While this game has scored very highly, I am convinced that Hideo Kojima, in all of his maniacal genius, has lost his mind. I sincerely doubt that I'll play another Metal Gear sequel.
What's interesting about reviewing Metal Gear Solid 4 is that I'm really reviewing the craft of the game more so than the game itself. The thing is, this game is unbelievable. The amount of content in this product is legendary. The gameplay (what little of it there is) is very good. The production values and overall presentation are phenomenal. There WILL be spoilers in this review. Jump down to the last 2 paragraphs if you don't want to be spoiled.
Metal Gear Solid 4 was kinda fun. But it was fun in the same way that watching a train wreck is fun. I found that I was more often than not, just playing so I could see what insanity unfolded next. From Raiden's chin to marriage proposals in the middle of firefights, my mind was constantly reeling with absurdity. Playing MGS4 felt like an exercise in maintaining sanity as your mind melts away while the events presented to you make less and less sense as the game continues.
The gameplay is pretty standard Metal Gear Solid fare. Sneaking and shooting feel great. The only thing about combat that's a little wonky is the hand-to-hand stuff. Still, though, as far as controlling Snake goes, I have very few complaints. It's the story that kicks you in the confusion balls.
I swear there's about 6 hours of gameplay in this game. The rest of the 22+ hours are cutscenes. By way of example, I had to save and quit right before the endgame. I asked a friend how far I was from the end of the game and he said that I had about 15 minutes of gameplay and at least 3 hours of cutscenes ahead of me. He was not kidding. I timed it. It was MORE than 3 hours of cutscenes. And that was just the end sequence! Between missions, there's usually a 30 - 60 minute briefing cutscene. In the middle of missions, there are multipe cutscenes of varying length.
This game is essentially an interactive movie. You play the action parts, and Kojima plays the drama parts. And if I haven't mentioned it already, Kojima has lost his mind. Of course, going into MGS4, we know about Kojima's failing sanity, so this game just reinforces what we already know. Accepting and embracing the insanity is definitely the way to embark upon this experience. If you can do that, you will marvel at the Eastern European segment that turns sepia tone and changes up the gameplay. You will freak out when you return to the Shadow Moses scenario and the game actually becomes the PS1 game--4:3 aspect ratio, graphics, level design and all. The fact that Snake has an iPod (not some knock-off made up music player -- an actual iPod) that you can import your own songs onto and which controls exactly like a real iPod will bend your reality. The Psycho Mantis sequence will tickle your nostalgia glands. The fight between Raiden and Vamp will melt your logic capacitors. And the first time you see Big Boss, you'll do a big ol' WTF! And the final approach to the endgame in the microwave tunnel is simply amazing -- through gameplay, they literally make you feel some of the pain that Snake is going through.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is filled with jaw-dropping moments that keep you guessing as to what will happen next. Because of this, the game is a success. However, if your tolerance for the absurd is low, this game is 100% NOT for you.
In conclusion, Metal Gear Solid 4 is a spectacle to behold. It is a marvel of its craft. It is one of those action games that throws so many plots and plot twists at you while maintaining the action so you don't realize that it makes no sense whatsoever. Now, yes, I know that some people (AndyTron, I'm looking at you) can untangle the story and make all the Metal Gear games make sense, but these people themselves are not mere mortals. Metal Gear Solid 4 is not a game for the general public. It is a game for hardcore gamers who like their action over the top, their stories completely insane, their heroes bad ass, their villains nefarious, their women sexy as hell, their humor sophomoric, and their cutscenes long. Very long.
I can't really recommend MGS4 as a game. But it is one of those life experiences that I think every self-respecting gamer should have. It is completely acceptable to watch someone play it. Heck, play it on Easy Mode.
Game Title: Metal Gear Solid 4
Platform: PlayStation 3
Developer: Kojima Productions/Konami
Release Date: 12th Jun 2008