In celebration of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’s release this week, the team at Power Up Gaming are recounting our love for the previous games in the series. While my opinion may be entirely divisive amongst the Metal Gear community, I still feel that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the best of the series, and it is of course my favourite game of all time. Its moment to moment stealth action may be lacking in length, but its endless cutscenes and dialogue separate these vignettes of play with unsettling tension, paramount emotion and insanely superb minutiae. It can be seen as a masterpiece from almost every angle, and it’s difficult to select singular instances of greatness. As a result, I have produced a list of MGS4’s top 50 unforgettable moments; a fitting number that represents its grandeur through precision and wide-spreading remembrance.
50. Solar Gun
A weapon that can be obtained through defeating every boss using non-lethal means, the Solar Gun is a powerhouse of anti-killing intent. It can be used to knock out enemies quickly, charged by rays from the big ball of gas above us. It is also useful when dealing with Vamp in Act IV, who can be downed with one shot from the gun, further proving the malleability of vampire-like creatures under simple earthly forces. To reload, Snake must hold the weapon towards the sun and then scream “Sunlight” in order to regain its charge like some sort of holy, biblical emissary.
A mask that allows Snake to disguise his…face in order to strengthen his invisibility within an environment. While it can be used to reproduce base colours, it can also take on the facial features of others. You can then help Snake cosplay as Raiden, Otacon or a beautiful woman, but the best face is that of his younger self. It hide his wrinkles well, restores his good-looking ruggedness and provides a delusional, yet pleasing scenario in which Snake is still vibrant and healthy.
48. PS3/PSP in the Nomad
Despite all of the shameless product placement in MGS4, from Apple computers to Triumph motorbikes, it is good to see that the Otacon family take pride in their usage of top quality video game consoles. Sunny wiles away the hours by playing a PSP, no doubt she’s blobbing around in LocoRoco or tapping along to Patapon, while she also has a PS3 sitting on her coffee table. I can’t wait for her to play Resistance 2.
47. Assassin’s Creed
While initially introduced as an April Fool’s joke, Hideo Kojima eventually revealed that Altair’s costume from the original Assassin’s Creed would in fact be available for Snake to wear in place of his Middle Eastern disguise. It can be unlocked via cheat codes, but for those of you that are not filthy swindlers, achieving 50+ knife kills with less than 25 alert phases in a single playthrough will net you the outfit. It provides Snake with a look of subtle elegance in white, yet fails to give the old man Altair’s signature spryness.
The body counterpart to the FaceCamo above which changes colour depending on the surface that Snake is pressed against. He can disguise himself as some moss, or dirt, or snow, allowing him to carry out stealth situations with more efficiency than ever before.
45. Statue Disguise
What’s better than being able to disguise yourself as a statue? Definitely not having an Eastern European resistance member piss all over your shoes because you’re disguised as a statue.
44. Flying Saucer Flashback
This call-back to Metal Gear Solid 2 can be found towards the latter end of the South American chapter when Snake is searching for Naomi. On entering the crop circle, the voice of AI Colonel Campbell will spew a load of guff about being abducted by aliens while driving home from a Bat Mitzvah or something. While this occurrence may be bizarre, it certainly provides a nostalgic sentiment perfectly befitting this strange universe of nanomachines, mechs, obscure military acronyms and urine-producing Europeans.
The puppet dolls of Screaming Mantis were an interesting pair of items to say the least. They allowed for the inclusion of Psycho Mantis and The Sorrow long after their deaths, while providing an unusual set of weapons for one of MGS4’s most intriguing villains. Not only could Screaming Mantis wield them to revive the dead and to control the living, but Snake could also acquire these marionettes to quickly, and strangely, subdue enemies. As well as this, they could be used to spot ghosts around Shadow Moses during successive playthroughs. Pretty cool, yet creepy.
42. Losing Stamina
During play, losing stamina was a constant occurrence as Snake was barraged by bullets, bombs and sexy tentacles, but it could also be lost during certain cutscenes. If anyone were to make a jape about the hero’s waning health or refer non-smoking signs, his stamina bar would take a hit as an indication of his increasingly anxious state of mind. Whether used for dramatic or comic effect, these moments subtly, yet adequately, characterised Snake as a troubled protagonist whose fragility was constantly on the rise.
41. Emotive Ammo
During a second playthrough, Snake is given the opportunity to buy a number of emotive bullets, from Drebin’s store, comprising of rage, sadness, fear and laughter. Although using these on enemies may have been a tab sadistic, it was still incredibly enjoyable to watch a group of PMC troops rolling around on the ground in tears.
These creations were an insanely odd addition. They gave Snake a much larger enemy to face on the battlefield while also remaining completely preposterous. They looked like giant metal dinosaurs, had weirdly human-esque legs, spewed out an atrocious green liquid and mooed as if they were cows. They didn’t make much sense, but in the world of Metal Gear, they were right at home.
39. Psycho Mantis is Behind the Times
In the original game, Psycho Mantis would hijack your DualShock controller and memory card via his psychokinetic abilities. Though, of course, in 2008, these items had been replaced in favour of the Sixaxis controller and an internal hard drive.
This left the spirit of Psycho Mantis unable to manipulate your hardware successfully, highlighting his aversion to new technology as a result.
“Come on granddad. You’ve had enough excitement for one day.”
Pressing X during certain cutscenes allowed a flashback to take place. These varied from scene to scene, but each remained focused on prompting nostalgia at every turn. As Akiba was pummelled mercilessly, we could view his first experience with rookie-soldier Meryl on Shadow Moses Island; as Raiden appeared for the first time, we saw his younger and much less interesting self from five years previously. As much as Metal Gear Solid 4 was a new and exciting experience, it certainly welcomed its history, and gave fans nods towards their favourite MGS moments through these sentimental instances.
37. Solid, Liquid, Solidus Chickens
The names of three lovely chickens that were laying eggs for the Otacon family aboard the Nomad. Solid and Liquid appeared to have been regular as clockwork, but apparently Solidus had been lagging behind in production. I hope the death of her namesake had not led to a bout of chicken-dementia. Three out of ten domesticated fowls forget how to give birth every few months.
36. Naomi’s Change
The change I am referring to is thus: removing Naomi’s ridiculous English accent.
35. Change Disc
An homage to the days of low-capacity CDs before the invention of the Blu-ray Disc. Otacon asked Snake to swap the disc in the same position as he does in MGS1, and, much to his surprise, technology had rendered the change unnecessary. Although the PlayStation 3 had room for MGS4 on its 50GB dual layered media, someone should have told Microsoft that they were now in the second decade of the 21st century. Four discs for L.A. Noire? Really? Preposterous.
34. Vamp’s Bullet to the Head
Vamp is talking on the phone to Liquid. They are having a discussion about the release of their PMC unit from their emotional restraints, the crippling effect that that could have upon them, and the use of Solid Snake’s blood to unlock a war mongering artificial intelligence. It’s all pretty much standard fare, until Snake decides to blow a hole in Vamp’s head. The nanomachine-fuelled vampire then does a few well-balanced spins, catches the phone superbly in his right hand, drops to his knees in pain, calls out some orders to his men, and states, “I’ll be taking a nap,” before falling into an unconscious and fairly uncomfortable-looking position. Perfectly choreographed nonsense.
33. Beauty and the Beast Modelling
What better way to relax after a long day of fighting soldiers and mechs than to take up a spot of attractive lady modelling? Simply abstain from killing any member of the BB Corps for several minutes and the Beauty in question shall begin to pose for a number of enticing snaps.
32. Disguise Scarabs
These diminutive terrors may have been able to cause some trouble for Snake in large numbers, but in Eastern Europe, their disguise was as convincing as three small children trying to get into the cinema under a large trench coat. Not very convincing at all.
31. Metal Gear Online
This may not be a singular moment, but MGS4’s online mode combined the superb third-person action of the singleplayer with a tensely entertaining stealth experience. It pitted handcrafted soldiers against one another on battlefields in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and even in a recreation of Volgin’s fortress, Groznyj Grad, from MGS3. Sadly, the servers for MGO were shut down in 2012, meaning that my wonderful clan, Team Wolverine, was forever lost amongst the wastes of digital recycling bins.
30. Metal Gear Mk. II
As well as being a controllable item in the game, used to scout ahead in search of ammo or hidden enemies, the Metal Gear MK II was wonderfully cute. He would roll around on his little wheels, flap his robotic wing like a startled chicken and would beep whimsically at every occasion. Unfortunately, he met his demise at the shoe-sole of Vamp in Eastern Europe. Double sad face indeed.
29. Little Gray Wearing Pants
There isn’t really anything better in the world than a monkey doing ridiculous things while wearing a pair of pants. He smokes and drinks soda, all the while hiding his private parts behind some snug, silver Y-fronts.
Little Gray’s fashion sense makes me wonder; did Drebin deliberately go into a children’s department with the intent of buying such an item?
28. Hugs from Creepy, Attractive Women
For some reason, once these beauties were removed from their animalistic casings, they seemed to want to hold Snake in an awkwardly long embrace. They may have been as hot as the day is long, but even I would feel slightly uncomfortable if a woman dripping in fluids held me for a prolonged period of time. Well…maybe I wouldn’t.
27. Big Mama’s Story
While not completely integral to the rest of MGS4’s plot, it was still satisfying to meet EVA once more in Eastern Europe, and to hear her story of what had occurred between Big Boss and Zero after the events of Snake Eater; events that will become more fleshed out in The Phantom Pain.
26. Militia Battles
In previous games, environmental confinement perfectly suited the isolated locales of an Alaskan archipelago, and an off-shore cleanup facility, but in MGS4, larger locations were needed to house the full-scale skirmishes that had been bred from an increasingly fruitful war economy.
In South America, Snake was able to travel on multiple paths through areas of grassland during a battle between a local rebel group and a Private Military Company. Freedom of choice and play was given here, as you could skirt the edges of this fight without any conflict at all, side with the South Americans or kill anyone who stood in your way. This spaciousness was a welcome reprieve from the tight corridors of yore, and has obviously laid the foundations for the vast expanses in The Phantom Pain.
Drebin is a pretty silly guy. He burps a lot, has a near-naked monkey pet/friend and is a total lightweight when it comes to champagne. But apart from that, he has cool sunglasses, a cool haircut, a cool car, a cool suit and speaks with an ice-cold tone to boot. He is therefore the theoretical frosty the snow man of gun launderers.
The pets of Sniper Wolf still roam the snow fields of Shadow Moses long after her death. During a particularly melancholic scene, a lone wolf howls to its brethren before carrying away the dead body of Crying Wolf. No doubt, this arctic beast was paying tribute to its former fallen master. It is a truly beautiful yet sombre elegy.
23. Creepy Roy Campbell
What better way than to make up with your estranged daughter, who already thinks you’re a “womanising piece of shit”? Oh I know! By getting yourself a wife that’s young enough to be your granddaughter. I know that Campbell’s relationship with Rosemary was a ruse to fool the Patriots, but still, come on Roy!
22. Naomi’s Death
Never mind that we were finally rid of an unlikeable, manipulating character who ejaculated such lines as “Us girls have to look our best,” but we also got a scene that was both dramatic as well as action-orientated. Otacon’s heartfelt sobs could be heard as Naomi nullified the nanomachines holding back her cancer, hundreds of suicide Gecko warmed up for an almighty explosion and Snake and Raiden prepared to pilot Metal Gear REX amidst a score of choir and piano. While Otacon’s tears may have peppered the moment, he left the Metal Gear launch bay with a new sense of catharsis: “I’m done crying.”
21. MGS1 Flashback
Everyone agrees that the original Metal Gear Solid is a landmark title that propelled gaming from the bleeps and bloops of the nineties into a future of maturity, violence and complication. What better way to celebrate this than having Snake dream his way through the opening stage of the PSone classic? He was able to walk around the heli-pad area, spotting surveillance cameras, avoiding searchlights and sneaking past sleeping Genome Soliders, all in an inglorious sheen of jagged edges and 32 bit graphics! As Snake entered an interior vent, he awoke with a start in the present day with his pixelated head from 1998, only to reveal that this dream was in fact a nightmare.
20. Raiden Versus Gekko
Many people who played MGS2 had a problem with Raiden as a protagonist. He was seen as immature, over emotional and generally inferior to Solid Snake in every way. But in the series’ fourth iteration, he was given a fresh coat of paint in the form of a cybernetic exoskeleton. The finale of the South American chapter saw him battling a rather nasty group of Gekko using a combat style that mixed ninjitsu with a fusion of flash dance and MC Hammer shit. He may have ended the day covered in his own blood and in desperate need of a dialysis machine, but goddamn El Dorado did he take those mechs on with style.
Also known as an ovum, they were a not-so-delicious treat made by Sunny aboard the Nomad. She believed that if her eggs turned out great, then this would be a good omen for Snake’s next mission.
Unfortunately for all involved, Snake’s observations were always startlingly correct: “I don’t remember the sun being so flat.”
18. Laughing Octopus Battle
Snake’s first battle with the beasts is certainly one of the strangest and smartest. After rendezvousing with Naomi in South America, he is attacked by a group of Frog troops led by Laughing Octopus; a skin-changing crazy that toted four mechanical tentacles on her back. Her stylish stealth abilities allowed her to become one with the environment around her. For example, she could hang herself on the wall like a painting, take on the features of a medical skeleton, shape shift into the Metal Gear Mark II and even transform, into an MRI machine.
17. Raiden Versus Outer Haven
Part two of Raiden getting his silvery behind handed to him in style, but this time it was by an island-sized submarine. As Snake slumped over in front of the gigantic battle station, known as Outer Haven, Liquid began propelling it forward to crush the wizened hero, but not before a one-armed Raiden ran in to hold it back. The strain upon that poor man’s life was already unbearable to say the least, and then Kojima basically decided to drop the Death Star on top of him while he was physically disabled.
While perhaps a little ridiculous, this scene gave Raiden a chance to shine as a saviour once again, and captured an emotionally gruelling incident, as the poor soul’s dying moments flashed before the player’s eyes via fades to black, and a beautifully solemn colour palette.
16. Bike Chase
A moment that solidified EVA’S badass nature and harkened back to her younger self. Big Mama swiftly piloted her Triumph Motorcycle through a playable scene of explosions, crashing vehicles and flying exo-suits. While her riding finesse may have kept her and Snake safe on the road, nothing could be done about a robotic raven firing a missile at them, causing a devastating crash that saw Big Mama impaled on a spike. This of course mirrored an injury that she received in MGS3, showing that Kojima’s homages to the series could be both brilliantly nostalgic as well as harrowingly painful.
15. Crying Wolf Battle
Taking place in the snow field below the communication towers on Shadow Moses Island, this battle with Crying Wolf was one of the most tense and frightful fights of the series.
The size and strength of Crying Wolf may have been foreboding, but it was her uncanny abilities in tracking and marksmanship that instilled a distinct fear of helplessness. The snowy tundra made finding her ridiculously difficult despite her bulk, and even though visibility was greatly reduced, Wolf could still smell Snake out using the direction of the wind.
The fabled soldier truly was her prey.
14. REX Vs. RAY Mech Battle
An epic fight if ever there was one, REX and RAY’s mechanical tussle is one of the greatest boss battles in Metal Gear history. Set outside of the Shadow Moses complex amongst a grouping of highly destructible buildings, it allowed these two powerhouses to unleash their massive arsenal of nuclear deterrence upon one another with explosions, ferocious melee swipes and enough laser beams to shake a stick at.
13. Drebin’s Stories
Drebin’s stories were far from the childish variety, and instead featured harrowing tales that would make even adults cower in fear. Once Snake defeated a member of the BB Corps, Drebin would recount the childhood horrors of each woman. Octopus was forced to torture and kill her family, Raven was left to be picked apart by birds, Wolf accidently smothered her baby brother and Mantis ate the corpses of her village after suffering from dehydration and hallucinations. While these were far from cheerful, they added a new layer of maturity to the series, and successfully dealt with the degenerative and real-life effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
12. War Has Changed
A fantastic opening that established the world of MGS4 through a superbly dour monologue by Old Snake. He stated that war was no longer national, but global, that weapons and gear were ID tagged and controlled by Artificial Intelligence, and that war had become just another part of life.
As well as the bleakness of the planet, this opening showcased the brilliant lighting and graphical effects, within a dusty Middle Eastern landscape, that still make Metal Gear Solid 4 one of most visually impressive games of the era.
11. Return To Shadow Moses
As the pan pipes of The Best is Yet to Come played over Snake’s arrival at the nuclear weapons disposal facility on Shadow Moses Island, the nostalgic juices began to flow. You could visit some of the most well-known locales from the original game in glorious high definition, including the tank hanger, the Hind-D helipad, Otacon’s lab and the communication tower snowfield.
10. Lengthy Cut Scenes
For some, the length of MGS4’s cutscenes were an intrusive feature, taking you out of the action all too frequently for a bout of convoluted nonsense. This was perfectly understandable, but for myself and many others besides, these moments made up the central tenet of Metal Gear; its wonderfully melodramatic, yet deep, story. Game play is obviously important in a stealth franchise, but it is within these scenes in which emotional resonance and complex character development can be built upon. Where else would we have seen Otacon crying over a loved one time and time again?
Well, you may then contrast Metal Gear with something akin to Uncharted, where cut scenes are five minutes at their longest, and Drake, Sully and Elena are still characterised perfectly. But this is where I would argue that MGS4 contains a highly more intelligent narrative than that of any other gaming series, and therefore requires a number of lengthier outings as a result. The tales of Solid Snake and Big Boss are not, in my opinion, convoluted, but they are in fact highly complex. They are epic journeys that could be told in an ineffectual manner; such topics as nuclear deterrence, scientific advancement, the human genome and relationships between war and peace are all given the time and respect that is necessary to understand them. With the inclusion of extensive cut scenes in Metal Gear Solid 4, some spanning to over an hour in length, the intelligence, attention to detail and sensitivity of Hideo Kojima and his development team had been truly exemplified.
9. Sunny is Free
Sunny had spent her life within the Nomad. She had not lived the childhood of a normal girl. But when she and Otacon attended Meryl’s wedding upon an airstrip in the Pacific, she met a local boy whom she instantly connected with despite there being a language barrier in place. Although protective regarding Sunny’s new found freedom, her adoptive uncle Hal soon came around to the idea after seeing her playing with her “very first outside friend.”
As a quiet rendition of the Metal Gear theme played, Sunny and Otacon embraced one another with the sun gloriously setting in front of them. This stirring moment heavily contrasted the rebirth of Sunny with the waning existence of Old Snake, creating a poignant scene as a result.
8. Old Snake Theme
Harry Gregson-Williams has always been able to capture the vital essence of Metal Gear when creating the score for each game. Whether it was with the harmonious and melancholic tones of Fortunes melody, or the patriotic-sounding Sons of Liberty main theme, he has crafted an iconic series of orchestral work.
The Old Snake Theme is no exception. It takes the form of a subdued guitar riff that perfectly captures the waning spirit of MGS4’s protagonist. It then escalates into an uproar of strings and brass before once again returning to the simplicity of that lightly plucked guitar.
7. Guns of the Patriots
While this was a truly dark and wholly negative moment for our heroes, as they lay strewn about the banks of the Volta River in Eastern Europe, it definitely demonstrated the awesome power of Liquid and his control over the Sons of the Patriots system. As Meryl and a group of PMCs surrounded the villain in an almost unbeatable display of camaraderie, Liquid was already prepared for such an advance, as his control over the earth’s military hardware began in a flurry of explosive violence.
Helicopters crashed into the river, soldiers were incapacitated by Liquid’s faux-mime barrage of bullets, and Snake and Big Mama struggled to hold onto their lives amongst a torrent of flames. The Guns of the Patriots had truly seized the day.
6. Final Liquid Battle
This was the final battle between good and evil, brother and brother, Solid and Liquid. Done in the style of a 2.5D fighting game, Snake and Ocelot fought throughout the Metal Gear Solid series. They began with blue health bars, paying homage to their brotherly tussle in the original, progressing into MGS2 with an alternative version of the main theme playing over their punches.
As they entered MGS3, their health bars became white, with the names Naked Snake and Ocelot appearing below them. Their fighting styles were now more slow and plodding, as the classic Snake Eater theme played with a grand and striking cadence.
By the time they were onto the Old Snake theme of MGS4, the spryness of both fighters was at an end. As the guitar music riffed in the background, Liquid was bested by Snake through a number of earth-shattering, brutal punches. The grey-haired villain was left on his back, bloodied, as Solid looked on in silent listlessness. Brutality and battle had come to an end for both of the brothers.
5. Raiden, Rosemary and Jack
Raiden had had an incredibly difficult life of childhood violence, PTSD and even self-mutilation. As he sat in a hospital ward, looking a lot less striking in his newly made human body, he was paid a visit by Rosemary and his son, little John.
After years of fighting and torture, Raiden was able to become Jack once again. He had a family, and was happy. He could live a life without the beast.
Not only did we get to play as Snake struggling through a corridor of searing microwaves towards uncertain victory, we also got cutaway views of his friends and allies fighting their own hopeless battles. Mei Ling was swarmed by Dwarf Gekko aboard the Missouri, Meryl and Akiba were fighting a torrent of Frog Troopers with increasingly sparse ammo, and Raiden was using his mouth to wield a sword minus, both of his arms.
The odds were against Snake from the very start of this scene, but his extreme willpower and stamina propelled him through the corridor of microwaves. His grunts and groans spelled grim death, but he fought against the heat and hauled himself to the end, solidifying success for both him and his comrades.
3. Old Snake
There is no single moment that captures the essence of Old Snake sufficiently. The entire epic journey of MGS4 provided a new look at the fabled protagonist; one that was wholly unsettling and more powerful as a result. He was no longer the fit young man from the original game, and in fact needed a specially designed suit to keep him safe on the battlefield. He coughed up his lungs on more than one occasion; he had back problems, and felt the effects of his deteriorating physique at every turn. Snake’s character may have steered towards cynicism in his old age, but the choice to create such a change was one that was bold, honest and strikingly refreshing.
Old Snake was an entirely original protagonist.
2. Snake and Big Boss
Just when you thought that Snake had popped his clogs, who should turn up behind him but Big Boss? After a brief skirmish, Boss explained how he had come survive multiple comas, explained the twisted world view of Zero and then ended the life of his old friend come enemy via the turning off of his life support wheelchair.
Following this outstandingly strange set of circumstances, Big Boss was aided towards the grave of his former mentor and only true love, The Boss: “Take me over to her.”
As Big Boss finished his monologue on liberty, war and individuality, he slumped up against her headstone to have a final cigar before death. With a soft guitar playing and a field of white flowers surrounding them, Snake and his father shared a last moment together before the end.
“This is good,” said Big Boss. “Isn’t it?”
Powerful stuff. Roll Credits.
1. Here’s To You
There isn’t much to say about Here’s to You, except that it is a beautiful rendition, performed by Lisbeth Scott, of the Ennio Morricone original. Its tranquil notes have the desired effect of welcoming Snake and Big Boss into their final moments, and make this writer in particular tear up at the end of every playthrough. The song is a true celebration of Metal Gear Solid 4, the series in its entirety and the heroes that made up its journey.
Here’s to you Hideo Kojima.
Here’s to you and your tireless masterpiece, Metal Gear Solid 4.