Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Metal Gear Solid 4 (Playstation 3, 2008)

For 2008 I'm looking at one of the biggest PS3 exclusives out there. The graphical leap between this game and the last few I looked at is humongous, and this game shows off the power of the PS3 better than most modern games do. It also features the infamous Solid Snake, who I suspect smokes marijuana cigarettes. Reefers.


NOTE: This post will not be spoiler-free, so read on at your own risk. I'll probably go light on the spoilers so it won't be too bad, though.

NOTE 2: You may want to check out my Metal Gear Solid post before reading this.

The standard title screen of this game isn't so much a title screen as it is an odd, out-of-context scene with Solid Snake puffing on a cigarette.

If you let the scene linger for a minute, it quickly takes a turn down a really dark path as Snake gets out a gun and points it at his own head before the scene fades to black. This is all very creepy, but what does it mean? You don't find out until much later.

The beginning of the game gives you a bunch of "channels" to leaf through. These consist of Hideo Kojima's vision of future-programming. For instance, this demonic game show where participants are quizzed about the War on Terror.

This is all very weird, and sets the one for the game fairly well.

My favorite of these television bits is what appears to be a perfume ad full of scantily-clad women being embraced by a gigantic octopus.

I've read somewhere that the women in question are actually the bosses from the game itself. I wouldn't be too surprised. While Metal Gear Solid games are known for having some extremely memorable boss fights, this game has some of the best. They're all attractive, murderous women.

This game transpires in five chapters, each one in a different part of the world. The first is an unspecified part of the Middle East.

Solid Snake is here, dressed up like a character from Assassin's Creed.

This place, circa 2018 or so, is an absolute war zone. Private military contractors and unmanned drones battle each other perpetually in proxy conflicts with no end. It's basically a vision of everything Metal Gear Solid warned about a decade previous to this game.

Solid Snake is considerably older than he was in the previous games. Not that much time has gone by; his advanced aging is due to his nanomachine enhancements.

He's a super-soldier, at the cost of burning out more quickly. In this game, he's effectively on borrowed time.

The gruff Snake doesn't seem too bothered, though, and keeps doing his job while chain-smoking.

He has a lot of sweet new gadgets in this game, like OctoCamo. This chameleon-like suit changes colors depending on the area around Snake.

Heres the legendary Otacon, Snake's right-hand man. He's basically the Chloe O' Brian of MGS.

The installation screen for this game is zany. It features Snake puffing on a cigarette (of course) and a lot of PSAs about not littering and whatnot.

Snake has a dark silhouette against the war-torn backdrop. With all of the temples and statues (none of which I seem to have gotten shots of) in this area, you get the feeling that it'd be a nice place to look at if it weren't completely in ruins.

Another new gadget is the Snake Eye, which makes it easier to tell friend and foe apart in this landscape. It also has an NVG component that basically combines Night Vision and Infrared goggles from the previous games.

This guy is Drebin, a shady arms merchant. Reminds me of the shady arms merchant in Bayonetta.

He's got a weird albino monkey as a pet and sells our hero enough automatic weapons to get an award from the NRA.

And make no mistake, this game has a LOOOOT of weapons. Wouldn't be surprised if the number is over a hundred. I generally stick to the same five or so weapons for the entire game, though.

Meryl is in this game. She hasn't been seen in a while. Somehow, she isn't anywhere near as sassy or hot as she is in MGS1.

In this lame, lame future, soldiers are controlled by nanomachines that corporations put into their bodies. This is some real Illuminati shit.

The bosses of the game are (mostly) women in wetsuits and Doctor Octopus getups. They also have names that combine aspects of multiple bosses from earlier in the series. I believe they're all MGS1 + MGS3, with MGS2 left out in the cold. For example, Screaming Mantis here combines elements of Psycho Mantis (MGS1) and The Fear (MGS3)

Speaking of fusions, the bad guy in this game is Liquid Ocelot. It's Revolver Ocelot, that ever-present bad guy that the series bends over backwards to put over despite his complete uninterestingness... only now he is possessed by Liquid Snake from the first game. It's no secret that I don't like Ocelot, and the fact that he is made to look like an uber-badass over and over again for this entire series tells me that Kojima has some sort of a boner for Westerns.

The second chapter of the game transpires in South America, and resembles MGS3/Peace Walker quite a bit. With all of the callbacks this game has to earlier MGS games, it's a wonder that this isn't the last one (they recently announced MGS5).

One thing I don't like about this series - and it's a minor nitpick - is Snake's armament in cutscenes. He can be toting around a massive weapon in gameplay, then when it switches to a cutscene he'll always be carrying his tiny default pistol. It looks really silly when he confronts a boss at gunpoint with that pistol, given that said pistol can barely scratch them during gameplay.

The South America level is really cool, actually. Nearly all of it is outside, and it has some pretty good scenery. Definitely the least-claustrophobic part of the game.

The architecture here looks like it'd be nice if it weren't torn up by war, just like the Middle East part of the game.

Here's Naomi, of MGS1 fame. Between her, Meryl, and Mei Ling, that game had quite the assortment of babes.

Naomi has aged far better than Meryl, at least. The camera in this game goes out of its way to focus on Naomi's breasts whenever possible.

See? Why can't she wear an undershirt, anyway?

As is MGS tradition, the first real boss of the game doesn't attack until the 40% or so point of the game.

This is Laughing Octopus, the Doctor Octopus of the bosses in this game. She seems to have inherited Solidus Snake's tentacles.

This battle consists of hunting her down as she blends into the environment. The Solid Eye makes this simple. Laughing Octopus, like the other bosses in this game, is a sociopathic, traumatized woman from a war-torn part of the world.

A scantily-clad, sexy, possibly crucified woman appears in nearby paintings. This seems significant, but it also might just be more of this game's weirdness.

After that fight, we get an escape sequence where you fire at enemies from the back of an armored vehicle. It wouldn't be an MGS game without a sequence like this.

Here's the legendary Raiden scene. The oft-hated hero of MGS2 drops in with a sword and proceeds to dismantle a bunch of enemies.

It's almost an ad for a Raiden game. Which, funnily enough, we'd get a few years later. Gotta say, they did a good job making Raiden cool in this scene.

He does battle with Vamp in one of the best cutscenes in the game. Seriously, check it out:

"Buy Metal Gear Rising plz" said the cutscene when reached for comment.

I've completely neglected to mention the eggs. At the beginning of every chapter you see eggs frying. This symbolizes the chapter in question, for instance...

...the "Three Suns" chapter starts like this. It's supposed to be symbolism for Big Boss' various "sons". All I know is that this makes me hungry.

The third chapter is Eastern Europe. Where in Eastern Europe? We don't know. Again with the vagueness. This is an odd part of the game because the whole thing is a stealth mission.

A stealth mission made easier with the Solid Eye's night vision / infrared capabilities. This chapter must wreak havoc on people doing speed runs. You can plow through the entire game, except for this part. It brings the pace way down.

Eva (from MGS3) shows up here...and now she's older.

Solid Snake meets her in a church. Spoiler Alert: it turns out that she's the mother of all of Big Boss' kids. What a tweest!

We also get a huge amount of plot involving Big Boss, The Patriots, and...

...Zero, the founder of The Patriots. All of this directly ties into MGS3, and makes it clear why that game needed to come before MGS4 in particular despite being a prequel to the entire series that could have concievably waited.
At the end of this area, you battle Raging Raven. Didn't get any shots of the battle, but this is a good time to mention that after these battles, you "fight" the lady in question without her armor/suit. These fights are bizarre and difficult to lose. They don't really attack you, they just walk towards you and try to hug you to death.

I suspect these battles are just an excuse for Kojima to have hot women walk towards our hero seductively.

We also get a very, very, very long cutscene with Ocelot acting all badass and single-handedly defeating an entire batallion of soldiers. Because if there's one thing these games have in abundance, it's movie-like scenes of Ocelot looking all badass. Like I was saying before, it gets really old after a while, much like Ocelot. I still have no clue why Kojima made THIS guy the big bad of the series considering how many other, vastly more interesting, foes you have. I think the most annoying thing about Ocelot is that he's elevated to such importance after being a bit-player in MGS1. No, wait, the most annoying thing about him is the way he gets built up for the entire series. He gets put over nearly every bad guy in MGS2, for instance, despite never fighting Snake in that game.

Chapter 4 takes you back to Shadow Moses Island, the setting of MGS1. Just to hammer the point home, the game reverts to Playstation 1 graphics for a few minutes.

Look at that 32-bit crate! It's amazing how far graphics have come in ten years, eh?

The graphics modernize again pretty quickly. For the most part, this is damn near a remake of MGS1's first area. It's like a glimpse into what a true modern remake would look like.

And it looks good. Very good. While Chapter 3 was a lot of low-key stealth action, Chapter 4 throws you back into the action quickly. For this and Chapter 5, the final chapters, I'll be summing up quite a bit so as to avoid spoilers.

The boss here is Crying Wolf, another amalgamation of bosses. This has the potential to be one of the more difficult fights in the game since it takes place in a dangerous snowfield, but it isn't too bad if you hammer the boss with a rocket launcher.

Another post-boss "fight" with a total fox. The BB Corps should have called themselves Foxhound, now that I really think about it.

You also fight Vamp here. At least one dude made it into the boss repertoire of MGS4... but he's the easiest boss in the game.

The battle takes place in a junkyard, and isn't much to write home about. It's basically just a closing of a loose end, as Snake figures out the secret to Vamp's immortality and ends him for good.

The culmination of Chapter 4 puts you in the pilot's seat of a Metal Gear. Specifically, Rex, the one from the first MGS. You fight Ocelot, who pilots Ray. That's the Metal Gear improvement from MGS2, and the most advanced Metal Gear in the series. It's sorta the Excelsior to Rex's Enterprise-A.

This is probably the coolest battle in the game, and it's too bad that you don't get to do more with the piloting of Metal Gears in this game.

Chapter 5 takes place in Outer Heaven, the legendary base of Big Boss once upon a time. This time around, it's commandeered by Ocelot, and there's a big battle between his forces and Meryl's soldiers.

Chapter 5 is short and very difficult (compared to the rest of the game, anyway). It is here that you fight the fourth and last member of the BB Corps, Screaming Mantis. This is another great boss fight, my personal favorite in the game aside from the MG vs MG battle.

It takes place in Outer Heaven's control room, which has a huge holographic Earth hovering in the middle of it. Everything about this battle is tremendously ominous.

One thing is for certain about MGS: the boss fights are extremely well-done. This one in particular is borderline disturbing.

If you avoid one of these bosses for three minutes (once they're out of their suits), you both get whisked to the "White Room". What the significance of this is, I'm not sure, but it's creepy.

The finale of the game involves Snake crawling through a microwaved corridor while slowly burning to death. Yeah, pretty dark stuff.

The final battle is Snake Vs. Ocelot, but here's the weird part: it is played fighting game style, with life meters and everything. The regular controls for the game are thrown out here, replaced with fighting game controls like a block button and evade button, etc.

The scenery in this battle is great and fitting. The background has a sunset, while Snake and Ocelot are both at the twilight of their lives.

Ocelot goes on about his evil plans as he dies. And like every MGS game, your victory here is poignant. This series is the furthest thing imaginable from "black and white". Every bad guy has an admirable motive somewhere, and every good guy makes huge mistakes.

In the ending, Snake lays flowers at the gravestone of The Boss. That'd be the lady from MGS3, one of the more interesting characters in the series. She was, basically, Big Boss' boss. ...I wish these characters had better names. They certainly deserve better names. As it is, they just make me think of Lonely Island songs.

Snake is pretty banged up, following this game. To say the least. Good God. The ending is worth talking about a bit, so I'll do that. However...

CAUTION: THE LAST FEW IMAGES HAVE HUGE SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN'T PLAYED THIS GAME, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK. IF YOU HAVE, THEN TAKE US TO MAXIMUM WARP.

This is, recognizably, the scene from the title screen. Snake is hanging out in the graveyard, smoking.

He proceeds to pull out his gun and.... shoot himself in the head. It's understandable at this point, given that he has nothing to live for and can't take his life any more. Credits roll, then...

...the post-credits scene reveals that he didn't actually hit, and the next thing we know he has a visitor.

It's Big Boss, his father, who has been absent yet hanging over the entire series. Supposedly he died before MGS1, so this is huge.

Weird thing is that he and Snake are the same age, more or less, due to Solid Snake's advanced aging. He sums it up when he isn't sure whether to address Snake as "son" or "brother".

Snake, once again, whips out that little pistol. As if that's going to stop Big Boss. In a way, Big Boss is the "other" main character of this whole series. Half of the games, if you include MGS5, have Big Boss as the protagonist. This is the finale for both of them, though.

Rather than fight, Big Boss tells the man who "killed" him once that their battle is over.

From there, they both pay tribute to The Boss and limp around oldedly.
And that's the end, father and son paying their respects. It's quite an ending for an incredible series. It's also very unexpected. The overarching bad guy of the series finally returns... and immediately makes amends with his son. It's a good thing that Bioware didn't make this game, or else a lot of spoiled "fans" might have sued them over the "disappointing ending". Personally, I'm fine with the ending. MGS5 is another Big Boss prequel, so this is effectively the end of the Metal Gear Solid series. Well done, Kojima.

As for thoughts on MGS4 itself? Great game, with incredible graphics. That said, I didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as I thought I would. This is only my second time playing the game. First was October 2009. I can safely say this is the last time, though. While the game is great, it goes WAY WAY WAY overboard on cutscenes. Roughly 75% of the game is cutscenes. And that might be under-shooting it. It got to the point where I just wanted the game to GET TO THE POINT and found myself actually skipping cutscenes. And I love this series. I'm just not getting any younger. So while this may or may not be the best game in the series (MGS3 probably is), it's up there, but it isn't for everyone. If only it had a better gameplay-to-cutscene ratio. Make no mistake, this is more movie than game.



Other noteworthy posts:

5 comments:

  1. Good stuff as usual, but I'm surprised at how much of the game you skipped over.. I had problems with this game too so I know where you're coming from. LOL at the post links all being movies.

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  2. Vamp's in the game? Well, MGS2 wasn't totally left out then.

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  3. This is one of my favorite games ever. I think Kojima is, for the most part, a genius. It's the end of this game I don't like very much though.

    The MGS1 flashback and the split screen boss fight in MGS4 are especially innovative and really blew my mind. That said, I think the ending is really weak. The "fighting game" final boss battle is super clumsy and weird. Maybe Kojima was trying to deflate the idea of an epic, final boss battle by making it a dizzy brawl between two old guys? But, even if it is some kind of statement or something, it doesn't work.

    I also think the game should end at the credits. We don't need the stuff after. It would've been a much stronger ending had Snake just put the gun to his head and cut to black and heard a gunshot. Then, we can use our imaginations about what happens after (did he die? Did he miss? Maybe...)

    Instead, we get another long ass, drawn out expository scene after a whole game of them. Yes, the point of Metal Gear solid is that is a convoluted, involved story that takes serious brain power to ever fully grasp. But, after a whole game of exposition, we don't need more. This is supposed to be an ending for Snake's story, after all. Let his story end in peace.

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    1. I pretty much agree with everything you said. I was surprised when the game continued after the credits and basically "explained everything". It was a mistake, because ending with the gunshot would have been really powerful (and a fitting end, since it was Solid Snake's final game).

      And yeah, the final boss battle was super clumsy and weird. It had this vibe that it was supposed to be pathetic, showing the player how futile the fight was as it dragged on and both guys got more tired and weak. At least it has good scenery.

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  4. I appreciate that such a well-done militaristic dystopia series has been made. I'm sure Kojima has changed some people's views in addition to entertaining them.

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