Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Old soldiers never die, they just talk a whole lot
Only about a month late, my Metal Gear Solid 4 review is up now at thephoenix.com.
MGS4 is currently sitting pretty with a Metacritic score of 95. It's a little too much of a coincidence for me that a "one of a kind masterpiece" would be released only about five weeks after the last game the enthusiast press was falling over itself to anoint the best game ever. To read the blurbs about MGS4 on that Metacritic page is like witnessing one of those revivalist worship services where people speak in tongues and collapse to the floor in the throes of religious ecstasy. It's scary and weird, and when I played the game I just didn't see it. Not at all.
The first half of the game was a blast to play -- we're agreed on that much. But as the ratio between gameplay and cutscenes tipped further and further before toppling into the abyss, all I could think was how backwards it all seemed. Gamespot says, "For anyone who appreciates games that rise above the simple act of pushing a few buttons and pulling a few triggers, Metal Gear Solid 4 is a stimulating ride that you won't soon forget." I could not agree less.
"Stimulating" is the last word I would use to describe hour-long stretches without player interaction. In fact, this game could have used many more simple acts of pushing buttons and pulling triggers, because for the most part you don't do anything at all. I like a good cutscene as much as the next guy, but I was hoping the notion of "interactive movies" as something to strive for had gone out with the Sega CD.
The whole thing has caused me to rethink my stance on the entire series. I loved the first Metal Gear Solid without reservation. I hated the second one, mostly because I didn't want to play as Raiden, but also because the story went so far off the rails that I had no idea what I was doing or why. I always assumed that Sons of Liberty was the aberration. But then I could never get into MGS3, again because it was so front-loaded with cutscenes that I was unable to get into the rhythm of it each time I tried to play. Now that MGS4 has similarly failed to work for me, I have to conclude that the original was the exception.
The data doesn't lie: I'm not a fan of the series. It feels like I just found out I was adopted.