MGS4 has much more of a globe-trotting flavour to it than any other previous game. As Snake strives to discover why the shadowy Patriots - remember them from MGS2? - have injected soldiers with controllable nanomachines, we're treated to (mostly) gorgeous representations of the Middle East, South America and even Eastern Europe, with homages paid to James Bond, Mission Impossible and even Splinter Cell, as well as, naturally, earlier games. There are more, breathtaking surprises in store concerning where Snake rolls up. And just like the flesh and bone secret Matrix motherland - believe me, you'll really want to see this for yourself, so no spoiler here.
As a PS3-exclusive, MGS4 is arguably as important as Grand Theft Auto IV. It's probably more sweeping, more epic - but at the same time, it's more for the fans of the series. It is very insular, bound as it is by the conventions and legacy Hideo Kojima himself created, and so while many, many sections of the game are consistently peerless, much of Metal Gear Solid 4 is more traditionally structured.
It's most apparent in the play/bossfight/big cutscene formula which, with certain other games, has been made redundant somewhat. Despite all the technical wizardry on show, there's still a sense that we're being deprived of valuable gameplay for the sake of some flashy (albeit very, very flashy) story exposition. One or two sections of gameplay, too, are merely adequate and functional rather than exhilarating - but then we're all fans here, and that in itself means our expectations were maybe unreasonably high. It can't all be fireworks?!
So while MGS4's wilfully exclusive, staunch old-school feel (note that despite this, the interface and much of the story is perhaps the most accessible it's ever been - there's just loads of it) may prevent it being the perfect iteration of the series, it also has to be applauded. It hasn't been diluted, it's just as hardcore a Metal Gear experience as ever, if not more so given the abundance of information to process and take in.
Toddy thought Uncharted was a pretty good example of what next-gen gaming was all about back in PSW 102, and he was right. But MGS4 will join GTAIV in forming a stellar double-whammy of what PS3 can, should and will be capable of for the rest of its lifespan. At last, next-gen gaming will be fully realised in blockbuster form.
So it really feels as though Kojima has come full circle with MGS4. In his press conference in Paris he mentioned that when some people in his studio were brought in to play the game, they cried.This might sound a little daft, but I can see why - there's so much nostalgia here that you find yourself reminded of some golden Metal Gear-based memories.
Still, more than anything, this is a fitting debut (Finale? Kojima has neither confirmed or denied it) for the series on PS3. You'll play it. And again. You'll play it until your arms fall off. You'll find something new to love every time. Now excuse me, I'm getting withdrawal pangs. I need to get back to it.