Marvel at the graphics of ‘Metal Gear Solid 4'

‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots'

Konami, for Sony PlayStation 3, $59.99


“Metal Gear Solid” was always one of the coolest games for PlayStation 2. Its hero, Solid Snake, had next-generation graphics (for the time) and some really cool weapons and storylines.

I was hoping “Metal Gear Solid 4” would be of equally high caliber. I was not disappointed.

If you're new to the series, the opening credits will catch you up on the story. Longtime fans may get a bit bored, but once Snake sets out after his arch enemy Liquid Ocelot, the action is hot and heavy.

This game uses stealth and camouflage much more than other action games, and a new OctoCamo suit can take on the texture of almost anything it touches, making it a little easier to get out of tight spots.

I'd say at least 40 percent of the game involves watching cut scenes, but they are immersive and tell a story as big as “Halo” or “Grand Theft Auto.” You can skip the cut scenes if you want, but the cinematography is a marvel.

Indeed, the game is beautiful – both the cut scenes and the gameplay itself. Its visuals top even the graphically excellent “GTA IV.”

A key difference between “MGS 4” and previous installments is that Snake has aged – and this has repercussions. Sometimes you may want him to do something, but his body won't be up to it. Fortunately, he has many cool toys, including night vision and a robot that he can control. I also liked how Snake's stress levels could affect his health meter. It was nice to play a game where the hero feels real.

This is said to be the final installment in Snake's saga. In addition to the standard version, there is a limited edition for $84.99 only available at Gamestop retailers. There's also a special 40-gigabyte PS3 bundle (with a Gun Metal DualShock 3 wireless controller) for $599 at konami.com; Sony has its own bundle (80GB PS3, DualShock control and game) for $499.

Put this on the list of the best games of the year.

Create your own creature

“Spore Creature Creator” ($9.99; trial version at spore.com) launched this month. It's a game that allows players to create their own unique creatures and share them online.

You can make a walking, talking pear, a six-legged shark-dog, a four-eyed flower-rabbit, or anything else you can possibly imagine. When you're done designing the creature of your wildest dreams, you can add it to the Sporepedia, send a photo postcard to your friends, or upload a video to YouTube.

In the first 24 hours, more than 130,000 creatures were created worldwide, according to Electronic Arts.

Blu-Ray 6x discs available

Panasonic has released the first write-once Blu-Ray discs with 6x writing speed. The new discs will have capacities of 25GB or 50GB. If you have a Blu-Ray drive in your PC, these will allow you to back up your hard drives easily.

The new 6x discs have a maximum data transfer speed of 216 Mbps. That's fast, and allows users to easily store, say, a high-definition movie or two.

Get more at langstonwertz.blogspot.com. E-mail: lwertz@charlotteobserver.com.