In 2014, the world is in chaos, the “war economy” plunging the world into never-ending battle. This fuels the need for private military companies, the five largest of which (together rivaling the power of the entire United States Army) are owned by a single mother company, Outer Heaven, with Liquid Ocelot at the helm. Liquid Ocelot, a fusion of the consciousness of Liquid Snake and the body of Revolver Ocelot, is once again set on world domination. Solid Snake, now also referred to as Old Snake due to his advanced accelerated aging, is dispatched to assassinate Liquid Ocelot as a personal favor to Roy Campbell.
The game is divided into six acts, the last a two-part, epilogue-like “debriefing”:
- Liquid Sun
- Solid Sun
- Third Sun
- Twin Suns
- Old Sun
- Naked sin/Naked Son
In the original draft of Metal Gear Solid 4, the ending had Solid Snake and Otacon turning themselves in for the crimes they committed, and executed. Most of the staff vetoed this ending, so it was not used.
Characters and voice cast
Many of the Japanese voice cast from Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2 returned to reprise their roles in the game, with the notable exception of Kōji Totani, the voice actor of Revolver Ocelot, who passed away in February 2006. Totani was replaced by Liquid Snake’s Japanese voice actor Banjō Ginga. Houko Kuwashima and Kikuko Inoue also reprise their roles of Mei Ling and Rosemary, respectively, and Inoue also voiced a new character, Sunny, the daughter of Olga Gurlukovich. Japanese film director Shinya Tsukamoto provides the voice for Vamp, replacing Ryōtarō Okaiyu. An elderly EVA also appears, and is voiced by singer Mari Natsuki.
Cam Clarke, who provided Liquid Snake’s voice, was not part of the cast, but can be heard in flashbacks through archived voice samples. The role of Liquid Ocelot was given to Patric Zimmerman, Revolver Ocelot’s voice actor. Kris Zimmerman, denying allegations of nepotism, has clarified that Kojima always intended for the character to use Ocelot’s voice.
New characters include arms dealer Drebin, his pet monkey Little Gray, Rat Patrol Team 01, under the command of Meryl Silverburgh, and the Beauty and the Beast Unit.
Rat Patrol Team 01
A U.S. Army Special Forces team sent to investigate PMC activity. The four members include Meryl Silverburgh as squad leader; Ed, Meryl’s second-in-command, a sniper and radioman for the team; Johnathan, a hulking soldier acting as grenadier; and Johnny Sasaki, also known as “Akiba” (formerly known as “Jail Guard Johnny” the guard Meryl stripped naked and left unconscious in Metal Gear Solid), the team’s electronics and demolitions expert. Meryl, Ed, and Jonathan use the SOP System to share each other’s senses via the nanomachine network inside their bodies. Unknown to the rest of Rat Patrol however, Akiba does not as he is “scared of needles” and did not go through with receiving the nanomachines, causing him to be less efficient in the battlefield. Meryl introduces the team as “Rat Patrol Team 01” and states that they are investigating PMC activity with the U.S. Army CID. Ed and Jonathan take their names from the main characters in Kojima‘s Policenauts, from which Meryl also originally gained her name. It is revealed in the conclusion of Metal Gear Solid 4 that, like Drebin, “Rat Patrol Team 01” was yet another plan by the Patriots to suppress the growing threat of Liquid Ocelot. Such can be seen when re-arranging the letters of “RAT PT 01” (the common abbreviation for the team) the word “Patriot” (PATR10T) is revealed. Though they wear the insignia, the team is in no way affiliated with FOXHOUND.
The Beauty and the Beast Unit
Four new bosses are also introduced: Crying Wolf, Raging Raven, Screaming Mantis, and Laughing Octopus, of The Beauty and the Beast Unit. Their animal names openly reference characters from Metal Gear Solid‘s FOXHOUND unit and the emotions relating to the Cobra Unit from Metal Gear Solid 3. They each share a weapon with a member of Dead Cell from Metal Gear Solid 2. Screaming Mantis also carries two marionettes of previous Metal Gear Solid bosses: Psycho Mantis and The Sorrow.
The women all suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The only way they can cope with the damage done to their minds is to become war machines. Their inner appearance is referred to as “Beauty”, while their outer appearance is referred to as “Beast.” Four real-life models were chosen for their in-game appearances as their “Beauty” side: Lyndall Jarvis (Laughing Octopus), Scarlett Chorvat (Screaming Mantis), Mieko Rye (Crying Wolf), and Yumi Kikuchi (Raging Raven). The English dubbing for the characters is done by having the female voice actors perform the lines while Fred Tatasciore overdubs on top of the female voices, creating a split-voice effect.
The main theme of Metal Gear Solid 4 is “Sense” – someone’s understanding of the world that is lost when they die. Throughout the Japanese version, the word “will” is super-titled as “SENSE.” However, this is translated simply as “will” in the English version. This theme is prominent throughout the game, from Snake’s attempt to understand Naomi’s intentions to the misguided attempt of Zero to follow The Boss’s will, and JD to follow his. In all of these cases, the individual’s original intent and sense of the world is questioned and unclear and seemingly is deliberately left for the audience to answer.
The world’s growing reliance on technology is one of many secondary themes. This can be seen through Rat Patrol, who, when introduced, were a highly synchronized team due to their nanomachines, but were helpless when the the system was hacked. While previous games were based around the threat of a single machine, Metal Gear Solid 4 depicts a number of machines, most notably the Gekkos as commonplace. The members of The Beauty and the Beast Unit rely on their mechanical suits to cope with their trauma, while Naomi and Vamp are kept alive by their nanomachines.
The game deals with the trauma caused by war. Many soldiers seen in the game suffer from PTSD, and many of the characters have had war forced upon them. Raiden’s regained memories of his time as a child soldier made him unstable. He couldn’t tolerate reality and became an alcoholic who ran away from home. The Beauty and the Beast Unit all suffered from PTSD and each dealt with a separate emotion created and guided by fear, the personification of which is their leader, Screaming Mantis. Each Beauty’s emotion is based on how they suppressed their fears when going through the traumatic events that shaped them. The Beauties were all haunted by the events which happened in their youth. Snake experiences a great deal of trauma throughout the events of the game, and is still dealing with the traumatic events of his past. The stamina bar of Metal Gear Solid 3 was replaced by the Psyche Gauge which measures Snake’s mental health. The gauge is affected by flashbacks, the actions of other characters, temperature and stress. When Snake is psychologically weak he can not recover physically. While The Beauty and the Beast Unit succumb to, and are ruled by their trauma, Snake and Raiden accept and overcome theirs and go on to live out their lives in peace.
A recurring concept was “Haven”. Ocelot was to fulfill Big Boss’s dream of a haven for soldiers. The Patriot AI, GW, was also considered a data haven, safe from the eyes of its creators due to the events of the Big Shell Incident, which left it disconnected from the other AI. In a tweet posted in April 2010 Kojima revealed that he chose this as a theme because of his son talking about the HavenCo data processing company that was considered the smallest sovereign nation in the world and made headlines during Metal Gear Solid 4‘s development.
In Metal Gear Solid 4, the player must navigate the game world in order to progress. Using the series’ traditional third person view with full camera manipulation, it allows the freedom to play in first-person mode or over-the-shoulder view. The shoulder view is switchable from right shoulder to left for easy corner maneuvering. A key change is that the CQC system has been completely revamped.
Several elements from previous titles return in modified forms. The player uses a new form of camouflage called “OctoCamo”. The OctoCamo suit allows the wearer to blend in with any surface within a few seconds. A new monocular device called “Solid Eye” replaces the various binoculars and image intensifiers from previous titles. Similar to Metal Gear Solid 3, Metal Gear Solid 4 contains a model viewer that allows Snake to change the pattern of the OctoCamo manually as long as the player saves the camouflage. Just as in Metal Gear Solid 3, Snake can be made to vomit by spinning him in the model viewer.
A major item in the game is the Metal Gear Mk. II (and later, the Mk. III), a robotic drone which allows him to communicate with other characters, in addition to the Codec radio system from previous games. It is also capable of engaging enemies using an electric shock, as well as providing reconnaissance. This drone is reminiscent of Gillian Seed’s robotic sidekick Metal Gear Mk. II from the game Snatcher.
Due to the lack of a rumble feature during much of the Playstation 3 development, the game has been designed with a new feature: a white “threat ring” that visibly vibrates when sound is made nearby. The threat ring was retained even after rumble was implemented adding to the feedback available during gameplay.
If injured on the battlefield, cuts and burns will remain on Snake’s skin. The developers wanted to avoid putting the stress of Snake’s age on the player, and gave him a muscle suit, allowing the player to move in a similar fashion to previous games.
A new “Psyche Gauge” which replaces the stamina meter that appeared previously. The Psyche Gauge functions as an assessment of Snake’s psychological state. If Snake is in a combat situation, then his adrenaline will increase, and he can fire rounds off faster and receive less damage. However, if Snake is near something that smells bad or hears something debilitating in a cutscene, then the meter will lower making Snake’s accuracy and movement speed decrease accordingly until it can be replenished. The Soliton Radar is no longer used by Snake, but the Solid Eye acts as a “Baseline Map” that responds to Snake’s “presence.”
Metal Gear Solid 4 was first announced at a 2005 Sony press conference shortly before E3 2005, alongside the “No Place to Hide!” slogan. Initially, Kojima announced that he would be retiring as director of the Metal Gear series after Metal Gear Solid 3, and would leave his position open to another person for Metal Gear Solid 4, as he did after Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2. As a joke, the new director was announced as “Alan Smithee”, but in R, a 400-page book bundled with Metal Gear Solid 3‘s Japanese Premium Package, the director was revealed to be Shuyo Murata, co-writer of Metal Gear Solid 3 and director of Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. He also contributed by including humorous Easter eggs in Metal Gear: Ghost Babel and Metal Gear Solid 2.
At E3 2005, Kojima announced that he would be writing, producing, and directing the game alongside Muratya after substantial negative fan reaction, which included death threats. He also announced that his newly-created studio owned by Konami, Kojima Productions, would be developing the game. Kojima also showed a trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4 that used Metal Gear Solid 3‘s game engine, showing what the game would eventually be, though he stressed that the game was still in early development. Kojima further stated that the game would take place several years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 2 and would feature an online battle mode. Kojima also announced that Meryl Silverburgh, Otacon, and Liquid Ocelot would be in the game and that Solid Snake would be the main character, as well as hinting that Raiden might make an appearance. Kojima also stated that the game was to include connectivity to Metal Gear Acid 2, though this was dropped as development progressed.
In a June 2005 issue of Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, Kojima stated that the reason that the Playstation 3 was chosen as the format for Metal Gear Solid 4 was that the Metal Gear series has been brought up with Sony hardware, the Sony market, and through the support of Sony, making the choice a simple one. Kojima also stated in the interview that he would not mind porting it to other hardware. In the September 2005 issue of Famitsu, the first screenshots of the game’s engine was revealed, showing a much older Solid Snake. A robot named Metal Gear MK. II was also revealed, alongside Otacon. The magazine also featured an interview with Kojima where he stated that Raiden would be returning and that his appearance would be radically different. Kojima also mentioned that Snake would be in a war-zone with two groups fighting each other and that there would be a new element of “psychological warfare” featured in the game.
At the 2005 Tokyo Game Show, Metal Gear Solid 4 made its first full appearance. The full title of the game was announced to be Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, and a trailer for the game featuring in-game footage of the new game engine made specifically for the Playstation 3 was shown. Kojima also stated again that Metal Gear Solid 4 would be the last game in the Metal Gear series. Kojima also showed a trailer titled Metal Gear Raiden: Snake Eraser that featured Raiden trying to kill Big Boss so that he could take Solid Snake’s place as the main character in Metal Gear Solid 4.
In an interview with Japanese gaming magazine Hype Magazine in September 2005, Kojima mentioned that Snake had aged so much because he was a clone of Big Boss, resulting in him aging quicker than a normal human. Kojima also confirmed that Ocelot would be returning and that the player could expect a fight between Snake and Ocelot. He also clarified the “No Place to Hide” theme, where in Metal Gear Solid 4 Snake was in the center of a war zone where battles were common and where buildings were damaged and destroyed, leaving Snake with situations where there really was no place to hide. The phrase also had another meaning where the player might decide there was no reason to hide. Kojima explained that Snake might find himself between two groups, and that it was possible that a third and a fourth group would also engage in the battle. Snake could then choose to make an alliance with the groups to infiltrate other groups, making it so that hiding was not a requirement. Kojima clarified the “psychological warfare” he previously mentioned; he described the actions of the enemies in previous Metal Gear games to be unrealistic, as the enemies appeared to be cold killing machines. Metal Gear Solid 4 would change this in that standard soldiers are psychologically weak, and by surprising them with a noise, the player can reduce their preparedness for battle.
At Konami‘s E3 2006 press conference, Kojima Productions showed a new trailer for the game that demonstrated OctoCamo, a camouflage system Snake would use in the game. OctoCamo acted like an octopus, where it would change the texture of Snake’s suit to match the environment. The trailer also revealed Ocelot, Meryl, Naomi Hunter, and Raiden. In the May 2005 issue of Famitsu, Kojima stated that Metal Gear Solid 4 would wrap-up the whole Metal Gear story and that “we’ll clear up all mysteries in 4 and, in the end, after this, will Snake die!?” Kojima also said that “nearly all the characters from the Metal Gear Solid games would make an appearance” and that gameplay from Metal Gear Solid 3 would return in Metal Gear Solid 4. Kojima gave an example of OctoCamo, saying that if Snake was standing next to a wall worn out with holes, he too would appear to have holes. Kojima further confirmed that the game would feature online play, stating that “the online in Subsistence was just the preparation for 4.”
At the 2006 Tokyo Game Show, Kojima stated that Kojima Productions had done a lot of research for the development of the game. They went through military training and traveled to different parts of the world to develop the settings for Metal Gear Solid 4 and showed photos of the Middle East which closely resembled the setting for the trailers. Kojima further stated that the game would have 3D models created from real people through 3D capturing. Kojima confirmed that Harry-Gregson-Williams would return to compose the game’s soundtrack, and that the game’s logo was made by Logan, a group of artists that has worked on recent Madonna and U2 videos. Regarding Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, which was still in development, Kojima stated that “if you change the Ops story, you have to change 4. If you change 4, it also becomes necessary to change Ops. Until Ops is finished, 4’s story can’t be finalized.” On a related note, Ryan Payton in a later interview elaborated that another reason for the delay in finalizing the story for 4 was due to the 24 hour news cycle, specifically that Hideo Kojima‘s development team due to a change in pace by trying to spend more time focusing on current events (specifically, the War in Iraq, the War in Afghanistan, Rwanda, and various other instances where PMCs were being hired, without even including Blackwater) spent a lot of time constantly altering the story even when literally days from finalizing the story due to stories told by news outlets such as NHK.
In March 2007, it was announced that David Hayter, Quinton Flynn, Paul Eiding, and Christopher Randolph would be returning to reprise their roles as Solid Snake, Raiden, Roy Campbell, and Otacon, respectively. In July 2007, Kojima announced Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus and Metal Gear Online. In August 2007, Kojima announced the Beauty and the Beast Unit will be the main enemies in the game. The unit consists of four females – Laughing Octopus, Raging Raven, Crying Wolf, and Screaming Mantis – who were empowered with special, unique abilities and had individual backstories which outline how they had became the beings they are. All four of the women were born out of innocence, but were transformed by the horrors of war into beasts, physically and mentally. The game would also be set across various stages, including the Middle East and South America as Solid Snake, now “Old Snake”, had been asked to assassinate Liquid Ocelot. The game would also feature an upgraded CQC system first introduced in Metal Gear Solid 3.
In January 2008, Ryan Payton stated that the game was almost completed and was about to go through beta testing. On February 28, Konami announced that the game would be released on June 12, 2008. Konami also stated that Metal Gear Online would be bundled with Metal Gear Solid 4 and that it would support up to 16 players. To promote the game, Konami announced that people who pre-ordered the game would receive a DVD titled Metal Gear Saga Vol. 2 which contains a prologue recapping the franchise, a 20th anniversary retrospective, character bios, and a collection of trailers for Metal Gear Solid 4. It was also revealed that beta testing for Metal Gear Online would last for approximately 2 weeks. In March 2008, Kojima stated that the player would move between different countries in the game. However, Kojima stated that he was not entirely satisfied with the game’s quality and that the 50 GB of data the Blu-ray Disc can hold was not enough for the game and that the game had to be compressed for it to fit on the Blu-ray Disc.
The game was originally to have featured scenes of female nudity, but these were removed in order to secure a lower rating. For example, the Beauty and the Beast Unit’s Beauty forms were to have been naked, but was changed in order to avoid the game receiving an AO rating. Similarly, a subplot of the Naomi tracking scene had Snake following a trail of female clothing, eventually leading him to a naked female soldier; according to the Integral Podcast, this was cut for the same reason.
On June 12, 2008, after being in development for more than three years, the game was finally released worldwide.
After the release of Metal Gear Solid 4, Ryan Payton admitted that they didn’t plan on continuations of the Metal Gear series when they made Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3, and remarked that it “was nothing short of a miracle” that they were able to tie up all the loose ends. Payton stated that they had a great deal of freedom in their depiction of PMCs due to the private military world being somewhat unknown. He went on to explain that they had to be careful to avoid portraying the entire Middle East a war zone or its people as terrorists. According to KazRadio, Kojima didn’t plan on making Metal Gear Solid 4 and only did so because the fans wanted the pursuit of the Patriots due to Metal Gear Solid 2.
A game that dealt with the documentaries and making of Metal Gear Solid 4, called The Document of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, was originally to have been produced but it was ultimately cancelled.
Metal Gear Solid 4‘s score was led by Harry Gregson-Williams, his third Metal Gear Solid soundtrack, and Nobuko Toda. Directed by Norihiko Hibino, GEM Impact employees Yoshitaka Suzuki and Takahiro Izutani also made compositions late in the game’s production. Other contributors are Konami employees Shuichi Kobori, Kazuma Jinnouchi, Akihiro Honda, and Sota Fujimori. Ennio Morricone was also involved in the soundtrack.
There are two vocal themes for the game. The opening theme, “Love Theme”, is sung by Jackie Presti and composed by Nobuko Toda. The ending theme, “Here’s to You”, is sung by Lisbeth Scott. Before the release of the game, “MGS4 – Theme of Love – Smash Bros. Brawl Version” was provided for Super Smash Bros. Brawl in the Shadow Moses Island stage.
The official soundtrack was released on May 28, 2008 by Konami Digital Entertainment under the catalog number GFCA-98/9. It is comprised of two discs of music and 47 tracks. A soundtrack album is also included with the North American and European Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Limited Edition, which only features the tracks composed by Gregson-Williams.
At a press conference on May 13, 2008, Kojima announced a marketing campaign and agreements with several companies to promote the game. An Apple iPod is an in-game item that Snake can use to change the background music, and collect hidden songs scattered throughout the game. ReGain Energy Drinks are used in the game as a stamina booster, and Sony Ericsson mobile phones are used.
Konami and Ubisoft put an unlockable costume in the game for Snake: Altair’s from the Ubisoft stealth game Assassin’s Creed. Initially revealed on April Fool’s Day 2008, Kojima later announced that it would actually be in the game, unlockable by doing “something special.”
There were also plans for an event called the MGS4 World Tour Autographing Session, but they were cancelled due to the Akihabara stabbing that occurred on June 8. Payton also speculated that the event in question most likely would result in an increase of negative perceptions of Japanese gamers/otakus.
Metal Gear Solid 4 has received critical acclaim. The first review was a 10/10 from PlayStation Official Magazine (UK), commenting “[MGS4] shifts gears constantly, innovating again and again.” The game has been awarded 5/5 from GamePro, as well as a 5/5 from PlayStation: The Official Magazine. It was awarded a 40/40 by Japanese magazine Famitsu, making it the eighth game to ever earn a perfect score from the magazine. GameSpot also awarded the game a perfect 10 score, Metal Gear Solid 4 being only the 6th game to do so.
The game received a 9.9/10 from IGN UK and IGN Australia gave it a 9.5/10. Both Edge and Eurogamer gave the game a 8/10.
Reviewers were unanimous in approval of the way the title continues and concludes the series. Eurogamer stated that “You could not ask for a funnier, cleverer, more ambitious or inspired or over-the-top conclusion”, while IGN Australia found that the result “refines the MGS formula and introduces just enough new (or respectfully influenced) ideas to ensure that it stands on its own as a game.” Edge concluded that “it is faithful to its fans, its premise and its heart, delivering an experience that is, in so many ways, without equal.” The new control scheme and shift to more free-form, “replayable” gameplay were particularly highly praised with a few minor annoyances. The game was also lauded for its technological and artistic achievements, with Edge describing Otacon as “the real star”, and “a gaming revolution” while they found the game’s score to be superior to that of many Hollywood offerings.
Criticism was levelled at the game’s storyline, which some reviewers found confusing although ultimately rewarding, particularly for fans. It was generally conceded that although the plot is intrusive, with many lengthy cutscenes, they are somewhat appropriate given their prominence in the rest of the series, and the addition of a pause function for these story sequences was welcomed. Edge and Eurogamer alike concluded that although the game represents an apotheosis of the series style, it ultimately fails to revitalize it, and will not win over new fans. Some fans were disappointed with the game’s plot and were also slightly disappointed with the absence of trophy support on the game, despite trophies being introduced to the PlayStation Network after the release of the game.
Konami review limitations
Several publications have commented on limitations given to pre-release reviewers by Konami, including discussion on the length of cutscenes and size of the Playstation 3 installation. These limitations have resulted in EGM delaying their review. In lieu of a review, the magazine printed a roundtable discussion about the game, with a proper review expected to print in the magazine and post on 1UP.com after Konami‘s restrictions have been lifted. Kojima Productions spokesperson Ryan Payton has since explained more specifically what the NDA restricts, and has amended “some items [that] are outdated and require more explanation.” He also listed the length of install times, noting that the restrictions were intended to prevent spoilers regarding what occurs during the installations.
Following this statement, GameSpot published an article in which they claim they will be unable to review the game either, claiming Konami have withheld review code because of non-compliance with the limitations. The article originally implied that the absence of a review was due to their refusal to attend the “Boot Camp” event at Kojima Productions‘ offices. However they have revised it to state that the Boot Camp was a mid-development feedback and PR exercise, and would not have led to a review in any case.
The limitations were of particular interest due to a widely-publicized claim by CVG that the game had “cut-scenes that approach the 90 minutes mark”, misattributed to PlayStation World magazine. GamePro and Ryan Payton have described this as an exaggeration.
On June 12, 2008, a novelization of Metal Gear Solid 4 was published in Japan, penned by Project Itoh. It contains some info not detailed in the game itself, including Zanzibar Land originally being Tselinoyarsk. An English version of the novelization, titled simply as Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots, was released on June 19, 2012 by Viz Media. The book itself is told from the perspective of Hal Emmerich, written by him shortly after Solid Snake’s death, in a manner similar to the in-universe novel In the Darkness of Shadow Moses: The Unofficial Truth by Natasha Romanenko.