I beat the game yesterday. Some further thoughts.
- Looking back, the first two Acts were probably the best overall, simply because they contained the most actual gameplay.
- Act 3 was practically all cut scenes! It consists of a pretty cool stealth section at the beginning, then an on-rails shooting sequence, followed by a Boss Battle. That is it. The rest is broken up by cinemas. I'd say 70% of that Act is cut scenes.
- Speaking of the on-rails shooting sequence, the one in Act 3 was phenomenal. The camera angles, the graphics, it was insanely intense and engaging. But again, much like the one at the end of Act 2, the game needs to load constantly between sections and that really takes you out of the moment! This may not bother some, but it really killed those sections for me.
- Like I mentioned, the beginning of Act 4 was simply fantastic. And the boss battle at the end was just awesome. Insane fan-service there by Kojima-san.
- I don't want to spoil anything (I'm probably going to do a separate post full of spoilers though) but I was not too fond of the ending. The second ending I should say, since the game doesn't end right when you think it does. I actually wish it would have ended there, as it would have made for a better conclusion to this series in my opinion.
- There were some scenes (read: cinemas) in Act 5 and during the ending that were pretty cheesy, dumb, unnecessary, and melodramatic. Like I said before, Hideo does not know when to reel it when needed. I'll definitely be going over these in my spoiler post.
Overall, I enjoyed the game. Technically, it is the most impressive bit of software I have seen to date. The attention to detail is mind-numbing. Everything is perfectly modeled. Even unimportant objects in the background that will only be seen once in a particular cut-scene are modeled with care. Character faces show a great range of emotion and the lip-syncing is top notch. The music kicks in when appropriate and gets the pulse racing at the right times. The story manages to hit a few emotional beats really well too, although when it fumbles in this area its comes off as pretty melodramatic. The gameplay and controls are refined and will make going back to previous entries in the series a chore.
Ironically, it is the story that is this game's Achilles Heel. It is unavoidable really. The storyline set up by the previous games was so convoluted and complex, trying to wrap it all up in a coherent manner would have been impossible. I will give Hideo credit for answering every question you may have though.
So, as a result of having so much ground to cover, it leads to the game's biggest flaw, which is the length and frequency of the cut scenes. No matter how amazing they look (and believe me, they look amazing), the cut scenes just become too much. This is a videogame after all. I want to play it. And when the gameplay is this much fun, it makes the times when you are just sitting there watching all the more frustrating. I understand that the cinematics are needed. This wouldn't be a MGS game without them. And I love the cut scenes. But MGS4 went from being a cinematic game to being an interactive movie. Since Hideo was apparently making a film here, he should have used that medium's practice of spending some time in the editing room cutting out unnecessary scenes in an effort to streamline everything, cut down on the running time, and make things flow better. In this case, I would have taken a Theatrical Cut over a Director's Cut.
Reduce the time spent watching by about 30% and turn that percentage into actual gameplay and the end product would have been a much better GAME.
I plan on starting over on a harder difficulty and attempting to play through with no kills. And to try new tactics. Expect my spoilerific post where I complain about some of the sillier moments in the story in the near future.