Metal Gear Solid 4

There’s something so infuriatingly calculated about how irritating Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots is that I wonder if Hideo Kojima made it to spite the fans. While Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty subverts expectations in smart, intriguing ways, so much of Guns of the Patriots seems to go out of its way to be lame and annoy fans.

You think Solid Snake is awesome? Well, let’s make him an old an old, sickly man thanks to accelerated aging. Instead of the badass hero of the old games, he’s constantly coughing u brought to his knees. This fortunately is kept into the context of cut-scenes. In other moments of the cutscenes, someone will give a blow to Snake’s ego and he’ll take a hit to stamina in the midst of the cutscene, leaving the player with less starting stamina in the next gameplay area.

Oh, you thought Raiden was lame? Well now he’s the real badass of the series, a cyborg ninja who’s basically saving Snake’s ass for half of the game because Snake is lame now. This time around Snake is the wet blanket and Raiden is the stoic action hero. In fact, this game would probably be way better if you played Raiden instead of Snake.

And speaking of characters we brought back, let’s bring back Rose because everyone loved her so much. And she’s basically there for Snake to talk to about his feeling and stuff because that’s totally what people want from Solid Snake. Oh, and Vamp is back, too, because why not? It’s not as if we have twenty other bosses we could bring back instead that would be way cooler than bringing back Vamp.

But don’t worry, we have new characters for you to hate! There’s Sunny, who is the daughter of Olga. She’s pretty annoying and basically disagrees with Solid Snake the whole game because nothing’s more awesome than having an action hero get talked down to by a seven year old girl. And we also have Drebin, a black market gun expert who just shows up and talks about how he owns you. Don’t forget his monkey who drinks soda all the time and tries to bum a smoke from Snake.

And that’s simply not enough because there’s one character that just takes the cake in terms of awful new additions. Akiba is an idiot soldiers that basically serves as a convenient way to have a lot of crass, dumb poop jokes. He has diarrhea all the time and is also hot for Meryl even though he’s a complete dork. But don’t worry, we’ll turn him into an inexplicable badass before the game is over.

But you know what. That’s simply not dumb enough. We need to go farther with this. Let’s add a squad of hot female cyborg soldiers that will be the central set of bosses. They’ll all be fighting against their will and have a tragic past but it’ll all be overwhelmed by the fact they’re so damn hot and in skintight costumes. Surely no one will find this offensive or off-putting.

Even more off-putting is the downright infuriating level of cutscenes. For about every minute of gameplay there’s a minute of cutscenes that the player is forced to endure. There are some good moments in the cutscenes, but so much of the cutscenes are bog down in dense exposition or long moments with character that aren’t particularly compelling. Thank goodness they at least allow you to pause cutscenes now so you can break up viewing them into manageable bits instead of dying from overexposure to idiocracy.

And there’s a moment where the game can even end itself and save some scrap of dignity. The story is wrapped up in a way that fits nicely into the themes of government paranoia and manipulation. But that’s not enough, the game has to go the extra mile and pushes itself into something utterly ridiculous and results in one of the most baffling and dumb scenes in the series, trying to cram something into the story that goes against almost every event that constitutes the first two games.

It’s disappointing because the mechanics of the game are quite good, perhaps the finest in the series. There’s an elegant auto-camo system, a nice weapon upgrade system, and some magnificent setpiece designs. The first couple of chapters involve Snake sneaking through a battlefield and the feeling of trying to be calm and controlled amid firefights in the streets or an ambush in the jungle are some of the finest moments in the entire series.

There are a couple of amazing bossfights. Laughing Octopus is probably the best. She can use camo to cloak into the walls or pass herself off as a hidden item. The result is a fantastic game of hide and seek as you try to figure out where she is hiding. Unlike most bosses, she’s often passive, which can make the fight long and drawn out, but it’s never dull as you’re constantly searching every inch of every room.

The other amazing bossfight takes place outside the ruins of Shadow Moses where Solid Snake pilots a Metal Gear REX against a Metal Gear RAY being piloted by Liquid Snake. The sense of scale added with the intese level of power the player gets to unleash results in an amazing and exciting showdown that makes the last few hours of the game that follow it feel rather quaint in comparison.

After building towards such a robust and interesting set of mechanics, it’s disappointing to see the game slip up in some of the gameplay sections. Most of the other bossfights are either too straightforward or rather muddled in what you’re supposed to do. Also, the game features a couple of dull on rails shooting sequences. The last chapter is one long narrow corridor, which is more of a trial of endurance than a true challenge.

There’s a great game buried in all the muck of Guns of the Patriots. About 3-5 hour are absolutely superb, but the glut of cutscenes and the uneven level design results in a game where the vast majority is spent with either mind-numbingly dull gameplay or grating story cutscenes. Compared with the elegant origins of the series, Guns of the Patriots is too often brash, dumb and infuriating.

© 2015 James Blake Ewing