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The Game Mechanics of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Published on June 20, 2008 By mittens In Console Games

Over the course of the last week I was able to play the final chapter in a franchise which I first played as a rental on my NES way back when I was a munchkin; Metal Gear was a thoroughly confusing game for the four-year-old me. I very much doubt that I made it much past the first few areas as I was not a patient child. I may or may not have played Metal Gear 2. I did, however, play the hell out of Metal Gear Solid for myPlaystation back in 1998. I played it through about four or five times, got Snake's tuxedo on New Year's Eve 1998, and have very fond memories of Psycho Mantis and Meryl and the boss fight with Revolver Ocelot. I would be hard-pressed to think of a franchise which, to this day, I remain so positively nostalgic about aside from Metal Gear Solid (and Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil). So, now that I've completed my first play-through of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, I want to write about the two halves of this game: the gameplay and the story.


When the first Metal Gear Solid came out the game was absolutely revolutionary. It merged action, stealth, and cinematic storytelling like no game before it had successfully done. Everything had fullvoiceovers , the graphics were phenomenal, and the violence was realistically gruesome. The series stagnated after this first iteration with the release of Metal Gear Solid 2 riding on the first game's coat-tails and, what's worse, forcing the player to play as someone other than Solid Snake for 75% of the game and containing unnecessarily lengthycutscenes that felt longer than necessary (especially its heavy-handed ending). Metal Gear Solid 3 improved on the Metal Gear Solid formula by leaps and bounds without changing any specific aspect too radically. Much like Resident Evil, the Metal Gear Solidgameplay was still utilizing fixed camera angles and by the time the third iteration of the franchise rolled around gamers began to tire of it -- though Metal Gear Solid was so remarkably well-done that it escaped a large amount of the potential criticisms which could have otherwise befallen it.

Loading up Guns of the Patriots was a fantastic surprise; gone was the top-down camera angle -- ditched in favor of an over-the-shoulder camera -- and the inability to fire weapons from first-person and still move around. Gone, too, was theHUD's radar that showed enemy positions and their line-of-sight. In the first ten minutes of Metal Gear Solid 4 a franchise veteran is suddenly faced with an abundance of viable play styles as nonlethal measures, stealth, and murderous rampages are all interchangeable. The nonlethal and stealth approaches both become powerfully tempting the moment that a key character is introduced that is capable of being used as a weapon launderer at any point in the time. Players no longer will face a dearth of ammunition or weaponry as dozens upon dozens of weapons can be purchased and customized with limitless ammunition for each being a triangle button and some in-game currency away. And, oh, these guns have gravity. Each possesses truly booming sound effects and carry with them a feel of destruction like no Metal Gear game in the past.

The implications of making the gunplay of Metal Gear Solid absolutely fantastic are that the entire flow of the game becomes radically different. Players have a deadly arsenal that puts the greatest weapons in Metal Gear Solid 1, 2, and 3 all to shame and this actually makes an entirely offensive strategy completely plausible. Finishing the game with a large number of kills andheadshots yields different end-game items and badges than, say, a game where no one was killed or a game where a single alert was not set off. From my first personal play through I wanted to be stealthy but once I accidentally killed a private military contractor and heard a group of rebels behind me shout phrases of thanks (one threw me some rations as payment) I realized that I could, instead, kill a bunch ofPMCs and aid the rebels in their fight. This, to me, was a far more enjoyable and worthwhile endeavor than sneaking around both groups of combatants. I also earned a lot more currency to upgrade my M4 into a grenade-launching, silenced, long-range killing machine.



There are other subtle additions to Snake's arsenal this time around as well. Snake's camouflage will automatically change the match the environment when he goes prone or presses up against a vertical surface and remains stationary for a few seconds -- a much improved mechanism from the menu-heavy method of performing the same task in Metal Gear Solid 3. The "threat bubble" that pops up around snake when he remains stationary while crouched or prone is also a superb way of highlighting the danger in Snake's surroundings by showing "blips" in the translucent circle that hovers and follows Snake around. And the agme is full of streamlined additions to the tried-and-true gameplay of the series and just serves as further evidence of the ridiculous level of polish present in Snake's final chapter.

For the first time since the original Metal Gear Solid I finished the entire game and still wanted more. The gameplay didn't feel like a means to advance the story or to just make my way to the next plot point; the story provided the impetus to search my environment, kill the PMCs, and make it to the objective that I actually enjoyed reaching. The basic mechanics all function so responsively and the levels are designed to promote both stealth and violence that alternating between the two feels completely natural.

What's more telling than this is that I started up a new game on the hardest difficulty tonight because I wanted to jump back into the game world and play more. Maybe this time I'll actually play through the game without setting off any alerts or attempt for a non-lethal means of progression.

I really, really doubt that will last.

on Jun 20, 2008
wait, isn't the 20th anniversary version of metal gear is coming out soon or has already came out for the consoles. I never play any of the metal gear games, but i do know it is extremely famous.
on Jun 23, 2008

Sounds like a great game.. just the kind I want to play...  

Unfortunately I want the Metal Gear Solid 4 Playstation 3 bundle they released in Japan. Until I can get that I guess I'll stick to MGS3/2 .. still need more dogtags

on Jun 23, 2008

Sounds like a great game.. just the kind I want to play...  
Unfortunately I want the Metal Gear Solid 4 Playstation 3 bundle they released in Japan.

There's a Metal Gear Solid 4 PS3 bundle in the US too, it's just not gunmetal grey.

on Jun 23, 2008
instantcomment 2Sounds like a great game.. just the kind I want to play...  Unfortunately I want the Metal Gear Solid 4 Playstation 3 bundle they released in Japan.
There's a Metal Gear Solid 4 PS3 bundle in the US too, it's just not gunmetal grey.

Saw on Kotaku the US MGS4 Bundle is the 80GB with PS2 Compatibility.
Luckily, in Europe we get a 40GB version that is not compatible.

Guess I'll still have to wait for my MGS4 fix...