Andrew Passafiume’s favorite: Metal Gear Solid 4

August 12, 2012

In the My Favorite Game series, get to know us better as staff writers share the game they love most and why.

When thinking about my favorite game, I have to consider the many things I love about games. Yes, the gameplay is important, as is the presentation (especially the music), but I’ve come to realize that I really appreciate when a game attempts to tell a story and succeeds at it. When you think of Metal Gear Solid, “good” or even “cohesive” narrative may not come to mind at first, but when the original game came out I was absolutely inspired. Fast forward to 2008 and the release of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, and you had a game that completely blew my mind from beginning to end.

Honorable Mention: Final Fantasy VI: This was once the game I considered to be my favorite before MGS4 came along. It has my favorite cast, story, villain, and gameplay of any Final Fantasy game. And yes, it is the first of many games that made me cry. I am not ashamed!

I have always appreciated a game with a good story, and Final Fantasy VI, what I previously considered to be my favorite game, had one that I could never forget. But it wasn’t until MGS4’s release that I realized just how important narrative in games was to me. It’s not always the most important factor, but if a game tells a good story (or tells a decent story with surprising nuance and depth), I can most likely get behind it. Many will claim that most, if not all video game stories are bad. Perhaps this is true, and yet due to the nature of the medium, I can’t help but feel inspired by them. Not because of the story itself, but because of how well these stories are told in an interactive medium.

Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima has always wanted to combine his love for video games and movies and, some would say, he does that to a fault. The series has always been known for long cutscenes that some would argue do not fit the video game template as well as he thinks. Games have always relied on cutscenes, but in more recent years have found new, more original ways to tell their stories. While some games have a place for less traditional means of narrative structure, it won’t suit every game. This is especially true of MGS, which remains as it always has: a narrative-driven stealth/action experience. MGS4, like the previous games, continued this tradition in a way that some may have found insufferable, but I loved every second of it.

Honorable Mention: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: LttP represents the absolute pinnacle of the Zelda series in my mind. It takes everything fantastic about the original game and updates it with better dungeons, a more interesting overworld, and some of the coolest items and mechanics that the series has ever introduced. This is a timeless classic.

MGS4’s ability to wrap up the long, sometimes convoluted story of the Metal Gear saga was as close to perfection this series has ever gotten in my eyes. Not everyone was happy with the many reveals or the big conclusion, but as we’ve learned with the recent Mass Effect 3 debacle, it’s hard to satisfy everyone. And as someone who treasures a good story, MGS4 managed to find a way to address every unknown and do so in a satisfying, conclusive way.

I will always admire the overarching Metal Gear narrative, but the gameplay is what kept me coming back for more. The updated controls and mechanics from the previous games made Snake control like a dream. And while stealth was always the primary focus of the series, it became a lot easier to approach enemies head on, allowing players to tackle each scenario differently.  The boss battles, which are always some of the most compelling sections in the series, are top notch here as well. Many elements from previous games come in to play, and when they do, it’s not only a fantastic nostalgia trip but also a great reminder of how far we’ve come. And, best of all, some gameplay sections are some of the most emotionally powerful parts of the game (the microwave hall scene in particular is a favorite of mine).

While I love many games for many different reasons, Metal Gear Solid 4 manages to combine everything I love about the series and about games as a whole into an experience that I will never forget. Not everyone thinks of Metal Gear Solid when discussing the best stories that the gaming industry has to offer, but I think of it as one of the finest.