfect compliment to the game’s single player action – your skills from the single player side of the game carry over particularly well, too. Metal Gear Online offers your standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Base Capture modes, but the most exciting modes is the Sneaking Mode, a variant on the standard Team Deathmatch which puts one player in control of Solid Snake, and another in control of the Mark II. Snake has to sneak around the map and take out the opposition players – a typical against-the-odds situation for the legendary hero. Best of all, the game has no latency problems, though it can be a little cumbersome to set up at first due to the way Konami has structured their online registration system.

Guns of the Patriots is one of those games that really shows what the PlayStation 3 hardware is capable of. The characters are expertly modelled and animated, with an insane level of detail in the facial features and animation transitions. There are a few little extra touches that make the game that extra bit more impressive, like the way Snake stretches out his back after a particularly stressful fight. Battle environments are also very impressive, with sharp, detailed textures and excellent lighting and shadowing. Each part of the world looks like it is bearing the mark of war. The frame rate is a fairly constant 30 frames per second, with the occasional jump. Guns of the Patriots does have some mandatory installation requirements though, which takes about 7 minutes the first time you boot the game, and about 3-4 minutes before the start of each subsequent chapter.

Liquid Ocelot is devilishly cunning and surprisingly deadly
Thanks for the memories, Snake

Sound has always been a major strength of the Metal Gear Solid series, whether it’s relating to effects, voice acting or the soundtrack, and Guns of the Patriots is no different. David Hayter returns as Solid Snake, giving another one of his gravelly voiced performances. Most of the cast reprise their roles from earlier games, and there are a few appearances from other actors, including Lee Meriwether, who played the Catwoman in the 1960s Batman TV series. The game’s sound effects are just awesome – the strange mooing of the Gekkos and the freaky laughing of the Beasts are enough to stir fear in the hearts of the even the strongest soldier. Harry Gregson-Williams returns to provide another stirring soundtrack, and if that’s not enough for you, you can listen to your custom soundtracks and songs from earlier Metal Gear games through the iPod in your inventory.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots sets the benchmark for all PlayStation 3 games to come. The movie-style presentation is profound, the action is excellent and the story will blow your mind. It’s one of those games that will be stuck firmly in your mind for years to come. If you’re looking for an excuse to make a PlayStation 3 purchase, then Guns of the Patriots should provide all of the justification you’ll ever need.

Top Game Moment: “That fight” at the end of Act 4.

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By Revan (SI Elite) on Jun 18, 2008
..sniff...last game in the series... ;( Talk about a bittersweet release. I&#039;m looking forward to playing this one a couple times over. Great review by the way! Just wondering though, what rating did you guys give it???
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Jun 19, 2008
This was always my kinda game! The game where you feel the superiority, where you are above others! And some good ol&#039; high-tech stealth!
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 19, 2008
This seems to be the best rated game ever? I&#039;ve seen a lot of sites giving it 10&#039;s:

And Revan, we&#039;ve moved score to the new GAME SCORE box. Obviously it isn&#039;t clear enough so we&#039;ll probably add it to the bottom of reviews as well. Score is 9.8.
By JamieSI (SI Core) on Jun 19, 2008
Indeed, agreed. At this time the score isn&#039;t clear, I even got confused for a second.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 19, 2008
I&#039;ve played it for several hours and to be totally honest, its&#039; like a cross between the first title and Assassin&#039;s Creed for me. Its&#039; being scored highly evreywhere yes, but so was GTAIV and where has it gone now?
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2008
Yeah, both finally pushed the tide over to PS3. Since PS3 lacked any games that scored anywhere near that high. People will be buying PS3&#039;s only for these two games and any future such. So somebody somewhere is pleased.
By BlitzKrieg (SI Veteran Member) on Jul 10, 2008
the best game there might ever be SALUTE!
By Revan (SI Elite) on Jul 10, 2008
Well, I finally finished MGS4, and it is the best game I&#039;ve played this year, BY FAR! My fav part is where Snake goes back to the &quot;old base&quot; and starts having these memory flashbacks. I kept standing around just staring at everything at the same time! Only problem though was the last boss battle against Ocelot. It wasn&#039;t bad, it&#039;s just that the battles against the Beauty &amp; The Beast Unit were harder (and more fun) than it was beating Ocelot. Didn&#039;t quite feel right. But I guess Snake deserved at least ONE easy boss fight! BTW, I gave it a 10. :D
By schpoorky (I just got here) on Aug 22, 2008
I played it all night while visiting a friend. I'm lucky I don't own it myself-- I wouldn't get anything done!
By Ownation (SI Newbie) on Jun 28, 2009
Great game, and i do not think it will be the last one from the series. I own it and i have to say, i enjoyed playing it alot.