Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots PS3

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots PS3
"War. Huh! Good God, y’all. What is it good for?” wondered Edwin Starr back in the ’70s. Well, for the past 21 years Hideo Kojima has been trying to answer that question. The short story is that war equals big business. Now this may seem obvious — after all, Eisenhower first warned of the military industrial complex back in 1961 — but it’s as relevant now as ever, especially as the Metal Gear saga has evolved from its Cold War origins to tackle the real-world rise of Private Military Corporations (PMCs).

The long story has unravelled across the sprawling Metal Gear series, which began as the first stealth game on the original Nintendo system, and has continued through many chapters (and several Playstation consoles) until reaching its epic conclusion in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

As it is the final chapter, Kojima has taken it upon himself to tie up any and all loose plot threads, which means unless you’re a total Gear-head, you may need to consult the MGS wiki to understand all the plot twists, obscure references and returning characters from past games.

But newbies can also just sit back and enjoy the spectacularly cinematic presentation — the cut-scenes are so plentiful the game is practically an interactive movie — and stealth-based game play, which now includes a rad camo suit and night-vision eye patch. It also adds in stress and psyche gauges that impact Snake’s effectiveness, as they rise and fall depending on the intensity of the battlefield. The other big difference in the aging franchise is its similarly aging star, now known as "Old Snake” and clearly feeling every one of his prematurely advanced years (as is the game, now set in 2014).

MGS4 is arguably the best-looking game yet on the PS3, not just because of the stellar graphics but also the art direction and near-autistic attention to environmental detail. The war zones, from the Middle East to South America and beyond, feel disquietingly real, especially in 5.1 surround sound.

It’s also a thoughtful game, one that balances its gunplay and violence with philosophical musings on the nature of warfare, crossfire caught civilians, misused technology and the authoritarian influence of governments and corporations.

MGS4 is not perfect, but in an industry where so very many sub par games go gold, Kojima’s masterpiece ably demonstrates why ambition matters. (Konami)