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Joystiq hands-on: Metal Gear Solid 4 - the finished game


The moment we'd been awaiting for ever since Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots was announced at E3 2005 came on Wednesday evening, when we walked up to a PS3 running the final, ready-for-retail build of the game and ever so slowly pressed "start" with quivering thumbs. We were whisked from the title screen – a real-time scene showing a suit-wearing Old Snake in the graveyard from previous trailers – to the Middle East, where after only a few minutes we realized that Kojima has done it again: he's taken MGS in a new direction, with wild ambition, while still keeping sneaking the No. 1 priority.

No spoilers here; we're just as set as you are on having as little of the game ruined for us before we get to sit down and play it, good and proper. That said, make with the clicking and read our tale of 40-odd minutes with what will surely be a system-seller for PS3 after the break!

Gallery: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots | 25 Photos

Arriving in a battlefield that was very reminiscent of the Midtown Maelstrom map from the recent Metal Gear Online beta, we were thrust straight into sneaking, were armed with only a stun knife. We found ourselves all-too-close to an intense shootout between local militia and a private military contractor who just so happened to bring along a pack of the nasty cyborg mini-Metal Gears, called Gekkos.

Otacon was quick to advise us on the situation -- although instead of doing so via a codec screen, we simply heard him speaking, presumably over Snake's earpiece. Our task: Head to a rally point indicated by a flashing icon in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen. Essentially unarmed, we snuck and crawled our way past PMCs, triggering several cinematic sequences along the way. (In a nice touch, Old Snake's octocamo pattern in cinemas matches up with its in-game appearance, making everything look more seamless.)

"He's gone gray and looks like he's been through a lot, but the guy is as spry as ever."

We couldn't keep sneaking forever; it wasn't long before an armored Striker vehicle rolled in and we had a chance to experience one of the many fresh new elements of the game: being a hero in the eyes of others. In this case, we picked up an RPG launcher left by a fallen militia member (you can now acquire weapons dropped by allies and enemies, although they're initially "locked" and can't be fired -- more on that in a sec) and used it to take out the PMC's ride. The militia shouted their thanks as we helped them mop up. Then it was time to meet Drebin, the "arms launderer" featured in a previous trailer. In addition to owning a soda-guzzling, diapered pet monkey, he assists Old Snake by unlocking any PMC weapons acquired -- for a price. You earn Drebin Points while playing and can spend them for unlocks and weapon add-ons. There's a "Drebin Shop," but thankfully you don't have to find it on the map; it's all done via the "network" (a.k.a. a menu screen). Using some Drebin Points, we were able to buy a grip and grenade launcher for the M4 rifle he'd given us "on the house." After adding the grip, we noticed how much more accurate our aim was, whether in over-the-shoulder or "FPS" aiming mode. Tricking out the many, many guns in the game is handled through a sub-menu where you can spin and zoom the weapon to see your changes. The whole thing felt like a much more in-depth version of Call of Duty 4's multiplayer weapon customization, only completely on the fly.

Oh, and "Old" Snake? Yeah, he's gone gray and looks like he's been through a lot, but the guy is as spry as ever. No huffing or puffing -- although his rate of movement does slow down as he acquires more weapons and ammo.

"We could see and feel all the signs of an epic."

We wrapped up our hands-on by fiddling with some things Hideo Kojima had touched on in his demo of the game earlier in the evening. One was using the night vision mode of the Solid Eye to spot footprints in a collapsed building as we made our way through it. This proves very handy in finding safe paths where the floor below us wouldn't give way. We also equipped some energy drinks we'd found and offered them to militia troops -- we'll admit it was odd seeing a heart symbol appear about their heads instead of the trademark exclamation point. Finally, we loaded up a tune on the in-game iPod and watched as our stress meter went down during a firefight, which saw us using a mortar emplacement to lob rounds at another Striker that came rolling up.

Based only on an all-too-brief foray into the final build of MGS4, we could see and feel all the signs of an epic. This just might be Kojima's crowning achievement; we'll find out once and for all as we marathon the game when it hits on June 12.

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