I am going to get this out there at the start; the Metal Gear series is one of my favourites. Sons of Liberty is pretty much my favourite game ever (a surprisingly controversial choice), but I have always felt that Guns of the Patriots was very average.
The reasons are numerous. This is going to be both a retrospect and an opinion piece. Spoilers. Obviously.
Just as an indication as to how much I was looking forward to this game; I bought a Playstation 3 primarily for this game. That is quite an investment, and I have played every other Metal Gear game so far, apart from Peace Walker that I am playing now I have it for my PSP.
Set after the events of Sons of Liberty, Guns of the Patriots, much to the relief of most of the fan base, tells the story of Solid Snake chasing his brother/enemy Liquid Ocelot.
So what are my issues with this?
Well firstly, this game should not have been made. After Sons of Liberty, Hideo Kojima said that was him done, that it was meant to be the last in the series. In many ways, the ending reflects this; it is open to interpretation. So much weird stuff happens over the course of the game, and at the end, Raiden is left to decide what he is going to accept as reality.
So I guess the primary problem with Guns of the Patriot’s story is that it canonises the ending of Sons of Liberty; it tells us that everything that happened happened.
Secondly, there is the elephant in the room that is the clumsy writing. The deus ex machina of the hour seems to be nanomachines. EVERYTHING IN THIS GAME IS EXPLAINED BY NANOMACHINES. Vamp’s powers, how Big Boss is still alive, how SOP works (okay, this one is pretty decently explained), everything.
Maybe this is another example of a mystery being more fun before it is ruined. For example, when Obi Wan Kenobi mentions the Clone Wars in A New Hope, they sound far more interesting than what you actually see in the prequel films and The Clone War television series.
The point is that there seems to be very little imagination in how Kojima brought about the story. This is pretty telling of how forced Guns of the Patriots was; that Kojima did not intend to do it and it shows in the writing. This is the epic final chapter, and brings back every character in the series, big or small, so we can say goodbye to them. Raiden gets stabbed by Vamp, and suddenly they are calling up Dr Madnar, from Metal Gear 2 to save him. It’s just clumsy, calling upon a character most people will not remember to solve a pretty small plot point.
In the title of Guns of the Patriots, like in the rest of the series, is Tactical Espionage Action. This iteration of the series is leaning more towards the latter than the former. This game is much harder to be sneaky in. Please can somebody explain to me how my firing an un-supressed shot in the middle of a warzone, where there are people firing left right and centre, triggers an alert, and means that suddenly I am being hunted. Never mind the insurgents that are shooting at you, PMC, come and chase me.
(Honestly, is this explained in the game, or have I missed something?)
This game expands upon the camouflage of Snake Eater which is just fantastic. Honestly, I enjoyed this a lot, especially how it introduced; it’s a very tense scene.
One more thing I have an issue with is how short the game is. This game has received a lot of criticism for how long it is, but the actual game is not that long. The first two sections last a while, but the third act is both short, and frustratingly difficult. Even the final act isn’t too long. It’s emotional, sure, but just not that long, just feels like it is over far too quickly.
The bits in Shadow Moses Island are just amazing though. Full of nostalgia, and set up perfectly with the hark back to Metal Gear Solid. It was a pretty neat idea to explore how far Snake and Otacon have come since meeting in the first game.
Speaking of cinema with regard to the Metal Gear series, the use of cut scenes alongside gameplay, such as the microwave scene, or the fight with Geckos on Shadow Moses, are genius; a fantastic use of two mediums.
One final dig at the gameplay; why do I have to equip a gun go into First Person View? Even the original Metal Gear Solid on the PSone had native first person view? It’s infuriating, as that was quite a tactical way of viewing the world around you; you could make better decisions. The decision to remove this feature is just baffling.
Okay, I cannot complain about the graphics. This game is beautiful, especially for 2008. Everything animates well, everything is beautiful. Good.
Honestly? This game is great. It’s a fantastic showcase of what the PS3 was capable of in 2008, but in many ways it feels like a missed opportunity. Maybe it is a similar situation to Sons of Liberty compared to Snake Eater; one played it very safe, very similar to the original (a plot point for sure) while Snake Eater was different and a fresh look at the franchise. Maybe Ground Zeroes and V will be similar, fresh take on the series.