Metal Gear Solid 4 is a game whose potential influence on the current state of gaming is nothing short of tectonic.
Metal Gear Solid 4 represents an artistic triumph for its director, game design legend Hideo Kojima, as well as an enormous coup for Sony and its PlayStation 3. Metal Gear Solid 4 is a masterpiece, an unforgettable game that shines like a beacon amidst a sea of mediocrity.
It is not only the best Metal Gear game, but one of the best games ever made, period.
If you own a PlayStation 3, put this at the top of your to-buy list. If you don't own a PS3, well, chances are you will buy one soon just to play this game.
Long time no see
One of Metal Gear Solid 4's chief pleasures is its sweeping storyline, a tale that redefines the term "epic" yet remains grounded by its intensely personal, human side. If you're new to the Metal Gear Solid series, don't worry: MGS4 takes great pains to tell an accessible story that will enthrall newcomers while providing plenty of surprises for hardcore series veterans.
In many ways, Metal Gear Solid 4 is the true sequel to 1998's groundbreaking Metal Gear Solid. The game shifts the focus back to Solid Snake, a legendary stealth operative and hardened combat veteran. But these days, things are different. Snake is dying, ravaged by a case of premature aging that's resulted as a side effect of his modified DNA.
Not only has the condition taken a toll on his abilities but on his confidence as well. The masterful storytelling portrays Snake as a tragic yet noble figure who grows increasingly disillusioned as the world crumbles around him. Snake isn't depicted as a one-dimensional superhero in Metal Gear Solid 4, but as an old man who's grown exasperated with the harsh realities of war. This stylistic shift gives the game some serious emotional weight - it's impossible not to be touched by Snake's dilemma.
As he stares his own mortality in the face, players are forced to do the same. This game explores some heavy issues: death, aging, war, terrorism and even the role of the US military. Even more surprising is that it handles these themes without heavy-handed preaching or grandstanding. This is remarkable stuff, particularly for a video game. Atmosphere is a great strength of Metal Gear Solid 4: from its opening moments to the final scenes, the game paints a grim world that's at the mercy of an out-of-control war economy, a ruthless form of capitalism that thrives on bloodshed and weapon dealing.
Snake's journey to the Middle East starts out as a simple assassination mission, but quickly evolves into a far more personal quest. Past games in the series have been rightfully criticised for their ridiculously long cinematic cutscenes and self-indulgent speeches. Luckily, Kojima has learned his lesson. The cinemas in Metal Gear Solid 4 are utterly magnetic and, with only one or two exceptions, devoid of the bewildering and bloated lectures that weighed down the earlier games.
Voice acting is another strength here, with David Hayter's role as the gravel-throated Solid Snake being a performance for the ages. This is video game storytelling at its absolute best, and represents a new high water mark for the craft, easily surpassing the superb BioShock and the subversive Grand Theft Auto IV.
PC ADVISOR VIDEO: Metal Gear Solid 4 - six-minute preview
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