As beautiful and cutting-edge as MGS4 is, after making it past the laughing Octopus stage in the second act, I abandoned the game, at least for now. This surprises even me. I have been waiting for years to play this game, but the lack of a decent checkpoint system and endless cut scenes turned me off.
Poorly Implemented Checkpoints
You cannot save the game when you want and it’s checkpoints are few and far between. Adult gamers do not have endless hours, nor the desire, to replay extremely long portions of even a great game over and over.
When I play stealth games I want to be stealthy and play it right. This means taking my time, exploring every nook and cranny. Being sneaky. But when I sneak around for 30 minutes, successfully execute difficult manoeuvres and then die, I do not want to play through the whole 30 minutes again. No game should ever force a gamer to replay more than 5 or so minutes. Period.
Yes, I could have cheated and run through sections with abandon, gunned down everyone until killed, thereby learning where all the baddies are and what their tricks are, to avoid them on the next play through. But I refuse to do that. That’s gaming the game and not playing the game. It takes all the fun out of it.
Stealth games, by definition, are designed to be played thoughtfully and slowly. The player should have a realistic chance of beating a level if they play that way. But, when they die, as they will, they shouldn’t be forced to replay the last thirty minutes or an hour to get back to where they were.
Ration Pack Frustration
Prior to the point where I abandoned the game, I had gotten so angry at the game’s checkpoint system that I uncharacteristically gunned through a couple of difficult parts without concern for my ration pack inventory – thinking/hoping they’d be as abundant later as they had been to that point (they aren’t).
It was unfortunate that I survived. Because from that point on I had only one ration pack, and no way of replenishing them, I kept dying. This compounded my checkpoint frustration to the point where I had enough.
Riddle me this. How is it that I can order up rockets, grenades, and an endless arsenal of weapons at any time and they are instantly delivered, yet I can’t order a ration pack, or any health related materials at ANY time from any where? Grrrr!
Of Cut Scenes & Blue-ray Abuse
I understand that Kojima is a cinematic master. But wholly cow, I have never seen anything like the length of these cut scenes. People are not joking when they say there are several feature films worth of cut scenes in this game. I had a love-hate relationship with the endless cut scenes.
They are beautiful – truly. They push envelops and raise the bar (to mix my metaphors). But I’m not a fan of the series. I don’t understand the back story. And, as I understand it, even fans of the series don’t really know what is going on in this, or any other MGS, game. I don’t like skipping cut scenes because I want to understand the story. But I also don’t want a mini-movie for every cut scene. Kojima seems exceedingly self-indulgent in this excessive use of cutscenes.
MGS4 presents a good argument for why the expansive amount of storage space on blu-ray disks is a bad thing. Perhaps he could have created a system where shorter versions of the cut scenes are shown on the first time through with optional director’s cut versions for the second play through – or bundled with the game on a second disk. Net-net, they turned me off.
Back to the Rental Store
I rented MGS 4 and held it two days beyond my limit. I wasn’t eager to resume play anyway. Wimbledon will consume my free-time for the next two weeks anyway. So back it went.
Odds are less than 50/50 that I’ll rent it again. I may pick it up in the bargain bin one day. But I’d much prefer to take up GTA IV where I left off than go back to this one any time soon.