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A Solid contender for game of the year

July 16, 2008

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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A Solid contender for game of the year

Considering how sneaky Solid Snake is, he sure knows how to go out with a bang.

Solid, Otacon, Meryl, and the rest of the gang in the Metal Gear series all make it out one last time for the epic finale on the Playstation 3, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the PatriotsAnd when we say epic, we mean it. Besides the stealth gameplay that has made the Metal Gear series famous the world over, Guns of the Patriots (GotP) is chalk full of cinematic cutscenes and even in-game sequences that will have your jaw making good friends with the floor. The amount of cutscenes you'll watch are longer than some entire games, and Snake will encounter some battles that will have you thinking this is more of a Call of Duty game than anything else.

But a bit of back story first. In Guns of the Patriots, Solid Snake is a weathered old man (in fact, he's lovingly referred to as 'Old Snake'), the aging process in his body sped up for reasons we'll let you find out for yourself. After becoming a recluse for years, Snake goes back into action at the request of his old friend Roy Campbell, who asks that Snake take out Liquid Ocelot, who is attempting an insurrection to make the entire world one giant warzone.

You'll jump right into the stealth action in the first of five acts that takes place somewhere in the Middle East. Even veterans of the series likely won't be able to fly through any part of the game the first time through on one of the two middle difficulty settings. This, despite gameplay similar to anything else we've seen in the past, from question and exclamation marks popping up above guards' heads, to the ability to use boxes to hide in, to the use of rations to gain energy back.

Right from the start, Snake is equipped with his OctoCamo suit, which allows him to blend in with whatever surrounding he's near. If he hugs a wall, his suit will look like that of bricks and mortar; if he lies down flat against the ground, his suit will change to that of whatever gravel, grass or rock that he's touching. This doesn't make for easy escapes though. The AI in GotP is smart, and won't easily give up looking for Snake once he's spotted. Even if you manage to get out of sight of some guards, they'll scour an area they know you've snuck away to until they're satisfied they won't be able to find you.

Now, despite all of this talk of stealth, Metal Gear Solid 4 has a slew of all-out action sequences that should satisfy any gamer who prefers to shoot first and think later. You'll control machine guns on the back of vehicles that are hurtling across deserts, run from armies of two-legged robots and take on skies full of flying bad guys where you'll need to use every high-powered weapon in your arsenal to come out alive.

The series' creator Hideo Kojima struck a masterful balance, though, between the fast and slow pacing of the game. The only time things really drag - and this is the one real complaint we have with the game - are during the drawn-out cutscenes. You may have heard about the hour-plus long ending cutscene, but keep in mind that 20 and even 30 minute cutscenes are still the norm, and not the exception, throughout the rest of the five acts. It's great that players have the ability to pause and completely skip them, but then there's the risk of missing important plot points.

When you are playing the game though, there is a lot to take in - and we mean that in a good way. There's a lot onscreen at one time in GotP, yet it's never difficult to follow. The two biggest things you'll want to keep a close eye on is your Camo meter, and your baseline map. The higher percentage the Camo meter is, the better-hidden you are, making it more difficult for enemies to see you. There is no sound meter in GotP, but it's easy to tell if you're making too much noise. When in doubt, crawl.

The baseline map is basically a radar that shows enemy positions and what their threat level is. If the enemies - represented by simple dots on the map - are pulsing strongly, you'll know they're on to you, and it's best to hide in the nearest dumpster or steel drum.

Once again there are a ton of items and weapons at Snake's disposal, from nudie magazines, cigarettes and energy drinks, to submachine guns and stun grenades. The catch in GotP though, is that most of the weapons you pick up can't be used right away because each weapon is hardwired to be used only by the soldier it is originally given to. The way around this is by talking to Drebin, an interesting character who is in the business of buying and selling one thing and one thing only - weapons.

Once you meet Drebin early on in the game, you'll be able to contact him anytime through the pause menu, so there's no need to annoyingly search around for him while you play the game. He will, though, show up at certain points in the game to advance the plot. There's a lot of customization possible thanks to the Drebin point system, though it's by no means a necessity. So those gamers who prefer to just pick up their guns and shoot 'em, can still do so once they quickly pay a couple thousand Drebin points to unlock them.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the PatriotsAnother staple of the Metal Gear series is the boss battles, and of course there are some great ones in GotP. That being said, it would have been nice to see a little more creativity like that in the original Metal Gear Solid. Granted it's tough to top bosses that can read your mind, but many of the bosses in Metal Gear Solid 4 have to be taken down by simple brute force. They are fun, but nothing compared to some in the past games in the series.

All in all though, the Metal Gear Solid 4 campaign will manage to keep most people glued to their seats thanks to a combination of wonderful stealth missions, heart-pounding action sequences, a creative powering-up system, interesting characters and above-average boss battles. You won't just be playing through to see what happens to Snake at the end; you'll be playing because it's simply a lot of fun.

As absolutely stunning and grandiose as the single player campaign is, there is something else that should place this title at or near the top of the list for the year's best games, and that is a little thing called 'Metal Gear Online'. Similar to 'Gran Turismo Prologue', this is a teaser that shows just a glimpse of the full Metal Gear Online game that will be released in the future.

Despite featuring only five game types and five maps, MGO is one of the most addictive, well thought out multiplayer offerings to be released on any system in years. At first glance, it looks like your typical third-person action shooter in the same vein as Ghost Recon or SOCOM, but it's a lot deeper than that.

After some basic customization, players can choose one of several different skills to power up their character, whether it be running, zooming in or handling an assault rifle. This powering up system is dead simple to understand but adds a ton of replay value to the game.

In addition, individual matches can use Drebin points, so depending on how well you're doing in a certain match, you may be able to buy better weapons and items after you die.

Clan support is enabled, though you have to play at least 20 hours of playtime and reach a certain level before you can make your own. There is a very thorough list of stats that you can follow as you play more and more, too - everything from kills and headshots to time spent in a box is kept track of here.

Most of the game types are your standard-fare deathmatch, team deathmatch and king-of-the-hill, but there are also two sneaking modes that are sure to appeal especially to Metal Gear fans. One has two teams fighting each other, both in search of a single player who controls Solid Snake. Snake has camo and uses non-lethal weapons, and tries to steal dog tags from either of the two teams. The teams try to kill Snake a certain amount of times to win.

There is also a Team Sneaking mission, where one team uses characters that have camo and non-lethal weapons. These players have to grab one of two flags and return them back to their base. The other team simply has to protect the flags, or kill everyone on the other team. Both game types are very original and very well done.

If this is just a taste of the Metal Gear Online world, we can't wait for the full game to launch.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is an absolutely dazzling package of rock-solid gameplay, blockbuster-style production values, picture-perfect graphics, and an insanely addictive multiplayer portion. This is exactly what PS3 fans have been waiting for, and is without a doubt an early contender for game of the year.

 

A Solid contender for game of the year
Format: Playstation 3
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Official Site: http://www.konami.jp/mgs4/us/top.html

Rating: 9.5 / 10

 
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