Metal Gear Solid Noob Diaries #25: Guns of the Patriots
Welcome to the Metal Gear Noob Diaries. This is the recounting of my experience through the MGS series from MGS2: Sons of Liberty all the way to MGSV: Ground Zeroes. I’ll be updating every so often with new thoughts on sections of the games and taking a look back at memorable and enjoyable moments. I’ve never played the series before, so for the fans out there it could be an amusing tale of one noob’s journey, while those as green as myself could well learn a little about the mad world of MGS. Enjoy!
This is going to be good. I’m only a couple of hours into Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, but I’ve already got a very, very good feeling about this game. There’s a lot to be optimistic about frankly. Despite the short play time I’ve already encountered some excellent new mechanics, some cool new and returning characters and even some extra-quirky Kojima goodness. In many ways, the feature I was looking forward to most was the native HD graphics, and this turned out to be something of a disappointment. Still, much better than the three games in the HD collection, for obvious reasons.
So that’s my one complaint out of the way! I can’t really go a whole entry without moaning about something. On to the good stuff. The game kicked off with a rather strange little cutscene thing involving two (seemingly giant) women fighting amongst a big battle scene. I have no idea why it was there or what it means, just thought it was worth mentioning because it could be one of those things that becomes relevant later. The game then launched into the first proper cutscene, in which an older Solid Snake monologues on the changing nature of warfare. The age of deterrence is over, in its place is a world fueled by the ‘war economy’, in which war is a crucial element to global stability. It’s a wonderfully relevant overarching concept and one that I’m personally interested in. So I’m excited to see that develop over the course of the game.
The battlefield itself has changed too. Soldiers are now meticulously monitored by nano-machines and Metal Gear-esque unmanned machines are beginning to take over. You’ve probably seen images of the Geko, weird bipedal robots that...moo like cows. Yeah, I wasn’t expecting that one but from what I’ve been told I need to prepare myself for some really weird stuff in MGS4. Mooing robots will probably be the least of my worries. After a brief gameplay section that taught me the basics, it was back into another cutscene. I’ve heard that Guns of the Patriots is the ‘worst’ game for classic overly long cutscenes, although I’d phrase that as ‘best’. I think it’s been pretty clear that the cinematic scenes are quite possibly my favorite part of MGS. So I say bring them on.
It’s a fantastic little scene set three days before the combat section, setting up the story for the remainder of the game. While Snake salutes to the grave of someone, perhaps The Boss or maybe even Big Boss, Otacon arrives on the scene and lets him know that doctors can’t figure out why Snake has been aging so quickly. Big revelation that: all my pre-requisite knowledge of the game suggested that the timeline is far enough in the future that Snake has aged naturally. Turns out that while everyone else is seemingly only 5 or 10 years older than in MGS1/2, Snake has fallen victim to an odd fast-aging process that’s probably linked to either Foxdie or, you know, the fact that he’s a clone. This certainly seems like a cooler concept story-wise.
Otacon then reintroduces Major Roy Campbell, last seen in Portable Ops, who simply tells Snake “we’ve found him”. For some reason my immediate thought was Big Boss - but that’s probably due to all the Boss games I’ve been playing lately. No, obviously he was talking about Liquid Snake - Snake’s genetic brother and Big Boss’ ‘dominant’ son, in case you’ve forgotten (it’s been a while since he was around). He’s been spotted in the Middle East by an American combat unit fighting in the midst of a civil war. So Snake and co. head out to the unnamed country to find Liquid and put an end to his evil, evil plans. The civil war in question is between the government and civilian rebels, although the government has hired a huge PMC to handle their dirty work - hence the advanced weaponry.
The war is on, then, and Snake is a part of it. What’s really interesting about the setting is Snake’s neutral part in the whole conflict. The game teters the player towards the rebel side but there’s the option to stay out of combat if you want. It’s classic Metal Gear really, but within an active battle scene. That’s a bloody great idea and from what I’ve seen so far it has been executed masterfully. You’ve still got the classic ‘guards on patrol’ thing, but they’re interspersed with these battle scenes that provide the option for all-out action. ‘Going loud’ looks to be a much more fun and viable option than in previous games. It’s still very easy to lose life this way, but the gunplay itself feels much more fun.
Helping that gunplay is a seemingly brilliant weapon customisation mechanic. I’m not usually a massive fan of these kinds of systems, but the customisation in MGS4 is pretty much exactly how I like it: simple to manage but with parts that make an active and visible difference to the gameplay. My M4, for instance, has a laser scope on top, torch on the side and a grip on the bottom. It was clear how many points they cost and they all made an immediate impact on the way I used the weapon. Really good stuff - it just seems as though Kojima and his team can turn their hand to any mechanic and make it great.
The customisation and weapon system all comes through a cool new character called Drebin. He’s an arms dealer who works outside of the ‘normal order’ of things by selling weapons that don’t have specific IDs. In this near-future the nanomachines within soldiers (including Snake) mean they can only use weapons that have the correct ID. The more advanced battlefield weapons don’t automatically work for Snake as his nanomachines are too old (must be Apple nanomachines), but Drebin helps with that issue. He also has a monkey. So that’s cool. He’ll probably work like the merchant from Resident Evil 4 rather than a central character, but it’s a great idea to present the gun trade through a person rather than just an empty menu screen.
So that’s cool, it’s something that seems rather minor but will probably have a great impact on the game as a whole. The octocamo is another feature in this category. Being able to adapt Snake’s camo to his surroundings is a brilliant idea that’s a perfect ‘modern’ evolution of MGS 3’s camouflage system. It means that I can be stealthy in any environment, although my attempts at being stealthy in 4 haven’t proven to be too successful as of yet. I need to get used to the slightly different controls and blatantly improved enemy AI.
I ended my first session just before meeting up with the American team that discovered Liquid, so that should be fun. In this first entry I feel as though I haven’t really mentioned the actual gameplay enough, but rest assured that it was super fun, relatively traditional, MGS gameplay. I’ll talk a little bit more about it in the coming entries, I’m sure. So it’s a very good start for MGS4... could this even topple Snake Eater?