War has changed: a veteran's MGS4 experience

My experience thus far with Hideo Kojima's latest mega-game has been a bit different than that of my cohort Ross Miller's. Whereas Ross is a self-proclaimed MGS noob, I've been playing the series since its inception, having taken Snake (and Big Boss) through every game in canon and out.

A major theme in MGS4 is how "war has changed," and, right from the get-go, I was noticing how MGS has changed in the process. So far, it's been largely for the better. Keep on reading for more impressions from the perspective of an old "Tactical Espionage Action" dog who's learning new tricks.
(Please be aware that there may be some very minor spoilers in what you're about to read, 'kay? Great!)

MGS4 looks and sounds amazing. I don't think I've seen or heard a better game ever. The cutscenes and dialog? I've died and gone to Outer Heaven. Good – now that's out of the way.

As for basic gameplay, I wasn't so sure about needing to press a button to stick to walls / cover at first. I'd gotten very used to just pressing up against them. I'm still adjusting, but it makes sense, plus I don't have to worry about accidentally popping out and blowing my cover! All of the little contextual icons are actually a good thing. Now I don't have to guess what Snake can and can't climb, etc.

"The focus is still very much on stealth – it's just about new ways of being stealthy."

It's MGS and it's not MGS. There are so many little things changed, from aiming to the camera, that just looking at it you might think it's more like Splinter Cell. Still, it manages to feel like an MGS game, only taken to that proverbial next level. The focus is still very much on stealth – it's just about new ways of being stealthy. I'm loving those new ways, from waiting for firefights to get intense before sneaking past to the very, very cool OctoCamo. I've also found moving while shooting from first-person view to be a great addition, and, no, it doesn't make the game feel like an FPS. You can't play it that way all the time and survive, trust me!

My favorite aspect of the gameplay system so far is the Drebin Shop. To me, it seems to be this game's equivalent of the field medicine sub-system of MGS3. The ability to "cash in" all of the various enemy weapons I've picked up for Drebin points, when use those to buy new guns, upgrades, explosives, and – in a very nice touch – ammo without visiting a shop (thank to my little errand boy, Mk. II!).

Very few of the game's core mechanics are explained on the default difficulty setting. If I hadn't been following the game for years, seen it demo'd, and played it previously, I wouldn't have picked up on the function of the Threat Ring and other basics. It's almost like Kojima wanted to hand players things like the Solid Eye System and say "Here, play around with this and figure out how to use it!" In a way, as a hardcore fan, the sense of discovery as you play with Snake's gadgetry is pretty cool.

"You must watch the mission briefing from the main menu."

Oh, I don't want to forget: you must watch the mission briefing from the main menu. It answers a lot of questions you'll have about Snake's mission only a few minutes in, and contains plenty of fan service (while raising some plot questions of its own).

Now it's back to the battlefield, where I continue to find myself surprised by the creativity and refinement I'm finding around every corner.
Snake? Snaaaake? SNAAAAAAKE! Check out our Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots page for all things Metal Gear.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.