Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

An appreciation of Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid series has always depended largely on one simple thing: How do you feel about “cut scenes”?

If you enjoy having your game play routinely interrupted by these 10-minute-to-hour-long animated movies that advance the story, well, you’re in luck: The fourth and final installment in the saga of Solid Snake, the world’s sneakiest covert op, is flush with the rewards-based videos that gamers call “cut scenes”—and they’re all staged with painstakingly beautiful detail, from the sprays of pink mist that erupt from wounded soldiers in the game’s opening Middle Eastern firefight to the ways you can tap the “X’ button and trigger brief flashbacks from Snake’s melodramatic past.

Heavy Metal: PlayStation 3’s Metal Gear Solid 4 proves itself worthy of the hype surrounding it.

It’s fitting that the series finale, a first-class bon voyage with all the graphical and plot-weaving trimmings, is also the PlayStation 3’s first classic game. Thanks to an inexplicable disease, Snake’s aged well before his time, leaving him with an aching back, wrinkled skin and a bitter streak the size of Virginia. Even in his semi-geriatric state, he’ll have to track the war-stirring agenda of his Patriot nemeses, track down Liquid Ocelot and unravel nearly all of the series’ convoluted mysteries and character backstories. If you’re a series veteran, you know that’s no easy task; if you’re not, making this your first foray into the acclaimed Metal Gear universe will result in massive confusion.

Guns of the Patriots improves over its PlayStation 2 predecessor in countless ways, but the most surprising one is this: Snake doesn’t have to sneak. It’s possible, and at times even preferable, to jog through the game’s many fast and furious firefights with all guns a-blazing, especially on the game’s easier settings. A free-wheeling camera system (finally!) helps get the job done, as do two of the coolest toys Snake’s ever gotten his grizzled paws on: the Mark II, a cute little scouting robot that can help find the quickest paths between objectives, and the OctoCamo, a camouflage suit that renders him mostly invisible to enemy fire.

Plenty of games have tried to develop interesting ways for you to upgrade your weapons; dealing with a cola-guzzling monkey and Drebin, his über-slick weapons-hawking master, may be the most inspired of all. Every dropped weapon and ammo clip you pick up—and there are plenty—scores you “Drebin Points,” so it’s sorta like playing around in the perfect armory/candy store.

If there’s a downside to Metal Gear Solid’s excellence, it’s having to suffer through the PlayStation’s intermittent load times to get to the action. But it’s a small price to pay for a game that finally delivers on the PS3’s promise of next-gen gold.