Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Is that a Solid Snake in your pants, or are you just happy to see me? - Metal Gear Solid 4 Retrospective

...Wait around for a little while (i.e. however long it takes to make a sequel) and it'll become a Naked Snake. But wait too long and it'll turn into an Old Snake. Ladies and Gentlemen: Comedy.

So the 4th game I finished this year (maybe... I need a better recording system than just "my memory") was the long awaited (for me at least) Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots. Check out what I thought of it (spoiler: I enjoyed it) after the break. Please be aware that it's impossible to talk about a MGS without including spoilers, so if you're planning on playing it eventually, take heed.

So, some background first... I've always been a fan of videogames as far back as I can remember. I can't remember what the first game I ever played was (okay, maybe it was some ultra lo-fi star wars/star trek ascii game on my Dad's first PC) but I can definitely remember the first game that made me realise games could be more than just running around and scoring points. That game: Metal Gear Solid. It was phenomenal in scope, reshaped action gameplay, featured an in-depth, gripping story as well as some of the best writing and characters, outside of the PC adventure game scene at least.

But this isn't a retrospective of that game, this is a retrospective of it's latest (non-spinoff) sequel: Metal Gear Solid 4.

Let's start with the elephant in the room, the one point everyone likes to pick on when talking about the MGS series: Yes, the cutscenes can be a bit long. While I was expecting them, occasionally they did seem unnecessarily too long, particularly the briefing movies. The ending movie length especially (although justifiably) took me by surprise. I'd ended up losing track of time in the final moments of the game... By the time the final credits had rolled it was well into the morning. However, I am more than willing to forgive all of that.

Why? Two reasons. Chiefly:
1) MGS4 comes with an entire other game, the awesome Metal Gear Online, which is ALL gameplay. It stands up by itself quite well, still maintaining quite a player base. Had MGO been on a wider spread platform (say... PC) I believe it could've been a contender as far as competitive online shooters go.

2) They tie up EVERYTHING from all the previous games. The nutso end of MGS2? Why MGS3 seemingly unrelatedly took place in the 60's? All of it is tied together in a satisfying way. Well, satisfying in Metal Gear terms, so still a little crazy and far-fetched in places. Regardless, the MGS series has some of the hugest sprawling (and sometimes convoluted) plot lines in the videogame realm, and still manages to provide a more conclusive ending than some of the others I've seen, in all mediums (Lost, Battlestar Gallactica... I'm looking at you).

Not only that, but this game is made for spectacle whether you're controlling the action or not, and every chance it has (aside from the briefing missions) it busts something great, especially towards the last 2 acts, where it gets non-stomp amazing.

In spite of all this defense, I'd still say gameplay-wise there's more to MGS4 than there was to MGS2 (although MGS1 and 3 still provide more again in my opinion). Although you do possibly see a lot more in MGS4, and certainly, there is a LOT more going on plot-wise it doesn't feel as cohesive as the previous ones. It could be due to the regularity of the cutscenes, or the moments of info-dump that cause this feeling. Previous metal gears were a lot more about "the here and the now", you were living through an important part of Snake's (or proxy-Snake's) life. MGS4 never really has that feeling that this is Snake's last great adventure, it feels more like his greatest adventures are behind him, and now he's just putting the pieces back together and reliving them.

And this is where we get to MGS4's greatest and worst tool: Nostalgia. Not only does MGS4 call back the previous game's storylines, it frequently calls back the previous game's feel, locations, tricks and references. Most notable here is the entirety of Act 4 and the final showdown with Ocelot. It's like a love letter to the fans, with the designers effectively saying: "Hey... remember when this happened? It was pretty cool" and then putting a little spin on it and upgrading to suitable sequel levels.

The downside to this however, is that if you haven't played and completed the first 3 games, a LOT of the magic is going to be lost. Sure, somethings are still going to be incredible (God bless you, end of act 4) but it just wont be the same. The effect of this on new players is even more pronounced in the early game. Fans of the early entries in the series will play on no matter how slow (and bogged down with cutscenes) things may be, but new players may not have that patience.

I could go on for ages about this game, and the rest of the series in general (which I may end up doing eventually anyway) but I think it might be time to wrap things up for this post. Although it does seem like I'm getting a little negative at the end there, I'm only trying to look at both sides. Essentially, I thought this game was incredible and hugely entertaining. You simply wont see spectacle of this level anywhere else (with possible exception to the God of War series). I don't know if I'd play it again anytime soon (although I did play MGO

About the picture:
I was surprised that there wasn't really any Metal Gear/Metal Slug mashups out there... I mean, they both came out at similar times, they both have metal in their title... what more is there to say?

Anyway, the backgrounds are direct rips from the metal gear games, as are the logos (although I've hacked them up a little), but the sprites are all me. As with the last pixel art stuff I did, I didn't just want to just have the sprites up on white space, so I slapped together the rest. However, since the sprites did come out a little small and also since I'm a bit of a narcissist, I've decided to put them up here anyway. Can you name all the characters?

I would really love it if I had time to do some Metal Slug style bosses too, 'coz lets face it: they fit pretty well, but time does not permit.


  1. haha really cool man love it! gray fox is awesome! i wanna see vulcan raven like that metal slug boss .. lol

  2. very nice bro but old snake eye is wrong XD aniway i wanna see more XD XD