After the ferocious firefights of MGS4, comes the even more ferocious battles over what MGS4 means.
I finally finished MGS4. I'm a culture vulture who critiques film, media, games, television, literature from around the world. It's literally my job. So this isn't coming from someone who knows nothing about other art-forms, nothing about the mass media, or nothing about videogame culture.
MGS4 is a classic. It does for the stealth espionage genre what Max Payne did for the FPS, and what Final Fantasy 12 did for the role-playing game: transformed a niche form into a multinational work of art.
*SPOILER ALERT*: I'm keeping spoilers to an absolute minimum, and I won't mention any specific plot twists at this point, but if you don't want to know anything about what happens in the story, read no further.
The whole game is a gigantic hack into the Total System called late capitalism. But that means nothing in the game is what it seems, and I mean nothing. Not even the "wedding", which is deliberately marked as satire. I'm trying not to reveal any spoilers here, because lots of people are still finishing the game, but certain themes should be pointed out.
First of all, the PATRIOTS are a clear and obvious symbol of neoliberalism - the ideology of post-Cold War market fundamentalism which gathered force after 1980, swept the planet during the 1990s, and trashed Argentina, Russia, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe -- in fact, immiserated most of the planet. Those same regions have begun to overthrow neoliberalism, staging their very own Solid Snake battle against speculation-obsessed, socially irresponsible global rentiers.
Second of all, each one of the characters is marked by geopolitical place, and Kojima provides an amazingly precise reading of 2008 geopolitics. This geopolitics is matched by a remarkably astute micropolitics - in this case, strong female characters. (Again, I can't say more without giving in to spoilers.)
Third, Kojima is pastiching huge swathes of videogame culture. This is much more than fan service. It's one of the most self-critical meditations on game culture ever created -- he's using game history the same way Final Fantasy 12 uses postcolonial history, as a source of narratives, texts, themes, etc. (Very apparent in the boss battles. Again... I'm keeping my mouth shut until more people have a chance to play the game.)
One final comment: you may not realize this, but the entire game never really repeats a single style of game-play. It's constantly changing from beginning to end. This, too, is important, but I don't yet want to say why.
Play the game, and then we'll have a conversation!