An Absolutely Solid Finish
Metal Gear Solid 4 is here. You should buy it. Now.
Published: June 22, 2008
The skills system -- and indeed character progression in general -- is also something of a different beast with MGO. For one, the skills level up rather slowly, and it's not entirely clear how they level up (luckily, online discussions can clear that up plenty quick). The idea of having four slots and then the skills taking up more slots as they grow in levels is an interesting one, but even cooler is the option to step down in levels to make the skills fit. It means a ton of mixing and matching according to maps, game types and just how you feel like playing that day.
Like the single-player game, though, the online portion can been uneven. The most glaring offense is the completely ass-backwards system for logging on. One needs to create a game ID, which can only be had after registering a Konami ID, neither of which is tied into your PSN name, nor shares the same rules for passwords. After all that, you get but a single character to customize and that character's name is different from either of the IDs. Of course, you don't find this out until you jump through all the hoops (which can be done on the PS3, but I wouldn't recommend it without a keyboard hooked up) unless you played the beta.
Also like the single-player game, however, the complaints are niggling at best. Some of them annoy, certainly, but not so much that the overall game suffers terribly. So much of the actual experience of Metal Gear Solid 4 completely changes how one perceives action games that it's hard to even know how to rate things.
Do they detract enough from the experience to lessen it? No, not really, though with enough debate one begins to question their initial feeling about things. Yes, there are some very, very stupid moments in the game's story. No, they don't really seem quite that stupid while you're playing the game, so should I score the game after the week I've spent discussing it with other staffers and friends, or go with the feeling I had after just beating it where things hadn't sunk in yet.
In many respects -- particularly the gameplay itself, which is most important -- things didn't really change all that much. There are parts of Metal Gear Solid 4 that will never, ever be topped, of that I am absolutely certain. There was even a time while playing the game that I was all but convinced that it was the best game I'd ever played. The whole picture, though, is a little less rosy. I think MGS4 as a game is far, far better than any of the previous entries in the series. MGS3's story, characters and boss battles were a little easier to digest, however, so again I'm torn.
In the end, I have to simply judge the game as a whole. The best and worst parts of the story, the best and worst parts of the gameplay online and off, these parts matter, but not as much as the way they're mixed into the cutscenes, which can fluctuate from being absolutely jaw-dropping in their execution to nearly falling on their face from the sheer ridiculousness. There are parts of MGS4 that I actually wish I could forget, just so I could experience them for the first time, and I think that's going to be the yardstick with which I measure the complete package.
I'm actually envious of people that will play the game for the first time, hopefully as I did without any spoilers, because it's such a unique and rewarding experience. It should go without saying that this is a game anyone who owns a PS3 should buy, and it's probably no real stretch to say that people should buy a PS3 for this game alone. It's that good. The only real hemming and hawing I'm going through right now are purely a matter of figuring out just how to quantify that with a score. I suppose if you scroll down, you'll find out just that.