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ECTS 2003: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Our impressions from the show.

Although it didn't quite "steal the show" at E3 this year as some PS2 magazines claimed, Konami's Metal Gear Solid 3 trailer certainly brought a section of the show floor to a standstill at regular intervals. We were amongst the gawping masses paying close attention and although the trailer is now readily available on the web, we still made the "Director's Cut" version on show at ECTS one of our first ports of call this morning.

Good thing, too, because obviously Konami has developed some new and innovative definition of the term "Director's Cut". The trailer on display every hour here at ECTS is brand and indeed spanking new. With bigger explosions and bigger hints on the gameplay we can expect.

"How do you like your snake? Rare? Well done? We recommend 'Solid'"

Just to recap, the E3 trailer (also appearing regularly on Konami's ECTS showreel) showed a now radar-free Snake navigating a jungle area and shooting camouflaged assailants to the peels of Harry Gregson-Williams' Bond-esque score. Our hero (or not, as Hideo Kojima teased) was seen chomping on actual snake, taking on a riverside outpost from underwater and was even on the receiving end of an elaborate (and actually rather unfunny) Vice City joke as he tried to jack a motorbike patrol. Feel free to check out Rob's E3 impressions (including a take on MGS: Twin Snakes for the Cube) if you missed out - otherwise, we've been analysing the new revised version for you...

"New setting, new era, new gameplay," the ECTS strapline proudly proclaimed as we staggered towards it this morning. "New trailer," we thought, giggling like excited schoolgirls. And unlike the rather ambiguous E3 offering, this trailer emphasises the new gameplay aspects with more definition - this one's about survival, and close quarters combat. At one point, to the sound of Gregson-Williams' endearing 007 tribute, we were treated to a silhouette of Snake taking down various enemies, both armed and unarmed, using a mixture of martial arts, brute force and even the odd knife - imagine a game of the final scene from Under Siege and you probably won't be too far away.

Snake has developed some new and ingenious methods of evading detection, too. After parachuting into the jungle in the first scene, he takes on an unwary alligator, whose head is later seen drifting nonchalantly downstream past a river patrol. Guess who!

This is no vice city

Furthermore we finally caught sight of some of those non-jungle locations, including an underground cavern full of bats illuminated by Snake's flamey torch (which flutters regularly), and a subterranean lagoon overseen by a gaggle of gormless-looking guards up on a ledge.

But as with the E3 trailer, Snake gets up to most of his tricks in the jungle, dodging Tomb Raider-style spiky swinging tree trunks and getting caught in a rope trap and suspended high in the air - probably a good thing, given the pack of wild dogs prowling around beneath him. But then it starts to rain. Fortunately Snake doesn't let things bother him, and slices his tether, flips and lands on his feet. However, rain affects his ability to spot adversaries, because to a certain extent he's relying on the crunch of leaves and twigs underfoot to identify enemies - as Konami points out in answer to criticisms of a lack of radar.

It seems clear with the two trailers now thoroughly in mind that MGS3 varies hugely from its predecessor. We haven't seen hide nor hair of a cut-scene or codec - instead it has the abandoned-and-alone feeling of Predator, and Snake seemingly has more rounded stealth and combat abilities, potentially allowing players to take enemies on in any situation, whether it's hanging one-handed from a branch with a handgun, upside down from a rope trap, wading downriver with an assault rifle or hand to hand. We just hope that when we see those lethal takedowns in-engine, we're still expected to waggle the analogue stick.

Go eat snake!

Although Konami hasn't changed its footing on the release date (a tentative "2004" on PS2 - and we all know what happened to its predictions last time), we're slipping slowly back into the trap of being excited about MGS3. And with no new Half-Life 2 footage and not a great deal of anything new and exciting lurking on the show floor, single-format mags might have an easier time justifying its significance here in London.