Old Snake just knocked my lights out. Literally. I’m not talking about how an expertly choreographed Hideo Kojima cutscene floored me; I mean Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (MGS4) is actually responsible for cutting the power to my entire apartment. Why have my lights broken? More importantly, what the hell does any of this have to do with me finishing the brilliant, but contentious, MGS4 a frankly astonishing 13 times? Yes: Thirteen. Ok, I'll get to that.
Before I delve into my obsessive descent into madness, let’s address the elephant in the room: MGS4 – first released on PS3 in 2008 as a PlayStation exclusive, and now available as a free PS3 download on PS Plus – isn't to everyone's tastes. Series creator Hideo Kojima turns hero Snake into a pensioner, then bids him farewell in an overblown, indulgent finale; fan favorite Meryl marries a man with crippling IBS; giant mech Metal Gear Rex fights Metal Gear Ray; Snake accidentally yanks the penis off a statue. If this sounds like gibberish, it didn't make a lot more sense back when MGS4 debuted 11 years ago. Some loved its fanboy-pleasing nods, others pined for the more cohesive storytelling of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, a jungle survival adventure that time has cemented as Kojima's most coherent, yet daring, MGS game.
I just wanted a trophy that involved leaving my PS3 running unattended for hours on end. Which brings me right back to my greatest moment of shame / most glorious triumph. Picture the scene: it’s the balmy summer of 2012. Rather than bask in rare Scottish sunshine, I decide it’s crucial I earn the recently released platinum trophy in MGS4. No mean feat: you have to finish the game at least eight times before that pot pings. And while MGS4 gets easier with every play-through, you're looking at a solid 15-20 hours for the first completion. And about 3-5 hours for each subsequent run through… so you can see how the time stacks up.
I’m living in a flat with the worst electricity setup ever invented. It’s one of those stupid systems where all your power comes from a generator topped up by a swipe card. Quite wonderfully, failure to regularly pay money results in an instant power cut when your balance reaches zero. And wouldn’t you know, leaving MGS4 running on your PS3 for nine hours straight is enough to completely drain it. Bye-bye, lights. This all sounds like the murmurings of a madman, no doubt. Well, that’s what trying to recount the plate-spinning required to unlock the game’s nefariously difficult Sounds of the Battlefield trophy will do.
The critical and most horribly challenging of the game’s 34 bits of silverware, it tasks you with unlocking the iPod Snake Eater track, which in turn, requires you to collect a series of 40 emblems. Confused yet? It’s even harder to complete. These infernal badges are all tied to animal names, and each one can only be earned by completing certain parameters during a playthrough. They also contradict each other: some ask you to kill a set number of enemies, while others demand a non-lethal completion. Hence eight different runs.
Most of the emblems are easy unlock. Frisk 50 bad guys for the Ant. Trigger 100 alerts for Cow. Uh... hide Snake inside a drum can for an hour to earn Tortoise. I actually incorporated that last one into the dreaded Chicken playthrough; a run where you need to set off 100 alerts, kill 500 enemies, die 50 times, use 50 health items, and worst of all, take at least 35 hours to finish the game. For someone who’d already finished MGS4 five times in the four years between the game’s release and it’s belated trophy patch, that last number was a real stickler. 35 hours?! By this point I knew the game so well, I could do it in a shade over four.
And here comes the sanity-deprived resolution to this tale: in order to inflate my completion time, I deliberately left my PS3 on with Snake hidden in a drum for the best part of a day while I went to work. Cue one drained card meter and a total blackout awaiting me one muggy July evening. I told you he knocked my lights out. Is MGS4 the most jumbled, confused title Kojima has ever made? Perhaps. Yet despite it having more cutscenes than gameplay, it’s testament to the game’s complicated, nostalgic and deeply layered genius that it inspired such devotion in me. I am the madman who has finished MGS4 13 times. I welcome your pity.
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