Launch center on Gamespot for MGS4
UPDATE: GAMESPOT REVIEW 10
|Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the final chapter in the saga of Solid Snake which sends him around the world in pursuit of his arch nemesis, Liquid Ocelot. Armed with new gadgets and abilities, Solid Snake must shift the tides of war into his favor, using the chaos of the battlefield to infiltrate deep into enemy territory. In his globetrotting final mission, Snake must sneak deep into enemy locations in the Middle East, South America, and other corners of the earth to foil Liquid Ocelot's plans for total world domination.
Key Features (Metal Gear Solid 4):
|TOKYO--With Metal Gear Solid 4's launch just a month away, Konami held a press conference in Japan to celebrate the game's completion. Half of the conference was about speeches and launch promotions, but with the event taking place in a cineplex, we also got to see a lot of game action on the big screen.
To make the cinema experience as real as possible, the press conference started off with a "No Smoking" MGS ad, followed by a few CGI-rendered commercials that were actually fake ads based on the Metal Gear Solid 4 world. It was an interesting way to start off the event because the ads were all supposed to be from the in-game Private Military Companies (PMCs), which subtly hints that they're a major power in the MGS4 world, even outside of the war zone.
Following the ads, the conference started off with MGS4's opening scene in the Middle East, which can be seen at MGS4's new official site together with the aforementioned ads. In the opening, Snake is seen riding on the back of a truck that's heading toward a war zone, and he's disguised in a robe to look just like the other civilian soldiers riding with him. He goes on a monologue about how the war is no longer about nations, ideologies, or ethnicities. It's become an endless series of proxy battles by hired mercenaries and machines, and the consumption of life has become a practical business in the world.
As Snake continues to talk about how the soldiers are completely controlled with nanomachines and ID-tagged weapons, he reaches the war zone and gets off the truck. He finds himself in crossfire as soon as he gets off, as the other soldiers around him are quickly picked off by well-equipped PMC mercenaries. Much to his misfortune, he finds that his gun is totally jammed before he even gets to make a shot, leaving him completely empty-handed. The game switched from the opening scene to gameplay at this point, which was impressively seamless and almost unnoticeable, had it not been for the life bar and other interfaces appearing on the screen.
This time around, Snake actually starts off with a weapon. Unfortunately for him, it totally jams up.
Thereafter, the game seemed to function as a tutorial. As the unarmed Snake sneaks around the war zone to avoid confrontation, he finds a gun on the ground used by one of the civilian soldiers. As Snake picks up the gun, we heard the familiar voice of Otakon, telling Snake how to press the start button to open the game's menu and equip the weapon. Unlike weapons carried by the PMCs, the civilians' primitive arsenals aren't ID-tagged, so Snake can just pick them up and use them without problems.
As Snake moved forward, an elephant-like cry echoed through the sky, silencing the soldiers as they stopped shooting to figure out what was going on. After a few moments of dead silence, a hoard of Gekko units jumped from a far distance and suddenly landed in front of the soldiers, quickly killing them one by one. With Otakon telling Snake not to confront the killing machines, Snake evacuates into one of the buildings shown numerous times in previous game demos and trailers. There, he finds a cardboard box on the second floor, placed too obviously on the middle of the floor (the box ironically says "No place to hide" on one side, and "No place for Hideo" on the other). As Snake goes into hiding, two Gekkos reach the floor, search around, and decide to smash the box, causing red liquid to splatter all over the place. Fortunately, it turns out to be a bunch of watermelons rather than a mashed Snake. After the Gekkos go away, Snake powers off his camouflage and appears from the side of the room. The camera zooms in on Snake's face, Metal Gear Solid 4's logo appears onscreen, and the opening sequence ends there.
After a few words from Konami Digital Entertainment's president and director, Hideo Kojima, a fresh movie-like trailer was shown off, done completely in Hollywood style and narrated by a Don LaFontaine-like voice. The trailer featured new scenes such as Snake confronting Liquid Ocelot (and getting beaten up), a Metal Gear Ray jumping out of the water, and Snake mysteriously turning young. The trailer is viewable at MGS4's official site.
After the trailer, Kojima showed some live MGS4 gameplay and unveiled new information. The demonstration ran for about 40 minutes with an experienced staff playing the game, and Kojima mentioned that they're showing off only about one-fifteenth of the whole game.
First and foremost, Kojima revealed that, unlike any of the previous installments in the series, MGS4 will be chapter-based. Each chapter starts off with a scene in which the small, young heroine Sunny is frying eggs in her room. According to Kojima, the eggs allude to what will happen in each of the chapters, in the way that they're cracked or the way that they're fried.
Kojima showed off the first chapter, Act 1: Liquid Sun. The game started off in the same familiar area from the previous demos. Kojima explained the new changes to the game, such as the threat ring, which replaces the enemy location on the map from previous installments.
In MGS4, the area map can be displayed by pausing the game, though it doesn't show enemies. The map is rendered in 3D so it can be zoomed and rotated, giving you a more accurate judgment on the best course to take to reach a destination. Height seems to be a vital factor in MGS4, given that you can make use of building structures to evade enemy encounters.
As the game progressed, we saw the war zone changing; a vehicle sent in more PMC mercenaries, making situations worse for the civilian soldiers. It's up to you to decide whether to help the soldiers or stay neutral. For the sake of showing off to the press, Kojima decided to help them out and took out a few PMC mercenaries. He took one out by close-quarters combat and showed that your enemies can be hidden in lockers, just like in previous MGS games. He also showed that Snake could give items to the civilian soldiers and get stuff back in return. The game was played in hard mode, in which the enemies patrol in a team of two and wake up faster after they're stunned. Consequently, Kojima and his staff played carefully so as not to make any major mistakes while playing in front of the press. Kojima also took the opportunity to once again show that Snake can blend into the environment using his suit's Octo-cam capabilities. Once he blends, the pattern can be recorded for future use, which is great for gamers who like to keep a collection.
It's also worth mentioning that Kojima's team put in quite an effort to give details and a realistic feel to MGS4's world. A microphone speaker rang out in the middle of the war zone, broadcasting a PMC propaganda announcement. We were also shown the area with the statues where Snake can blend in by use of his Octo-cam. As a small Easter egg, Kojima showed that parts of the statue would eventually fall off if Snake keeps camouflaging and touching them.
As Snake went into a building, we once again saw the demo scene in which he meets up with Otakon's Metal Gear MKII for the first time. There, a small mech supplies him with some additional hardware to survive in the fierce battlefront: the Solid Eye, a gun called the Operator, and a tranquilizer gun. The Solid Eye has multiple functions and modes. It can be used to detect human emotion, detect enemy type, find items on the screen, uncover footsteps, as a telescope, and as a night goggle.
From here on, the Metal Gear MKII can also be controlled by the player. MKII is equipped with stealth camouflage, making it perfect for use in surveillance. It doesn't have any weapons, but it can stun enemies with electrocution wire.
During the dialogue scene, the screen suddenly buzzed like a broken TV when "Metal Gear" was mentioned by Otakon. Although we didn't get to see what it does, Kojima revealed that there's a flashback button that appears when something or someone from the past is mentioned during dialogue scenes. When the button is pressed, you get to see a glimpse of the past that's related to the subject.
After the scene ended, Kojima opened up the menu screen, which has a set of menus on the left side (Code, Weapons, Items, Camouflage, Drebin's Shop, Save), and the area map on the right. In particular, Kojima mentioned the new feature called the Sunny Camera. There's something that looks like a live webcam at the left bottom of the menu screen, and it shows what Sunny is doing in her room, 24 hours of the day.
Going back into the battlefield, Kojima showed that the civilian soldiers have a hideout in one of the houses, which looked pretty vacant and badly funded, with some wounded soldiers lying on the ground. We could hear dialogues between some of the soldiers, and they didn't attack Snake because he's an ally. According to Kojima, Snake can also move around in the hideout wearing the civilian-soldier robe that he starts off the game with, in which case the soldiers won't notice him even if he's made enemies with them.
Walking around a bit more in the hideout, Kojima picked up a Regain energy drink, which is a real-life product in Japan. It looks pretty yellow and gives a nice energy boost to Snake, kind of similar to the Calorie Mate snacks that were in MGS3.
Konami has collaborated with a number of companies, including Apple, to feature their products in MGS4.
What was more surprising was when Snake picked up an iPod music item in the hideout. In MGS4, Snake carries around an iPod player, and he can listen to music whenever he finds a new track in the game. The tracks can be run as background music while playing the game, and what's more, when the game is paused to the menu screen, you can see Sunny dancing to the tune on the Sunny Camera.
It turns out that Konami is doing a bunch of collaborations with multiple companies in MGS4, including Triumph Motorcycles, Sony Ericsson, and Ubisoft. Triumph already collaborated with Konami on MGS3 (Eva rode one of their bikes), and it's going to happen once again. Sony Ericsson's phone is used by Vamp and Naomi during the game. Later during the conference, we were shown an impressive scene in which Vamp just wouldn't let go and stop talking on his phone, even though Snake shoots him in the middle of his forehead. Considering Ubisoft, the Assassin's Creed Altair-style robe that Snake wore in an April Fools MGS4 video on YouTube will actually be an unlockable feature.
Taking the stairs and walking up the hideout, we saw the scene in which Snake meets up with a hairless, gray monkey and the mysterious arms dealer named Drebin, who sells PMC weapons that have been ID-tag unlocked. We were shown an extended dialogue scene in which Drebin reveals that there are weapon launderers all over the world. "Drebin" is a generic name used by all of them, with him being the 893rd Drebin.
The scene continues as Drebin gives a complimentary gun to Snake in token of his new acquaintanceship. After checking to see that there's nothing suspicious with it, Snake pulls the trigger and finds out that it doesn't work. Puzzled, Drebin realizes the possibility that Snake might have an old-generation nanomachine inside his body, which can sometimes clash with even unlocked ID-tagged weapon systems. Snake, suspicious of how Drebin could have such knowledge, questions who he really is. Instead of keeping himself secret, Drebin reveals that his main job is as an employee for Arms Tech Security, which gives him access to ID-tag chips before they get registered. He also mentions that Arms Tech has two faces, just like how Snake isn't officially a soldier in the battlefield, though he's not a civilian either.
After the scene, Kojima went back to the battlefront and used his newly acquired weapon to shoot down a few PMC mercenaries. He also showed how weapons could be customized or newly purchased through the Drebin Shop option from the menu screen. For instance, you can add on a laser sight or a suppressor to a gun, or purchase a sniper rifle if an enemy's too far away. Customization and purchases are all done with Drebin Points, which can be acquired by picking up equipment and weapons in battle. On some days, the Drebin Shop has discounts.
You can purchase new weapons or modify existing ones through the Drebin Shop.
Kojima showed off a few weapons that can be purchased from Drebin's Shop, including a M60E4 machine gun. There was also an XM25 airburst grenade launcher, which lets you adjust the distance of travel before the explosion for an accurate hit to the target.
In the closing of his presentation, Kojima showed off what he called the "ultimate weapon" that is available in Drebin's Shop. For a whopping one million Drebin Points, which should take about three to four loops through the game to accumulate, you can buy a classic Japanese Tanegashima muzzle-loaded firearm. The weapon seemed to be the most impractical firearm in this day and age, with Snake having to painstakingly push a ramrod into the gun's barrel for each reload. However, Kojima showed that, every once in a while, the gun would cause a massive typhoon, annihilating everyone in sight and making items drop all over the screen like rainfall.
After the end of the live gameplay demonstration, Kojima talked briefly about plans for a "Metal Gear Solid 4 World Tour," during which he and his staff will travel around the world to meet up with fans of the series. The tour locations include London; Madrid, Spain; Milan, Italy; Frankfurt, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Paris; New York; Los Angeles; and San Francisco.
One of the surprises at the press conference came at the very end. As the lights dimmed out for the event to end, a one-way dialogue very similar to the endings in the MGS games took place, hinting at some sort of worldwide live event and a sequel, though it was too vague to make any assumptions.
"Yes, the presentation event has ended. Everything is according to plan."
"We will proceed to the final steps of the mission. The surprise that's planned on launch date, should it be executed?
"Yes. Akihabara, New York, LA...worldwide live broadcast. Yes, there are no problems. The VIP has agreed to come. Yes, that's correct. That person. Understood. June 12."
"And what should we do about that project? Yes, that's right. That man has shattered, but...about the sequel. Yes. Yes... I see. That's understood, Mr. Company President."
Launch center on Gamespot for MGS4
|We didn't always hate Metal Gear, but at some point during the final cinema for MGS2 I got the impression that Hideo Kojima hated us. Since then, I think we've simply been happy to return the favor. The only games I've enjoyed since then were the two entries in the Ac!d series, and that's because they were completely unlike Metal Gear.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is at least as much an event as it is a game, though: iterations of the series mark the passage of time in a console generation. They're incredibly elaborate, even hardware defining experiences. There's really nothing to compare them to in terms of their cinematography except for, well, movies. Once the disc begins to spin, a succession of interactive vignettes and entire films begin to spool off of it. Oh, and product placements. I can't wait for somebody to pipe up on how postmodern that is, and not a mercenary act, but I'm sure that's the angle: the developers themselves are mercenaries. This is why shit be so authentic.
We combed through a few gameplay videos yesterday morning, and the level of excitement felt was commensurate with peeling corn husks. There's probably a listserv for people who do find that exciting, but I'm not a subscriber. It was slow, the action looked clunky as ever, and Otacon is in it. We were scourged by the experience. We really need to get with the program - I heard it got a "ten." Perhaps psychology has the answer.
Most reviews I have read can be simmered down to "If you like Metal Gear, you'll like it" which can also be stated "If you like Metal Gear, then you like Metal Gear," a tautology I had well in hand prior to choking down these penetrating insights.
I sometimes wonder why I buy every MGS game that comes out when I profess to hate them, and also authentically do hate them, but I know the answer. It is because I actively want to be wrong. I want to see the game people keep talking about. I want to be forced by its exacting auteur to apologize for everything I've ever written. I'm ready to have my ego obliterated and to truly learn something about the nature of liberty. And, like most Playstation owners, I'm hungry to use the machine for something other than Planet Earth.
do you think it's enough
|If we are focusing the aperture exclusively on the gameplay, I can tell you in only a few words what I don't like about MGS. If I fail at sneaking, the game ceases to be Metal Gear. In the space of a second, it becomes an incredibly clumsy action game. The boss battles are comprised almost entirely of this other system, a mechanism that has now been exposed for what it is: a punishment.
Only six or so hours in to the new version, there are improvements to the recipe. They've done what they can inside their framework to make the combats that do occur feel more like part of a whole game, as opposed to some shit-greased chute into a dungeon for bad players. They've made the most basic concessions to modernity and ergonomics. I don't know if I'm supposed to laud that, or what. The rest of it is incontrovertibly "Metal Gear." You're hanging out with a monkey, and then a guy poops for ten minutes. Then someone tells you to challenge fate, but also accept your destiny, which I'm pretty sure is a contradiction. It's just horrible.
I hated the game less. Is that sufficient?
Harmonix took Konami's Guitar Freaks as a base, and was able to transform it into multiple franchises worth more than a billion dollars annually. Somewhere in Splinter Cell and Assassin's Creed, Ubisoft attempted to machine a version of the venerable Metal Gear with a Western sensibility. Part of this was to give the player a truly lethal protagonist, the sort of person for whom one or two armed opponents represented no threat. The other was to substantially minimize downtime, making it easy for the character - someone who ostensibly sneaks professionally - to clear the slate quickly, and return to the business of skulking. Splinter Cell has no "bosses" to speak of, and the "bosses" in Assassin's Creed fall to the knife like any other man. Whatever other sins these games have, and neither has the soaring ambition of a Metal Gear, these are games about going undetected.
Gametrailers offered up its review of the game, a 9.3. This is an incredible score. But it's not a ten, and both Halo and GTA received better marks for some portions of their sub-scores, and for two days now the thread has burned. We have a standing agreement with one Mr. Period to unravel issues of this nature, and he was too happy to oblige. Indeed, he is usually too happy. Unless for some reason he isn't.
Here's a tender slice from the comments:
ThePure said: "Overall I look down upon society and witness some hope spawning with games like MGS. Solid Snake is by far one of the best heroes in our generation, though it takes wise people to see this.In response to all the mice that crept out from the shadows of their overheating 360's to give a good ole' HAHA or LOL to the situation that an honest reviewer has given, I turn my cheek to you. Those who believe that one console will give you a satisfying experience are dull and boring, for everyone knows that you truly need every console to experience gaming.Oh and don't get me wrong, I have friends that believe that Halo and Gears of War are the best games/franchises ever, Yep one of them is unemployed and has knocked up his girlfriend like an idiot and is working a dead end job. The other lives with his parents and plays halo with kids that are 5 years younger than him for a career. I get it guys its kool to flame on forums, cause in essence, you have nothing else to live for, so by all means, find something to look up to, like marcus pheonix, or John 117, though remember in the end, that these characters are flawed, and have never been explored by their design teams, as they give us stories that amount to comic books i used to draw when i was in the 1st grade.With all of that out of the way, Its time for me to go experience Metal Gear 4, and keep all the lost children and men that find it necessary to wrap their heads around shoot em ups and guitar faking power trips in my prayers.Games are now art. Embrace it Or GET THE F OUT! P.S Snake forgives you guys too for having mothers that resemble his aged appearence."
Finally, an attempt at real discourse that operates from a core of cold reason and doesn't rely upon ad hominem. He does resort to ad mominem, but who can resist.
This is why I love the idea that what's actually needed is two scores. Two! Yes, when one has worked so well. Even if you could measure games with numbers, a point I do not concede, there's no universal Goddamned basis for comparison - there is no "unit" of measurement. We measure things so we can compare them to other things. The trouble is that everyone is performing a kind of mental arithmetic, cramming their own internal symbologies into this or that frame and stripping out wisdom in the process. Editorial voice is a fallacy. They're all conversions of interpretations of moments. And we lose crucial data at every step.
In the space of our play experience, we've already seen two separate installs. The game is still broken up into discrete areas, which I found odd, the assumption being that if we were taking time out to install shit it was because we were doing it to sustain a single world. You would have a hard time convincing me that multiple installs over the course of playing a videogame are worse than disc swapping. This has become some kind of theological question on forums, a kind of philosophical pinata, except no matter how many times you strike it no reward is forthcoming. Blu-Ray is only a convenience if it is actually convenient, if it doesn't require concessions either at the beginning of an experience or at several points throughout. It's amazing to me that this is considered progress.
GameSpot Score 10 Editor's Choice
Metal Gear Solid 4 is an awe-inspiring synthesis of dramatic storytelling and entertaining gameplay.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the most technically stunning video game ever made. It's also a fine example of storytelling prowess within its medium, combining gameplay and narrative so slickly and beautifully that it's impossible to extricate one from the other. It's likely you will emerge awestruck from your first play-through, wishing the experience would continue yet nonetheless satisfied with its conclusion. It's difficult not to sound hyperbolic when discussing MGS4 because every part of its design seemingly fulfills its vision, without compromise. There is no halfway.
The story is both convoluted and compelling.
Fully realized, lengthy story sequences will come as no surprise to anyone who has played a Metal Gear game. You'll spend a good half of MGS4 watching cinematics, but it would be a grave misinterpretation to assume that great gameplay takes a backseat to the story. Rather, these two elements are tightly intertwined, and this tapestry is held together by an important technical thread: Cutscenes that are rendered fully in real time within the game engine. It's impressive enough that these scenes look as good as any prerendered cinematic you've ever watched. It's even more amazing when those same scenes transition without pause into gameplay, and the same hulking mech you watched lumber about in the cinematic is looming above you. The subtle animations, the lush environments, and the rich textures are the same in and out of story sequences, and the effect is so seamless it may take your breath away. You can skip past the scenes if you prefer, but doing so would soften the experience. The story sequences carry more weight because of the intense gameplay that precedes them--and the gameplay feels more compelling because the story gives you powerful reasons to care about your mission. The high point of this fusion occurs in an exciting and memorable split-screen sequence that simply must be experienced.
Talking about what, exactly, is going on in the plot in the midst of MGS4's grand sweeping gestures is to risk spoiling each little surprise as it emerges. Snake, suffering from the rapid onset of aging, now must cope with stiff joints in addition to the looming specter of Liquid Ocelot's newest plans. This is Snake's final hurrah; yet as the story reaches one height after another, the juxtaposition of huge set piece battles and formidable bosses with Snake's deteriorating body creates tension and gravity even beyond the series' usual pretensions. Some new plot strands emerge while others get tied up, and old friends (and enemies) refuse to be forgotten. You'll also bear witness to a few reunions--some bloody, some teary, and some legitimately shocking. Parts of it are overblown, to be sure. The musical score gets heavy-handed and the voice acting and writing are frequently dogmatic, so while there are plenty of subtle moments, subtlety isn't really MGS4's strong suit. But it doesn't need to be. After all, the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and judging from a few silly attempts at humor that don't work, developer Kojima Productions was wise to err on the side of melodrama.
The gameplay proper is familiar to fans, but it's been cleaned up and expanded, holding as many twists and surprises as the story. For starters, both gunplay and close-quarters combat are more satisfying. Regarding melee, the controls have been streamlined, making it less cumbersome to grab an enemy soldier or perform a stealthy blade kill. Shooting mechanics are even more improved, so much so that shooting your way out of a pickle is just as enjoyable as sneaking around it. There are a huge number of weapons to play with; so many that you'll probably finish the campaign without using many of them. Yet, quality wasn't sacrificed for quantity: Every weapon feels just right, from your handy operator sidearm (best when upgraded with a silencer) and standard issue assault rifles to a powerful railgun. The standard over-the-shoulder view is fine for the most part, but you can gaze down the sights from a first-person perspective. Both views can be further improved with various enhancements, such as laser sights and scopes.
Not that you don't have all the tools for completely avoiding your enemies if you choose that route. Snake's got the basics covered: crawling, hugging walls, peeking around corners, and hanging from ledges, for example. Cover mechanics are tighter than ever, so you can crouch and take potshots from behind cover with ease. There are also a number of important gadgets that will make your life easier in this regard. The most obvious of these is your OctoCamo suit, which takes on the texture of your surroundings when you're prone or pressed against cover. Not only does this make it simpler to avoid watchful eyes, but it's also a cool visual effect. Eventually, you'll be able to camouflage Snake's head, and a few of the available camo options are bound to stir some fans' nostalgia. The Solid Eye is your other major tool, as it expands your compass into a sonic-sensitive radar and allows you to use night vision and a tactical first-person view. These are helpful gadgets indeed, even during boss fights, like a stirring encounter in a blinding blizzard.
Shooting is always a viable option if you don't want to sneak.
Other gadgets, such as portable hiding places (cardboard boxes and rusty barrels) and the Metal Gear Mk. II (a stealthed robot that you can command as a scouting device), are useful to anyone who prefers the sneaky approach. Not every gadget is a welcome addition, though. For example, the much-ballyhooed iPod is a neat touch, but to use it, you cannot have another gadget equipped, so you'll quickly forget the option even exists. But aside from these nitpicks, one of the things that makes the core gameplay so enjoyable is that you're rarely strapped into a single style of play. Shooting your way through requires more thought and care than you'd put into a standard action game, but you never feel as though the gun mechanics are stuffed uncomfortably into a stealth game. If you'd rather sneak, you never have the impression that stealth was shoehorned into a game that's meant to be played as a shooter. Sure, you're Solid Snake--you're not supposed to get caught. But if you're stuck in a jam, breaking stealth isn't a death sentence, and in fact, facing certain enemies head-on is often a heart-pounding, challenging experience. The few levels that do force you into one style, such as one in which you shadow your target through an Eastern European city, are still great, if not quite as impactful.
You'll need to keep an eye on Snake's stress levels and psyche. Though these aspects are more peripheral than health levels, they fit nicely within the plot. When Snake gets stressed (if he gets cold or encumbered, for example), his psyche gauge starts to deplete. The lower the gauge, the slower you will move and the less quickly you replenish health. Generally speaking, the psyche meter is rarely a factor, and should you notice Snake groaning a bit more, there are items like compresses you can use for a pick-me-up. Should the meter get too low, you won't be able to hold up your weapon or rush for cover. This doesn't happen often though, and while you'll need to keep a close eye on your health for obvious reasons, you won't need to pay too much heed to psyche.
Regardless of the tactics you use, the level design and enemy artificial intelligence work in tandem to create unparalleled gameplay. If you go stealth, hiding in that rusty barrel isn't a perfect solution. Your foe may look at it suspiciously, kick it a few times, and eventually blow your cover, so don't expect to be able to trick your way through as you might in other stealth games. In full-on firefights, enemy teams will flank you, use cover to their advantage, and throw grenades with precision to force you out of hiding. Most of your surroundings, inside and out, are littered with objects and cover opportunities, from a trek through a South American jungle to a nostalgic journey through a snowy island base. Each level is more-or-less linear, but within the confines of these areas, you still have remarkable room to explore the various gameplay options and test the limits of your foes. Some enemies are standard soldiers, though many others are wonderfully imaginative. The colossal mechanical Gekkos, for example, are unpredictable and keep you on your toes, while female operatives that pounce from wall to wall intensify an early escape scene.
There are ample cover opportunities.
Later in the game, a few set piece battles deepen the core gameplay even further, including a few peerless on-rails sequences. One of these, a motorcycle chase, is as close as any game has gotten to translating the excitement of similar moments in films to a game format. Another level, which features a gigantic automaton, showcases destructible environments where walkways collapse on top of each other and the screen fills with smoke. In all of these cases, the controls are excellent, with the exception of that same mech's third-person view a bit later on (the first-person view works infinitely better). The interpretation of Metal Gear Solid as an interactive film still applies, but in a way you may not have expected: These levels make you feel like the star of your own action movie.
Boss battles are stimulating, though they aren't all that difficult. Nevertheless, a few of them are tricky and require you to put some thought into your tactics because just riddling the boss with bullets isn't going to ensure victory. Early on, it's clear that you'll be encountering the four members of the Beauty and the Beast unit--female supersoldiers that are as psychologically complex as they are fun to battle. These battles are long and normally require you to fight other enemies in addition to your primary target. In one of them, you can use your night vision to track your target's footprints and use the wind direction to your advantage. In another, you'll dodge missiles from flying creatures while taking on the main boss.
The gameplay and story would, perhaps, not be as effective if Metal Gear Solid 4 did not look and sound so impressive, but truth be told, it's an amazing piece of technology. From the gritty textures of concrete walls to the effective lighting and shadowing, there are few aspects you could reasonably fault. In the biggest battles, billows of smoke fill the screen and blood splatters against the camera--all while meticulously designed helicopters fly overhead and ad-hoc team members take potshots from behind grungy dilapidated vehicles. Yet in the midst of the visual drama, it's the little things that are likely to provoke awe. Small details, such as how Snake rubs his sore back when his stress levels get high or the authentic manner in which he ascends staircases, create as much atmosphere as cluttered underground tunnels and war-torn Middle Eastern cities. You will have to wait through some scattered install periods (just under 20 minutes worth, in total) and the occasional loading screen, and you may find some frame rate drops and low-res textures here and there, but these aren't issues in light of MGS4's impressive graphical accomplishments.
The sound design comes together nearly as well. The soundtrack on its own is rather pompous, but in context, it works just fine to create the appropriate mood for any given cutscene or battle. The voice acting follows suit but succeeds far better. Because the growling voice of David Hayter's Solid Snake is so good, the rare hamming from the mostly excellent supporting cast is easily forgotten. But the sound effects are unforgettable and excellent across the board. The Gekkos emit blood-curdling moos like gargantuan cows, explosions are outstandingly obnoxious, and everything from the clicks of the Solid Eye to the laughter and screams of the beastly bosses are top-notch.
Snake's final hurrah is a remarkable technical achievement.
On top of it all, Metal Gear Solid 4 offers some enjoyable online 16-player action to complement its superb single-player experience. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are represented, of course, and they play just fine, assuming you don't approach the online component as a standard shooter. The maps are beautifully rendered and packed with detail, and while not every mechanic is as wonderful in multiplayer as it is in single-player (hiding in your cardboard box won't usually get you far, for example), it's all good fun once you adjust to the pace. The multiplayer star, however, is sneaking mode, a Team Deathmatch variant in which one player plays as Snake and another supports him as the Metal Gear Mk II. Shooting others is amusing--but sneaking enthusiasts will enjoy the violent, stealthy game of hide and seek you play as Snake. Playing support is equally entertaining because as Mk. II, you can go invisible, creep up on other players, and zap them with your electronic tentacle. It's a blast. Other modes include base mission, in which teams compete to conquer bases; a capture and defend mode; and rescue mission, which is similar to the same mode in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. Unfortunately, the process of creating an online account is laborious, so expect to take a few minutes to enter a litany of information (a pain if you aren't using a keyboard). Thankfully, the variety of customization options and sheer numbers of players online mean that this process is quickly forgotten.
If the story-heavy presentation of previous Metal Gear games taxed your patience, Metal Gear Solid 4 won't change your mind. For anyone who appreciates games that rise above the simple act of pushing a few buttons and pulling a few triggers, Metal Gear Solid 4 is a stimulating ride that you won't soon forget. You'll want to see what happens next, yet when its long campaign draws to a close, you'll wish it would continue. That's not just because it's a well-told tale, but because that tale is woven through a thoroughly impressive game that tops its predecessors.