Hideo Kojima sheds a bit more light on the next PlayStation 2 entry in the Metal Gear franchise.
Konami has been pretty quiet about Hideo Kojima's latest installment in the acclaimed Metal Gear Solid franchise on the PlayStation 2 since the title's eye-popping debut at last year's E3. Aside from a few mentions here and there in the Japanese press, there hasn't been much in the way of information on the eagerly anticipated game. However, during a recent event in San Francisco, Kojima offered more information about Snake Eater and personally demoed the game to a select few. This early look at the game shed some light on the promising new twist on Metal Gear Solid 3's stealth mechanics and several other aspects of its gameplay.
Kojima's presentation opened with a quick rundown of the concept behind the newest Metal Gear--"stealth" and "survival" are this year's buzz words--and touched on the three themes Kojima would be focusing on: the game's new era, gameplay, and setting. The new era, which has been highlighted in the trailers shown for the game, is the 1960s. While Kojima was vague about exactly how the main character (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Solid Snake) winds up in the '60s, he did note that Snake wouldn't make use of a time machine. The absence of any far-fetched temporal devices leaves a few other narrative options open, such as a Star Trek-like anomaly à la Onimusha 3 or maybe some spicy food before bedtime (provided the game is one big dream sequence), but time will tell as more information is revealed.
Kojima's next topic of discussion was the new gameplay that has been referred to in materials for the upcoming title. The first component of the new system covered was camouflage, which plays a major part in the game. One of the goals for the development team is to maximize the tension players will feel as they try to infiltrate enemy territory. This has resulted in a new twist to MGS's famous stealth mechanics with the inclusion of a "deep camouflage" system. The system, which is currently being refined as development on the game progresses, will require you to blend in with your environments in a number of ways.
You can keep from being seen by using your clothing, your environment, your posture, and even face paint. A camouflage index, shown in the upper right corner of the screen, will display a percentage that reflects your current visibility state and an indicator showing what you're currently wearing. The higher the percentage, the less likely you are to be seen by an enemy. Proximity factors into your being seen, though, so even if you're virtually invisible, an enemy may sense that something looks wrong and start poking around.
While the camo system is somewhat similar to the meter used in Splinter Cell to let you know how visible you are, Snake Eater's system is more complex. The index percentage is affected on the fly by several factors that you'll have to manage as you play the game. The four major components that appear to affect your index are Snake's camo pattern, his posture, his location in the environment, and the face paint he's wearing. The camo pattern system seems to be laid out pretty logically. As you go through the game you'll need to make sure Snake's camo pattern matches his surroundings so he can blend in. For example, you'll want to don a tree bark pattern when slinking around in the woods or a grass pattern when skulking around grassy areas.
You'll have to be pretty quick on your feet as you go through the different environments, since your surroundings change pretty quickly and will require you to adjust your camo (which you can do freely at any time) accordingly. While Kojima showed off seven camo patterns you could use in the game, he stated there would be many more to choose from. In addition to the straightforward stuff like tree bark and grass patterns, you can expect to find a diverse range of other camouflage including fire and snow patterns and several varieties of leaf patterns. There does appear to be a catch to the system, however. It sounds as if you won't have access to the full selection of camo when you start the game.
Although choosing the right camo pattern is a good start toward not being seen, it's just one piece of the puzzle. Snake's posture will have a significant effect on the camo index, based on how you stand and move around. Kojima showed off a demo of the game to illustrate the ways that Snake's posture affected the index. The sequence started with Snake standing in grass, wearing an olive drab camo pattern with a camo index of 45 percent. Snake then went through several different actions that affected the percentage. Crouching raised the percentage to 65 percent, while lying down boosted it to 80 percent. Normal walking dropped the percentage down to 20 percent, and running moved it to negative 5 percent. A new move called stalking (which is essentially a way to move quietly) boosted the percentage back up to 45 percent. The catch to stalking is that it causes Snake's new stamina meter to run down. Kojima wouldn't elaborate on what effects the stamina meter will have, other than to say that you'll lose stamina as you engage in physical activities such as walking or climbing around mountains (or even taking your shirt off in poor weather), and you'll have to feed yourself to regain lost stamina. The system will be elaborated on at this year's E3.