The world of video games is a different breed of media than most forms of entertainment out there. Film, TV and music are all driven by star vehicles and dominated by superstars that sell the movie, show or CD based upon individuals. Video games are dominated by brands: EA, Sony, Microsoft and so on, so for an individual to become well known and even famous, takes something extreme.
There are a few cases of individuals becoming stars in the gaming world: Sid Meier, Dave Perry, Chris Taylor, but only a few can lay claim to being bigger than a certain Hideo Kojima, legendary creator of the Metal Gear Solid universe. The man is a legend, not only in his home country of Japan but around the world, and he has become a legend on the back of a franchise which invented the stealth genre and, for many, redefined what video games could do.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is a brilliant game, a game which showcases the vision of Kojima and his team and proves once again that video gaming is in the midst of a golden age. Games like Gears of War, Bioshock, Grand Theft Auto 4 and now MGS4. A slick masterpiece of tension, compelling characters, challenging gameplay and more idiosyncrasies than you can poke a stick at.
After more than twenty years in the stealth spy business Snake is beginning to show his age, it’s in his every movement, his wistful voice, the cares that he wears on his face both physically and mentally. Metal Gear Solid 4 places Snake into a battlefield that is rapidly leaving him behind, a super soldier in a time when battles won’t be won by men, but by machines.
Snake’s age plays a key role in both the plotting of the game and the play mechanics within it. Too much stress or strenuous exercise and Snake will start to become less effective, making it harder for the gamer to fight or flee. Add to this the fact that you can play the game as either a hardcore stealth game (completing the game without being spotted or killing anyone rewards those players with secret unlockables) or a run-and-gun action game and you’ve got a title that is astounding on so many levels.
The game’s visuals are unbelievable, featuring some of the best graphics and movie quality cut-scenes that combine to simply stagger the mind. Graphics just can’t get any better at the moment, the Playstation 3 does an outstanding job of rendering the locations and Kojima has used the power of next-gen consoles to really push the limits. A great use of the technology comes in the form of Snake’s Octo-camo camouflage gear which has the effect of blending Snake into the background and making him virtually invisible to enemies.
Another exceptional aspect of Metal Gear Solid 4 is the actual intelligence of the AI. Most games have enemies with brains the size of peanuts and a set amount of typical commands which they would follow, with Metal Gear Solid 4 the enemies seem alive, they adapt, they communicate and they think; all these add up to make the game mind-bogglingly original and means that no revisits of the game will ever be the same.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is as close to the perfect game as you can get. There might be a few who are put off by the amount of detail and depth in the storyline or who are put off by some of the more “Japanese” aspects of the humour or the characters. Those naysayers will be in the minority for the rest of us, Metal Gear Solid 4 is just a dream come true and a game that will be talked about for decades.