Following revelations earlier this month concerning Metal Gear Solid 3's Camouflage Index, Konami Europe has this week released details concerning the game's context-sensitive Close Quarters Combat system, and confirmed that the game will appear in playable form at E3, if only behind closed doors.
Speaking to Eurogamer earlier, a spokesperson said that Hideo Kojima would probably make a personal presentation of MGS3 at E3, and that the game will be on hand "in a playable form, although it may not be playable on the show floor". Kojima is expected to reveal details of the game's stamina system at this year's trade convention.
MGS3 is certain to prove a bigger draw at this year's E3 than it did last year in any event. At the time, the slinky visuals and jungle setting raised a lot of questions and set a lot of hearts aflutter, but didn't really do enough for the vocal minority disillusioned with the series.
This year will be different. We're already itching to see the Camouflage Index in action - the system by which Snake can evade capture by blending into the jungle environment - and how it relates to Snake's survival and stamina requirements, but now we're even more excited on account of the Close Quarters Combat system.
Konami reckons the combination of Camo Index, stamina and CQC systems will lead to a much less linear gameplay experience for fans, and we're certainly impressed by the possibilities. In theory it sounds great - being able to use context-sensitive offensive movements, facing off against multiple enemies at once, and having to take things like Snake's posture into account along the way.
But the specifics sound even more intriguing. Say you're faced with three enemies who have been alerted to your presence. According to a Konami representative, Snake will have plenty of options - maybe grabbing an enemy as a human shield, or grabbing him and throwing him at another enemy whilst tackling a third man hand-to-hand, or perhaps just throwing him at a tree to knock him out.
The system, devised by returning military advisor Motosadi Mori, will also intuitively make use of the best weapon for a situation. For example, if Snake has a knife and a gun in his hands and comes up against an enemy in a well-guarded area, the game would use the stealthier option - the knife - in order to keep things low key.
Judging by the latest batch of screenshots, we can also expect pistol-whipping, grabbing enemies and kicking their legs out from under them, and plenty more besides. When faced with specific questions about these abilities, Konami Europe told us that anything is possible "simply because like the Camo Index everything is contextual".
This latest splurge of information also makes mention of a new motion-capturing system utilised by Hideo Kojima's team in Japan, which used a trampoline, air jets and a three-way safety harness to bring explosions to life. We can expect to see guards propelled through the air by grenades in previously unimaginable detail as Konami supes up the realism side of the animation.
Going on previous experience, we can probably also expect to see footage of the motion capture in action bundled on the disc somehow, or perhaps as a separate "Making Of" documentary like the one that shipped with MGS2. Of course, Konami Europe was quick to point out that things like that will be decided on closer to release, and that we'll have to "see what happens" between now and then.
All in all, Metal Gear Solid 3 is shaping up in ways we hadn't expected, and seems keen to re-establish its credentials as the king of stealth antics in light of an aggressive riposte from the Ubisoft/Splinter Cell camp last Friday. Will we still be talking about Pandora Tomorrow in the future, or will it get lost in the growing jungle of MGS-inspired stealth titles? Who knows - all we can say is that every time we hear more about MGS3's jungle antics, it starts to sound more and more well rounded, and more and more deserving of our attention.
Let's just hope everyone feels that way when the first shots of the inevitable codec conversations filter through...