Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation 3 theater may have been the place to be to see Konami's Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer, but Konami offered browsers of its own booth a closer look at the title towards the end of the first public day of the show. The company held a special stage event devoted to the game, with producer/director Hideo Kojima appearing on stage both to discuss and, surprisingly, to play this first next generation installment in the series.
The stage event started with an airing of the E3 trailer, which originally offered confirmation that MGS4 was in development for the PS3 and that Kojima would be directing, but otherwise ran on PS2 hardware. This was followed with that trailer's continuation, a new clip called "Metal Gear Raiden Snake Eraser." In the new segment, which Kojima later joked required more development time than MGS4, Raiden goes back in time to take out Big Boss, his ultimate goal being to rob Snake of his role as lead character of MGS4. Raiden ends up traveling back to the MSX Metal Gear 2, with the trailer visuals switching to NES-style graphics, before ultimately failing in his quest.
Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi appeared via video message, stating "I'm not usually one to be taken back, but upon seeing the MGS4 video that was running on actual PS3 hardware, I was shocked by the overwhelming expressive power." Praising the skills of Kojima and his development staff at Kojima Productions, Kutaragi finished with "Directory Kojima has arrived. I want to play MGS4 soon."
Following an airing of the TGS trailer (the same one that was being run in Sony Computer Entertainment's PS3 theater) booth, Kojima and the MGS4 staff ran a demonstration of MGS4 running off an actual PS3 development kit with a PS2 Dual Shock used for control. The demonstration consisted of one segment from the trailer -- a scene of Snake wielding a gun as he prepares to take shelter in a ruined building -- but midway through, a member of the development staff paused the action and began zooming in and out and rotating the camera.
This alone would have been a clear demonstration that the clip was running in real time, but the demonstration didn't end there. In order to further show off some of the technology behind the game, Kojima demonstrated some of the lighting and effects possible with the new PS3 engine. "I've always wanted to do self shadowing, but couldn't," Kojima explained, touching upon an effect known as self-shadowing where characters cast shadows onto themselves. The lighting in the scene shifted to show off the game's new self shadowing routines. "I can finally do it!"
Art director Yoji Shinkawa was on stage along side Kojima and both he and Kojima took the opportunity to explain a filtering effect that will be used in the game. Referring to the trailer, Kojima stated, "There's no sense of atmosphere, so on top of this we add a metal color and make it look like a movie on film. Using various effects, we dirty it up." Shinkawa then demonstrated the filtering effects in real time.
Kojima's discussion touched upon some of the non-technical aspects of the game as well. If you've seen the trailer or screenshots for MGS4, you might have noticed a creature whose upper body is mechanical while its lower body is organic. This is the new Metal Gear. "Half machine, half living -- perhaps this is how weapons will progress from here," Kojima commented. The name for the creature is formed two Japanese characters: one for moon and one for light.
Kojima also went into further details on the game's storyline and themes. "The time period this time is many years after MGS2," Kojima stated. This make senses, considering the age of Snake. MGS4 is, chronologically, the last Metal Gear Solid game, following Metal Gear Solid and MGS2. MGS3 took place years before MGS and was part of a separate trilogy of titles.
Playing an important role in the storyline is, of course, Otacon, who appears in the trailer via a small mobile assistant machine. The machine has a screen that displays a video image of Otacon, with Otacon himself being far away from the battle field. The image on the screen, Kojima stressed, is not video, but is also real time. Getting back to the storyline, Otacon's statements from the trailer apparently have great relevance to the final form that MGS4 will take.
The concept of MGS4 was known to be "No Place to Hide" since E3, and as many had speculated, this was in reference to a war zone. "This time, your infiltration point isn't a place, but a war zone," Kojima clarified. "You'll infiltrate battle fields throughout the entire world." And with a war zone comes soldiers. "This time, there are no friends or enemies -- your opponents are soldiers," Kojima revealed. Solidifying recent statements in Famitsu, Kojima stated that player choice will have a role in MGS4 as you'll be able to make soldiers into friends or enemies. Also, each soldier will have his own set of personal gear.
MGS4 uses a different "theme" from previous Metal Gear Solid games. The series has switched from "MEME" to "GENE" to "SCENE," and now ends up with "SENSE." Kojima and his staff are attempting to touch upon the sense of will and spirit that form the root of people. "We are fleshing out areas such as the opponent soldier's psyche and the places that you can't see with your eyes," Kojima explained. Hinting that you'll have a new weapon in MGS4, he added, "We want to demonstrate the psyche of enemy on the battle field as well as the psychological war that makes use of this."
Despite Kojima's new commentary and the demonstration of a very real 3D engine, extrapolating from Metal Gear Solid 2's development timeline, we're going to have to wait quite a bit to get MGS4 in our hands so we can experience this new type of psychological warfare for ourselves. Before that, we expect to see a few more trailers for the game that will no doubt garner as much attention at E3 and next year's TGS as the game's first trailer did at this year's show.