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Nega-review: Metal Gear Solid 4

Kyle Orland

"Metal Gear Solid 4 is not the inclusive, universally entertaining experience it could have been." (7) It "is a frustrating, fractured game" (2) that "feels ... like a genie struggling to find enough goodies in the lamp, slave to the demands of everyone but itself." (1) "Metal Gear Solid 4 is, in most senses, the biggest Metal Gear yet. But the best? Maybe not." (2)

"As the game starts, with its fairly generic next-gen textures and desert battlefield setting, you can't help feeling that you could be playing the latest Call of Duty, or Assassin's Creed." (3) "After a few chapters, [the] gameplay ... begins to mutate into linear action that feels like an afterthought amidst all the story." (4) "The relatively weak second act is more of the same in a much less compelling setting - a rather unconvincing, blandly designed South American backwater - and ennui starts to set in." (2)

"More intuitive controls could have made the overall experience a better one." (6) "A new feature called 'Stress' isn't explained quite clearly enough" (5) and "the new Stress and Psyche meters don't really gel with the flow of play." (2) "You'll also spend a good deal of time poking through your inventory in the middle of boss battles and protracted firefights, which can occasionally disrupt the dramatic flow." (5) "Because control is ... complex, it's very easy to do something you didn't want to by accident, and it's painful to see the perfect setup blown in an instant." (6)

"Newcomers to the MGS universe will be fairly lost, struggling to keep up with a narrative which ties the events of four previous games." (7) In fact, "even keen students of Metal Gear lore are going to struggle to follow this tangled tale."(2) "The game ... is utterly shackled to its own legacy -- bogged down by its own past." (4) "Plausibility is stretched to extremes as every character you can think of (and several you never would) makes a cameo appearance." (2) "Not content to just rekindle memories of Metal Gear, the game insists on physically revisiting them, veering this way and that, back and forth in time, the fates of its characters wrenched in improbable directions." (1)

"[The] narrative ... is every bit as silly and overblown and hammy as any of the previous games." (3) "The sometimes bloated, messy, and tangled effort to sort out the backstory can completely eclipse the immediate plot, damaging the game's flow and urgency." (6) "Motivation and consistency fall by the wayside and by the end it's totally unclear who is on which side, or what's at stake." (2) "It probably wouldn't work as a film because it would seem both overblown and trivial." (3) "Laden with sentimental sermons and metaphors for the evils of war ... it is in all honesty a mess." (2)

As for "the cut-scenes – well, yes, you could argue that there are too many of them, that they're too long, and that the dialogue is occasionally leaden." (3) These are "dry, informational monologues and glorified slide shows can make you feel like you're attending some obtuse scientific lecture or watching bizarre late night programming on the History Channel." (6) "The luxurious length and mind-numbing detail of the cut-scenes and codec conversations [means] you could put the pad down for almost half the game's ample length." (2) "Most gamers don't sit down with controller in hand for hours worth of non-interactivity." (7)

"Even with a high tolerance for epic-length cutscenes and your fondness for the series, it sometimes feels like too much." (6) The cutscenes here are sure to invoke that thousand-yard stare, two in particular coming perilously close to the 90-minute mark." (1) "Indeed many of the most dramatic cut-scenes might make you crave action, or wonder why they couldn't have been turned into interactive sequences." (3)

What's more, "the further you play into the game, the less you actually play." (4) "The final act in particular is primarily unplayable, a series of cutscenes with occasional, almost offhand moments in which the player is once again allowed to take control and do something." (7) "By the time the credits crawl, anything resembling interaction has slowly atrophied away, making for several hours of passive story viewing -- with only an occasional interjection of brief gameplay for variety." (4) "The hours of talking-head exposition involved are too steep a price to pay for this muddled closure." (2) For all its preaching about liberty and personal freedom, MGS4's closure comes at the cost of player choice." (4)

In short, Metal Gear Solid 4 "is not the game it could have been; nor is it the game it would have been had the series grown with the benefit of hindsight; nor is it the game it should have been if you believed that early trailer. ... For all the incredible technology he brings to the battle, all the abilities and charisma, [it] feels throughout like a species on the brink of extinction." (1)

Wilkommen, bienvenue, and welcome back to the Joystiq Nega-review. As usual, we've taken the negative bits from a bunch of generally positive reviews for a game and put them together into a ridiculously skewed and damaging whole. The point is not to destroy a game that people seem to enjoy, but to point out the valid bad points that can get lost in the waves and waves of praise.

Compared to other highly anticipated games, the reviews of Metal Gear Solid 4 spanned a relatively wide range of opinions. The tone of each review depended largely on the reviewer's ability to tolerate sometimes strained plots delivered through hours and hours of expository cut scenes. Some die-hard fans of the series who wrote reviews seemed willing to overlook problems that more casual fans felt were potentially ruinous. Still, even the most negative reviews found a lot to like about the game's revitalized, open world gameplay.

(1) Edge
(2) EuroGamer
(3) IGN UK
(4) 1UP
(5) GamePro
(6) GameTrailers
(7) UGO
(8) Cheat Code Central

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