Konami Gamer’s Night ’08: Metal Gear Solid 4

When it seemed as though the collective sweat in the heated presentation hall had permanently bonded throes of gaming journalists to their seats, the one and only Hideo Kojima took to the stage to present the gem of Konami’s Gamer’s Night, Metal Gear Solid 4.

In a sigh of confident relief, Kojima announced that MGS 4 was finally complete, dedicated “…to the fans, to the game creators, and to everyone in the industry.” Translated by Konami’s international product manager, Aki Saito, Kojima then proceeded to the stage, and meandered his way through the first twenty minutes of the game for the pleasure of many a weary-eyed onlooker. It was a very long twenty minutes, but there was also very many things to take a look at.

Hit the jump to indulge in the scores of savvy features Snake utilizes in his final mission, the mini Kojima surprises that sweeten every step, and more MGS 4 details to gnaw on before its worldwide release this June 12.

Introductory sequence and basic controls

“War has changed. The age of the terrorist has become the age of control. He who controls the battlefield controls history. War has changed.”

And so opens the introductory sequence, backdropped by a dry and desolate setting in the Middle East. A disguised Snake (who conveniently looks similar to Altaïr from Assasin’s Creed in his hooded cloak) silently smokes a cigarette as he’s carried into the battlefield, hidden in a truck of mercenaries. Immediately confronted by warfare, Snake edges along the heat of the brawl in typical stealth-like fashion, instinctively picking up downed soldiers’ weapons. Given the new ID-tagged infantry however, some weapons are only accessible with the proper ID tag, thereby limiting the range of weaponry Snake can immediately utilize in battle.

While the right analog stick can be used to swivel your camera angle around Snake, and a left or right over-the-shoulder view is in place when using weapons, you can additionally hit L1 to get Snake’s personal perspective. “Snake eyes” (see what I did there?) naturally aids in properly adjusting your viewpoint during gameplay, but you can also use it during demo sequences to create a level of interactivity during non-playable scenes. When having a chance to play the game for myself, accessing all modes of perspective was relatively intuitive and functioned efficiently. In other words, there was no frustrating initiative to pull the analog sticks out of the PS3 controller and jab them into my eyeballs due to perspective issues. This is a good thing.  

Kojima casually meandered his way through the militia and past the rather bouncy (but deadly) Gecko machines, until the introductory credits came to a finish, transitioning into the first act of the game, Liquid Sun. Oddly enough each act of the game is prefaced with a video of eggs being cooked in a pan, the form of the eggs supposedly intended to represent a connotation of the act. Curious? Indeed.

Stealth, allies, and iPods

Snake’s first initiative involves a stealth mission guided by rendezvous points laid out by the dutiful Otacon. The target destination is viewable in the game menu’s overview map, provided in both 2D or 3D flavor for your own pleasure. Although the map is not visible during battle, a compass steadily points Snake in the proper direction of the next destination. This compass simultaneously displays the camouflage efficiency of your newfangled OctoCamo suit. Snake’s OctoCamo suit can mimic any environmental surface in real time, with the option to save any camouflage pattern you encounter for later use. So be sure to grab that green shag-rug pattern when you come across it, since you’ll probably need it to stealthily investigate a hippie love party at some point later in the game. (Not really, I hope.)

Speaking of peace, love, and Snake, amidst gameplay Snake has the option of choosing to aid the militia fighting against Liquid Ocelot’s team of PMCs. If Snake successfully aids the militia he will be recognized as a war ally and hero, greeted with many a “<3” in place of the belligerent “!. Once the militia men are your allies, Snake can even donate rations and other inventory to his mates, an act which is sometimes reciprocated if your recipient isn’t a selfish, no-good prick. Being a friendly force also allows you to easily navigate through ally bases, a tas that is the reverse situation if you choose not to help. Thus, the decision to help or hide ultimately impacts your gameplay experience. This became inherently clear as Kojima’s friendly militia mates welcomed him into their hideout with open arms, while they alternatively shooed me away with bullets and bombs when I played.

Additional features to aid a stealthy Snake include a visual threat ring that peaks when an enemy is nearby; Solid Eye, which enables night vision to seek out footprints and hidden targets; and the quintessential Snake-in-a-box hiding devices. The classic cardboard box has not disappeared; however, Snake may find it more tactical to utilize an empty oil drum to cleverly roll his way through battle. Too much rolling in the old barrel, however, will ultimately lead to a nauseated Snake, who will, well, vomit if he rolls too much. It’s gross, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Snake’s stress meter monitors his stress levels before they get too high and diminish his sight gauge. Stress can increase due to heat, action, and even scent, since being next to something that smells rancid would obviously stress you out. One can reduce stress by maneuvering around such situations, or by utilizing items such as the coveted Playboy magazine to relieve tension (no joke, you can even flip through its pages).

Snake’s seniority has also earned him a 30 GB bona-fide Apple iPod in his inventory with which players can find, collect, and listen to musical tracks throughout the game. It was after that point that I waited for Kojima to reveal the special edition Nacho-Cheesy camo suit, sponsored by Doritos. Thankfully, that suit never came to fruition.

Drebin’s Black Market, weaponry, and the Tanegashima

While Snake can still snag weaponry from the battlefield, Snake’s go-to black market weapons dealer, Drebin, is where he can acquire most of his weapons at any point of the game. By exchanging items for Drebin store credit, Snake can purchase a very large variety of weaponry at any point in time via the menu screen. Each weapon is fully customizable with unlockable add-ons, such as a laser pointer or a grenade launcher to the muzzle, top, left, right, and bottom mounts.

By this point, Kojima was at the end of his show, and displayed two of the more advanced weapons. The first is a technologically advanced grenade launcher called the XM25 that measures the target distance and then allows you to adjust the grenade trajectory distance to properly explode your enemies. The second was an incredibly badass legendary old flintlock gun named the Tanegashima, a weapon that Kojima admitted would take at least three play-throughs of the game to accumulate enough points to buy. The Tanegashima makes up in ultimate destruction for what it lacks in sale prices, as it essentially initiates a kamikaze (or divine wind) to wipe out all enemies nearby and scatter their goods across the landscape. As I was saying, incredibly badass.

As many have dearly hoped, Kojima demonstrated that Metal Gear Solid 4 has shaped up quite nicely and is looking to be a successful finale to the saga of the one and only Snake. While the action-packed throes of war may seem indicative of a combat-heavy game, the game still provides plenty of opportunities for Snake to avoid open battle or actively participate in it, thereby maintaining the classic MGS stealth action stamp. Having only recently become involved with the MGS franchise, I for one can say I’m excited, and the rest of the MGS fans out there should be too (as if you weren’t already).

Metal Gear Solid 4
will be available this summer on June 12 (that’s 28 days away, buckos) and can also be purchased in a limited edition MGS 4-themed PlayStation 3 bundle, which will be available for limited pre-order on Konami’s website on May 19.