Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
takes place in a world that is in near constant war driven by Private Military Corporations (PMC) and the War Economy. At the center of the story is a terminally ill and aging Snake, who is out to stop his "brother" Liquid's plans to throw the world into chaos.
The overall story plays its multiple roles with little trouble. While the main structure aims to be a complete, one game narrative, it also ties up the loose ends left dangling from the last three games, as well as working in a few bits of fan service for those who have stuck with the series and come to see the old girl off.
With the exception of a slow second act, the core story is compelling and you'll find yourself waiting until the next story sequence is over just to see what happens next - and wait you will. Although the game clocks in at about 30 hours, nearly a third of that is spent watching story sequences (some lasting nearly half an hour or more). However, length isn't the biggest issue here, but rather the insistence on over-explaining things. It's almost equivalent to George Lucas having to explain how the Force works in The Phantom Menace; sometimes "the point" is more powerful with what is left unsaid. This was especially true for one or two key plot moments where the lengthy "follow-up" killed what would have been some of the more powerful and emotional moments in videogame storytelling.
There are a few cool twists thrown into the mix, so the presentation isn't completely stagnant. During mission briefings, you can use the Mk. II (a remote-controlled drone) to explore Otacon's flying base of operations during mission briefings or activate "flashbacks" that act as a reminder to important plot elements from past games. There are even a few 24 -style split-screen sections that show both gameplay and story on screen, which is one of the game's better contributions. Still, as immersive as these elements can be, the reliance on older narrative techniques for a majority of the game has a way of making you feel like you're watching instead of participating.
As easy as it is to knock the game on its stubbornness to evolve its storytelling methods, the same can't be said for what really counts. In terms of gameplay, MGS4 is probably the biggest revision to a series' core gameplay since Resident Evil 4. Stealth is still a viable gameplay aspect, yet violence is no longer seen as a "bad" thing and has been brought into the fold as a valid option. At times, it almost feels like gunplay is encouraged over stealth, especially after Drebin, MGS4's answer to RE4's Merchant, is introduced. Whereas other games have tried to marry the two play styles into one game, MGS4 makes options viable and truly gives you an experience that can be played however you want.
MGS4 also ships with Metal Gear Online, an online multiplayer mode. However, it's a bit unfair to judge the mode since what's included is mostly just a starter set that was admittedly tacked on late in development. What's here does show promise and the only real issue could be the PS3's online network, which has yet to really prove itself as a solid platform.