Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
The Good: Amazing audio/visual experience, well crafted story, plenty of weapons, fully fledged multiplayer, tons of elements to keep you busy
The Bad: Disappointing bosses, not many people are playing online, cut scenes are dragged out way too long, why all the installing?
Metal Gear Solid is one of the most memorable game series ever created and MGS4 is a great topping on the cake. Not only does MGS4 offer an incredibly riveting story, but also some great multiplayer as well as hidden stuff for long time MGS fans irking all the way back to the original game.
Starting out with MGS4 is kind of daunting due to the deep storyline that is hard to follow unless you have played the other three games, but you can manage if you are smart enough and stick with the story. The only problem I had with the story are the drawn out cut scenes that can last over 30 minutes thanks to Hideo Kojima’s love for cinematic storytelling. Most of the length comes at the end of every chapter, the mission briefing, then the beginning of the next chapter. Each chapter took over 30 minutes to start, and sometimes the dialog can drag on and become sleep inducing.
Metal Gear has always been known for its stealth game play and MGS4 is the first Metal Gear game to give you complete control of the camera and even implementing a first person mode. The greatest improvement (for me) was the fact that sneaking through compounds, camps, and war frontlines didn’t feel like a puzzle anymore, but like a stealth game. The amount of stuff in your HUD may be overwhelming at first, but you will adjust. You have a health meter, psyche meter (that I never found any reason to keep track of), item and weapon menu, camouflage gauge, and a radar screen. You can also buy weapons and ammo from Drebin’s Shop using Drebin points that are accumulated by picking up weapons on the battlefield. You can also customize weapons now with silencers, grenade launchers, shotguns, flashlights and more. There are dozens of weapons to buy and each come in handy for certain situations.
Using your camouflage is one of my favorite elements because whenever you lie still your suit copies the texture on the ground and lets your blend in better. Throughout the game you will acquire more types of camouflage, but the suit is great. You can even change the color of your vest and face. Another element that I love is the change of pace in the game. No longer are you confined to stealth only elements since there will be full out fire fights through some levels, vehicle sections, and even a section where you use a mech. That doesn’t sound like Metal Gear to you? Welcome to evolution.
The game just feels fluid, smooth, and transitions well and has a perfect play time of about 15-20 hours. You can also partly interact with the cinematic by zooming in, and at key points pressing L1 for a first person view and pressing X or flashbacks of previous games. I do have to say my biggest disappointment were the boss fights since they aren’t as original as in previous games. Most just have you shooting enemies to death and using a key element to figure out how to actually kill them.
There are a multitude of CQC moves for you to use against enemies or just a good silenced shot to the head works too. Hiding bodies isn’t such a big deal anymore since you are in a war and crawling through dead bodies will be like tomorrow’s chores after awhile. Using camouflage to blend is just probably the key element to the sneaking in this game since using shadows and lying still is key.
When it comes to multiplayer you are in for a treat because Metal Gear Online is a fully integrated online system that is separate from the game. You have several different game types (all the ones you can expect) all while using Drebin points to use guns during matches, and using your experience points to level up and buy stuff for your character through the Konami website. There are several expansions available, but Metal Gear just never felt like an online thing for me. It is fun, but trying to find a room with 16 people is kind of rare especially at lower levels. The online element of Metal Gear is strangely deep for a game that doesn’t get much online traffic since Metal Gear feel strictly like a single player only experience, but it’s there for people who want it.
If Metal Gear turned you off before you should give it another shot because it truly mixes stealth and action beautifully and even someone who doesn’t care too much for Metal Gear (me) can love this game. The game looks amazing and all the characters look life like and are rendered beautifully. The voice acting is top notch, and nothing can type the fight scenes. Patience is a virtue with this game, but you get a great feeling of satisfaction after sneaking through a whole enemy camp unseen. It is easier than previous games, but also still offers a challenge.
If you love the Metal Gear saga then you should have this already, but even people who never played a Metal Gear game and get engrossed in this wonderfully crafted and touching story while being sucked into the single player experience.