Solid Disappointment

Old Snake

After a marathon weekend session, my mission is complete: I have put down Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots with extreme prejudice. This was, obviously, the fourth in the Metal Gear Solid series, a video game franchise that began with my favorite video game of all time.

The game started out alright … sure it was a little jarring to get used to the inevitable changes (Snake was now old, setting was amidst war instead of a solo sneaking mission) but once acclimated I started to really appreciate the phenomenal graphics and legendary gameplay.

But then the story happened! Yes, the very same thing that raised Metal Gear Solid 1 from being a great game to the best game of all time now dragged down beautiful gameplay. Ill-placed fart jokes and bowel movements within serious, war-torn cinematics? Total fanboy service where every character from the previous games is related to every other character? Scene after scene of blubbering people over underdeveloped relationships? A goddamn wedding on a battlefield? What the fuck, Hideo?

I guess it was inevitable. MGS1 set the tone for suddenly ripping away every truth you had held to for 75% of the game and every sequel must have felt the pressure to do something similar. MGS2 turned out to be a virtual mindfuck the entire time. MGS3 had double-crosses and triple-crosses. MGS4 just … well, just got weird and silly. With Hideo Kojima, the creator, saying this would be his final MGS game (although, to be honest, he said the same thing about MGS3) I’m sure there was a push to create some closure. Instead of a nice, little game to send main character, Solid Snake, riding off into the sunset, he totally threw the revelations of MGS2 out the window (turns out … they were lies! What great writing!) and tied all loose ends with rather uncreative bows (I’ll just say it seems like several dead people turned out to … get ready for it … not actually be dead!!!). Ugh.

Still, the great gameplay that lies at the heart of every MGS game is still there and I like the way the map was balanced. MGS’s map showed you every villain AND where they could see which made the game, ultimately, unfair in your favor. MGS3, taking place in the 1960’s, went the opposite route providing no real map to rely on for too long. Here, in MGS4, you could switch on a map that gave impressions of where enemies were, but would start to fuck up if you weren’t quiet – like from running or shooting a gun. Furthermore, with everything turned off, you could call upon Snake’s experience and “see” a visual representation of what he was discerning – where threats were and how close they were to him.

And all of this was beautifully rendered with gorgeous graphics. Sure, the cut scenes started to look a little waxy as the faces looked more mannequin than human, but mostly everything that happened on screen was very impressive.

Oh, well … I guess everything must come to an end sometime, even greatness. 3 out of 5 cardboard boxes.

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