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Metal Gear Solid 4 — An Action Infiltration Masterpiece

by | Jan 8, 2023

In short

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is a fantastic game you need to play if you own a PlayStation 3 (and if you’ve completed the previous entries).

Read the full review for more.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is an action-adventure stealth video game developed by Kojima Productions and published by Konami.

It is the sixth Metal Gear game directed by Hideo Kojima and released for the PlayStation 3 in 2008.

Is it still worth playing nowadays? Answer in this spoiler-free review.

The game opens five years after the events of MGS2.

Set five years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty; the story of MGS4 centers on an aged and weakened Solid Snake, now referred to as Old Snake, as he goes on one final mission to assassinate his nemesis; Liquid Ocelot.

A game divided into 6 acts

Unlike previous Metal Gear games, MGS4 is divided into acts (6, to be precise). In between each act, Snake and his allies will rally to plan their next move during Mission Briefings. If you’re used to the series, you might be surprised, at first, but the way it’s done kinda makes sense, so you shouldn’t be bothered by it.

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As mentioned above, this is a spoiler-free review. So, if you’ve never played MGS4 before, know that I won’t elaborate further on the scenario. However, I need to say that the game offers an epic conclusion to Solid Snake’s saga (to date).

An impossible plot to follow if you haven’t played the previous entries.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is an ode to the fans of the series and keeps on referring to previous events or characters.

metal-gear-solid-4-guns-of-the-patriots-flashbacks-Meryl

There are dozens of flashbacks you can activate during cutscenes by pressing X.

So, if you haven’t played the previous entries in the Metal Gear Solid series, you won’t understand anything. It can even be challenging to follow for those who have played all games before MGS4.

Now, it seems that Kojima Production realized they needed to do something to help players fill the gaps and released Metal Gear Solid 4: Database, a free downloadable encyclopedia filled with information on the entire series.

It contains detailed information about the game’s characters, weapons, vehicles, and other items. It is an invaluable source of information for MGS4 players directly from their PlayStation 3 console.

Young Snake is no more.

In Metal Gear Solid 4, Snake is in his late 50s and suffers from various physical ailments, including accelerated aging, degenerative nerve damage, and a weakened immune system. As a result, Snake can’t move or fight as effectively as he used to.

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And it shows in the gameplay.

Gameplay: An significant improvement over MGS3

The gameplay in Metal Gear Solid 4 is similar to the previous entry in the series, with players taking the role of Solid Snake, using stealth, weapons, and gadgets to progress through the game.

However, it introduces various new gameplay elements, such as the possibility to move while crouching, use anything as cover with the OctoCamo, a “stress” meter, which greatly affects Snake’s abilities depending on his mental state and the Solid Eye.

What’s more, MGS4 features an in-game store where players can purchase weapons, items, and upgrades.

The OctoCamo

Inspired by the camouflage system from Snake Eater, the OctoCamo is a smart camouflage system featured in MGS4.

It is a form of adaptive camouflage that changes its pattern and color to match its environment, allowing the user to blend into their surroundings.

You can use the OctoCamo to hide from enemies and avoid detection by security cameras and other surveillance equipment. The OctoCamo is so central in MGS4’s gameplay it almost feels like its own character; it is your best ally.

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metal-gear-solid-4-guns-of-the-patriots-octocamo-statues

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Manage Snake’s psyche

Psyche management is an improvement of Big Boss’ stamina management in MGS3.

A strong psyche level will allow Snake to be more in control when in a fight or to regain health faster when resting.

Now, in MGS4, Snake will get stressed quite easily.

His stress levels will increase when wearing poor camouflage, approaching enemy holdings, or in the middle of a long battle, thus lowering his ability to focus and hold his gun straight.

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to calm Snake down.

You can manage Snake’s stress levels by taking specific actions, such as getting away from the battlefield, taking medication, listening to relaxing tunes on your iPod® or having him smoke a cigarette. However, this last option will also damage Snake’s health quite substantially.

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The Solid Eye

The Solid Eye is a device manufactured by Otacon for Snake. It acts as a radar, night vision, and goggles.

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The Drebin shop

In the previous entries in the series, you could only acquire new weapons through the main story or by looting semi-hidden places.

MGS4 changes that.

Named after a character that will assist Snake throughout the game, the Drebin Shop is an in-game store featured in MGS4.

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The shop allows you to purchase a bunch of weapons, ammo, various items, and upgrades using a virtual currency called Drebin Pointsyou mostly gain Drebin Points at the end of each act and as you pick up the weapons of fallen enemies. It also offers a variety of customization options, allowing you to customize your weapons with various attachments and colors.

The Drebin Shop is accessible at any time during the game, allowing players to purchase items at their convenience. Now, Drebin will apply war prices if you’re trying to buy goods while in the middle of a fight. To save cash, remember to visit Drebin when you’re out of the action.

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New types of enemies

Everything in Metal Gear Solid 4 reminds Snake that he’s a thing of the past.

For instance, the game introduces a variety of new enemies, including Gekkos, bipedal armored and deadly tanks, and the FROGs, elite special forces. Both are equipped with advanced tech and will give you a hard time.

If a frontal approach is always possible, you’re better off taking your time and sneaking around whenever possible.

MGS4 features epic boss fights

Metal Gear Solid 4 features a wide variety of bosses, each with unique abilities.

This time around, you’ll face a new deadly unit known as Beauty and the Beast, as well as some well-known enemies from the series. As per usual in Metal Gear games, each boss battle is quite memorable and requires different strategies to defeat them.

Graphics: MGS4 shows its age, but still impresses

The graphics of Metal Gear Solid 4 are still excellent for a 2008 title.

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It features pretty well-detailed character models and animations, and solid lighting effects. MGS4 also features a variety of graphical effects, such as motion blur, depth of field, and dynamic shadows.

However, poor facial expressions, animations, and low-res textures remind us that we’re dealing with a 2008 title. In short, we are lightyears away from a Last of Us Part II, of course.

Here are a couple of screenshots to illustrate my point about low-resolution textures.

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Now, unless you spend your time looking at various surfaces up close, you should be able to get over it. 

Now, if I can easily forgive rigid facial animations, framerate drops can affect the experience.

The game easily drops below 30 FPS

Metal Gear Solid 4 caps the framerate at 30 frames per second. Of course, the cap was implemented to prevent the game from becoming unplayable due to the PlayStation 3’s limited hardware.

Now, despite this, MGS4 still suffers from occasional framerate drops. A shame for a game only running at 720p. 

Of course, one way to fix this is to emulate the game (using the disc that you own) from a PC.

Artificial intelligence: A classic “Metal Gear Solid”

Without being groundbreaking, Metal Gear Solid 4’s artificial intelligence was pretty well received at the time.

Enemies’ reactions were somewhat realistic, making combat more challenging and dynamic.

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Now, with today’s standards in mind, MGS4’s AI is obsolete. Enemy sentries are on a rail and will only deviate from it if you interact with them (throw items on their way, make noise, or get noticed).

Soundtrack: Impressive and thrilling

Harry Gregson-Williams and Nobuko Toda composed Metal Gear Solid 4’s excellent soundtrack.

As per usual in the series, the score brilliantly supports both action and quieter moments.

Give it a listen:

A fantastic voice cast

At the time, the specialized press praised the voice cast for delivering yet again such professional and passionate performances.

Voice actors David Hayter, Quinton Flynn, and Jennifer Hale all reprise their roles as Solid Snake, Raiden, and Naomi Hunter, respectively.

Interestingly enough, the game opens on a series of TV Shows and ads, some of which feature David Hayter giving an odd TV interview.

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Something I only noticed this time around was how most sentries have the same voice. For instance, in the opening sequence of the game, there’s a floating moment where soldiers are confused and keep repeating “What?!” with the exact same intonation. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it killed the moment, but it definitely sounded off.

How long does it take to beat Metal Gear Solid 4?

Something you need to know is that Metal Gear Solid 4 contains over 8 hours of cutscenes.

Fortunately, MGS4 is also the first entry in the series to make it possible to pause cutscenes. A necessary feature as the title includes a cutscene that lasts more than 70 minutes!

metal-gear-solid-4-guns-of-the-patriots-pause-during-cutscenes

If you are to watch all cutscenes, I believe you’ll need 20 to 25 hours to complete your first playthrough of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

No more MGO (Metal Gear Online) – Servers have been closed

No point in trying, Metal Gear Solid 4’s multiplayer was discontinued in June 2012 after Konami shut the servers down.

This made the game’s online portion – Metal Gear Online – unplayable.

MGS = Overly sexualized feminine characters

I can’t write a review of this game without mentioning how backward it feels to play it nowadays.

Even if I love this game, something’s not right about it.

If the industry is slowly evolving with strong characters such as Aloy (Horizon), Ellie (The Last of Us), or Lara Croft (with the latest reboot of the Tomb Raider series), most video games tend to either overly sexualize women characters or give them sidekicks roles.

Well, Kojima got us used to this throughout the series, and Metal Gear Solid 4 does both.

On too many occasions during cutscenes, the camera tends to linger around some female characters’ body parts.

Not great.

If Konami were to remaster or remake MGS4 for newer machines, I sincerely hope they’d edit those sequences out, especially because they are absolutely marginal and do nothing for the story.

Verdict: Good buy or Goodbye?

Very. Good. Buy!

Sure, MGS4 could be better. You might find some cutscenes too long, the unstable framerate, or be annoyed by the over-sexualization of feminine characters.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots remains a fantastic game that concludes Snake’s story with an engaging and complex story. A must-play for any fan of the Metal Gear Solid series — and it’s now extremely cheap!

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