TOKYO--At Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation Premiere 2007 press conference in the massive Roppongi Hills complex today, most in attendance were expecting to see reruns of trailers shown at the E3 Media and Business Summit. So they were taken by surprise during Konami's presentation, when director Hideo Kojima gave the first-ever Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots gameplay demonstration.
The demo, which lasted a full 20 minutes, began in the same unnamed Middle Eastern locale as previous MGS4 game trailers. Snake started out on the second floor of a ruined building. Looking down, he saw tons of rubble from the remnants of buildings obliterated by warfare. The landscape was particularly detailed, with walls broken into various shapes and surrounding buildings uniquely damaged. When Snake zoomed in on the walls using a scope named Solid Eye (after the 3D glasses from Metal Gear Acid 2), they showed a high level of detail with little or no pixelation up close.
While previous installments in the MGS series had Snake infiltrating areas that were guarded by a single superpower or army, the situation is vastly different in MGS4. The demo shows two different factions--professional PMC (Private Military Company) mercenaries, and civilian guerrillas, who were losing because they were less experienced. The demo started out quietly, with both sides just patrolling. By the end, though, there were explosions all over the place.
During the demo, Kojima had Snake side with the civilian army to help take out the PMC soldiers. Given that the PMC soldiers were wearing beige camouflage, it was difficult to spot them in the sandy fields and grayish walls. Kojima had Snake switch to thermal goggles to detect them, and then return to the normal scope to zoom in.
Hopping down the building from where Snake started, the aged soldier approached a set of familiar bronze statues last seen in the Tokyo Game Show trailer. Here, Kojima went to the menu screen and selected the active camouflage option, where players can access disguises for Snake's face and body. Snake normally wears an all-purpose "Octo-Cam" camouflage suit, which lets him blend into his surroundings. However, apparently there are other selectable camouflage patterns in the game, one of which is called the "Statue-Cam." Kojima selected the Statue-Cam and an appropriate face mask, and--voila!--Snake's camouflage suit displayed a bronze finish. The PMC soldiers then walked by, mistaking the grizzled commando for a statue.
Kojima then showed off how the Octo-Cam camouflage will help Snake blend into his surroundings--semiautomatically. Whenever Snake performs an action, like hugging a wall or hitting the floor, the suit automatically changes its pattern to match that of the surface Snake is touching. Kojima demonstrated this action by having Snake evade a PMC soldier by lying in wait on the ground and blending in with the tiles of a nearby building. Snake then stood up and dashed to the shadows by a wall, waiting for the soldier to walk past. Then, he took the soldier from behind by using close-quarter combat, which made the soldier drop his gun--a new element in MGS4. Snake finally wrestled the soldier down, choking him until he was knocked out.
Kojima revealed that Snake can take his enemy's weapons in MGS4, and CQC isn't the only way to get them--holdups can also be effective. When Snake put a gun against an unaware soldier, the grunt raised both of his hands in the air, dropping his weapon to the ground and shivering. The holdup in MGS4 looks a lot more realistic than in the previous games. While keeping his gun pointed at the enemy, Snake used his other hand to frisk for items all over the soldier's body. He also seems to have gained a new move that involves delivering a death grip to an enemy's crotch, rendering that person unconscious in an instant.
After taking out two soldiers (one through CQC and the other by holdup and grabbing his nether regions), Snake spotted a huge hole in the wall that was big enough for him to fit though. However, he then noticed PMC soldiers in other abandoned buildings that could easily spot Snake and shoot him down. Kojima had Snake switch to his Mosin Nagant stun rifle to take them out. This was done by way of the same sniper view the rifle had in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
Snake then made his way down the building onto the ground and took out another PMC soldier, this time using a stun knife that can discharge electricity. Kojima showed how the knife can be used to just zap the enemy and knock them unconscious, though it can also be used for fatal slashing as well.
Seeing that yet another PMC soldier was nearby, Kojima showed off Snake's new prop--the oil barrel. The oil barrel in MGS4 has as much a camouflage effect as the series' traditional cardboard box, except it's a bit more resistant to bullet shots because it's made of metal. Unfortunately, it didn't seem as stealthy, because we heard Snake's knees banging into it as he walked. Kojima showed that the barrel could also be an effective weapon when Snake rolls on the ground inside it, attacking any soldiers in his path. Naturally, though, Snake was dizzy once he got back up, and we saw him throwing up.
Kojima went on to confirm that gamers would be able to play through the whole game in a first-person view, and showed how the Sixaxis' motion-sensing can be used to duck and peek around corners.
Snake then went into a nearby building and talked to his friend Otacon via his Metal Gear MKII robot, re-creating part of the first MGS4 trailer. Eventually a battle between PMC and guerrilla forces erupted outdoors. The PMC soldiers were obviously getting the upper hand, as they had more firepower and cutting-edge technology on their side, including flying biomechanical creatures that would drop bombs.
To help fight off one of the PMC soldiers, Kojima showed Snake's new best friend, the Metal Gear MKII. By selecting MKII from the item inventory, the player can take control of it and move around in either first- or third-person view. (Snake is seen crouching on the ground with his hands on the MKII's remote controller--which is an exact replica of a Sixaxis gamepad.) And while the stealthy MKII may seem small and harmless, it can knock out enemies with a powerful knock of electricity.
Turning back to Snake, Kojima showed that the protagonist can throw grenades backward like in the previous trailer. The grenade's trajectory is shown onscreen, Gears of War-style, as Snake is preparing to throw his grenade.
As the demo neared its end, Kojima showed off some more weapons that can be used in Guns of the Patriots. He used an RPG-7 to explode a tank, an AK-102 rifle to shoot some enemies on the roof, and a P90 to take out remaining soldiers on the ground.
Kojima pointed out that while he had been attacking PMC soldiers and helping out the civilian guerrillas in the demo, it's really up to the player to decide which side to be on--or to not side with either of them.
Overall, Guns of the Patriots defaults to the same kind of third-person view as previous MGS installments. The basic interface has been kept intact as well, with the item itinerary on the bottom left side of the screen and the weapons itinerary on the bottom right.
One addition to the heads-up display that wasn't in previous installments was a semitransparent, illustrated icon on the bottom of the screen that appeared whenever Snake was near an object that he could interact with, such as a wall, an unconscious enemy, or a ledge. Another such object was a dumpster in an alley, which Snake hid in until enemy soldiers cleared out. But since it's full of garbage, Kojima noted that Snake would start to smell if he stayed inside the dumpster too long, making himself more obvious to enemies. As he came out of hiding, Snake was surrounded by a swarm of buzzing flies, though shaking the Sixaxis controller seemed to swat them away.