I just finished Metal Gear Solid 4 in preparation for the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes. I had heard all sorts of opinions on the game, from it being the finest Metal Gear game ever created to it being the most ridiculous and over the top. I think that the truth lies somewhere in between those two, but I was definitely moved and impressed either way. In fact I re-played/played for the first time Metal Gear Solid: Integral, Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker all within the last few years. That leaves the main story points (though not all of the fine details) fairly fresh in my mind. As it turns out, that was extremely beneficial when playing Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
Though the control scheme and most other elements of the game that I can think of haven’t changed all that much from MGS 3 to 4, MGS 4 feels decidedly more modern. I can only really attribute this to the huge jump in graphical quality, as well as the huge jump in cut scene length. At times it feels much more like watching a movie than it does playing a game, which is where a lot of “modern” games are arguably heading. This certainly allows Kojima’s writing to shine: This is very close to being his best yet (It still didn’t quite beat the writing in MGS 3 for me, though it came close), and has the most authentic feeling character development in the series thus far. Despite some of the opinions I had heard, this entry in the series seemed to have the least amount of weird, “Metal Gear-y” stuff happening in it of them all thus far. However it used just about every piece of Metal Gear specific vocabulary and organization that had been featured in any of the games thus far. Since I didn’t remember a lot of the little details of past games, I found myself having to consult wikis to look up specific events and meanings of words more than I would have imagined.
That was merely a minor inconvenience though for what ended up being a story that involved every living character you could imagine from past games, and declared a statement of finality to the series (not counting games that may and will be made about events that had happened in earlier points in the MGS timeline): This must be the end. I would be shocked if Kojima ever made a Metal Gear Solid game with a story that took place after this point in the series timeline. The voice performances were also some of the most heartfelt that I’ve heard in the series, and even more so than in most other games. This may be due to the fact that this was the first MGS game that I have played in Japanese: There definitely is some talent in the English voice cast, but I think that the Japanese cast outdistances them by quite a bit.
It was a fairly short game when you take away the hours of cut scenes, and all being said it didn’t end up being my favorite in the series. I am very glad that I played it though, as it leaves a lot to think about both in the context of the MGS world and in the context of the overall themes that it presented. Anyone who thinks that the story in MGS in way too off the rails should definitely check this game out.