Metal Gear Solid 4 - hands on

The weapons are brilliant, with dramatic differences between, say, the GSR .45mm pistol, and the M6OE4 7.62mm machine gun. If anything, it’s a little too easy to mow down guards (they only need a shot or two to the face), reducing the need for stealth. That said, we suspect that’s because the demo has every weapon unlocked, as opposed to a stun knife and pistol. Make no mistake: you’re in deep trouble if you trip the alert and take on three armed guards with a USP.

You can’t steal PMC weapons, since they’re ID tagged, but clumsier militia weapons like the AK47 can be plundered and customised by arms dealer Drebin. Others, like the M870 shotgun, have multiple ammunition types (tap Circle on the menu select screen to rotate), including OG Buck (for a wider range), Slugs (for power) and V Rings (rubber bullets for silent knock outs, a bit like Splinter Cell). Only PMC troops use the SOP nanomachine communication system hinted at by Meryl in the last trailer, too.

Our hands-on ends at the same place as the PSN footage, with Snake using a Patriot missile to take down a tank, and befriending the local militia (“So you’re on our side now?” they whoop). You can even offer rations to friendly troops in exchange for ammo or other items. Intriguingly, when you retreat from the street to the militia safe house, the demo ends with a familiar cut-scene: the bit from the Tokyo Game Show trailer where Snake is confronted by rookie Akiba. Snake humiliates him with CQC, before Meryl and the Foxhound team appear. “CQC… so you’re a real Big Boss, huh?” queries Meryl, initially failing to recognize Snake. He explains his appearance is due to accelerated aging but ‘doesn’t know why’. The demo ends with Akiba suffering stomach cramps, setting up the bizarre diarrhea scene that you saw at the end of the TGS trailer.

The plot’s too mental to describe or speculate about here, but we suspect a twist to rival playing as Raiden in MGS2. The in-game HUD curiously refers to Old Snake (not Solid Snake), perhaps suggesting you play as a different Snake clone. Could it be MGS3’s hero Big Boss? He was supposed to be dead, but if he was reanimated it would explain Snake’s aged appearance, and add further depth to the reappearance of former lover Eva in MGS4. That said, Old Snake does have both eyes (Big Boss loses one of his in MGS3) and, er, the Mk II scans Old Snake and displays his code name as ‘Solid’. Or you might play as ‘Old’ and ‘Young’ versions of Solid Snake - explaining the mysterious youthful Snake at the end of the TGS 2006 trailer. How? Either Old Snake finds a cure for the aging, or the game’s set over two time periods.