Comparing Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots to other games is an exercise in futility—not only because it's such a fantastic work of art, but because most of it simply isn't a game.
The vast majority of your time in MSG4, the latest entry in creator Hideo Kojima's beloved series, isn't spent playing the game so much as, well, watching cutscenes. Think that's hyperbole? Take, for instance, the third act: According to the screen detailing my exploits, I'd spent 10 hours and change "playing" the game by this point—but I'd be amazed if the amount of time in which I was actually controlling the action amounted to much more than 20 percent of that.
Add to that the mandatory install times (an initial eight-minute instance, followed by one at the beginning of each of the game's five acts) and you have a game that only vaguely fits the definition of the word.
Still, it says a lot about MSG4's gripping plot and quality storytelling that I never once opted to remove the disc from my PlayStation. The plot is as highbrow and multifaceted as the most pretentious works of Stanley Kubrick (and equally as confusing to players unfamiliar with the backstory), and when you're occasionally given the chance to actually control protagonist Solid Snake, gameplay is equally nuanced and inventive. From the huge range of customizable firearms to the endless ways to complete mission objectives, anything you think you should be able to do in the game, you can: Want to snipe enemies? Want to slit their throats? Want to leave them alone to live full, happy lives as menial grunts? It's all up to you. The freedom offered to players here makes the sporadic bouts of gameplay as enjoyable as any game, ever. With MGS4, Kojima has crafted his magnum opus. If you own a PlayStation 3, you need to buy this game. If you don't, steal one. I don't care how you get it—just do not miss Metal Gear Solid 4.