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SummaryWhere the series went wrong...
The GoodFirst things first: I'm a Metal Gear Solid fan. I can handle long-winded cutscenes and ridiculous dialogue, in fact, I expect them. But too much of anything is bad for you.
The plot of MGS4 ties everything up from the previous games pretty neatly, I can say that much. The game has many moments that even Hollywood hasn't been able to replicate - epic, touching, funny and very memorable. The plot also touches on some themes rarely explored in video games, so kudos for that, Kojima. I very much appreciate the fact that we can pause the game during cutscenes - my bladder thanks the person who came up with this idea.
Also, the gameplay has taken huge steps forward. For the first time in the series, the shooting segments don't feel awkward at all thanks to a better camera and a huge collection of powerful weapons and useful gadgets.
The graphics are out of this world and the new, moody musical tracks, especially "Father and Son", blend in seamlessly with some of the more classic tunes, and every MGS fan will tear up when they hear "The Best is Yet to Come" during a very nostalgic moment.
The BadBut no amount of continuity gags, flashbacks and callbacks will hide the fact that the plot makes absolutely no sense. I don't mean to say that the story isn't "realistic", it's MGS after all, but the internal logic of the series has been ruined. There's an incredible amount of retcons, pointless new characters, old characters brought back just to die a melodramatic and pointless death and just plain bad writing. Even the central premise of a "war economy" makes no sense and is never explained properly, we're just meant to roll with it.
The length of the cutscenes is ridiculous, especially because it's absolutely unnecessary most of the time. There's too much pretentious pondering and staring around as well as redundant dialogue. There's even more unnecessary words in this game than there are in this review. With some light editing and a few rewrites, this game could be the best in the series. Now, it's easily one of the worst.
Many stylistic decisions seem to be there just for the sake of it. Why does Snake have to be an exaggeratedly old man? Why is Raiden a cyborg ninja? What part, if any, is Naomi supposed to play? Why is Vamp working for Liquid Ocelot? There's plenty more where that came from, but I want to avoid spoilers.
Though the gameplay is good, when the cutscenes are taken out, there's very little of it. The stealth segments feel more boring in this game and are rarely even needed, as the game seems to have shifted its focus from "tactical espionage action" to "shoot s'more!". And when stealth actually is mandatory, in the third act, we are forced to endure one of the most repetitive, dull and frustrating parts of the game. The controls seem worse than in the previous installments, however.
The iconic boss battles have been turned into jokes, the only good fight in the game is the battle of the Metal Gears in act four. The new bosses, the "Beauty and the Beast corps" are absolutely one of the worst characters in gaming and their "edgy" and "touching" back stories make no sense whatsoever.
Lastly, the Codec feature has been remodeled... badly. There are only two characters we can actually call: Otacon and (ugh) Rosemary. The latter's advice is mostly useless while Otacon has a habit of giving you obvious advice even in normal gameplay, meaning that there's hardly any need to think for ourselves.