Above all else, Solid Snake is a highly accomplished smoker. There's a small band of cultural icons who make sucking on a cancer stick look the coolest thing on Earth, regardless of what public health posters say. Snake is one of them. Bruce Willis could have been fighting Alan Rickman in a shellsuit and still have looked cool with a fag between his lips. If Clint Eastwood was brandishing a waterpistol, punks would nevertheless have felt unlucky.
There's something about the way a flinty hardman's eyes squint and how his jaw hardens when he's puffing away, which makes you think you wouldn't like to bump into them in a dark alley - or that if you did happen down a dark alley, he was at least on your side. Snake knows this. That's why through various cutscenes, Snake does his damnedest to keep his fag clamped firmly in his gob. It might make his eyes water, it might make him skew his shot or cough when he's hiding, but it's still hugely important, even when it's a little bent like he's sat on it or dropped it in a puddle.
He drops it once in that opening, but soon picks it up again. That is the only thing dropped in the entire game. Everything else is in there - everything. Answers. Ideas. Questions. History. Closure. When Snake picks up that cigarette again, it's MGS4 picking up the baton and running with it, hell for leather.
It's hard to know how to sum up MGS4 in a single word. 'Epic' could be used, but that might imply that small details are out of focus when they're not. 'Gargantuan' is a possibility, but then 'bloated' would also have to be strongly considered. Excellent? Definitely. Awesome? It's awe-inspiring in many respects. Extravagant? Oh yes.
So I'll do my best to sum it up, to give you a brief idea of how good it is, in, oh, about two and a half thousand words. That way I might just about scratch the surface of the content Kojima has jam-packed into this particular Blu-ray.
MGS4 is a not a game which devours 100-plus hours, like something like Oblivion; nor is it a multi-faceted, truly revolutionary title, like... well, we're still waiting for that. It's a peculiarly Japanese game in some respects; more accurately, it's peculiarly Metal Gear. It manages to be contradictory, traditional, regimented, outlandish all at the same time. It is overblown, too, leaving your senses feeling like your belly would after a sumptuous seven-course meal.
You've had far, far too much of a good thing, but you can undo your pants, have a kip and then get stuck into it once more. It tastes too good not to.
Paris was the city hosting my play-through of the game, and everybody knows that Paris is very lovely. MGS4, however, is lovelier. In the basement of a hotel the size of the moon I was stationed in front of my own plush telly with my own virtual surround-sound headset and a steady supply of strong coffee. I felt no need to leave. The Louvre? Meh. I'd rather have a war-torn South America thank you very much.
Konami and Kojima in particular have been fastidious to the point of neurosis in their quest to safeguard MGS4's plot twists and turns from being spoiled, and to be honest, even if I were that way inclined there's simply not enough paper in the magazine to print them all. As with every MGS title, a huge chunk of the thrill comes from discovering what lies around the next corner. MGS4 consistently packs the series' hugest punches yet.
MGS4's story is massive. The videogame equivalent of all three Godfather movies on one disc. You're probably familiar with the opening segment of the game thanks to the trailers that have already been released. They show a battle-ravaged Middle-Eastern town with Snake flitting between street skirmishes and bombed out buildings on his way to a confrontation with his brother, Liquid.