Welcome to the first Breaking Down the Backlog of 2016. This week I have brought about world peace, survived being microwaved and punched an old man to death.
And so I have finished the Metal Gear Solid quadrilogy. What an incredible journey is has been since I finished the first Metal Gear Solid five or so years ago. I had high hopes for this game since it was the final instalment of probably the greatest gaming series of all time and in the end I was not disappointed. I was almost sad to see the back of the characters I have grown to enjoy over the years.
The graphics are great, especially for a game that is eight years old. The characters still look good and the detail you can see on some things is impressive even now. Little details like snow being caught on Snake’s moustache or the bar code on the Metal Gear Mk.II show the care and effort put into the majority of the game. There are some parts that are definitely showing their age. Everything is really really washed out. To the point where it is sometimes difficult to tell who was an enemy and who was a friend. It is a problem that the majority of other Metal Gear Solid games didn’t suffer from so much, probably because they weren’t set in such realistic locations. MGS4 almost feels monochrome at points, which is a shame because the places you go are brilliantly realised and are obviously crafted with great care and attention to detail, like the rest of the game.
The game-play is much improved over the other games in the series. You can walk whilst crouched and you don’t have to hold down three buttons to shoot or aim your gun, which is a monumental improvement. The game still has some of the weird controls the Metal Gear Solid series is known for; you still have to press at least three different buttons in order to throw a grenade for example – but it is certainly the best playing game in the series. The camouflage system from Snake Eater returns but it is so much more streamlined, like the game. Your suit automatically blends in with whatever you are laying on and thank God. The less time spent messing about in menus the better, in my opinion. The aiming though…it is perfectly serviceable until you need to shoot something fast or far away, which is about two of the four boss battles. This quibble aside it is much MUCH more playable that the previous entries.
There is one thing, however, that I think isn’t as good as the previous entries: the map system. There are two ways Metal Gear Solid 4 tells you where people are and neither of them are particularly useful, even when combined. There is a ring around you when you go prone or crouch which tells you how far away things are in relation to you and the map that appears when you have the Solid Eye equipped that also tells you where people are. The problem is that the vision cone from the other games is gone now, which makes it needlessly difficult to tell which way people are looking unless you are looking directly at them. It was a small thing, but it has cost me lives and tripped alarms.
The story is ridiculous in all the ways the previous game’s, even the more serious third one, have been. It is stuffed with robo-ninjas, poop humour, dumb jokes, melodrama, over-wrought demagoguery about “the war economy” and a boat load of general craziness. Yes, it is filled with fan-service both good and bad. Metal Gear Solid 4 calls back to just about every single thing from the previous games in interesting ways that surprised me (with one extended call back that actually made me laugh with glee) and the lengths they go to explaining why the things that happened in the previous game occurred were really interesting as a fan of the series. But sometimes they went too far. There are four main bosses in the game and when they die, they shed their robotic shells to reveal that they are attractive women in skin-tight latex suits. This wouldn’t be much of a problem, the series’ treatment of women’s sexuality has always been juvenile, but the way they sexually writhe about on the floor crying – along with the gratuitous ass shots – made me feel uncomfortable. It was like MGS4 was trying to satirise the way games pander to men but going too far.
A second problem is just how neatly they tie everything up and the lengths they go to give everyone a happy ending. It almost gave me diabetes the way Raiden finally gets a family, Meryl makes peace with her father before marrying Johnny and that Snake DOESN’T kill himself, deciding instead, after a firm speech from Big Boss (?!), to live out his days waiting for the “next generation.” It all happens in one hour-long sickly montage! It was pretty terrible. Saying that though, I found the story to be loads of fun and kept me interested enough to play the game in long ass sittings, something I generally don’t do.
A great game and a fantastic end to the series and Solid Snake’s saga. There will never be a series like it, especially with Konami cutting all their losses and getting out of the gaming industry for good.
Next time on Breaking Down The Backlog: Rainbow Six: Vegas