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The best and, unfortunately probably, the last ever in the Metal Gear Solid series. Not long after this title was made, Hideo Kojima the producer of the series, was forced to leave Konami. The game itself is a demonstration of what a unique concept can produce with a multi-million dollar investment and excellent programming. For all those new to Metal Gear, the concept is stealth, as a one-man commando, it is up to you to infiltrate various military bases. The size of the concept just got huge too, as Konami have now made the game open world, creating three gigantic maps of Afghanistan, Angola/Zaire, and what the player will come to know as 'Mother Base.'
Me? The world's greatest soldier?
You play as 'Venom Snake,' a soldier waking up after being in a coma for over a decade. From here you will find out there is more to your story than meets the eye as a band of militia attack the hospital where you're recovering. It's up to you to sneak out of there and meet up with your comrades from 'Outer Heaven.'
This first level is a demonstration of how difficult the game can get as you're unarmed and not really in fighting shape. It's up to you to stay out of sight of the enemy, avoiding soldiers and searchlights. In this initial level, a being which appears to be on fire is trying to eliminate you as well. The paranormal is no stranger to Metal Gear, so expect some strange happenings afoot. Once 'Venom Snake' meets up with his comrades Ocelot and Kaz, the game takes a similar approach to Peace Walker as amidst the stealth action; you become a private military contractor.
Take these pills and call me in the morning.
This is a great concept and brings a different side of the game to the player. It's done cleverly as well as it allows the player as much or as little involvement as they would like. So, as you're doing the various missions dispatching Snake to different warzones, you are able to send soldiers on missions which will provide Motherbase with income and supplies. The game is adaptable in that if you were not too interested in managing your base and soldiers, you could actually pick up supplies on your missions as Snake. This is done through the Fulton extraction system which allows you to send supplies and personnel back to base by helium balloon. This can be both fun and amusing but you must be careful as it can reveal your position to the enemy, which is where the main element of the game comes in, the stealth missions, which is the meat of the game really. You can engage with the enemy, but you are encouraged to sneak and will get the best results if you do. 'Venom Snake' is probably the best soldier in the world so you have many infiltration skills at your disposal.
Shot to the Heart
It's always best to crouch and move as you can easily duck in and out of cover and if you need to get down low, Snake can crawl below the sight of the enemy. The game can be much harder than prologue game Ground Zero at times, as although the landscape is detailed, it can be desolate providing little cover. When Snake is spotted and a firefight ensues, the scale is epic and makes for some dramatic confrontations. The various military outposts include villages, mountains, checkpoints, high-tech bases, etc. The environment is pretty interactive, with tanks, APCs and mini-Metal Gears; you can use all these to fight or escape. It is best to run, but depending on the size of the base, Snake can defeat the enemy, allowing him to capture the guard post. This is good but it does require quick thinking, like in Ground Zero. Real military tactics are used such as the administrating of grenades, clearing of areas and if the enemy has a tank or APC, one shot can kill.
The Devil in Disguise
Fuel canisters can be shot, power supplies cut, and military guard posts destroyed, it really is a huge game. It's always best though to stay out of sight, so when Snake is spotted, the adrenaline mode from Ground Zero returns and gives you the option to shut down that attack straight away with a Max Payne-like slow down. From here, you can shut up or silence the enemy as you please. Taking guards hostage is a lot more fun in this game too, the interrogation options are back, allowing you to gain vital intel. In the 32 main story missions, this feature will allow you to reveal hidden objectives and gives the player replay value; although what you will find is the game is huge as there are hundreds of side ops within the open world. Still, the best part of the game is the story mode, with each mission playing out like a television episode. Your objectives will include rescues, assassinations, scouting, and general attacks. These objectives feel pretty different within each mission but you may find some of the side ops a bit repetitive.
One thing I found when destroying vehicles was that it was easier to extract the vehicle rather than destroy it and risk the chance of getting spotted. A minor issue though as the game is varied and huge, the more you play it, the more you will get out of it. I am still playing it and still learning new ways to take down the enemy and infiltrate their surroundings.
Before you start a mission, you are given the option to choose your supplies. It's a great way to tailor your style of play and I found myself getting psyched up for the mission just doing this. You will be able to allocate yourself three main weapons which range from machine guns, missile launchers, submachine guns, sniper rifles, recoilless rifles, etc.
An ocelot never loses its prey!
The best option is normally the silenced weapons but Snake and his comrades are that kitted out, if you wanted to play the game all guns blazing, you could. You are also given a choice of vehicle as the game progresses, this makes the game map easier to navigate as the environment is huge. This time Snake can also take a 'buddy' into battle with him and the choice is tailor-made for the man's taste in this case, sorry ladies. He has choice of four buddies as the game progresses, a military dog known as Dee Dee who can sniff out enemies, a glamorous sniper known as Quiet, and a horse which is good for travel. A mini metal gear called a 'Walker Gear' becomes available later which is good for travel and combat. All of them have their advantages and as you progress through the game, you will be able to upgrade them and open up new ways to take down your enemies.
It's kicking off!
You can also customize weapons once you employ the right personnel, the options are really specific and varied. You can add a silencer, add a scope or a light, and even change the color. It adds a new dimension to gameplay and it makes you feel like it's you going into the battle with all your new age tech. You can choose to play as other members of your armed force as well who have specific skills unique to them. Somebody might be a good climber, another an athlete good for evading the enemy, or a rescuer who moves fast when they have a comrade on their back. It adds variety to the gameplay although it's similar to the Peace Walker game. Each soldier has now been individually animated, although, if you do prefer them in a balaclava, you can change this. The game is huge and you will get months out of it depending on your dedication to it. Online play is available with death matches and the like but was unavailable to me at the time of this review, but it does look incredible. If you're first person shooter fan I think you will enjoy this but prepare for a new take on a military game. The focus is on stealth rather than brawn and you will be playing it more like a spy than a commando.
Very few faults, an excellent title.