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SummaryGoes out with a bang (a pretty loud one too)
The GoodI know what some people are going to say. "I loved everything!". Unfortunately, that is not the case for me. For now, let's concentrate on the good. To start things off, the presentation is typical Metal Gear Solid (referred to as MGS from here on) fare. In other words, the presentation is great. You know it's the last MGS game, and it makes no attempt to cover this up even from the incredible intro and title screen. The whole package just feels right.
The menus are easy to navigate, options are pretty self-explanatory, getting online is a piece of cake (if you have your PS3 set up to go online), and so on. With all of the me-too 3rd party games being ported from one system to another, it seems that companies are just churning out games that are half-created for the masses to buy them and throw them away a day later. So it's nice to see a game like this where the production values are top-notch all the way.
The game really makes you feel like you're just another soldier in a war you aren't putting too much stock in from the beginning... and as you play through it, you begin to care about the characters as you find yourself getting more and more involved in the situation. And boy what a story it is. Political intrigue, treachery, backstabbing, social commentary, romance... you name it. It's all here. And it's all believably done through narrative and an astonishing plot that will leave your mouth hanging open by the end.
Moving on to the visuals, they're... what is the word? Breathtaking. This is the reason why I bought a PS3. So I could see games with graphics like these. Everything from the smoke that comes off of Snake's cigarettes to the emotions that are portrayed in the characters' faces to the amazingly accurate mouth movements when they speak... everything looks incredible. The environments are fantastically rendered, character models look and behave the way you would expect, and even the various enemies look great (although I wouldn't stop to admire their beauty while playing, unless you happen to enjoy the 'game over' screen). Truly, this game is a work of art from every perspective. And for those of you that haven't bought a flat screen high definition TV yet, this could very well be the perfect reason to go out and do so.
Moving on to sound, we have another winner. Music can be changed with an in-game iPOD and by collecting hidden music tracks strewn throughout the game, but more often than not you'll find yourself listening to the track that the developers have chosen as a default for certain areas. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is blockbuster movie quality. The voice acting makes you feel like those are the character's real voices. Nothing sounds "phoned in" or forced. Emotions, ranging from anger to sadness, are all realistically portrayed. Even the score is appropriate from scene to scene, whether you are on a stealth mission or fighting for your survival... it all fits the mood to a T. Even the sound of the guns firing, reloading, and the spent shells dropping: it all feels just right. Game developers with voice acting in their games take notice: this is how it should be done.
Gameplay is also good. I say good, because while it isn't great, it does fit the MGS style. It takes the 3rd person / 1st person change-up from previous games and improves it dramatically. Switching from modes is a breeze, thanks to a button press... and thankfully, it is much easier to move around while in 1st person and still fire. Controlling the movements of snake, while not on par with games such as the Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher, is easy and you never feel frustrated that the character isn't doing what you wanted him to do. The enemy AI, depending on the difficulty, is very intelligent.
If you are caught, enemies will take cover, call for backup, and do everything they can to take you down while trying to stay out of the path of your bullets. And depending on the difficulty you've chosen, the enemy can be absolutely relentless in their search for you if you are found and try to hide. One thing that I loved was the fact that you can crouch and walk or if you hold the crouch button down, crawl. This option was unfortunately missing from MGS 2 (not sure about 3), and I'm glad the developers put it in, as it adds a whole new level to the stealth sections of the game.
And what would a MGS game be without the selection of weaponry. Well, no need to fear. The selection is ENORMOUS. From grenades to rocket launchers to dolls that can manipulate your enemies... tons and tons and TONS of gadgets to find, unlock, and buy. Believe me, you'll be spending a lot of time on this game if you want to get all the unlockable stuff.
Which brings me to the length. On average, if you just slog through it, you'll beat this game (cutscenes included) in about 12 - 15 hours which is par for the course for action games nowadays. If you want to unlock everything, expect to spend quite a bit more time. And believe me when I say it never gets dull, and never feels repetitive. And for the especially masochistic, try beating it on extreme and getting the no-kills award.
Also, I can't help but mention the humor. What would a MGS game be without easter eggs and the 4th wall humor that made this series unforgettable. It's still here. Even Snake's dry (and often sarcastic) sense of wit is alive and kicking. There is even a point where Otacon jokes to Snake to switch to disc 2, then realizes the game is on a PS3. Also worth of note, there are a TON of (often hysterical) easter eggs to find if you have the time to look for them.
The BadNow for the bad. This should be considerably shorter than the above "good" section, and for "good" reason (Heh, pardon the pun). Well, the only thing I can't seem to get past is the CQC (Close Quarter Combat) in MGS 4. While it was never good to begin with, it is also exceptionally bad in this one as well. Granted, you won't be getting into melee fights often with enemy soldiers (if at all), but the times when they are too close to shoot and are beating you down, you can't help but feel frustrated that in all his years as a mercenary, Snake NEVER learned anything more complex than the punch punch kick combo.
And yet, in some of the cutscenes you see him pulling off these fantastic maneuvers with enemy soldiers that you can not, for the life of you, recreate. As I said, this isn't a melee game, so I didn't expect much in the CQC area. But there is one place where you are FORCED to fight hand to hand (I won't spoil it for you), and it just makes you realize how limited the fighting engine is. In fact, you almost wish they had left that section out if only it weren't integral to the story. Even grappling with an enemy from behind (the infamous choke-hold maneuver) can be difficult to accomplish and I found myself getting frustrated when trying to pull it off and doing the all-too-familiar punch, punch, kick combo instead and getting caught off guard by the enemy.
While I'm on the topic of gameplay problems, I have to bring up the stealth part of the game. While not terrible, it is definitely not great. Or even good. Sorry. There it is. I said it. The stealth part of this game is not that good. After being spoiled by Splinter Cell and the amount of ways you can take out a guard... playing a game like MGS where stealth was made mainstream made me feel disappointed. How you take out (or just slip by) the enemy sentries is extremely limited and feels a bit too linear for my tastes.
Also, there are very few places to hide in a game where being invisible is a top priority. While the octo-camo suit that takes on the appearance of whatever texture you're up against was nice... I rarely used it as it took up precious time, and chances were you'd be going to an environment with a completely different texture style soon anyway.
Another thing that may turn off first-timers into the metal gear solid series (which will be very few if any) is the length of the cutscenes. Wooooo boy, are some of them long. Anyone who has played a MGS game knows that the cutscenes in a MGS game can be long and dramatic, but be ready to have to pause so you can take bathroom breaks for some of the cinematics in this one. And the ending, while more than an appropriate ending (and should get an award, honestly) to the series, is quite possibly the LONGEST, and most drawn-out cutscene I have EVER seen in my life.
The developers did include some opportunities to break up the monotony through flashbacks by hitting the x button or changing to snake's point of view during certain parts (the ones around the various ladies' are especially humorous), however it doesn't take away from the fact that you are sitting through one cutscene just to... possibly sit through another one. And right when you thought you were going to get to play... oh, one more cutscene. Or even two. Sometimes, you're getting ready to play only to find you have to sit through another 10 - 15 minutes of story telling. And while the story is never dull, sometimes you just want to PLAY THE GAME.