Friday, June 20, 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots review

War transforms us into beasts...

Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater was an amazing gaming experience that enhanced the Metal Gear saga, it not only shed new light on Metal Gear's most nefarious "boss" it also introduced us to new characters like Major Tom aka Zero, Paramedic, Sigint, and Eva. Unbeknownst to us at the time, these characters had more impact into the events of the entire fictional world of Metal Gear than we could possibly have imagined...

It's been nine years since the the Shadow Moses incident and five years since the Big Shell incident, time has not been kind to Solid Snake as he has begun aging very rapidly. Is this a side effect of Foxdie or perhaps it has to do with the fact he is a clone. Then again maybe he swallowed too much Hudson river water chasing Liquid at the end of MGS2! Whatever the case may be, our hero isn't in his prime anymore.

At the conclusion of MGS2 Raiden killed his adoptive father, George Sears aka Solidus Snake, who was attempting to learn the identities of the Patriots, a mysterious group that secretly controlled the United States of America. Revolver Ocelot reveals he is an agent of the Patriots before apparently being possesed by Liquid Snake and escaping from Arsenal Gear with Metal Gear Ray. With the A.I. GW supposedly destroyed by Emma Emerich's worm virus, the mystery of the Patriots remained in the shadows.

MGS4 Guns of the Patriots opens with Solid Snake paying respects to the grave of The Boss, but the silence is broken when Otacon arrives with Roy Cambell with intel on Liquid Ocelots whereabouts. MGS4 is broken up into five acts with a mission breifing prior to each and an epiloge at the end of the game. The first act "Liquid Sun" takes us to the Middle East, via the mission briefing we learn about the war economy, PMC's (private military companies), and a bit about the S.O.P system. Old Snake navigates the streets avoiding both the militia he rode in with as well as the PMC Praying Mantis and the "Irving" (Gekko's). Along the way Snake runs into a man named Drebin 893, a gun launderer, here we are introduced to one of the new game mechanics, DP's (Drebin Points). Throughout MGS4 there is "proxy battles" going on between Liquids PMC's and local resistance/rebel fighters, during the battles both sides take casulties but their weapons remain on the ground, by collecting these weapons and trading them to Drebin you gain DP's that can be used to purchase other weapons, custom parts like scopes and silencers, special ammo or special items. We also get an introduction to the B&B corps, via a cutscene. More on them later.
Another new tool in Snakes arsenal is Metal Gear mark II a small mobile unit that can act as a scout for Snake and assist with his mission....basically it's Old Snakes R2D2 and is a small bit of fan service to Snatcher.
Once Snake reaches the rendezvous location, the Advent Palace hotel he meets his informants, Rat Patrol 01 lead by Meryl Silverburgh.
This is the first of many familiar faces from previous MGS games that show up in MGS4, Meryl introduces her squad, Ed, Johnathan, and Johnny Akiba. Meryl is no longer "green", like Snake used to call her, she's very self assured and confident. It is great to see the character progression with Meryl and Jack as the most glaring changes. It's here that Snake gets his first lesson about S.O.P and the wonders of nanomachines. We learn that every aspect of of PMC's are monitored via S.O.P down to the smallest detail such as heart rate and sweat secreation. Meryl boasts about the advantages of S.O.P explaning how it helps her unit act as one and share information in real time making the Rat Pt 01 unit work more cohesively.

Act One concludes with Snake infiltrating the Preying Mantis base and targeting Liquid, but before he can complete his mission Liquid gives the order to activate something that causes all the PMC's to go bizerk, and affect Meryl's unit as well as Snake. We also discover Dr. Naomi Hunter is working with Liquid.

Act Two: Solid Sun has Snake, Otacon and Sunny aboard the Nomad flying to South America in an effort to rescue Naomi from Liquid. We learn that Liquid's goal is to take control of S.O.P by using Big Boss's genetic code to override the system. Snake uses the battle between local rebels and another of Liquids PMC's, Pieuvre Armement, to reach the villa where Naomi is being held hostage. Along the way we learn more about the Patriots from Drebin and once Snake reaches Naomi we also learn that Snake has less than a year left to live at the rate his body is aging, but one of the side effects of this is the Foxdie which she injected into him nine years ago is mutating and will begin killing people indescriminately within in three months.....ah the irony! The hero that saved humanity from nuclear annihilation becomes a weapon of mass destruction himself. After this is revealed a squad of frogs grabs Naomi and you get to fight the first of the B&B unit members, Laughing Octopus. Yes, her name IS similar to Decoy Octopus one of the rogue Foxhound members under Liquids command in MGS1. Laughing Octopus is one of four members of the Beauty and the Beast corps. All four members of the B&B are female and are contained within a cybernetic exo skeleton that resembles the "beast" they're named after. There are two ways of beating these ladies, I recomend using the Mosin Nagit sniper rifle on their beast form and the tranq gun on them after they've been "freed". After finishing her off it's time to track down Naomi again, Old Snake gets a call via codec from Jack aka Raiden who vanished shortly after MGS2. He gives Snake some tips on tracking prey and reading the clues around him. At this point Raiden reminded me alot of Master Miller from MGS1. The environment of act two really reminded me MGS3's Jungle terrain. When Snake catches up with Naomi and her captors we find she is in the custody of the sole surviving member of Dead Cell, Vamp. Snake moves in to rescue Naomi when Vamp gets the call from Liquid to prepare for the second test, Snake and the PMC's begin to collapse as Vamp and Naomi are about to depart in a helicopter when Drebin suddenly appears in his armored vehicle to help Snake rescue Naomi.

Act two concludes with an amazing cutscene where Raiden arrives to distract the Gekko persuing Snake, Drebin and Naomi! Raiden now a cyborg ninja like Frank Yeager and Olga Gurlukavich make quick work of about ten Gekko then he faces off against Vamp in a fight that is simply amazing to watch. Otacon shows up in a helicopter to rescue Snake, Naomi and Raiden who like Meryl has grown tremendously from the last time we saw him! Before falling unconscience from his wounds Raiden tells Snake that he needs to make contact with the leader of the Paradise Lost resistance leader "Big Mama" in Europe, conviently enough there's a doctor capable of doing the "white blood" dialysis to save Raiden, a Dr. Madnar! I'm guessing the lead engineer of Metal Gear, Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar from the original Metal Gear.

Act Three: Third Sun is really Kojima's way of paying tribute to another Konami title that slipped under radar years ago, Snatcher.

Snake enters Europe in disguise wearing Gillian Seeds trench coat and with Laughing Octopus' face camo mask appears to have found the fountain of youth.

The atmosphere of this act is unique to the series as Snake tails a member of Paradise Lost the dense fog and ambient glow of the street lights really sets this act apart from anything ever seen before in a MGS game, subtle background noises like crying babies, conversations in nearby apartments or dogs barking in alleyways really sets up a secret agent feel.

After sucessfully tailing the resistance member you will get to meet the leader of Paradise Lost, Big Mama, aka Eva from MGS3!

Through this cutscene Eva expains alot of the mystery of the Patriots, as well as the relationships between Big Boss, Zero, Eva, Ocelot, Solid, Liquid and Solidus Snake (the only perfect clone of Big Boss). As well as one HUGE revelation about Big Boss.

Once the cutscene ends Snake finds himself speeding thru the foggy streets of Europe with his mother on her Triumph....yes Snake is a clone but he wasn't created in a test tube! With Raging Raven and her flock in hot persuit the chase ends at a catheral where Old Snake must battle the second member of the B&B corps . Use the same weapons as you did with Octopus and you'll earn more than just her grenade launcher.

Act Three does not end well for Snake and Company, after defeating Raging Raven, Snake and Eva head down into the sewers to the Vltava River where Big Boss is being snuck out by Paradise Lost but Liquid beats them there and captures Big Boss's corpse and gets the required DNA to access S.O.P. As Liquid, Vamp and Naomi head off down the river, Meryl, Rat Pt 01 and hundreds of U.S. soldiers suround them. It appears that Liquid is caught but with control over S.O.P now Liquid trumps the situation. All the weapons controlled by S.O.P are rendered useless and all the soldiers with nanomachines fall victim to Liquids controll. Liquids gunboat makes it's grand exit but now before casing some serious destruction, Big Boss's corpse is thrown into a pile of flaming wreakage, Eva runs to save his body and gets seriously burned, Snake goes to rescue his mother from the flames and gets horribly burned himself, Meryl and Akiba get blown into the river and Ed and Johnathan seemingly drown.

Act Four: Twin Suns brings us back to Shadow Moses where for many the series really gained it's popularity. Now that Liquid has control over S.O.P and has repaired the GW A.I he intends to destroy the head A.I JD and by doing that make GW the new main AI that controls the other three A.I. TJ, TR and AL which are responsible for controlling other aspects of America. But since GW oversees S.O.P (nanomachines and small arms) Liquid needs a way of launching a "naked nuke" to destroy the satelite that houses JD's A.I. Now where is he gonna find an unregistered Nuke? And how is he gonna be able to launch it without control over ICBM's?????? Wait isn't Shadow Moses a Nuclear disposal site? And didn't Metal Gear Rex have that railgun???? AhhHaaa!!
Shadow Moses revisited drips with nostalagia, the audio flashbacks are fantastic and the battle between Rex and Ray was icing on the cake! Snake's dream before arriving at Shadow Moses was brilliant, we sure have come a long way graphically! As Snake makes his way across the frozen landscape he passes thru the yard where he fought Vulcan Raven and reaches the field where he fought Sniper Wolf, here Snake faces off against Crying Wolf, like the first two use the tranq guns to earn extra goodies besides Fortune's rail gun. When Snake reaches Rex's hangar he's greeted by Vamp and his new "queen" Naomi. You'll need some CQC skills to level the playing field but once you figure out what to do Raiden shows up and he fights Vamp atop Metal Gear Rex....just like Solid and Liquid did nine years ago. Act Four ends with Liquid and Solid in a Metal Gear rock'em sock'em match, Liquid gets beat and runs away and Snake gets spit out of Rex, and gives chase. Liquid boards a ginormous submarine named......Outter Haven! Wow that sounds so much like Big Boss's Outter Heaven....must be a coinsidence. Raiden shows up to save Snake just as Liquid is about to crush him....Snake really should listen to everyone around him and just live.

Act Five Old Sun begins with the mission breifing aboard the USS Missouri with Mei Ling. Meryl, Akiba, Ed, Johnathan, Otacon and Snake get the low down on the mission, Outter Haven will surface at a certain location to launch the nuke at the satelite housing JD. . It seems after so many ass beatings and his old age snake still keeps his dry sense of humor, whem Mei Ling concludes the breifing there's an air of uncertanty and for good reason, it's a suicide mission! But Snake lightens the mood when Mei Ling asks "Any Questions?" Snake asks, "Anyone got a smoke?" and Otacon chimes in with "Snake you ever think of quitting?" and Snake replies "What's the point, it's not like I have my health to worry about."
Snake, Meryl and Akiba get catapaulted aboard Outter Haven when it surfaces, Akiba hits the starboard hull and falls into the ocean, Meryl hurts her leg landing and now it's all up to Senior Snake and the MG mk III to upload the new virus created by Dr. Naomi Hunter and Sunny Foxalive (FTL) based on Emma Emmerichs original worm virus.
At this point Snake has to head to the bow of Outter Haven, and plow thru squads of Frogs and Gekko's. Once you make it thru the first section you arrive in what can only be described as a control room copied straight from Return of the Jedi complete with a holograph of the Earth. Here you meet up with Meryl and you will battle the forth and final member of the Beauty and the Beast Corps Screaming Mantis. This fight was fun because you'll find the similarties to your fight with Psycho Mantis but the solutions are not the same...I tried switching the controller ports >O.o<>
After this fight MGS4 takes a page from George Lucas, with Snake continuing on the GW server room as Meryl and Akiba hold off the Frogs in the Control room, the scene plays out very much like the battle in Pirates of the Carribean at Worlds End where Will and Elizabeth fight Davey Jones minions while proclaiming their love for each other....I guess love can bloom on the battlefield Snake! Meanwhile Raiden fights Frogs in the hallway that leads to the server room where Snake is headed, and Mei Ling and the crew of the USS Missouri battle the Outer Haven ship.
The final section before reaching the server room was rough, not because of the difficulty or number of enemies but to see one of gamings most prolific characters brought to his knees in such a selfless way to save mankind. After Snake completes the mission he wakes up atop Outer Haven and is confronted by Liquid who congratulates Snake, (I won't spoil that for you) but the two old men fight one final time, as the fight goes on Snake literally beats Liquid Snake out of Ocelot and the last thing Ocelot says to Snake is "You're pretty good" and gives his trade mark hand gesture from MGS3.

The epilogue: Naked Sin felt a bit cheesy like Return of the Jedi cheesy, Meryl and Akiba get married by Ed, the sniper of Rat Pt. 01, Drebin crashes the celebration and explains to Otacon he was an Agent of the Patriots and that even Meryl's squad was secretly controlled by the Patriot A.I. (Rat Pt 01). The only one not celebrating the happy event is Old Snake, Otacon explains to Sunny that Snake is taking a long overdue vacation, the scene cuts to where the game intro shows Snake at the cemetary where the Boss and Big Boss's remains are, he explains that his final mission is to erase the final traces of the sins of the past by destroying the last of the genes of a cursed bloodline.....
After the gunshot the screen fades to black and the voice credits role which include Big Boss....

Debriefing: You can't keep a good man down, that couldn't be more true than in Big Boss's case. After the credits you'll be treated to one hell of a surprise that will further explain the origins of the Patriots and the relationship between Major Zero and Big Boss and how their actions resulted in everything that took place in the Metal Gear universe.
From the amount of references to other Metal Gear titles you might think it is a prerequisite to have played all the previous games before playing MGS4 and understanding what's going on, I don't think that's the case but since I have I might have a deeper appreciation for all the little nuances within MGS4! The saga's story is bar non the best in video game history, like a great book I had to force myself to turn off the PS3 because I had things IRL to do. If you want a straight up action game this will probably disapoint, but if you've played the other titles and have been following the story this is a fascinating saga that has roots in eugenetics, politics, war, economics, love, hate, patricide, science and technology. That's more than alot of Hollywood movies touch on in an action genre. With the quality of the cutscenes I really don't think a silver screen version of this series could possibly come close to giving the same experience as playing the games. For many the length of the cutscenes seem a little much but I beg to differ, MGS4 had the daunting task of connecting all the dots from the original Metal Gear (1987) to Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater (2004) and all the titles in the series. With MGS4 lauching in 2008 your talking about 20 years of material that this game needed to bring to fruition. I believe Kojima accomplised this task.
How well did MGS4 complete it's mission, better than most but not perfect enough to earn the title Big Boss in my opinion. One of my biggest qualms is that Solid Snake was the main character in MG, MG2: SS, and MGS and is one of the most recognisable video game characters in VG history I understand Kojima wanting to move on to other projects but MGS4 really took a lot of Snake's "lengendary hero" legacy and made him a tragic hero, Act 1 Akiba rescues Snake, Act 2 Raiden gives Snake time to run to Otacon to escape, Act 3 Liquid kicks his ass and Drebin shows up to evac him to safety, Act 4 Raiden saves him from being crushed by Outer Haven, and then the biggest kick to the nuts comes from Liquid explaining that Snake was the penultimate pawn to over throw the Pariot A.I. So our legendary hero is just a complete tool!?And then to top it all off the debreifing shows that Solid Snake actually FAILED his first two missions! In fact he failed the Shadow Moses mission as well, because he didn't eliminate Liquid, Naomi did!
The Beauty and the Beast Corps seemed a bit uninspired compared the greatness which was MGS3's Cobra Unit. If I were to rank the bosses thru out the MGS series I'd put the Cobra Unit at #1, then Liquid's rogue Foxhound unit at #2, the B&B corps at #3 and Dead Cell in 4th place.
But this is just a fanboy's rants, the game was absolutely a joy to play thru, the seemless transition between cutscenes and gameplay was superb, the gameplay was solid and the animation of the characters with the cutscenes flowed like liquid. The dialog of the voice actors remained a standard setter in the industry and the script was intelligent and well written. The snatcher refrences were cool and I hope this means we may see a new Snatcher title in the works from Kojima productions.
The varied invironments of MGS4 were a welcome surprise as I thought the whole game was going to take place in the Middle East.
The music for MGS4 was good and Snakes Ipod was a terrific addition with the tunes from previous titles hidden throughout the game a nice incentive to look under every nook and cranny.