Metal Gear Solid 4 is Hideo Kojima's "conclusion" to his classic series, starring a rapidly aging Snake as he fights to stop Liquid (Ocelot) from controlling all of the world's militaries, which are now predominately privatized. If no part of that sentence made any sense to you, that is nearly the only reason you may not like this game. Otherwise, you know about Metal Gear Solid's stealth action gameplay and twisty storyline, and you'll love this game if you loved the others. Even if you didn't like the other games in the series quite enough, this edition has ironed out all of the annoyances of those games, removing most old grievances with the series.
Metal Gear Solid 4 has been the most anticipated PS3 title since the console's conception, and it doesn't disappoint.
If you've never experienced these games before, Metal Gear Solid emphasizes stealth as a method for getting by enemies while allowing for multiple strategies. Anyone who wants to run and gun their way through the game can, at a large cost in bullets, health, and access to the game's unlockable secrets. Players can also take a middle road, by sneaking around and using their tranquilizer gun to neutralize enemies, at the risk of having to face them anyway when they wake up. In the past, the actual shooting aspects of the game mostly existed for boss fights and as a punishment when the player was found. The gun controls were clunky, because the game wasn't about that. In the older games, you had to unequip your gun to drag people, and you weren't always able to look down your sight to aim, because you were only supposed to sneak by everyone. This game is different, and it allows for shooting as a perfectly fine alternative strategy, though you'll still have to sneak sometimes on the harder difficulties to stand a reasonable chance. The clumsy controls of previous iterations are gone.
Replayability is surprisingly strong in the game thanks to traditional difficulty choices, "emblems", and the seemingly infinite choice of weapons and items Snake will have by the second playthrough. Emblems are the codenames the game gives you after a full playthrough, which function a lot like achievements. For instance, there are simple emblems like Inchworm, which requires that you crawl for a specific amount of time. These stand in stark contrast to the Big Boss emblem, which requires that you beat the game on the hardest difficulty in under five hours without killing anyone, being seen, or using any recovery items. Completing the tougher achievements earns you interesting items to use in yet another playthrough of the game, to accompany your already limitless choices on how to advance past an enemy. These subsequent playthroughs are also much quicker, due to an ability to skip what might turn most people away from the Metal Gear Solid franchise.
Cutscenes have become a defining element of the Metal Gear Solid series, because of both the unforgiving confusing storyline of the games and the cutscenes' length. Early rumors of ninety-minute long cutscenes are not technically accurate, but the beginning, halfway point, and end of the game do feature a lot of sitting and watching. With any other game series, this would be nearly unforgivable, but these cutscenes are really a reward. Metal Gear Solid has the most interesting storyline in gaming, if you can tolerate all of its twists and turns. I'm unsure how someone unacquainted with the previous games would react to all the shocking developments, but they really are a treat for any fan. This specific game also features a lot of Metal Gear Solid 1 nostalgia, which could again fall flat on the newcomer to the series. Clearly, it is too much to ask that a gamer play the three other games before this one, but it would certainly build appreciation for how everything has developed.
Metal Gear Solid 4 has been the most anticipated PS3 title since the console's conception, and it doesn't disappoint. The very few slightly negative reviews out there (Zero Punctuation, to name one) use obsolete arguments against the game that don't apply any more about the controls. The only real drawback is the story and cutscenes that push Metal Gear Solid towards being an interactive film as much as a game. The story, however, is terrific, and there's still plenty of gameplay to be found. Even if a player doesn't find enough to do in the single player campaign, Metal Gear Online resides on the same disc and presents a pure, unadulterated version of the gameplay against others online. The series doesn't perfectly accomodate newcomers to the series, but anyone willing to let the story come to them will be pleased with what they get. At least so long as they ignore the silly names that Konami has kept since their original bad translation in 1987 (you understand what I mean if you've never heard of Solid Snake or Liquid Ocelot). It goes without saying that the production value is incredible, and the gameplay and story match it perfectly. This is the killer app the Playstation needed in an era where the vast majority of games are multiplatform.
The Good: Greatly improved controls, graphics, and general gameplay from previous versions, with quite possibly the best story in gaming today
The Bad: Some will be turned off by the long cutscenes and convoluted storyline
10 / 10
Diamond Y Award
The Y Award is given based on the average of the Gameplay score, Graphics, Sound and Overall.
9.75 or more gets the Diamond Y Award
9 or more gets the Gold Y Award
8 or more gets the Silver Y Award
7 or more gets the Bronze Y Award
3 or less gets the Stink-Y Award