“MGS4” ties up loose ends

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This moment has been 20 years in the making. The characters of “Metal Gear” hold a certain place in most gamers’ hearts, whether they grew up with them or not. After years of plot twists and questions left unanswered, “Metal Gear Solid 4” finally brings a sense of closure to the saga of Solid Snake.

But what might come as a surprise is the game’s ability to stand on its own as an intense and exciting action game. “MGS4” impressively balances its obligation to answer all of the fans’ questions with its role as a slickly paced stealth adventure full of memorable in-game moments.

With all due respect to the previous entries in the series, this is the most “playable” MGS yet. While not a shooter in the purest sense, “MGS4” is flexible to anyone’s desires to barrel head-first into battle with gun’s blazing. At least to a certain extent.

Snake will acquire enough gadgets, artillery, and health-recovery items to take down whole armies, but just because you can shoot everything that looks at you funny doesn’t mean you should. When attempting to infiltrate an area undetected, there are some problems even guns won’t solve. That’s probably the most standout aspect of the game play: There’s never one right method for everything. There’s rarely even one right way to go.

You’re going to learn to love Drebin Points rather quickly. They’re a currency that allows Snake to purchase more ammo and weapons on the spot, and earning them is as simple as picking up dropped weapons. Nowhere are the new game play mechanics more welcome than the multiplayer component, “Metal Gear Online.” Leveling up skills like your accuracy, ability to see enemies and running speed can make the multiplayer addicting fun for dedicated players.

Graphical presentation continues to be one of the series’ strongest suits. The inconsistencies in frame rate aren’t even worth discussing, considering the immaculate attention to detail in almost every aspect: character modeling, lighting and shadows, animation, etc. The faces are so good that Snake can even wear different masks and still have all of the lip-syncing and emotive expressions during cut scenes look perfect.

Series creator Hideo Kojima certainly has a flair for the dramatic, and the cut scenes in “MGS4” are as long and over-the-top as ever, both in fight choreography and voice acting. The amount of non-interactive story exposition can be daunting, though, to the point where you’ll probably get seven to eight hours of actual game play sandwiched in between 10 hours of cut scenes.

In terms of its story, “MGS4” is unapologetically designed to please existing fans. If you couldn’t get into “Metal Gear” before because of its controls and game play, you’ll find the series much more accessible this time around, allowing you to finally enjoy the intrigue that Kojima has been spinning for two decades.

“Metal Gear Solid 4” is an action thrill ride, tense stealth experience, emotional rollercoaster, heartwarming nostalgia trip, technical feat and intense competitive multiplayer game all rolled into one. Solid Snake can finally take a well-deserved rest knowing he starred in one of the most kick-ass action games of this generation. And this reviewer, being a former skeptic of “Metal Gear” himself, has certainly been turned into a fan.

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