Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Solid Snake: Ovaltine Years. Read preview, watch trailer.

The Tokyo Game Show 2005 trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4 can be found on the Kojima Productions website.

Hideo Kojima must be the top name on PlayStation boss Ken Kutaragi's Christmas card list. Five years ago, the Metal Gear creator wowed the crowds at E3 with the initial trailer for Metal Gear Solid 2, giving the PlayStation 2's sales an impressive kick-start in the process. Okay, so MGS2 divided opinion when it finally appeared - and for many, the series only really redeemed itself with the appearance of the third instalment last year - but what mattered was that it looked next-gen, giving the punters a glimpse of what would be possible on Sony's new hardware.

Now Kojima and his team have done it again - pinning their colours to the mast at this year's Tokyo Game Show with a stunning trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4 which purports to be entirely real-time and, in many ways, is right up there with the quality of the Killzone trailer from E3, which attracted much criticism for being pre-rendered, even though the developers are adamant that it was all entirely built to match the specification of PS3.

Then trailer shows an aging Solid Snake - sporting an iron grey mullet, an ill-advised greying moustache and a hi-tech eyepatch called the "Solid Eye System" which allows him to see in a number of different modes - hiding out in a ruined town as a futuristic squad of enemies, tanks and creepy walking mechs (which appear to have mechanical bodies and biological legs, and look a little like descendants of Metal Gear Ray) patrol through the area.

The level of detail is hugely impressive, with Kojima Productions' trademark of excellent direction and animation very apparent in the video. Facial animation and detail is superb, and harking back to the rain effects which wowed viewers of the original MGS2 trailer, this trailer shows off impressive dust clouds being raised by the progress of the enemy troops, litter being blown about by breezes, heat haze and real-time depth of field.

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Only one other character from the MGS series is seen in the trailer - namely Otacon, who turns up courtesy of a small, fantastically animated robot which carries his voice and image - and, helpfully, an ammunition clip - to the embattled Snake. Interestingly, Snake's codec appears non-functional in the trailer, but the implication is that Otacon's robot is going to follow the grizzled veteran around instead.

That said, we're a little wary about drawing too many conclusions from the trailer. Kojima, after all, has a long history of making hugely misleading trailers - most notably the aforementioned MGS2 trailer, which gave no impression that anyone other than Solid Snake might be the main character in the game.

A few things, however, are made abundantly clear from the trailer. The first, and most obvious thing is the graphical quality of the game, which is among the most impressive titles we've seen for next-generation so far. Certainly, this isn't gameplay footage, but MGS' in-engine cut-scenes have rarely if ever stepped far above the level of the in-game graphics, and we see no reason why that would be any different here.

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The trailer is as much a showcase for the quality of Kojima Productions' artists as for the power of the PlayStation 3, though; much of the wow factor comes from the incredible animation, particularly of Otacon's robot and the creepy walking mechs, which flex and twitch in an incredibly lifelike manner as they stomp and jump around the ruined town.

However, there's no doubt that we're seeing graphics here that simply wouldn't be possible in the current generation - loads of detailed soldiers on screen at once, high quality backdrops and close-up shots that put many pre-rendered movies of the last few years to shame.

The question, of course, is whether this is all truly real-time. The answer is a resounding yes; not only does the trailer itself make that claim in no uncertain terms ("Forget Pre-rendered Stuff!" it instructs viewers at the beginning, during an FPS game spoof section where you see through the eyes of an enemy soldier being taken down by Snake) but it also shows off a number of small hallmarks of real-time footage like occasional low resolution shadows, odd filtering on some textures and a depth of field effect which looks great but not quite as good or accurate as could be achieved simply in 3D Studio Max or the likes.

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Besides, Kojima has never shown off pre-rendered footage in a trailer - in fact, to the best of our knowledge, he's simply never used pre-rendered footage in that way at all. Paranoid conspiracy theories about the power of the PS3 aside, there's no reason why this would be any different, or why one of the world's best-known game developers would compromise himself just to support Sony's claims about its next-gen hardware.

At the end of the day, though, Kojima is unquestionably a PS3 fanboy (although Nintendo fans should note that he was also full of effusive praise for the Revolution controller last Friday) - and he pins his colours to Sony's mast in no uncertain terms by the end of the trailer.

Earlier in the video, Otacon has informed Snake that his robot avatar is powered by the Cell Processor, to a raised eyebrow from the ageing warrior. At the end, we are treated to a short conversation between the two, in which Otacon praises the virtues of Cell - while an image of his computer desktop, showing off the Killzone and Rubber Duck footage from the PS3 E3 conference (and typically laden with Kojima in-jokes, such as the Anubis wallpaper from Zone of the Enders 2), runs in the background.

"Is it really necessary to bring it to the battlefield?", questions Snake.

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"You're looking at the key to winning the console war," responds Otacon.

Well, maybe, maybe not. The key to winning any console war is always going to be software, not hardware. On that front, it's Kojima himself and his apparent dedication to the platform that are a bigger coup for Sony than any microprocessor could ever be - and on the strength of the Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer, it looks like he's once again going to set the early bar for graphical quality on the console.

That said, the Metal Gear creator is adamant that MGS4 will be his last involvement in Metal Gear Solid - which would probably be big news, if he hadn't been so adamant about the same thing last time, and the time before. Never mind the boy who cried wolf; this boy has cried Foxhound one too many times. He'll be back.

We're not sure when Metal Gear Solid 4 is due out, but we certainly want it. Oh yes. Watch the TGS trailer right now on the Kojima Productions website.

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