Sunday, June 22, 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4 Review

To commemorate the "relaunch" of classic VFH; what with the new bars, navigation edit, review banners, and color scheme.. I have finally posted my review of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

But it's not just a Metal Gear Solid 4 review; in addition the main game, I also included sections for Metal Gear Online, and the Metal Gear Solid 4 Database within the review... making it my longest review since Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence ... ironic?

I hope you enjoy the review and the redesigned classic VFH.

Metal Gear Solid 4, Metal Gear Online, Database Review

Also, the banner on top here was finally fixed and fits nicely into its box
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UPDATE (3/22/10) - VFH Classic is gone, I've manage to recover the review and post it below:

Background
After 20 years in the industry, Hideo Kojima's famous Solid Snake must fight in his final battle. An exclusive for the Playstation 3, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots completely reinvents the Metal Gear Solid series for the better.

Story
In an age of technology, war is no longer fought by real soldiers. Everyone and everything is controlled by nanomachines; soldiers, weapons, vehicles, all controlled by one system. Snake, now effected by accelerated aging due to being a clone, must hunt down Liquid Ocelot and finally stop the Patriots.



Game Modes
Besides the main story mode, Metal Gear Solid 4 offers a few extra modes to view and play. The Mission Briefing mode allows you to review each of the briefings before each Act of the main story. Within these briefings you can watch it either 3 way split screen, which shows the main video, a security camera, and a computer screen. Or you can hit triangle to view the footage or camera screens in full screen. But there is an interactive part as well, if you hit square you can take control of the Metal Gear Mk. II and roam around the area looking for items or viewing things you may not have seen otherwise. It may not sound like much, but the stuff you can find is both cool and helpful.

As with previous Metal Gear Solid titles there is a Photo Album that can be utilized once you have obtained the Camera within the game. Here you can adjust the color balance and lighting if desired.

Another neat feature is the Virtual Range, a pseudo replacement for VR Missions. Unlike VR Missions however is that yo don't have a mission, though the aesthetic effect is the same. You are Snake, in a virtual space surrounded by holographic soldiers. These soldiers will not attack, but you can test your weapons out on them. The Virtual Range allows you to either use basic items, or load up your save file and use weapons you've found or purchased and just see how the work. Want to see how an RPG-7 affects a crowd of soldiers? Go ahead. Want to see how far away you can snipe someone? You got it. Anything you want to try out with your weapons and items you can do in the Virtual Range, instead of wasting time and ammo in the actual game.

Lastly we have Metal Gear Online and Extras options. Metal Gear Online will be explained later. The Extras section is a neat and much appreciated section. Here you can download new music for your in-game iPod and new OctoCamo patterns, all for the low low price of FREE. A password option is also available for those in need of instance gratification and no online hook-up.

Gameplay
When I said that Metal Gear solid was redesigned I meant it. Gone is the control scheme of Metal Gear Solid on PSone, or MGS2 and 3 on the PS2, and even the similar set up of Twin Snakes on the Gamecube controller. So if you are a long time fan of the series it may take a little getting used to, but for first time players it'll be like starting any other game for the first time. Instead of square being the action button, X is now the go to button within menus, and triangle is used for things like grabbing and climbing. Also, R1 is the new firing button, but you must hit L1 prior to doing so in order to go into over the shoulder mode. Here you can press down on the right analog stick (R3) to swap which shoulder you're viewing from. You can also hit triangle to access first-person mode, an then then up or don on the d-pad to zoom in or out. And, if knocked on his back, Snake can now crawl and shoot, without needing to turn over or get up, making reactions a cinch. Luckily the options allow you to adjust the sensitivity of both first and over the shoulder modes, because the default mode will feel very slow for those wanting to start a fire fight. But despite the slight learning curve these new additions are welcome and far superior to the old system once you are used to it.



Other new feature like OctoCamo and the Solid Eye are also great new features. OctoCamo is a new automatic camouflage system that replaces to constant menu browsing system of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Now to adjust with you surroundings all you need to do is lay flat on the ground and the textures and patterns of your surrounds are processed right into the suit. However if you would rather follow the system of Metal Gear Solid 3 you can manual swap and register a limited amount of camo patterns; this is also where you will find patterns downloaded in the extras section. At an eventual part in the game you will also obtain FaceCamo, which works just like the OctoCamo, and will give you a much higher Camo rating. But other than the camo you also have disguises, the availability of which will change will depend on your progress however.

The Solid Eye is most likely the most important item of the game. The Eye however runs off a battery, so it cannot be used constantly, when not in use it charges; more batteries may be obtained. The Solid Eye has 3 modes, standard, night vision, and binocular. Standard mode will give you a sound detection radar similar to that of Portable Ops; it also has soldier data, which shows the enemy or ally affiliations, health a stamina meters, the weapon they're holding, and the name of their unit; Items will also become visible with names. Binocular (Binos) mode is exactly what it seems, but all data of standard mode is still visible. Night Vision (NV) turns the screen into a digital shade of olive and highlights anything that's visible, i.e. Any part of Snake that isn't cover by camo, enemy/ally soldiers, items, vehicles, and ladders. The standard mode data is also availabe in NV mode as well.



Other new features include the ability to pat down soldiers in a hold up. Now at when at gun point Snake can pat down soldiers for items, and if desired can give them a low blow and knock them out for a bit. The CQC (Close Quarters Combat) system of Metal Gear Solid 3 is back and therefore Snake can grab soldiers and use them for human shield, slit their throats with a knife, use the same knife with an electrical shock to knock them out, or just choke them out.

A major effect of the game is the new Psyche Meter. Which will be effected by a number of things. In heavy fire, Snake's Psyche will quickly drop, to recover you can lay low for a bit, listen to music, or call Rosemary on your Codec for tips.

Another important addition is Drebin's Shop. No longer will you have to scrounge the battlefield looking for weapons and ammo, just pause the game and view Drebin's catalog. Here you can purchase new guns and projectiles, ammo, and customizable parts like laser sights, flashlights, and suppressors. All for available for a number of Drebin Points. To obtain these points you can A) Destroy unmanned weapons, B) Listen to hidden dialog, C) View flashbacks, D) Obtain extra weapons, any duplicate weapons you pick up will be converted straight into points. It's a great system and really helps when you're running low on bullets in a big fight.

Last thing I'd like to talk about gameplay wise is the Sixaxis, the motion controls, a seemingly forgotten part of PS3 titles. Metal Gear Solid 4 has a few ways of implementing the Sixaxis controller. Most notably is by shaking the controller you can set the OctoCamo to its default setting; which can be done both within gameplay and cut-scenes. The motion can also be used when hiding in dumpsters, lifting the controller towards you will let Snake peak out of the container and view the surrounds. There's also a strange, adolescent Japanese boy use of the motion as well, when speaking with Rosemary you can shake the controller to see her chest jiggle.. yeah I have no idea why either. There is also a weapon that utilizes the controller, but I'll keep my mouth shut. And just a note, none of the Sixaxis features are ever defined in the game, I found all of these by chance.

Video
What should be noted first is that Metal Gear Solid 4 is always presented in widescreen. That means that even if you are using a 4:3 standard television, it's still in widescreen., so you will have to see black bars on the top and bottom of the screen, in both gameplay and cut-scenes. Think of how Resident Evil 4 was on the Gamecube. The video still looks great though, and it's all running on the already amazing in-game engine; so when going from cinema to gameplay modes it is seamless. The lighting, the textures, the attention to detail, it really brings this game to life. And say what you will about the length of the cut-scenes; yes some area bit lengthy, but every bit of this game reveals something important to the entire series, so it's a real fan service. How ever if this is your first title of the Metal Gear series, I'm not really sure what I can tell you, be open.



Sound
The music and sound this game is epic. Each piece is fitting when and where it plays, and the effects really come to life. I still love that when in the Middle East, there's a chopper instituting an air strike, the roaring sound of the blades, the gun fire, in conjunction with a shaking screen, It just really made you want to run for cover. If something can give you such an sensational feeling with just sound and visuals it must be doing something right. Another neat feature of the game is the actually Apple branded iPod. Found under the items screen, you can equip the iPod and control the virtual cluck wheel to find and listen to music from the entire Metal Gear saga as well as a few other titles. More tracks can eventually be downloaded for free via the extras menu.

The Manual
I thought that I should say something about this, despite it not really being part of the game. The Instruction Manual for Metal Gear Solid 4 isn't just a simple list of controls. In fact it's actually a hefty black and while comic book in the style of Sin City. The comic goes over the story as well as controls in a more or less humorous manner, accompanied by diagrams and descriptions of the controls and system. An other comic is included in the Metal Gear Online section of the manual, however his comic is in a completely different style more akin to that of Ashley Wood (but it's not his work, just similar).

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Metal Gear Online


Overview
It should be noted that Metal Gear Online does not utilize the Playstation Network system, but instead uses a clumsy Konami ID / Game ID system, that not only is a pain to work with, but you will also need to access your e-mail to even verify it. so after you're all set up I suggest you set it to auto login you in and remember you password, just to remove any future hassle. Also, once you create a character, it's final. You cannot change the clothing of your character once created; but you may remove and put clothing back on, but you can only remove and return only what you started with. For example, you can create a character with a hat, and remove the hat if desired later; but you cannot change what color or what design the hat is. If you wish to have another character you must pay for it via a browser that links to Konami via the game's menu.



Modes
Team Deathmatch
Two teams (any combination of players, with up to 16 total) fight each other in an all out war

Deathmatch
Up to 16 players, every man for himself!

Sneaking Mission
One player controls Snake, while the other players, divided into two teams, must hunt him down before the the other does.

Capture Mission
Two teams go searching for the KEROTAN and must hold it in their base. The Metal Gear version of King of the Hill.

Rescue Mission
One team must keep possession of the GA-KO and take it to the base, while the other tries to kill off the defending team. The Metal Gear version of Capture the Flag.

Base Mission
New to this addition of MGO, in this mode there a set number of bases scattered around the stage, competing teams try to take control of each of the bases.



Setting Up
When you access "Join a Lobby" there will be three options. Automatching will set you up with players of similar status. Free Battle will allow hosting and vast customization options. You can set who can access the battles via password lock, you can note what type of players should play (i.e. casual, hardcore, competitive, etc), you can also set specifics like weapons used and more. You can also leave a comment to be viewed in the lobby like "Mics only" or "No haters" whatever you wish. And lastly is training, that'll let new players get a feel for the system and gameplay modes. There is also a clan system, you can join or create clans; though to create a clan you'll need over 30 hours of playtime in MGO alone.

Communication
A great feature of the Playstation 3 is Bluetooth. Pretty much any Bluetooth headset will work, so just set it up in the Settings section of the Cross Media Bar and you'll be set. Though be warned, not many players seems to use headsets. So if you don't play on using the mic there are pre-entered text phrases (voiced by your in game character) that can be easily access with Select and the d-pad. It's the same text system that was utilized in both Subsistence's MGO and Portable Ops' MGO.

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Metal Gear Solid 4 Database



Overview
This feature is not available from the Metal Gear Solid 4 game disc itself, this feature was actually launched a week after the release date for free on the Playstation Store. It is listed as an Add-On by the the PS Store, however it is a separate title in the Game section of the Cross Media Bar. And don't worry about spoilers, the game won't allow you to view any Metal Gear Solid 4 data until you have a beaten game save file.




Features
What this is, is a database of characters, weapons, vehicles, organizations and more, and everything that links them together. The Database spands every canon title from Metal Gear on the MSX to Metal Gear Solid 4. All information can be viewed in either Encyclopedia form, Timeline form, or Relationship Chart form.

Encyclopedia form lists every term in alphabetical order. Timeline lists events from 1773 till 2014, with specific facts by year, and key terms highlighted for further reading. The Relationship Chart is first viewed as an abridged version of the Timeline, but accessing an event will bring up a chart of character artwork and link's them together by groups and affiliations.

It's quite a useful tool for those that want to know everything, or even for first time Metal Gear players just wanting to know what's going on. There's even articles for things like the MSX2 and actual political figures, so it even strays from the just the game's story and gives the series more of a real life connection.
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Final Thoughts
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the ultimate Metal Gear title. It gives long time fans everything they can every want, and in the end answers every question. The ending of this game alone will make this quite possibly the most epic video game for a long time to come. I beat the title in 21:14:13 , so it has a decent length in story alone. Metal Gear Online furthers the fun of this disc being in your system. And the free downloadable Database is a great supplement to the series, and will aid both old and new players alike. This is why you need a Playstation 3.

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