Though Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is considered one of the best Metal Gear Solid games in the series, replaying it now unfortunately means accepting some harsh realities about the title. With its ambitious story and dazzlingly impressive visuals, the game understandably wowed critics and fans when it was first released in 2008. Even by the high standards of the Metal Gear franchise, Metal Gear Solid 4 received overwhelming universal acclaim and it would be easy to assume replaying the game would reflect this.
However, the gaming scene has changed a lot in 15 years and so have players’ expectations. Modern gamers have higher standards when it comes to graphics and Metal Gear Solid 5 has raised the bar for what great stealth games can be, both of which have made its predecessor’s shortcomings a lot harder to ignore. From its convoluted plot to its notorious over-reliance on cutscenes, these are some of the biggest issues that arise when playing Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots today.
Despite not being a particularly long game, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots makes the player sit through a ridiculous amount of cutscenes in order to complete it. Even though cutscenes already dominate the start of the game, they become even more pervasive over time and gameplay segments are few and far between. It’s easy to see why some fans just want a Metal Gear Solid movie at this point.
Whilst it was something that many critics raised when Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was first released, replaying the title now only drives home the issue. The sheer cinematic and technically impressive nature of the cutscenes might have been enough to dazzle players back then, but modern gamers aren’t so easily impressed, meaning the lack of gameplay is all the more frustrating.
Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots‘ over-abundance of cutscenes is compounded by the fact that the game isn’t paced particularly well at all. Although it’s initially promising and the opening acts hint at a potentially decent balance between gameplay and cutscenes, it’s something that quickly disintegrates as the game continues.
For those already familiar with the story having played through it once before, the issues with pacing become even more apparent and detract from what’s meant to be one of the best stories in the Metal Gear Solid series. Given a replay should be a chance to savor the experience, it’s disappointing how fast the best parts of the game seem to rush by as a result of this poor pacing.
Metal Gear Solid is a series that’s always been about complex plots full of thought-provoking twists but Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots arguably crosses the line into simply being overly convoluted instead. With so much going on and a lot of it being far-fetched even by Metal Gear Solid standards, it’s a lot to take in.
The game’s overwhelmingly confusing story is made all the more frustrating by the fact that Metal Gear Solid 4 has tons of intriguing ideas at its heart. Unfortunately, despite Hideo Kojima’s talent for writing great video games, he seemingly didn’t know quite how to turn them into a coherent plot for this title.
Metal Gear Solid‘s treatment and over-sexualization of women have generated plenty of criticism over the years. However, in Metal Gear Solid 4, the unnecessary and lingering body shots of female characters are egregious even compared to previous Metal Gear Solid games.
This might not have been particularly abnormal in the 2000s, but the gaming landscape has changed a lot and Metal Gear Solid 4 now seems like something of a regrettable relic from that era as a result. Additionally, the sexualization of the BB Corps is particularly uncomfortable given their plotline’s focus on each woman’s mental trauma. Some of Metal Gear Solid‘s most iconic characters are women, so it’s a shame when it lets fans down in this area.
Although there are tons of improvements in the gameplay of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots like the new control scheme and camouflage system, there’s one major reason why playing the game now just doesn’t feel as great as it used to. That reason is the game’s sequel – Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.
With the advantage of being released seven years later, Metal Gear Solid 5 refined and polished the stealth gameplay of the series to the point where all of the previous titles can’t help but feel clunky when replaying them. Despite being an important stepping stone, Metal Gear Solid 4 is still a victim of how many improvements Metal Gear Solid 5 had over it.
Whilst those who are die-hard fans of the Metal Gear Solid series won’t necessarily see how this is a bad thing, it’s arguably to the detriment of Metal Gear Solid 4 that it requires the player to be fully tuned into the series to get the best enjoyment out of it. For example, its plot seems to directly address fans by answering a ton of questions raised in previous titles.
Add in a ton of classic Metal Gear Solid Easter eggs and it was a veritable treat for hardcore fans of the series but some of that charm has worn off now. Replaying the title after the main series has been on an extended hiatus and players aren’t as tuned in to the quirks of the series and Hideo Kojima’s unique way of making games means it’s harder to enjoy those silly details.
The Metal Gear Solid franchise always had toilet humor and it evolved the joke surrounding Johnny’s often distressed bowels throughout the series but replaying Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots on its own makes it significantly harder to see the funny side. Toilet humor isn’t inherently bad, of course, though it is something that can divide audiences.
However, Metal Gear Solid 4‘s use of it, such as in a particularly bad cutscene where Johnny gets caught in a compromising position inside a barrel, goes beyond many people’s tolerance for gross-out humor. Even if it’s as much a Metal Gear Solid staple as tough bosses, the immaturity of the joke presents a clash with some of the more serious and thought-provoking parts of the story that makes a replay less enjoyable as a result.
For all its flaws, Metal Gear: Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was arguably the perfect note on which to end the Metal Gear Solid series. Its impressively ambitious story, fan service, and even its plot, which seemed directly aimed at answering some of the fans’ burning questions about the world of Metal Gear Solid, meant it was easy to think of it as a beautiful send-off for the series as well as the iconic character Solid Snake.
Even without the context of thinking it would be the final game in the series as many thought at the time, the sense that Metal Gear Solid 4 was intended as the conclusion to the series is palpable when replaying it. Sadly, it’s one thing Metal Gear Solid 5 took away from it and the fact it no longer has that sense of finality means the game’s conclusion simply doesn’t have the same impact now.
Although Metal Gear Solid 4 is still a technical marvel with graphics that seem absurdly good for 2008, there’s no denying that the 15 years that have passed since it was first released haven’t aged the game’s visuals. Models and texture quality may be small details but they still have an impact on the overall impression of the game.
Unfortunately, with Konami still yet to announce any major new Metal Gear projects, it could be a long time before the game gets a graphical upgrade. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots once felt like a groundbreaking technical achievement and it’s a shame that sense is completely lost when replaying the game now.
It was easy to get swept along in the hype for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots when it was first released in 2008 and critics were lauding it as a new peak for the already-iconic Metal Gear Solid franchise but playing through it now gives a more realistic impression of the game.
In truth, its ambitious story and some of the innovative gameplay ideas could have made for a truly timeless game but some of its flaws mean it didn’t quite achieve that. In particular, the narrative and pacing issues, along with those too-long video game cinematics, held it back from reaching its potential, meaning a replay is likely to be tinged with a sense of what could have been.
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