Homework: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (Part 1)

Chris’s Assignment:

This week Chris finally dropped the bomb on me.  He’s been dying to have me play Metal Gear Solid IV for probably over a year now, and our new homework feature has given him the opportunity to demand that I dive into it.  So with as open a mind as I could, this week I began my odyssey into the world of MGS4.

Steve’s Report:

This will be the first in a series of reports that I’ll be completing until I finish Metal Gear Solid IV: Sons of the Guns of the Patriots for Liberty…or whatever it’s called.  I’ll warn you at the beginning of each of these reports, these will contain heavy spoilersSo let us begin our journey together into the weird and wonderful world of MGS.

I placed the disc into my Playstation 3 and booted up the system.  As soon as Metal Gear Solid IV loaded up, I began to chuckle to myself.  “Installing”, it said.  Oh Chris, those days of console games “just playing” are truly fading my friend.  Gone are the days of simply loading up a disc and playing the game instantly.  It was really not much of an ordeal though; I watched Solid Snake smoke some cigarettes while some funny and sarcastic messages about smoking, littering, and general health danced across my screen.  The whole process took about eight minutes and was pretty painless, all sarcastic anti-console jabs aside.

I got to the menu and started a new game.  What happened next is hard to describe in words (which is unfortunate given the nature of this post), but I’ll try.  I was instantly met with both absolute bewilderment and a complete lack of surprise.  I know that I’ve shared this clip on the Chi-Scroller before but it truly captures the nature of my feelings toward the intro to MGS4 perfectly.

If you haven’t played MGS4, the opening is a live-action scene of a woman on a game show of some sort.  She’s asked about her husband who is shown in the crowd.  After a quick exchange between the woman, her husband, and the game show host, she’s asked to choose a question from a number of categories.  Being a topic that seems near and dear to the hearts of most soccer mom types she chooses the category “The Business of War”.  She inevitably gets the question wrong, and the show appears to end.  This leads into what seems to be either a commercial, or some type of Bond film opening featuring women shooting harpoon guns at a pink octopus.  Here is the clip of this opening because I’m really not doing justice to it’s weirdness with my description.

Ok Kojima, that’s how you want to play it?  Fine.  We’re going full crackhead from scene one?  Great, I’m in.  Let’s do this!  Unlike MGS2, who’s weirdness ambushed me 90% the game, at least MSG4 has the common decency to let me know from jump that it’s bat-crap crazy.  Like I said, I’m fine with that.  I’m ready for some crazy, over the top, Hideo Kojima style insanity!

Assuming can get through the live-action opening sequence with your brain cells still intact, it seems as though the game then begins in earnest.  There is a dramatic change in tone, shifting from the incredibly odd to the realistically serious.  We see Snake in the back of a beat up truck full of rebels in some type of Middle Eastern war zone.  The truck arrives in a city and Snake hops out amidst a flurry of gunfire.  You walk about five feet and a cutscene triggers.

This happens a lot in the first hour or so of Metal Gear Solid IV.  You play for less than five minutes and you’re greeted with another cutscene, over and over again.  The cutscenes aren’t bad at all; I enjoyed the story that was being told.  I do wish that instead of breaking it into all of these tiny vignettes between meaningless play sessions that they’d just be one extremely long opening sequence allowing me to really dive into the game once it’s over.  Regardless, I feel that perhaps the “I don’t know what I expected” clip is relevant here too because this is simply how MGS games seem to play.  It’s been a while since I’ve played one so forgive me.

One of the things that has made it difficult for me to fully appreciate the MGS world is it’s absolute absurdity, but as I pointed out in my previous homework assignment

, I feel that a lot of that is my fault.  When taken at face value, the world of Metal Gear Solid is kind of awesome; attempt to pigeon hole it into the trappings of a Call of Duty style story and it falls apart.  So it’s with this new set of eyes that I view MGS4, and with them I can say that, hands down, my favorite part of the game so far is the Dinogears.  That’s a term I’ve coined myself speaking about the dinosaur like Metal Gears that seem to roam around the ruins of this Middle Eastern city.  These things look so much like Tyrannosaurus Rex’s that it’s uncanny.  And yes, I’m aware that one of the previous Metal Gear’s is known as Rex.  The thing that really struck me though was the fact that they roared.  That’s right, the metal robot roared like a dinosaur.  I’m sold.  This game is incredible.

ROAR!

So once I let the first hour of MGS4 wash over me and the sea of wonder and amazement had finally ebbed I was able to get into the meat of the game.  I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed a good stealth game, and the MGS series has always done stealth incredibly well.  The circle around Snake which acts as a radar of sorts was helpful and relatively easy to get the hang of.  Otacon gives you some nifty gadgets pretty early on too, like the Solid Eye radar system and the Metal Gear MkII (an adorable robo pal capable of doing recon and other tasks for you).

The enemies in MGS4 still seem to be pretty stupid, a staple of the series.  They’ll spot you and come after you but the give up quite easily and just go back to their set patrols.  Stupid as they might be though, at least you have a chance to flee without dying every time you’re seen.  I haven’t done a ton of shooting yet, but so far I’m not a huge fan of the gun controls.  What I am a huge fan of is the stun knife though; I’d like to buy one of those in real life.  And I can’t talk about the gameplay mechanics without getting to my favorite part; the camouflage.  If you stand still Snake’s camo changes colors to match the background, and there is even a meter that shows you how concealed you are.  So.  Freaking.  Cool.

So I didn’t get terribly far into the story, I know I’ve got a long way to go but I got most of the basics down and I’m ready to really go to town next week.  Stay tuned next Tuesday for part 2 of my adventures in MGS4.