Metal Gear Solid 4 - hands on

Controls have been tweaked - initially confusing for MGS veterans, but potentially more inviting for first-timers. Hold L1 to aim and R1 to shoot, or tap Triangle while holding your gun to go into FPS mode. There’s no sprint key, just standard analogue stick response. You tap X to crouch, and hold it to lie prone, removing the ridiculous triple-tap system of old where it was easy to prostrate yourself like a bullet sponge in the face of incoming fire. Triangle performs all ‘Action’ functions, like hiking over rubble, or hiding behind cover, using context-sensitive on-screen icons. It’s also used to ‘absorb’ scenery patterns with your Octo-camo suit, increasing your camouflage percentage. Otherwise, it’s largely as you’ve seen in the Network demo, with Sixaxis-controlled bin lid-opening and barrel-rolling over guards among the new features. The remote-controlled Mk II robot handles as you’d expect, but has a handy ‘stealth’ mode, with a clear, wobbly outline like the Predator’s wavy camouflage.

It isn’t your skills, but their applications that enthrall. On one occasion, we tried to barrel roll down a multiple set of steps over incoming militia - getting comically stuck in a corner, before steamrolling our foes in a milkshake splat of blood and sick. It’s darkly comic, too. Lobbing a phosphorus grenade directly onto an enemy’s head causes him to scream while frantically patting at his clothes. You can roll grenades, too, by aiming them at the floor, or bounce them off walls. “What’s a robot doing on the battlefield?” quizzes one militia, before you use the Mk II’s (Snake’s tiny mobile robot) extendable arm to electrocute his buttocks, frying him as long as you please. The Mk II can flip switches too - a hint at gameplay to come.

With extended play, we were able to place sexy magazines (called ‘MG Gal’ and ‘guaranteed to arouse the interest of males age 12 to 80’, though there’s no new pictures save what you’ve seen in the PSN demo), and lure guards by tapping walls. Better yet, plant a Sleeping Gas Satchel behind a nearby wall, and you can remote detonate it as the guards lean in to ‘read’ the sexy magazine. Careful, mind - you can gas yourself, forcing you to lie prone for minutes. At the end of the demo, we were gassing guards for fun, retreating to a safe location, and firing a precision RPG rocket between their trousers - leaving a blackened corpse with legs at near-180˚ angles. Ugh.