"Hello? Is that Mr Smith? Yeah it's your employee Russell. Sorry to tell you this *cough* but I've come down with a stinking cold in the middle of the summer. Yeah I know, crazy! I won't be at work for at least *sneeze* two weeks."
Sound familiar? Well if you're one of the countless millions who love to play video games, and know anything about them, then that quoted telephone conversation above would of likely been uttered - or at least words to that effect. That's because one of the most highly anticipated games of the last few years has finally made its mark on the PS3: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
I'm not going to go into too much detail about the previous games, simply because I'd be insulting your intelligence as a gamer. That's because the Metal Gear series is probably one of the most popular titles on the PlayStation platform. World famous director of the series, Hideo Kojima, told us a little while back that this is going to be it - the final episode in the series. There would be no more Metal Gear Solid games after this one. So that means that everything would be wrapped up with a stunning finale that would rival pretty much any other gaming finish ever. Needless to say, the hype is immense, and the game would have a lot to live up to. Luckily for us - it has.
I mentioned just then about Hideo being a director of the series. Technically, he is a director. Some of the many cut-scenes throughout the game are of movie quality (and length!) worthy of Oscar nominations. The action portrayed with the pre-animated scenes are something to behold on their own. That's not to say the game isn't great though, quite the opposite.
When you do eventually get your hands on controlling Snake, you'll be thrown into all sorts of situations and battles that are quite simply genius. Evidently, Snake is a lot older in this one - but the numerous other characters that we've seen pop up in the last 3 renditions are of a relatively younger age. Why's that? Well I'm not going to give away any spoilers here - in fact, I'm not even going to touch on the story because it would not only take ages to sum up, but it'll also spoil some rather brilliant moments within the game. Needless to say, everything does get wrapped up, and you'll get a fair amount of background information on previous characters from the series within the cut-scenes.
It's not just Snake's physical appearance that has aged rapidly, but also his abilities. Whilst Snake still has his superb military training under his belt, his pin-point accurate shooting abilities and of course, his espionage skills - his body isn't quite what it used to be. To represent this, the game has both a health and a psyche bar. So now you not only have to worry about Snake's physical health, but also his mental health. Certain comments within the game, or maybe some of Snake's own actions, will result in a lower mental self-esteem and therefore make him less of a fighter.
Along with that is a stress percentage. Keeping Snake in a crouched position will force stress on his body, and therefore his abilities. Positions of the enemy and overall health of Snake also affects his stress - and the more stress he has, the worse he is at fighting. It may even be that Snake is just hungry from battle, in which case a well timed pot of super noodles will do the trick.
Snake also now has the advantage of OctoCamo. This unique camouflage system, based on an Octopus' ability to mimic textures, allows for snakes suit to do just that. If you lay still on a brick floor for a second, the suit will instinctively change its appearance to be the same colour as the bricks. If you're in the desert, it'll automatically change its appearance to look like sand. All of this aids in your espionage, and obviously stops you being seen by the extremely intelligent enemy.
The usual hilarious antics of Hideo's mastermind can also be seen throughout the game, including his love for the ladies. Pretty much every female character in the game is pretty, and willing to show a bit of breast (at least wear a low top) to keep you entertained. Snake's even a bit of a sucker to the lady this time around when he drops a cigarette in order to look up a one of the characters skirts - Snake you dog!
Not to mention some moments within the game that blow other titles out the window. One moment that sticks out is when you're propped on the back of a motorbike, speeding away from all sorts of enemies. The camera isn't stuck behind the vehicle, it's swaying and moving around the bike like it would in a film. Water drops are hitting the camera as buildings are blowing up around you. At any point, by pushing the L1 button, you'll switch the camera seamlessly into the in-game part, and can aim and shoot at the enemy around. By simply letting go of the button, you'll switch straight back to the movie-like cinematic. There's also some nice nods to long-time Metal Gear Solid fans peppered throughout the game, though for the sake of spoilers, I will not mention them here.
Oh, did I not mention the graphics? I guess it's almost expected for a PS3 game to look brilliant these days, but that doesn't stop us banging on about them. MGS4 starts you off with an action packed cut-scene, and then all of a sudden it'll display the HUD and puts you in total control of Snake. If the HUD didn't appear, than you probably wouldn't of even realised that the game was now playable!
Quite simply, I could ramble on about this game all day long. There's just moments of absolute genius that make this game probably the best video game I've ever played - and I've played quite a few! Sure, the game has some rather long cut-scenes, has probably the longest ending I've ever seen, and requires a little bit of sitting around waiting for the game to be installed to your hard drive, but the sheer creative direction of this title make these otherwise annoying elements add to the games genius rather than hinder it. In all my years of writing about video games, I've never ever given a game a perfect score - in fact, I've never agreed with a perfect score, as I've felt that a game always has something it could work on. I just can't see any reason not to give this game full marks. Congratulations Konami - Quite simply the greatest way to finish off an immense journey - with perfection.