Metal Gear Solid 4:  Guns of the Patriots Screenshot

After about thirty years of being a mass medium, videogames have a few auteurs—people whose individual mark can be seen on a final product in spite of being created by a multi-person team. Undoubtedly, the big daddy of them all is Shigeru Miyamoto, who practically single-handedly saved the modern gaming industry from its downward swirl in the E.T.-laden toilet of the early 1980s. Some game makers insist that their moniker be in the title of the game, most recently Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa. Others, like Castlevania's Koji Igarashi, can make one or two masterpieces, but then fall from grace, struggling to recapture their one spark of genius. Metal Gear's Hideo Kojima is definitely an auteur, one whose fame and notoriety continue to rise the longer he continues to work.

Metal Gear Solid (MGS) arrived in 1998, and truly changed the landscape of gaming as we now know it. Real-time cutscenes replaced fancy CGI (popular in titles like Final Fantasy VII and Soul Blade at the time). Every line of dialog was voice acted—well. Bosses were memorable and incredible—who doesn't remember the first time Psycho Mantis freaked the hell out of them? But best of all, for better or for worse, it tried to tell a real, honest-to-God story. Was it preachy at times? Yes, but this was the beginning of a man's attempt to convey a social message through a medium known for glorifying violence, no matter how ham-fisted the attempt.

Hideo Kojima's name was finally one that people paid attention to. With the arrival of the PS2 in 2000, all eyes were on Konami Japan to showcase what the new hardware could do. Sure enough, Metal Gear Solid 2 was released in 2001, and it did not disappoint…from a technical standpoint. In spite of being the most visually-stunning title seen on any console to date, and having a gorgeous musical score from famed composer Harry Gregson-Williams, the game created vast rifts in the gaming community with Solid Snake's replacement in Raiden. Add a convoluted, existential plot that is still under debate to this day, and you can begin to see the mind of Kojima at work. I'm certain that, had MGS1 not been as successful as it was, and Kojima not been at the helm, nobody would have green-lighted MGS2's plot. Still, MGS2 is the highest-selling title in the series to date. By MGS3, Kojima had become his own entity with Kojima Productions.

Make no mistake. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (MGS4) is Hideo Kojima's game. The question is: are you okay with that?

MGS4 is undoubtedly the culmination of everything Hideo Kojima ever dreamed his series could be. It is a technical triumph, finally realizing the longtime goal of "Toy Story In Real Time." Having been at the Sony E3 press conference in 2005 when the PS3 was first unveiled, I didn't believe that any developer could achieve the level of polish shown in the technical demonstration. MGS4 has it in spades. Even the initial installation has the most stunning model of Old Snake—our protagonist—looking very gruff, smoking and standing around in extreme close up. His gloves are webbed, his sneaking suit is composed of different materials, his skin is pale and spotted. Audio-wise, the score is probably the best that the series has ever produced, and the soundscapes are engrossing. Snake's enhanced moveset and controls are tight and precise. New gameplay mechanics like improved camouflage, radar and context-sensitive areas make the experience feel both familiar and fresh. The bosses in MGS4 are a blissful experience. Each one is a force to be reckoned with, and utterly unforgettable.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Screenshot

These are axioms for any MGS title.

The conundrum here is the rest of the game. Or rather, what isn't the game. It's hard to discuss any post-PS1 Metal Gear title without bringing up the issue of cut-scenes. Kojima is sometimes seen as a film-maker, roped into the wrong industry. Beyond their length (the ending clocks in at around 70-75 minutes), frequency and issues of non-interactivity, their content presents a major problem to anyone not incredibly well-versed in Metal Gear lore. Though I am a recovering Castlevania and Koji Igarashi addict, I am a full-borne Metal Gear fan. I love the story. I get it—even MGS2's messiness. For me, the cut-scenes in MGS4 were so utterly engrossing and explanatory that I never cared about how long or often they were. My wife, who has barely a passing knowledge of the Metal Gear story, continuously asked questions about what the heck was going on. People, events and past stories from every single canon Metal Gear title are referenced, or even reprised. Even within the game's own space, it continuously broke the fourth wall, explicitly showing a game's box art as a reference point.

Because of this, it often reaches the point of Kojima's self-indulgence. Kojima is keenly aware of the magnitude of his creation. His insistence of pointing this out to the player time and time again can get quite grating. What could have been a great game for the masses ends up being a very large inside story or joke. As someone who is "in" on it, I found myself smiling most of the time while watching these scenes. Erin was just befuddled.

Other times, the game just delves into places that Kojima wants us to go, but are truly unnecessary. Like previous MGS games, every boss has their sad, pathetic backstory, and like it or not, after you've pumped them full of lead, you'll have to hear it.

This being said, the cut-scenes are often staggering in scope, detail and choreography. Without spoiling anything major, one in particular is so well-crafted that it actually makes Raiden look cool. Seeing as the character was mocked in MGS3, this is quite an achievement.

The whole game feels like this. It is an undeniable achievement: Hideo Kojima's achievement. No other producer could have made this title, for better or for worse. The only determining factor about whether or not this is a "good" game is whether or not you want to hear what Kojima has to say. Sadly, for some, there's a good twenty years of listening that simply must be done to appreciate MGS4.

I've never played a game where playing the previous ones was a pre-requisite rather than an option. It is a big risk to take, one that only a true auteur with enormous confidence in himself, his product and his legacy could create. I've fulfilled Kojima's requirements, thus this game is for me. It's simply unfortunate that the degree to which this otherwise magnificent game succeeds will be dependant upon each individual. Rating: 8.0 out of 10, knowing that it is a personal 9.0, but cannot ignore the flaws that Kojima has set for himself.


According to ESRB, this game contains: blood, crude humor, strong language, suggestive themes and violence

Parents should not let their children play this game. Quite frankly, they won't understand it anyway. It is filled with beautifully-choreographed ballet-like violence, but it is still violence. There is a lot of spilling of blood, and, in a first for the series, someone drops the F-bomb.

Metal Gear fans will be right at home. Metal Gear newcomers may want to think twice before diving in. Fans of other stealth titles will enjoy the gameplay, but will have to contend with a story they may not understand or necessarily like.

Army aficionados will enjoy the fantastical array of gadgets and references to real-world entities like DARPA.

Film lovers will definitely enjoy the game's lavish, lengthy cut-scenes as well as dissecting the series's plots.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers have little to worry about in terms of the gameplay relying on audio cues. One gun beeps when it is fully-charged, but this can also be confirmed visually. There are options for subtitles in multiple languages.

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Anonymous
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Anonymous

Let me just say that I think Hideo Kojima is a wonderfully creative video game maker, and that he has told a fascinating story. The characters are colorful. The direction had a great sense of style and scope (in MGS4 especially), and I personally enjoy the many inside jokes. I enjoyed the many plot twists, even when they didn’t quite hold up to scrutiny. Yet I could never deny that Kojima needs an editor. MGS4’s script had many problems. The dialogue had some golden lines, but it was frequently awkward and long-winded, sometimes even incoherent. I love the story itself,… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

sorry but you are wrong raiden was mocked in MGS3 when the Russian General second in command in the KGB had raiden’s face and was hinted to being homosexual when volgen grab his privates in the game. You also have to disguise naked snake as this character to sneak into the base obviously hideo was directly mocking Raiden in this game for his unpopularity in MGS2. And that bring me back to you. You have mistaken the criticism of Raiden in MGS2 for the mocking of Raiden the article is referring to. I’m sorry if i pointed you out harshly… Read more »

Sean
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Sean

I’ve been looking up reviews for MGS4 in metacritic especially the ones that gives the lowest scores (I actually wanted to see the comments after since they’re pretty entertaining and fun). However,this one caught my attention due to the comments and the responses from the author himself. Somehow I can’t help but believe that the intention of putting a score that clearly distinct itself from the masses is just vying for attention and traffic to their website. But that’s just my opinion and after reading some of the comments here I can say this (site) is the exception. How can… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

…need to understand the definition of a review.

Phil
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Phil

Just read the review and the comments. Man, do I think some readers really, really need to get a life? You bet I do. The reviewer said what he wanted to say, and I respect him for it. That’s what reviewers are for. Reading a reviewer’s reviews over time you either build up a trust of the reviewer (because you often agree with what he says), or you it won’t. Maybe you use multiple sites to help form your opinion (to each his own). I for one pretty much never agree with Roger Ebert regarding movies, but often agree with… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Ummm. Obviously the review stands. No reviewer would ever change their score unless it was a real mistake (i.e. typed the wrong number) because else it would make them look even worse.

What is the greatest thing since sliced bread?

David Stone
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David Stone

Wow, way to misconstrue. Just because I concede someone made a valid point doesn’t invalidate what I did, or will undo what I wrote. It spurned extra discussion, which criticism ought to do but rarely does. And isn’t it nice when a writer concedes that someone makes a valid point rather than becomes a defensive jerk? The ad hominem attack was unnecessary as well, but seeing as this is the internet, doesn’t surprise. *** To summarize all of the above: The review stands. Don’t like it? Sorry. Keep reading Metacritic’s upper tier if it comforts you. Interesting discussion that could… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

There are good reviewers and there are bad reviewers.

Unfortunately for GameCritics.com, they have the bad ones. Explains a lot. 🙂

Keep at it guys, maybe you’ll get noticed more one day!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

When you say another commenter is right about your own review, to me that shows you didn’t know exactly what you wanted to talk about in your review. You say nothing annoys you more than a 4-6 page review that isn’t precisely stated. Well, yours is like a 1 page review that isn’t precisely stated, which is worse.

Anyway, that’s my opinion which is obviously just my own and doesn’t matter. But if your reviews keep up like this, it’s no wonder I never heard of GameCritics.com until now.

Zed
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Zed

so basically u’re saying that think the game is crap and don’t wanna play it bcoz u haven’t played it … and i am supposed to care and try to convince u to play it, i don’t really care dude. u summed up the metal gear story by saying it’s crap when they are some of the deepest stories in a game. so yea what u’re saying is crap to the people who are playing the game and are loving and noone really gives a … “crap” whether u’re playing it or not … i am playing it and loving… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

“As for ad hominem, msanono, the only one who has done that on this thread so far is you and in all my posts I have attacked the writing and not the writer.” While I stand by my comment–your critique of the review, particularly in your original post, seemed reactionary in tone; overly harsh to the point of being punitive. I assumed, wrongly it would seem, that there had to be some type of agenda driving that kind of aggression–I apologize for insinuating that you were a spiteful fanboy like “IS TIRED OF GAMECRITICS AND THEIR BULLSHIT”. I’m not entirely… Read more »

David Stone
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David Stone

Sorry to do this, but enough is enough. [quote=IS TIRED OF GAMECRITICS AND THEIR BULLSHIT]And you’re EXACTLY the type of person I described in my original post. Hype goggles? So if a game is hyped, are you NOT allowed to give it a great score because that’s being a lemming fanboy and giving into overrated hype? Sounds like gamecritics is full of insecure pricks who have to knock amazing achievements and promote bullshit ones in order to feel smart and good about themselves.[/quote] Dude, did you even READ THE WORDS? Evidently not. You’d see I praise the game where I… Read more »

IS TIRED OF GAMECRITICS AND THEIR BULLSHIT
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IS TIRED OF GAMECRITICS AND THEIR BULLSHIT

And you’re EXACTLY the type of person I described in my original post. Hype goggles? So if a game is hyped, are you NOT allowed to give it a great score because that’s being a lemming fanboy and giving into overrated hype? Sounds like gamecritics is full of insecure pricks who have to knock amazing achievements and promote bullshit ones in order to feel smart and good about themselves. I almost ALWAYS see gamecritics.com at the bottom of all of the metacritic reviews. Coincidence, or flat-out arrogance? Here’s a tip: Not all hyped games are going to be legendary, and… Read more »

jesus
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jesus

“The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all.” No matter what anyone says, when dealing with a consumer product this saying will always reign supreme. People who go on sites and argue about why a game is a 9.5 and not an 8.5 or vice versa are simply outtnumberd by the millions who paid 60 bucks for that game. Simply put, money talks, video game makers are in the business of making money. The final say on games is the publics desire to purchase it. That being said, this site provides a forum for a… Read more »

David Stone
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David Stone

Azakun, you hit the nail on the head with this one. You’re right; I went for breadth in the review. NOTHING annoys me more than readying 4-6 page “reviews” that can be more precisely stated. Many of the big review sites seem to lack editors, allowing their writers to digitally vomit their entire ideas onto the intarwebz, regardless of whether or not it is needed. I’ve read many dissections in features on MGS2 alone that spanned into the thousands of words. As it stands, the MGS4 review is around 1300 words. That’s PLENTY. You, I assume, were able to understand… Read more »

Akazukin
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Akazukin

Chi, I’m not opposed to exploring ideas in the review. That clearly is an essential part of the Gamecritics brand. The question is though – what sort of ideas and how far should they be explored? I would argue the ideas must be explored in a way that is relevant to the game. I’m sure you would concede that the springboard must have a height limit. David can’t talk about auteur theory for five paragraphs – he has to return to MGS4 at some point. So he references Miyamoto, Richard Garriot and Castlevania, and then hurries along to the next… Read more »

Brad Gallaway
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Brad Gallaway

>>As far as I can see, this site is not used to valid disagreements with the review and it does not know how to respond. Writers are only used to fan letters or morons arguing about the score. Akazukin, To be fair (and was already pointed out by David himself) he’s already responded to your comments several times. In addition, I’m not sure how often you come to this site, but I’d say we get more than the average amount of people who question our reviews and aren’t doing so from one extreme or the other. Honestly, we welcome it.… Read more »

Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui

[quote=Akazukin]Chi, I’m not opposed to writers exploring ideas concurrent to the review object, but tell me what other ideas, apart from the point that MGS4 is mostly for fans, are explored here?[/quote] Your previous post implied the opposite in exploring ideas were counter-intuitive to the purpose of a game review and that is what I disagreeing with. [quote=Akazukin]But the feeling I get from people on this thread is – no, David is a game critic so he can’t consider multiple points of view because it would defeat the purpose of his criticism (as if criticism cannot be multifaceted!)[/quote] If you… Read more »

Akazukin
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Akazukin

I forgot about that second opinion thing…let’s see what Brad does.

Keep up the writing. Some people have interpreted my comments as personal attacks. I hope you can look past that and see that it is the quality of game criticism I am passionate about, regardless of who writes it. I think this is the best place to do it – face to face with the writer.

Anony Mouse
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Anony Mouse

Honestly I think the whole score thing should just go away for good. Ideally, one should be able to deduce if a game is worth getting or not simply on the content of the written review, not the score at the end of it.

David_Stone
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David_Stone

With all due respect, I answered your criticisms. I agreed with some of your points, and I countered with my own. I honestly believe that you made some valid points – absolutely. However, in the “review” space, I am only able to make one point. I agree; many volumes could be written on the implications. Perhaps you should wait for the Second Opinion being written by Brad and see if he elaborates.

Akazukin
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Akazukin

In my previous post I mentioned missed opportunities. In challenging the critical weight of the article, I expected the writers of this site to come out, guns blazing, in defence of their position. So far, I’ve been told that the problem is with me, that I just don’t “get” it and my points have gone unanswered. This was an opportunity for the site to defend its credibility and its claim to game criticism. Instead, the writers have almost reflexively declared ad hominem and ignored the arguments I submitted. As far as I can see, this site is not used to… Read more »

Anony Mous
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Anony Mous

You know what: You’re right. Low scores don’t necessarily mean smart reviews BUT in the case of Gamecritics, at least they know how to take their hype-goggles off for once. Giving out 100s to every highly anticipated game shows the world what a Lemming you are. And if you even bothered to read my earlier post, how is even 70% for HALO bad? Using a 10 point scale a 50% would have been calling HALO Average, so as you can see, 70% is between Average and Almost Impossibly Great. It’s not like HALO was the first FPS ever made. ICO… Read more »

Lachlan
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Lachlan

Without trying to be offensive, I also found the review to be a bit unsatisfying. Although that’s most likely because i haven’t played a metal gear solid game beyond Twin Snakes. But i think because I’m not experienced in the series, I would’ve loved to see some reflection on how the metal gear solid 4 gaming experience compares to the experiences provided by other, current-generation games. For example, does the abundance of cut-scenes in metal gear solid 4 provide a better means of story-telling than in other games, such as metroid prime or bioshock, which communicate their plots with little… Read more »

IS TIRED OF GAMECRITICS AND THEIR BULLSHIT
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IS TIRED OF GAMECRITICS AND THEIR BULLSHIT

Wow. It’s now FACT that gamecritics pays it’s “journalists (lol)” to give shitty scores to great games and push cult fanboy games. I’ll admit your low bullshit scores are what drive people to come to your site and bitch about it, hell I’m one of them, but at the same time it’s far more depressing to think that knocking amazing achievements in games and plugging cult fanboy shit like Shadow of the Colossus makes you guys “smart” reviewers, and that you have to stoop so low just to get website traffic. Halo a 70%? It wasn’t legendary, but it was… Read more »

Akazukin
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Akazukin

[quote=msanono] Honestly, I just think you’re mad at the score and are trying to get payback on the writer[/quote] …But…I…never even *mentioned* the score! At what point did I say anything about being unhappy with the score! My issue isn’t about David’s conclusion, it’s the lack of critical exploration used in how he goes about expressing it. He leaves many questions unanswered, arguments lack depth and there is a general lack of contemplation about it – especially with the first paragraphs on the history of the series. If David wants to call himself a critic, then this is what I,… Read more »

Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui

[quote=Akazukin]David, I think you’re onto something interesting there which could probably be given a more thorough and proper treatment in a feature article or blog post. Maybe that’s something you and the writers could consider in future instead running these theses parallel to the review with one style compromising and diminishing the other.[/quote] I for one never understood why people think reviews aren’t a place to explore ideas as if the review object gets in the way. I’ve always loved the review format because the object of review serves as the springboard for discussion and deeper exploration of ideas. Great… Read more »

msanono
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msanono

Critiquing a writer’s craft in order to undermine an argument you disagree with (an ad hominem attack, basically) is the rhetorical equivalent of a low blow. It’s juvenile. The author formulated his thesis, supported his claim, and did so within the confines of the form — a videogame review. Despite your insinuations, a review need only address the very general question “is the game successful at what it does?” The basis for that judgment (“what it does?”) is left completely to the discretion of the critic. In David’s case, he chose to critique the game on the basis of whether… Read more »

Akazukin
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Akazukin

David, I think you’re onto something interesting there which could probably be given a more thorough and proper treatment in a feature article or blog post.

Maybe that’s something you and the writers could consider in future instead running these theses parallel to the review with one style compromising and diminishing the other.

David Stone
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David Stone

Akazukin, I can understand your point. The reason for the “large slabs of history” is simply to bolster the premise (and eventual thesis) of the importance that MGS has had on the various iterations of the PlayStation’s lifespan. PS + MGS are forever intertwined. The fact that the fanbase became quite splintered is of immense value. Is it fair for a title whose main strength is its plotting and EXTREME referential weight to receive my gushing praise when examined critically? I don’t think so, and I stand by my words – and score. I did, in fact, mention a number… Read more »

Akazukin
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Akazukin

Thanks David for taking those comments in stride. I’m not doubting there is a point in your review but it’s just poorly developed. You say fans would like it and non-fans would not but it’s clearly not that simplistic. Odofakyodo, the first poster in this thread and a fan, did not like it. His/her point: “Kojima has run out of things to say” has potential. These are the kind of reflections that a critic should explore and I feel was missing from your article. Descriptions of a critic’s personal reactions to a game, including aesthetics and production values are always… Read more »

David Stone
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David Stone

To each his own, and I’m sorry to disappoint you. My whole point was that the game’s cinematic quality is not in dispute. To rehash those points is to defeat the purpose of my criticism. I’m not discussing how MGS relates to the other games in the series, other than sharing its high production values – which, again, do not require repeating. As I’ve stated repeatedly, there are enough other sites out there specifically describing the aesthetic pleasings of the game. As far as MGS4’s effect on Kojima’s reputation, that is kind of irrelevant as well. If you’re a Kojima… Read more »

David Stone
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David Stone

The reason I had to drop the score is I’m offering a criticism, not a consumer review. As a consumer product, I can offer my own unbridled “fanboyism” – which, you’ll notice, is something that a lot of people try to throw at anyone who offers a different opinion. But in criticising a work with an effort to bypass genuine bias, anyone who’s really honest can’t overlook those faults. As I stated explicitly, I *am* MGS4’s audience, and if it were a blog-style posting, I’d be gushing. But I’m writing this on GameCritics, and that’s just not how I do… Read more »

Akazukin
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Akazukin

David, is there a review in here somewhere? Almost half this article discusses gaming history, your opinions on the first game, your reaction to a three-year-old press conference on MGS4, auteur theory and Toy Story. Most of this is padding and very little is related to your assessment of the game. The second paragraph on MGS1 for example is redundant and could been replaced with something shorter like “MGS1 was good, MGS2 was better and both games established the Kojima style of long cutscenes, convoluted plots and high production values.” I don’t see the point of making the debatable claim… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Ok. I just assumed you meant his character in MGS2. Cause that seems like the more obvious one. Not many people remember Raikov in MGS3. I do however remember putting on the disguise and getting crotch grabbed. Alot of people thought Raiden was kind of pussy in MGS2. Back to the review, you had ONE paragraph stating your biggest likes of the game, and a few others scattered around. But the entire thing sounds like you loathed this masterpeice. I get it you think the game would just be mediocre to a gamer who has never touched the metal gear… Read more »

Anony Mouse
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Anony Mouse

I get frustrated every time I see a comment like, “How did this game get a bad rating?” People, how is 8 out of 10 a bad rating!? IT’S NOT! If you’re going to use a 10-point scale USE THE WHOLE SCALE. Where 1 = worst game in the history of games–nonexistent or incoherent storyline, bad translation, graphics so bad you can’t tell what things are, awful user interface and controls, annoying soundtrack, etc. Where 5 = AVERAGE, which is where most games should be falling into: good but could be alot better. Where 10 = Pretty much the best… Read more »

David Stone
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David Stone

Thank you very much for your comments! You’re absolutely right about the gameplay side-step for the purposes of this review. I feel that there is enough discussion of how the game plays out there. I wanted to address one of the more core issues of MGS4, and Kojima’s work in particular. I am indeed a Metal Gear fan – I still replay the first one on my dusty ol’ NES. Because I’ve actually enjoyed what Kojima has been attempting, I did very much enjoy the game. However, I believe that he has severely restricted his audience by being the auteur… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Raiden wasn’t mocked for MGS3, dumbass, it was MGS2. BTW he wasn’t even mocked, losers like this reviewer mock him.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

First off, this game is not meant to be played like HALO, GTA4, or Gears of War. Its a MGS game for goodness sake. The cut scene are meant to tell a story. This game is both a movie and a game that tells snakes final battle. I get the feeling the reason you wrote this review was to get negative feed back from hardcore fans to visit your site and comment on your poor review or the fact you might have been paid off by a Microsoft employee or xbox fanboy. I dare you to review this game again… Read more »

Odofakyodo
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Odofakyodo

This review only bolsters the decision I made after finishing MGS3: I will not be playing any more MGS games. This is not only because of what the review did say but because of what it did NOT say. What it did say can be summed up in one of the lines: “The only determining factor about whether or not this is a “good” game is whether or not you want to hear what Kojima has to say.” What it did not say was much, if anything, about the gameplay – what choices does the user have? I have played… Read more »