Metal Gear Solid 4 held a lot of promise for the PS3 and Metal Gear franchise. The game marks the final chapter in Snake’s story arc, a chapter for which fans have waited and waited. It marks one of the few true blockbusters for Sony’s next-gen console, one for which people debating purchasing a PS3 “until it had good games” had waited and waited. Teasers turned into trailers, trailers turned into footage, and footage turned into a demo for which we all waited and waited. The game was looking good. Really good. In fact, it was looking “solid.” And amazingly, the final product actually outperformed the hype.
Having pre-ordered the Metal Gear Solid Limited Edition, we couldn’t wait to get it in our hands and then our PS3. We began by hitting the mall during our lunch break and then fabricating an off-hand excuse for why we needed to work at home for the rest of the week. What we encountered next was well beyond our expectations.
The first act of the game seems familiar, as that’s what has been shown in the game trailers and demos. That being said, what takes place between the familiar scenes will surprise and delight, as that’s where the gameplay lies. Yes there is an eight-minute installation process, and yes, you have to install each Act separately (they’re much faster). But what follows those installations is nothing less than game of the year material, and very much worth the wait.
Much has been said of games trying to create an interactive cinematic experience, and to dismiss Metal Gear for its perceived overly long cut scenes and very little gameplay denies you that first real cinematic experience on the PS3. There are very few games you can play with a friend watching next to you, turn to one other and scream “BAD ASS” before high-fiving one other at the climax of a cinematic. And that’s just Snake’s first full reveal scene. Please note that we’re avoiding all spoilers and plot points in this review; trust us, you’ll want to experience them for yourself.
Such is the presentation factor of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots. As the end times in the series, MGS 4 revisits and concludes all the previous characters and story arcs from the previous games in the series. This may seem daunting for someone new to the 20-year-old franchise, but rest assured you’ll have a blast with it.
MGS4’s flow blends cut scenes along with gameplay, a tactic that many have criticized for involving little play time yet watching a movie’s worth of cut scenes. Be that as it may, it’s the combination of these elements that raises the bar in terms of quality. This is the first game I’ve played that gives me that “next-gen” feeling, regardless of the console/platform of choice (PS3, Xbox 360 or Wii).
You’ll also get a fair bit of replay out of MGS4, as your saved game carries over to your next run through, along with all the weapons and items you collected the first time. Metal Gear Solid 4 also contains the “starter” pack for Metal Gear Online (read our Metal Gear Online preview), with five maps from the get-go and Konami intending to release more later for a fee. This is all well and good, if not for one major hurdle: a Nintendo-like online mechanism. Your online account for Metal Gear Online is linked not to your PlayStation Network ID but to a new one from Konami.
This means you’ll create not only a Konami ID, which can not match your PSN ID, but also a Gamer ID that can match your PSN ID. Both have passwords, although the Gamer ID is more a four-digit PIN, and once you’ve typed those in, you can hop online. Oh, wait, you wanted to join to your friends? Your list starts out empty, as you have to re-add all your contacts, but the kicker is that you can only add them if they’re online and simultaneously on a server for Metal Gear Online. And did we mention you can set up a private server but can’t send game invitations?
Once you clear those hurdles, the Metal Gear Online starter pack provides plenty of fun, but it’s an excruciating process to actually get online, and it’s one that we never want to do it again. We thought EA’s login system on Xbox Live was odd, but this takes the WTF cake.
Fortunately, the single-player experience more than makes up for this, as it will have your jaw on the floor more than once. From the story and graphics to the numerous Easter eggs for the fans, Metal Gear Solid 4 is the Game of the Year so far, and if you have a PS3 you need to play it. We were skeptical that a Metal Gear title would be a killer app, but we were happily proven wrong.
- Score: 9.5
— Phillip Vollmer