Speaking of gun-loving gamers, MGS4 packs more firearms into its arsenal than all the series’ past games combined. Looting, purchasing and finding new death-dealers is a big part of Snake’s quest this time out, and upgrading his extensive array of ass-kickers is a blast. Scopes, silencers, stocks, laser sights and grenade launchers can be outfitted onto different weapons in various combinations. Why hunt down a sniper rifle—as most games would have you do—when you can attach a scope and silencer to a standard rifle, and build your own stealthy killer? Upgrading and managing Snake’s large arsenal is also a breeze, as an arms dealer you’ll meet early on can be accessed at any time with a touch of a button. MGS4’s selection of weapons and ammo, as well as the easy upgrading, actually change up the series stealth formula a bit; while sneaking is still a big part of Snake’s repertoire, he can now take a more run-and-gun approach if the player chooses. While old school MGS players might see this as a bit of a sellout to shooter fans, it actually adds a great degree of freedom to the experience. You can still sneak and snap necks—and hide in cardboard boxes—all you like, but if you prefer, a more Gears of War-like experience is also on the table.
In fact, if you do wish to rock it like Marcus Fenix, you’ll want to utilize MGS4’s decent cover system but also its fantastic camouflage, too. While the cover mechanics aren’t nearly as polished as Gears, the OctoCamo offers a nice alternative ass-covering option. Thankfully, MGS3’s tedious camouflage management has been dropped in favor of this incredibly cool system that blends Snake into his environment after a few seconds of staying still. Whether old man Snake is hiding next to a cement wall or a tree trunk, his smart suit quickly adapts. It’s fun just standing or squatting in front of different environmental objects to witness the transformation. His slick camo isn’t the only new trick up his sleeve; Snake now uses a cybernetic eye patch that can zoom, use night vision and even identify different factions—comes in handy when you’re not sure who the bad guys are. The eye patch is a great addition to Snake’s bag of gadget goodies, and one that you’ll rely on frequently, especially if you’re playing it stealthy. Another cool addition is the MKII, a sort of mini Metal Gear bot you can use for reconnaissance. While it’s fun controlling the little guy remotely, I sadly found few opportunities to really use this potential-filled device. Where the eye patch seems like an integral addition, the MKII feels a bit gimmicky. It certainly doesn’t detract from the experience, I just wish there were reason to incorporate it more into the gameplay
MGS4’s most impressive gameplay moments—as with previous games in the franchise—are its epic boss battles. Visually stunning and strategically satisfying to take out, you’ll never tire of going toe-to-toe with the many beasts and freaks that lurk in MGS4’s world. The Beauty and Beast bosses—a group of women transformed by the horrors of war—are amazing, some of the best chapter-closing battles I’ve ever experienced. And without spoiling too much, these ladies of mass destruction are just a taste of what MGS4 is packing in the boss department (expect plenty of old foes to pop up as well.) Taking them on is no picnic, but figuring out their weaknesses fuels the fun, and ultimately bringing them to their knees yields a great sense of accomplishment.