by Marcus Brown
There’s always something bittersweet about an ending to a series. Whether it’s a TV show, movie saga, book or game, becoming involved in a universe is such a strong feeling that becomes so hard to let go. To use different terms, it’s that “sense” of the looming end that makes the whole so strong and so hard to let go. This is the theme and feeling that Hideo Kojima creates for the players in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.The game was released in 2008, being one of the first year releases for the Playstation 3. MGS4 would be one of the few PS3 games that would run at the full 1080p picture definition; a feat that only a handful of titles for the console would later achieve. This is just one of the many things that make Guns of the Patriots an amazing game. A futuristic camo system that blends to anything it touches, a new Psyche meter that reacts to fearful and disappointing events and affects Snake’s (being Solid Snake here) performance, an updated combat system with more emphasis on a combat/sneaking hybrid and incredible cinematic cutscenes makes this game a fitting end and trophy entry in the Metal Gear saga. Check out the complex but incredible story here.
As mentioned before, the biggest thing to be taken from this game is the theme of “Sense.” This word is taken in different contexts for the game, and each relates to either a specific character or a plot point. There are three different ideas taken from this theme in the game: the sense of the final fight of Solid Snake, the sense of everything being connected in this futuristic setting and the sense of what it feels like when one feels like the end is near, which also connects to Snake in a certain way.
First, let’s discuss the connections of the people in this world. Kojima has created a setting of 2014 where nanomachines have connected the U.S. Army to everything they need: their guns, their vehicles and everything else necessary in a soldier’s fight. These nanomachines, which exist inside the blood of every soldier, even connects the senses of each member of a unit, allowing for speechless communication and real-time feedback to make the unit act as one. This aspect gets exploited by the enemy later in the game. After all, what good is a system of complete connectivity between people if it shuts down?
If this sounds a bit futuristic or far-fetched, consider the social media interactions in the world at present. Humanity is creating so many new connections with online media and other social apps, and these innovations are happening faster with each passing year. It’s possible to know almost exactly what someone is doing at any given time. Imagine being able to update your status with a thought. Is this coming? Perhaps the next couple of years will tell.
Next, let’s look into the sense of finality, which is experienced by players in a couple of ways. After a few hours into the game, it’s easy to see that the world is going to hell. So many wars are being fought all over the world; in fact, war in this setting as become a commodity of trade, being more common to buy and sell than oil stocks. (We’ll discuss this as a sub theme later on.) With the world being a bleak place, it’s easy to understand how the game might have a somewhat “end of days” feel to it. Also, the player has reached the end of Solid Snake’s journey with this game. As one progresses, the player feels that impending finale coming and is both driven and glamored by it. It’s such a strong motivation to complete the game.
Finally, this is the end of Solid Snake. At the risk of spoiling the story, Snake is in dire health here. Suffering from Werner’s Syndrome (premature aging) and a mutated strain of a bioengineered virus, Snake goes through his final missions with a sort of death wish coupled with a sense of needing to do this last thing to absolve his sins and save the world. Sometimes, he even seems to have a careless attitude toward how his body and mind are treated, as long as his task his done. In a way, this is tragic to see, since his health fails him at times. However, it also shows nobility and honor, sort of the American equivalent to a samurai (a Japanese soldier without a master). If one wasn’t a believer in what Snake is capable of, this game will eliminate any doubts. These examples create that finality that grips the player from beginning to end.
One more aspect to look at is the theme of war in this game. Kojima has always tried to show the cruelties of war in this saga, and this game is the ultimate example. War is a business in this title, being handled not by countries but by private companies hired by countries. This way, no country actually fights with another, and they get the best fighters money can buy. Here, Kojima tries to show the player why contracting war out to mercenaries and hired soldiers instead of using their own armies is almost worse than fighting their own battles. It’s a sort of warning to the future and present generations about where the world is going.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is the pinnacle of the series for Kojima and Konami. The game is not only an example of incredible gameplay but also cinematic genius in gaming. It helped define the PS3 as a strong console and will remain a greatest hit. Find the game on Amazon here.