***MINOR MGS4 SPOILERS BELOW***
It's funny. I spent most of last week getting all bent out of shape about MGS4, mostly because Act III was so ridiculous; but then I plowed through the rest of the game on Saturday, and now I find I don't really have anything to say about it. Or, at least, there's nothing for me to rant about.
Which is not a bad thing; I mean, I didn't spend $60 so that I could actively hate something. And the more I think about it, the thing that would get me angry isn't even the game's fault - it's the gaming press at large for not having the balls to call it out on certain glaringly obvious problems. I listened to Joystiq's MGS4 podcast, and there was one dude in particular who did not have anything negative to say about the game at all. Now, I'm not saying that you have to say something negative about MGS4 in order to be validated in my book - I'm saying this dude played the game, and found everything about it to be perfect. This means he found nothing wrong with Act III, whose problems I covered in detail below. This even means he found nothing at all wrong with Meryl and Akiba/Johnny's scene in Act V, which may very well be the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen, in any medium, ever. It was so ridiculous, in fact, that my wife - who was in the other room - would periodically walk in and yell, "Jesus Christ, will you two shut the fuck up? Why have you not died?" This means he had no problems with Otacon's voice acting - and, lemme tell you, that guy should win the "Worst. Crier. Ever." award. Nor did he have any problem with the fact that at least 5 or 6 characters in this game ought to be dead, considering how much damage they take, and none of them do. Hell, Raiden himself should have died 2 or 3 times in this game alone; I consider this a bit of a cop-out on Kojima's part, but what do I know. I'm saying that if you are in any way a decent and honest journalist - not a fanboy, but a journalist whose primary responsibility should be the ability to remain objective - you can't ignore this shit and pretend it's not there. It may not have any impact on your enjoyment of the game, but considering how much of it there is here, it is a gross error in judgment to be willfully immune to it.
Anyway. I did eventually remember that the press wasn't the one playing the game this weekend - it was me. And, ultimately, here's what I can say about MGS4, and I think this could be said for both fans and haters: I've never had an experience like that before.
From a gameplay perspective, MGS4 is one of the best games I've ever played, and the more I think about it, the more I want to go back and try to play it better than I did before. I unlocked 3 trophies when I finished my first playthrough, and they all seemed to reflect that I killed everybody and stole all their weapons; I'd love to try it playing the way it's supposed to be played - silent and stealthily. The fact that the game is fun either way is absolutely a testament to its rock-solid design and mechanics. The game rewards exploration - I loved that there were so many nooks and crannies to check out, especially since so many of them yielded loot. The game can be difficult but it's almost never frustrating; any time I ran into trouble, I knew it was my fault - and in any event, I was able to play my way out of the problem most of the time. I maintain that the octocamo system is one of the coolest gameplay mechanics I've ever seen, just in terms of how it works in and of itself; the fact that it's actually effective is even cooler.
From a story perspective... well, I don't know how much more I can say about it without repeating myself. The truth of the matter is, it's a sci-fi soap opera, and even if the storytelling is absurdly over-the-top and self-indulgent and just flat-out poor, there's something strangely compelling about it - even if it frequently warrants mocking, which it most assuredly does. I think this game - hell, the whole franchise - could have been 100 times better if a real scriptwriter had been brought on board; at the very least, the game needs an editor who has the balls to tell Kojima enough is enough. The story is convoluted enough as it is - it would have been appreciated if coherence and clarity were considered as well.
Now, the big question is - what do I play next?