Breaking Embargoes: First US Metal Gear Solid 4 Review to Hit the Net

A few weeks ago, Sony Defense Force had the pleasure to entertain an opportunity of a lifetime. We were personally invited to Kojima’s luxurious resort in the mountain village of Nasu, Japan in order to play through the entire final version of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Sound incredible enough? Wait until you actually play through the game for yourself when it releases on store shelves on June 12, 2008.

Before we embarked on our adventure, we were a bit skeptical of how Metal Gear Solid 4 would turn out; after all, Sony Defense Force is world-renowned for its critical eye regarding the gaming industry – Sony included. MGS4 is a title that has received numerous delays and is releasing after Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 failed to live up to our high expectations. Would MGS4 live up to the hype and deliver a ground breaking title we’ve been waiting years for?…

With this in mind, we kept an unbiased and critical perspective when we checked into the main Konami offices that boasted a beautiful Zen garden for our introductory get-together. The check in process was fairly awkward – we had been informed that we needed to change our clothes to something more comfortable. Konami provided us with silk pyjamas which would be our attire for the entire duration of our three day excursion. After being fitted for our proper playthrough garbs, we now had the chance to meet the famous Hideo Kojima. When we walked into his office, he sat atop a throne of gold and was currently in the process of deep meditation as the Metal Gear Solid 4 Soundtrack played in the background. Never wanting to disrespect a master at work, we quietly made our way out of his office when Kojima abruptly eased our fears and told us to stay. Four personal female assistants then carried Kojima off of his throne and placed him on a couch clothed in leopard skin. We had never been so amazed in our lives. Kojima resembled a deity.

After Sony Defense Force exchanged a few comments with Kojima, we were then whisked away to our resort hotels which overlooked a relaxing volcanic hot springs. However, very little time was actually spent in our hotel room as we spent our entire allotted time to devote strictly to MGS4, which we played on a huge movie theater sized projection screen accompanied by full 7.1 surround sound speakers that provided the amazing sounds and score in uncompressed lossless audio while one of Kojima’s beautiful female assistants fellated us during our playthrough (we never realized just how friendly Japanese culture truly was).

But enough of the discussion about our trip (I’m sure you’re jealous enough as is), let’s discuss the actual game of Metal Gear Solid 4. Here at Sony Defense Force, we’re not prone to projecting exaggerated comments about videogames. However, there are times when blanket praise is simply unavoidable. The greatness of Kojima’s latest installment in the Metal Gear Solid franchise cannot be faithfully represented without hyperbole: Simply put, MGS4 represents the greatest leap in gaming the industry will ever see. It’s a title that represents such a tectonic shift in the way gamers and critics will look at games that they will no longer be perceived as titles that only children play casually; rather, they will be looked at in the same respect as some of the greatest movies, novels, and artistic compositions. Unlike lesser titles such as Halo 2.5 and Gears of War that look and play as though they were catered towards children with attention deficit disorder, currently on rehab, and huge fans of the “Insane Clown Posse”, Metal Gear Solid 4 represents true cinematic quality that can be appreciated by the sophisticated gamer. Halo 2.5 and Gears of War could only wish to be likened to B action movies, while MGS4 is an oscar worthy performance that stands up against among the best that Hollywood can produce. At times it’s action packed, and at others it’s incredibly touching. You will most certainly cry a few times throughout your playthrough.

Graphically, it goes without saying that this game is only possible on the vastly superior Playstation 3 hardware. The game is packed with so much content that a 50 GB Blu-Ray disc was barely able to contain its greatness. When playing through the game, I was repeatedly reminded that Next-Gen not only starts with the Playstation 3, but it also only truly starts with Metal Gear Solid 4. The Xbox 360, in comparison, seems so outdated that it almost reminds me of the Nintendo Wii. What Metal Gear Solid 4 excels at is conveying an emotional experience through the high quality character models and animation. No other game features such stunningly high polygon representations of its cast and Kojima has certainly pushed boundaries in terms of animation both in-game and during cutscenes. One fear of many fans is that the game would not feature diverse locations and settings. This is definitely not the case, as you will travel from the Middle East to Eastern Europe, South America, and yes, Shadow Moses with each location remaining fresh and unique.

Similarly, the soundtrack also breaks new ground with compositions written by Harry Gregson-Williams and Nobuko Toda that rival any of the greatest Hollywood productions. Luckily you will also get to enjoy these tracks in uncompressed, lossless format which is afforded by the superior Blu-Ray technology that is standard with the vastly superior Playstation 3 hardware. The only way to experience MGS4 is with a proper surround sound setup.

In terms of gameplay, Metal Gear Solid 4 sets a new standard for action games. The game is brilliantly paced, and every scenario the title throws at you seems distinct and refreshing. Long moments of intimate, more stealth based scenarios conclude with incredibly large battles. The game also offers substantial variability in terms of individual play style. Fans of stealth can predominantly play the game in that fashion, while run and gun fans can play this title as a pure action extravaganza. The addition of Drebin points (which you gather and collect from weapons you locate on the battlefield) allows gamers to customize their weapons and is incredibly deep and rewarding. Further additions to the series includes stress meters which will impact the player’s ability depending on the situation on the battlefield. Controls have been greatly refined in the series, which is a gigantic leap over its predecessors. One of the many complaints regarding MGS2/3 was the camera system which was normally always at an over the top perspective. MGS4 has replaced this camera system with a much better perspective that is similar to what you’ve played with Resident Evil 4. The truly amazing aspect of Metal Gear Solid 4, outside of the solid and refreshing pacing, is the set pieces. They’re simply unmatched in any game. You will encounter some of the best boss battles and epic war scenes that intertwine perfectly with cut scenes that allow you to catch your breath. Fortunately, we will not go into detail regarding these scenes in order to not spoil anyone in this review.

Ultimately, Metal Gear Solid 4 offers an amazing experience regardless of your disposition; new fans to the series will easily be able to follow the game, while long time fans will be able to appreciate all of special nuances that make the Metal Gear franchise so special. Metal Gear Solid 4 will take skilled players between 25-30 hours to beat and you simply will not find a better game to utilize that time towards. The combination of engaging and continually refreshing gameplay along with superlative pacing and cinematics represents a quality package that has never before been seen in gaming. Everything Metal Gear Solid 4 tries to accomplish is significantly better than any other game before it. It is quite simply the greatest game ever made. Yes. Better than Mario. Better than Zelda. Way better than Halo (I’m only listing this game to appease Xbox fans, because anyone with decent taste would realize Halo does not deserve to be ranked amongst the best games ever). Better than Gears of Bore. Better than everything. So given how much we love Metal Gear Solid 4, what do we score it? Behold…

So this presents the question: Does Solid Snake finish his mission to destroy the Xbox 360? Without question, yes. If I were Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg, I wouldn’t be looking so green these days. The Playstation 3 has outsold the Xbox 360 for 2008 in North America, Microsoft’s strongest market, despite cosing significantly more than its competitor. The Playstation 3 is already killing the Xbox 360 in Europe and Japan. What’s worse is that it continues to sell at round parity with the Xbox 360 in North America despite massive shortages of the 80 GB PS3. With the incredible hype and pent up demand for the 80 GB SKU, you will see June sales of the Playstation 3 skyrocket and the Xbox 360 simply will not be able to recover. Combine that with firmware update 2.4 which will give Playstation games everything (and more) that Xbox Live provides but at no additional cost, and Microsoft must be sweating bullets right now (hopefully doing so on top of their overheating Xbox 360s). The release of the most groundbreaking title in the history of gaming as a Playstation 3 exclusive will push the PS3 to record heights and leave the Xbox 360 red ringing in its dust. Thank you Solid Snake. The battle was fierce for a year or so, but luckily you have killed the Xbox 360. On June 12, 2008 it truly begins.

Only scientific notation can accurately express the brilliance of Metal Gear Solid 4 — Final Score: 10x1010

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