Metal Gear Solid 4 thoughts and impressions (through Act 1: end)

Sorry, loyal readers, but I’m going to do something that I think will be kind of fun for me. Hopefully this doesn’t scare too many of you off. I’m playing through Metal Gear Solid 4 on the PS3 right now, and rather than just dump my thoughts on a message board, I figured I’d share them here. Each title will specify at what point I am at in the game, so if you’re playing as well you can avoid spoilers that are beyond where you are at and you can come back and comment later. Also, I’ll put each post behind a jump, so you’ll have to click through to the entire story to read anything discussed.

If anybody out there is playing as well, feel free to comment on each post, but PLEASE keep it spoiler free beyond what I’ve talked about. I don’t want to be spoiled, and I don’t think any readers do either. So, here are my feelings so far on MGS4 through the completion of Act 1.

Every time we get a new Metal Gear game, the hardcore community works itself up into a frenzy. There are few franchises that demand such loyalty and respect from its fans like Metal Gear does. Each Metal Gear release is a major event for gaming, much like when we get a new Mario, Halo, Zelda, or Metroid. The sheer scale of each Metal Gear game demands the attention of the gaming press, fans of the genre, and the casual passerby. Thankfully for all involved, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is no exception.

Through Act 1 there’s not a whole lot to go on, as the story is still getting established, but I do like what we’ve seen so far. Snake has aged a ton, and it’s all due to an accelerated aging that’s leaving him with “at best a year left.” Seeing Solid Snake in this condition is a bit sad. He’s a true hero, and he’s deteriorating rapidly. There’s nothing anybody can do to help, either. I felt a bit of sadness as I could see Snake’s age taking its toll on the legend. He groans and grabs his back at times, he runs out of breath, and he seems way more subdued emotionally. It’s an amazing thing Kojima and his team have done in transforming the invincible Solid Snake into a fragile, yet still dangerous, aging operative.

The gameplay has been tightened up over previous Metal Gear games, and I’m extremely thankful for that. I still find myself fumbling a bit with the transitions from 3rd to 1st person views, but it’s probably just me still kicking off the rust. I love the OctoCamo suit, the buy/sell system, and the ability to decide for myself just how much action I can handle. Also, for the first time in the series you can shrug off Otacon’s suggestions and just handle things how you see fit. Several times he’s warned me not to get involved, but I’ve chosen to ignore that suggestion more than once, and it’s not penalized me with an automatic game over even once. Awesome.

I’m completely blown away by the graphical punch the game delivers, but it’s the sound effects that provide the knockout. Call of Duty 4 did a good job of making you feel like you were in a war zone, but quite simply, Metal Gear Solid 4 puts that to shame. You hear bullets whizzing by, explosions in the distance, voices all over the place, and low range thumps and booms that sound rich and full. Ok, so now I’m a believer in using the Blu-ray’s extra disc capacity for gaming.

There are a few bummers. The initial install was a tough 8-10 minute wait, and then a second install screen came up at the end of act 1. I really hope these aren’t too common, they’re pretty annoying. Also, there are a lot of load points. It never occurs during gameplay, but they break the flow quite often. I’m still not a fan of Sony’s analog sticks, but that’s not a fault of the game.

At this point I can’t wait to see where things go. The game has shifted from one side of the world to the other, and the scenery is completely different. There’s a real sense of urgency to accomplish the mission before Snake’s time runs out, let alone before the villains in the game can accomplish their goals. Even at this early point, I can tell that MGS 4 is going to provide a unique and memorable gaming experience.