By the end, it's like Hideo Kojima is writing from his deathbed and insisting the notes be published unedited. To its credit, the game touches on the most important themes of human existence – not a claim you could level at Saints Row 2 – but would benefit from stern self-inspection and bolder choices. Kojima hinted that the game's original ending was vetoed by staff members, but we suspect it was truer to his original vision. The 'new' ending suffers under the obligation of tying up all the loose ends, and some needless indulgence.
The most anticipated game in history isn't perfect. It isn't even as good as we hoped. But... we wanted it to be the Best Game Ever, and anything less was always going to be a comedown. Truth is, if we've reduced your expectations, if not made you a little sad about MGS4: good. No game could survive such a hideous weight of expectation. MGS4's final judgement won't – or rather, can't – be passed today, by knee-jerk critics or fans, but by history.
When Hideo Kojima is no longer around to make games of this calibre, then this wilfully rambling, frustratingly piecemeal, lovingly crafted, rallying cry for 'hardcore' games, will receive the inspection, and potential reverence, it deserves. It's at once forward-looking and nostalgic. And endings don't come much finer than that. As MGS's biggest fans, if we owe the series anything, it's unburdening it from the weight of expectation and our own hype. Nothing, nothing, would make us happier than being told we're wrong – in fact, we're resenting our gut reaction as we type, and keen to finish it again despite all our minor grievances – but either way, it's a journey we implore every gamer to take, regardless of their feelings for the series – because while the destination won't be to everyone's taste, the route is paved with gold. Damn. Now we're sad.
This review is taken from PSM3 Issue 102, on sale in the UK this Thursday (5 June)