In the past few months we've learnt a lot about Metal Gear Solid 3, but, of its many new features (including the survival/stamina system, context-sensitive combat and jungle setting to name only three), the ambitious Camouflage Index has undoubtedly captured the most attention. To be fair, the idea of recrafting the series' sneaking antics to focus on Snake's level of visibility in his new jungle environment has drawn a degree of criticism (and plenty of cynicism), but judging by a ten-minute movie posted on Konami's official MGS3 website (direct link), Hideo Kojima's team is deadly serious about making it one of the player's primary concerns.
Primarily a very detailed move-by-move introduction to the Camo Index, the movie puts the theory into motion for those of you who aren't on Konami's special friends list, and also gives us a nice insight into how the game is actually looking - beyond the fancy trailer stuff we've become accustomed to seeing at trade shows. This movie shows how basic posture affects Snake's Camo Index percentage in common clothes on open ground (15 per cent camouflaged standing, 45 per cent crouched, 65 per cent prone), when running and walking through long grass (which parts beautifully as he rustles through it), and while in the new stalking mode.
It also demonstrates how changing outfits can be beneficial, and how it actually works in practice. At first, Snake is easily spotted stalking through long grass in a fiery outfit (cue that sound effect), but fares much better in his leaf pattern outfit, so much so that a curious soldier has a glance and then wanders away. Costume changes look very nippy.
With the groundwork laid, the movie concludes with a nice long look at a section of actual gameplay, as Snake evades guards by switching his camouflage to fit each environment, and then sneaks through a log and pokes his crocodile head out of the other end to scare off a witless soldier. This last section is particularly useful as it gives us a decent indication of how the game's traditional gameplay translates to its new setting and works with the game's new features - peeking round the bows of trees, for example.
Perhaps the most striking thing about the movie however - aside from the depth of the Camo Index - is how nice the game is looking in general. It would be harsh to describe it simply as 'Metal Gear Solid 2 only more so' - although it's instantly recognisable as that level of base tech, the lush and detailed jungle and beautiful light and shadow effects eclipse anything the Sons of Liberty managed to conjure up. Take a look for yourself - not only is the game starting to look like a brave change of pace for the series, it's also starting to look like a real evolution of the stealth-action genre.