Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Review

Its no secret that the release of the final chapter in the Metal Gear Solid series, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, is a huge deal in the gaming world. I limit the sequel’s influence to the aforementioned “gaming world” because even though Solid Snake might be your favorite video game protagonist, he doesn’t have the mainstream appeal and name recognition enjoyed by other recent “big name” releases such as Mario Galaxy, Halo 3, Guitar Hero or (groan) Grand Theft Auto. It’s also no secret that MGS4 has been earning rave reviews across the board, from both web-based and print media, even managing to earn itself some perfect scores. I don’t play quite so fast and loose with my ratings, so don’t expect another fawning review of the game that has kept hope alive for the lagging (but doing much better these days) PS3. You won’t find it here. Instead, with a level of dedication that surprised even me, I finished MGS4 and immediately dusted off my copy of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence so I could start the series right back at its NES (or MSX2 home computer, if you were lucky enough to be Japanese during the late ‘80s) beginnings. Why? Its simple – I didn’t want to score MGS4 unfairly simply because I hadn’t played, or even thought about, any previous games in the series in probably three or four years.

This may be a review specifically for MGS4, but its also a quick look into the series itself; what goes right, what goes wrong, highs, lows and an incomprehensible plot that even after my Metal Gear marathon, still seems muddled, unconvincing, and to put it plainly, expects gamers to possess the ability suspend disbelief at a near-superhuman level; not exactly a good idea for a series that has prided itself on its “real world” feel and connections to actual world history. If you are still on the fence about Snake’s latest adventure and whether or not it’s worth your time, I’d urge you to read on. If you aren’t… read on anyway. This took a lot of time for me to put together. Do that Wayne’s World thing with your fingers (do-dilly-do) and travel back with me to 1987, a time when Bill and Ted were box office gold, side ponytails were still cool and Snake began his journey in the original Metal Gear.

For brevity’s sake, I’m only going to hit the high points of the pre-Solid Metal Gear games. As most people already know, these games, Metal Gear and the sequel, Metal Gear 2, did eventually find their way to American shores, but certainly not as they were intended. In the original Metal Gear, names were changed, plots were altered and even large chunks of the game were either cut or modified so drastically that the series creator, Hideo Kojima, refused to endorse the dramatically altered product. An American sequel to the altered Metal Gear was released as Metal Gear: Snake’s Revenge, but it had little to do with the series and is usually brushed aside by most Metal Gear purists. The real sequel, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was a Japanese-only release (until recently, anyway). It’s complicated, I know.

All you really need to know about these games is that they introduced Solid Snake, Big Boss, Metal Gear and Zanzibar Land and Outer Heaven, two locales that you’ll find mentioned in nearly every game in the series. Other than that, these are dated games that can either be played on the MGS3: Subsistence extra disc or downloaded in ROM form and played on an MSX2 computer emulator. If you’re a die-hard fan, have at it. If you only have a passing interest in these two ancient, frustrating, difficult-to-find titles, I suggest simply starting with Metal Gear Solid and either reading the plot summaries online, in the PS3’s downloadable “Metal Gear Solid Database” or any other number of places where the relatively small amount of info can be found. I can already hear the fanboys freaking out, but don’t waste your time playing through these old and far-from-classic titles.

Where the Metal Gear saga really took off was in the original PlayStation’s Metal Gear Solid, one of the aging system’s best and most memorable games. Whether or not the GameCube remake of the PS1 title improved upon its near perfection is a matter of taste (if you have good taste, you know the remake was 1,000 times better in just about every way), but whichever version you call your favorite doesn’t matter; Metal Gear Solid was and is really something special. Like the past tiles, you play as Solid Snake, a super agent charged with infiltrating a nuclear weapons base that has been taken over by a colorful band of terrorists, one of whom is your “brother (aka clone),” Liquid Snake. The stealth based gameplay does feel a bit dated by today’s standards, but what made Metal Gear Solid the game it was and the legend it continues to be is the boss fights.