Some things I've learned....

(1) An Engineer can do with 10 cent what a fool can do with a Euro.

(2) "Puff" - unimportant; insignificant; unworthy of study by engineering students; waste of time

(3) It's better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you're stupid than to open it and prove them right!

(4) Blockwork people and concrete people can never work on the same site... Apparently they don't like each other....

(5) It's official; I'm fantastic!

Sunday 15 June 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4 - The Review

I sit here now after 20 something hours of awesomeness knowing that I have, without a shadow of a doubt, played one of the greatest games ever made. Effectively a three year wait I can now say in hindsight that every moment of it was worth it. MGS4 rewrites the script for epic gaming and story telling, once more setting the standard that all games should aspire to through jaw dropping cinematics and plot events to intense non-stop action sequences all keeping the stealthy spirit of the series alive.

War has changed. That's the message that hits you in the game time and time again. War and soldiers are controlled by nanomachines which in turn control battlefield emotions, training, experience, weapons, everything. Practically everything you meet in the game is ID nanomachine related. Solid Snake, now an old man due to accelerated ageing from the cloning process, is called into action by his former CO Roy Campbell to carry out one final request - terminate Liquid. Liquid Ocelot has amassed the control of the world's five largest PMC's (Private Military Companies) and plans to use his massive army to launch an insurrection against the Patriots. PMC's have come to the fore in the War Economy, as Campbell says: "War is to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th". The cost of waging war has meant most countries cannot afford a permanent army, and so hire a PMC to fight for them. They are only driven by profit, not by ideologies or cause. In many situations it will be one PMC fighting another. Snake is sent into the Middle East to investigate.
The game itself is split into 5 acts and an epilogue, the epilogue being the controversial cut-scene everyone was talking about. The opening act brings Snake to the Middle East. Here we are introduced to the Gekko, fearsome bi-pedal walking tanks. We also meet Drebin and Rat Pt 01.

I'll talk a bit about the game mechanics. Basically, they work really well. Sneaking has become very effective with the whole new array of movements available to Snake. The Octocamo works exceptionally well, which is only further improved when you get the face camo. As a vetern of the other games in the series, the controls can be a little trick at the beginning, but you will get used to them very quickly. With the Triangle button now governing most of Snake's abilities, the on screen prompts are a welcome addition. The new over-the-shoulder shooting mechanics are an excellent addition to the game. From where shooting was in the previous titles in the series, this new system is much more accessible and somehow feels like an appropriate feature of the game. The SolidEye is also extremely effective, the only times I don't use it is when I'm on low battery! Combining the functionality of the scope, IR and NV into one device was an excellent decision, and coupled with its ability to feed Snake battle info it is a must use for anyone trying to sneak their way across the battlefield - of which there are many by the way.

These battlefields are as realistic as they get, and although I haven't played through the game a second time yet, I've been told that they are different each time, especially if you up the difficulty. Explosions are exceptionally realistic and after I got my hands on a Dualshock 3, rumble has finally made its glorious return to the Playstation brand. You can take sides of course, and I would recommend siding with the milita as the PMC's will never recognise you as a friend. Even if you decide early on that you won't take sides, you will find yourself getting dragged into a battle, be it by heavy incoming fire or simply having to press through an enemy defence to get to where you want to. This option of participating at will adds well to the replay value of the game.

One of the biggest new features to the game is Drebin points. After meeting him early on in Act 1, he offers to sell you unlocked AI weapons in return for collecting weapons for him on the battlefield. This system works exceptionally well, then allowing you to purchase upgrades for your current weapons or buy new weapons altogether. There are other features in the game where you gain Drebin points such as destroying a Gekko. At the end of each Act you are given an assessment of your performance and are awarded DP accordingly. Cleverly, the developers have this assessment system reward those players more who tried to play stealthily, thus giving new and old players to the series an incentive to play the game in the true manner of the genre.

Without giving the story away, I will say that it is simply fantastic. The resolution of issues raised in its predecessors aswell as its own gripping plot gives Guns of the Patriots a huge edge story wise over many games this generation. The addition of flashbacks triggered by the X button (and awarded with Drebin points) helps add to the interest in the cut-scenes, aswell as the interesting First Person easter eggs added to the game.... getting a look down Naomi's top anyone??? The inclusion of split screen action, where the player is playing in one half of the screen and other characters are shown in a cut-scene in the other half adds to the drama and emotion of the events in which they're used.

Whilst Act 1 and 2 are mastercrafts in game design, the change of pace in Act 3 is (for me anyway) a good thing. The recreation of Prague (I think) is excellent, and there's something very satisfying about the whole Act, especially the action sequence in the second half and arguably one of the most amazing cut-scenes I've ever seen. Act 4 is a trip down nostalgia lane for vetern gamers like myself. Whilst not as intense as Act 1 or 2, it is by no means a walk in the park, with Gekko crawling the place - which is in fact the first time you have to mandatorily fight the bleeding things on foot! And the conclusion of Act 4 is highly satisfying for anyone who has been with the series since MGS1 in 98. The sequence of events in Act 5 is what sets this game out from any others, I don't want to spoil it, but it is easily one of the most incredible moments in video gaming history. And finally the Epilogue....nah, I can't say anything, you have to see it, plain and simple.

What can I say about the sound and music? Flawless, not one bit of the game feels empty, each theme fitting each situation exceptionally well. Harry and co have done wonders for the series and his inclusion in the team since MGS2 stands as another notch in Kojima's already porous belt.

The Boss Battles, whilst not necessarily as difficult as others in the series, though Screaming Mantis was a right pain in the arse for a while, are also very satisfying. The final boss fight, though not a marvel of technology or gaming, still manages to pull of an incredible sense of emotion, nostalgia, pride and joy. The inclusion of Metal Gear Online is also an excellent bonus to this already bursting package. I haven't played enough to comment.

Kojima still hasn't lost his edge for adding unlockables and encouraging multiple playthroughs. With more things to unlock via skilled play through of the game and purchase from Drebin's shop than I can count, you simply won't unlock everything on your second playthrough. The inclusion of some very niffty easter eggs (jiggling Rose's breasts by shaking the SIXAXIS controller) is just one of many things that bring you back to the game looking out for things you might've missed on the first playthrough.

As a closing comment, Kojima and his team has created a masterpiece of gaming prowess, and it was no understatement when he said people will be talking about the ending for years to come. I've said in the past that all Metal Gear games are an experience, and that hasn't changed here. When a game is so powerful and emotional that it can bring a few tears to my eyes in its closing moments, you know you have a winner. When you finish the game you truly feel a sense of satisfaction at knowing you've experienced something that has been 20 years in the making. As for Snake? Well, you'll have to play and see....

Farewell my friend, you've earned your rest.

Graphics: 10
Gameplay: 10
Sound: 10
Longevity: 10
Presentation: 10
Extras/Unlockables: 10

Overall: 10

~The Damo

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