Our hands-on impressions are based on an extended version of the Tokyo Game Show code - the bulk of which can be seen in the 15-minute PS Store demo, where Snake camouflages himself as a statue and holds another carving’s genitals. While the demo is set over a relatively small location, there are multiple approaches. Remember the incredible 15-minute tanker demo for MGS2? You could zip through, or spend hours finding new ways to bamboozle guards, marveling at your ability to shoot individual wine bottles or write your name in darts on a foe’s buttocks. The Metal Gear Solid 4 demo isn’t as seismic a leap, but it’s equally open-ended. Enemies might be smarter, but not shockingly so, while environmental damage isn’t as extreme as once suggested - bullets leave direct scars in cement, and glass panes shatter, but we couldn’t blow the scenery into chunks using the Patriot rocket launcher or RPG.
Visually, it’s impressive, but not staggering. Squint and pop into first-person view, and it’s not dissimilar to the Middle East sections in Call of Duty 4. In fact, playing MGS4 in FPS mode feels initially disappointing, since a part of your brain thinks you’re playing Infinity Ward’s incredible shooter. Extended play soon erodes comparisons - Metal Gear 4 is way more flexible - and the graphics gently dazzle: the volume of gunfire, explosions, soldiers and smoke in the final showdown with the PMC tank spikes your breath.
It isn’t PS3’s best-looking game, but the solidity and detail - zoom in and just look at Snake’s grizzled face - is confidently reassuring. We’re yet to fight a single boss, or endure a set piece like, say, the final white rose petal battle against Boss in MGS3, or the showdown against the choppers in the mountains, so it’s fair to expect big surprises in the finished game. The demo is effectively one long ‘bridge’ section - a proof of concept - with no more significance than, for example, the first hour of jungle paths in MGS3.