Editor's note: many spoilers lie ahead for the entire plot of Metal Gear Solid 4.
Whether you love or hate Metal Gear Solid, there's no denying that it's an exciting spectacle - in the game and on the internet, where more than a few people are properly crazy about it (2318 at the last count). But poor old Hideo Kojima just can't get shot of it. After so many last games, he's still at it, working directly on PSP title Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, overseeing development of Metal Gear Solid: Rising, and no doubt thinking hard about other ways to keep the wheels turning.
Hideo Kojima appeared rather melancholy when we spoke to him at Games Convention this year - which is to be expected, we suppose, since he's just finished the game that will almost certainly be his magnum opus. We spoke to him about MGS4's development, the importance of exclusive titles, and gamers' obsession with hardware.
It begins with... well, we can't tell you how Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots begins. We can't, and we won't. Can't, because we promised Konami we wouldn't; having generously granted us three days to play through the whole thing, the publisher is understandably paranoid about spoilers, with the game still six weeks from release. Won't, because we want you to feel exactly the same delicious, hair-raising mix of bemused awe and shock-of-the-new that we did when you turn it on for the first time. Metal Gear Solid 4, it is instantly apparent, is special. It's not like other games.
There's one small feature - inconsequential, really - that we noticed during our playtest of the next Metal Gear Solid that really sums the game up. Maybe even the whole series. At certain moments during cut-scenes, when a familiar character appears or there's a reference to some past event, a button prompt appears in the corner of the screen. But it's not an invitation to skip (although you can - and for the first time, you can skip codec conversations, too). It's not some kind of simon-says scripted action moment, or 'cineractive', in the uniquely horrible term coined for them this year. No: it's a flashback button.
Glance over the videos of Metal Gear Solid 4 - and there have been plenty, including the hilarious new Tokyo Game Show addition - and you might be given the impression that it's a complicated game full of fiddly little controls. That's certainly how it looks when Kojima acts it out. Fortunately, it's not how it plays. In fact, judging by the playable demo here in Makuhari, it's gone from being slightly awkward to deceptively but welcomely simple. And let us not forget that it has a monkey in it.
The Tokyo Game Show 2005 trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4 can be found on the Kojima Productions website.