Yes, I’ve finally seen the proverbial light I mentioned in my recent MGS 4 related blog post. I’ve finally played Metal Gear Solid 4 and…let’s just say I am very, very pleased.
It all began last Sunday when I was at work and a customer walked to my register with a copy of the game in question in his hand to trade in. Once I completed his transaction, I promptly informed my co-workers that I’d be checking the game out when my shift ended and set the game aside. That night I took it home and…didn’t play it. That day at work had worn me down so I was in no mood to play any games. Of course, the very next day, I finally popped the game into my Playstation 3 and started to play.
Let’s get the wild praise out of the way first before getting into the meat of these impressions. The game is freaking great. It reached out and grabbed me from the first minute like no other Metal Gear Solid game has. The story is keeping me compelled to see it through to the end to the point where I had to force myself to stop playing the other day after having played for nearly 4 hours.
Now that the unmitigated praise is out of the way, I can start being a critic. Now, one of the reasons why the Metal Gear Solid series has never reached out and grabbed me before now is in part due to the clunky shooting and combat controls. I’ve never gotten the hang of the whole, press lightly on the button to raise the gun and hard to shoot thing that has been utilized in previous entries. While I realize that this is a stealth game and thus, shooting and hand to hand combat shouldn’t be your main priority but almost inevitably, the game would find a way to make you do so, which puts a bit of a damper on the experience if you’re a stealth purist.
In MGS 4, this isn’t a problem. The shooting controls have been completely revamped and vastly improved. The camera instantly jumps into an over-the-shoulder view, similar to Resident Evil 4 or Gears of War, once your weapon is drawn. From there, it plays sort of like a third person shooter, a very good third person shooter at that. It’s because of this new perspective on combat that it becomes significantly easier. The emphasis on stealth is unfortunately diminished and the consequences for alerts take a nosedive early on. It’s far too easy to take out the squad of soldiers closest to you and then duck into an out of the way corner for a little while until things calm down.
But despite the ease of combat, stealth is a very viable option, especially with Snake’s new Octocamo. This invaluable addition to Solid Snake’s equipment is one of your greatest allies in the field and perhaps the greatest sneaking tool ever utilized in any stealth game. What it does is automatically change its texture and appearance to blend in with whatever surface you’re pressed up against, be it a brick wall or grass covered dirt. Oftentimes, AI soldiers and NPC’s will walk right past you without noticing, should you p
Everything isn’t all rosy and wonderful though. One of Metal Gear Solid 4’s biggest strengths is also its biggest flaws. I’m referring to this series’ particular brand of storytelling in which impossibly long cutscenes tell its far-reaching, rich and sometimes utterly convoluted story. It doesn’t help that the ratio of cutscenes to actual playing time is damn near 1:1.These cutscenes are entertaining to sit through sure enough, but occasionally, I can’t help but wish the game would shut up and let me play.
In the end, the game is everything I expected it to be and more. I expected it to be great but the sheer magnitude of its quality and ability to make me hopelessly addicted (I’ve actually taken time off from playing it because I didn’t want to finish it too quickly). This truly is the best Metal Gear Solid game and one of the best reasons to own a Playstation 3. Looking back on my previous blog post once again, I see that my lack of excitement was unfounded and that playing truly is believing.