Here at The Newb Review we like to think that gaming journalism isn’t all about picking up popular games and telling you how great they are. Tom01255 has adopted this idiom as his own personal mantra as he delves into games that everyone seems to love, but he really doesn’t… Join him as he talks us through the critically acclaimed and widely prized Metal Gear Solid 4.
Now let’s get one thing straight. I’m writing about Metal Gear Solid 4 (MGS4) as an overrated game because it has been defined as such. By that I don’t mean it’s been defined as overrated. Far from it: this title has been universally acclaimed as one of the greatest to come to console gaming. It has a Metacritic score of 94 and as many as 31 top publications gave it a perfect 100 out of 100. However, it has also been given the annoyingly inappropriate mantle of “game”… MGS4 isn’t a game; it’s a computer generated film with playable parts… And the story isn’t even as good as previous incarnations.
Having seen the many promo videos for the game I was devotedly anticipating its release, and was sorely disappointed after about the first two hours, having spent three quarters of this time watching seemingly endless cut scenes. This is the biggest, but by no means only flaw in MGS4. Lengthy cut scenes have long been a hallmark of the Metal Gear series, but MGS4 takes this to the extreme; well over half the gameplay is taken up with non-playable content. Whilst it must be noted that the gamer can skip over many of these cut scenes, doing so makes the confusing plot even more perplexing.
Characterisation is somewhat lifeless in comparison to the colourful retinue of both good and evil characters in previous installments of the franchise. Voice acting is typically strong, as you’d expect from a Metal Gear title, and MGS4 certainly seems to appreciate its lineage, bringing back several of the bosses from their first outing on the Playstation and MGS2 on the PS2. However the result of these reiterations of old characters is, unfortunately, little more than lacklustre. The standout example is the reincarnation of Sniper Wolf; an arguably endearing enemy taken from the Playstation. Not only were Kojima Productions lazy enough to reuse old material like a bad stand-up comic, they didn’t even bother changing the name.
Playing a Metal Gear title, you should always expect some level of confusion over exactly what is going on. The massively in depth back stories often serve to baffle, rather than colour your perception of certain characters’ motivations. In any case, one should bear in mind that they are playing a game rather than a simulation of real life. However, for much of the game the player journeys through open warfare. Why then does the presence of a geriatric mercenary attract the ire of an entire army? Surely those fellows dressed up in the desert camo and balaclavas wouldn’t devote their entire attention to such a decrepit old man, would they?
And so we move on to the protagonist himself. Snake is now old; not due to the twenty years since his first outing, but the premature ageing caused by him being a clone and the Foxdie virus injected into his bloodstream in the original Metal Gear Solid…Obviously. The transformation of gameplay with the addition of old age is understood, and fits into the canon of previous additions such as the survival factors of MGS3.
But having seen teaser trailers with a younger looking Snake, I was hopeful that something miraculous would de-age him. After all, this is from the same writers that brought us the ludicrous ending of MGS2, where your mentor melts into some kind of freaky skeleton, telling you that you’re playing a game, and to switch it off…In any case, the youthful looks from the teaser turn out to be a ‘Young Snake’ mask, and my disappointment continues to mount.
The ending is perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects of MGS4. I would put a spoiler alert here, if I thought for even a second that what I’m about to tell you would spoil anything…The ending is weak and predictable. Essentially, Snake doesn’t die. He sits in front of the grave of Big Boss with a pistol. A shot is fired, but Snake lives on. The refusal of Kojima to kill off his icon denies us the final act that would have been amongst the most memorable moments in modern gaming. Instead, the director highlights his lack of backbone and presents us with the possibility of endless sequels that will no doubt prove to be as woeful as this “masterpiece”.
MGS4 should have been an outstanding and much needed reboot to the franchise, or at least allowed the series to go out with a bang. The result is a game that looks beautiful, and plays as such during the few breaks between cut scenes, but overall presents a mediocre swan song for a dwindling franchise that has seen better days. The metaphor for the final installment of the series then, reflects the inevitable end of Snake himself; arthritic and incontinent, taking his last few wheezing breaths before plummeting to an early grave and obscurity.
This game may well be memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. You can pick it up now for a snip at your local gaming outlet… But I wouldn’t advise it.
Editor – However, if you think Tom01255 is full of poop and are interested in picking up this game, you can get it from our Amazon shop and help support this site: