Over 2 years in waiting for MGS fans, PS3 fanboys/loyalists, and prospective PS3 owners, Metal Gear Solid 4 is the one purchase that validates the $400-$600 purchase and the one game that may very well be the definition next-gen gaming. MGS4 has been promised to us for nearly 4 years; once slated for a launch for 2006 concurrent with the PS3 launch it was pushed back to 2007 then a few times more throughout 2008. However playing through the game once, it proves the wait worthwhile. The reincorporation of rumble is more than welcome and makes everything feel as familiar as they did during the PS2 era. It seems as if one of the factors of the delay was to program the Dual Shock controller into the game.
On the surface the game plays as the previous games did, of course with the controls modified to adapt to the new game functions Snake can perform. Shooting is handled over the shoulder a la Gears of War and the first person view was added for those more comfortable with FPS or for more accurate aiming. Hold ups return although interrogations are gone; interrogations were more relevant to MGS3 anyway. Now instead of aiming at their head or nuts to get items off soldiers, you hold them up and pat them down, and can incapacitate them via crotch grab. The classic back to wall pose Solid Snake is famous for is gone as well in favor of a more realistic way of peeking around corners. The added crouch running is also a welcome addition, making sneaking a little easier. Camouflage makes a return with a might less involved system than in MGS3; instead of selecting camo from a menu every time you need to sneak by something, the Octocamo will automatically change its look to the color, pattern, and texture of the surface you’re on by hugging walls or lying/crouching on the ground. To remove the current pattern, simply shake the SIXAXIS control back and forth. More functions have been added to CQC as well. You can now disarm the enemy while face to face and he’s pointing the gun at you and more options have been added for restraints. The stamina bar is now the Psyche bar gaging similar effects as MGS3. While it’s low your aim and life regeneration is low. The stress meter (only used in regular combat, not boss battles) determines the rate of regeneration or degeneration of your psyche and is determined by the amount of enemies or stressful events during the course on your infiltration.
There is a lot of attention to detail in MGS4. Snake will wince in pain frequently from back pains from being crouched too long as well as when he is killed and it shows on his face. Wounds appear on Snakes Octocamo as he is hit. The backdrops are no exception when it comes to detail. Pay attention to everything while you’re playing. In one instance I was crawling on the ground over some debris and was able to run into a flask on the ground and alert some militiamen. As in MGS3 the camo you wear prior to entering a cutscene will also appear in cutscene to retain continuity, and to demonstrate some functional interaction, you can even shake off the Octocamo while waiting for it to end.
The production team also added in something to immerse you in the world. If you have a Bluetooth headset you can turn it on and Otacon’s real time codec advice will be heard solely through your headset. The SIXAXIS controls are very limited and act only as a supplement to the game play (which is how it should be used, rather than a main aspect). SIXAXIS only works with the Octocamo and one “weapon”. There is one boss battle where the environment is mostly destructible so hiding behind walls becomes a more difficult process as the battle goes on.
In the limited collectors edition you get to see behind the scenes footage of the history and production of MGS4. You can see the hard work and the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears that many have sacrificed to put out the well polished game that is Metal Gear Solid 4. Much effort was placed in preserving the story from spoilers throughout, so here I will do the same. MGS4 doesn’t not sell short of a very well thought out story and script. If you were concerned with the length of cutscenes, don’t be, they’re not as poorly executed as say Xenosaga where you can sit for hours and not have an interesting revelation. If you enjoyed the complex story up to this point, this game will not disappoint. This is the one that ties up all the loose ends from MGS2 and I for one am satisfied with this being the very final in the series. And so, if you haven’t beaten this game or picked it up yet, what are you waiting for?