Hands-On Preview: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain [Spoiler Free]
It’s not very often that I can take long journey’s to attend gaming events, god knows I’ve had to miss many in my short amount years trying to make my way in this industry, but if there’s one game that’s gonna get me out and about, it’s for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
The night before was like being an excitable child waiting for Christmas (in fact I’m 34 and I still struggle to sleep the night before) buzzing with excitement. Obviously when you have high hopes for anything, it could go one of a few ways. You could have you expectations exceeded, it could live on par with your expectations or it could come crashing down to Earth and be more anti-climatic than Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Still despite this, nothing could waver my excitement (at least for an hour or two) when playing The Phantom Pain at a special behind closed doors event.
Thankfully by the time I had ended my 7 hours or so playing one of my most anticipated games of 2015, all I could think was “dam, now I have to wait 3 long months for the game to release!” Even when I tried to numb my pain by playing Ground Zeroes, it just never felt the same once I had sampled the huge, open worldly missions of The Phantom Pain. The game had truly spoiled me in this sense, after all, why have a chicken nugget when you can have a Chicken Royale? Either way, it’s safe to say that during the preview event, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain exceeded my already high expectations and I’ll tell you why.
When I sat down to play the game, we were thrown straight into the games prologue chapter, no not Ground Zeroes, but that awesome Gamescom footage of Big Boss/Venom Snake fleeing the hospital with a mysterious masked accomplice going by the name of Ishmael; whom we discovered at GDC 2013, that he had the same voice as Boss (at least in English voiced by 24’s Kiefer Sutherland). As we know Ishmael guided you safely (ish) out of the hospital, events then led you to the Mother Base and then of course on to the missions, which is what I’ll mainly talk about here. But before I escaped the hospital, I was asked to create quite an extensive avatar, presumably to be used in Metal Gear Online. The custom options available would rival that of a game in the RPG genre, it had the same level of facial detail as Pro Evolution Soccer 5 (possibly closer to PES6, but that’s not out yet, so I can only guess), which also uses the Fox Engine. The avatar I created had a deliberate resemblance to Old Snake from MGS4.
You probably know as much as I at this time, with Metal Gears iconic complicated plot and I wanted to get stuck into as much gameplay as possible before my time at this event ended. I skipped just about all of the cutscenes for this reason and because I want to keep as much plot details as spoiler free for when I got my mitts on the game come September 1st, so you can read on safe in the knowledge that this preview will be spoiler free in terms of any plot details.
When I arrived at the Mother Base, I was talked over some of the basics by Kazuhira Miller. He explained some of the basic combat gameplay basics, but more importantly how you can develop the Mother Base and its inhabitants. When out of missions, you will earn currency or GMP (Gross Military Product) as it’s known here. GMP will be earned by completing missions, side-objectives, finding diamonds and so forth. The more currency you earn, the more you can develop and expand your Mother Base, to improve your military personal, weaponry and various pieces of equipment to be used in the battlefield and to defend your Mother Base from intruding online players. You can even improve your horses gear; upgrade your helicopter and much, much more.
An important factor of the Mother Base will be how you manage your staff. Each member of staff will have a grade based upon their area of expertise. Some might be better in R&D, while others in Biological affairs, Support and what not. In most cases your staff will be automatically correctly assigned to the best site department, but not in all cases. So it would be wise to have a run through and make what staff adjustments that you need. As you base grows, your MB with upgrade, along with all the departments and its staff.
You will literally see you MB grow in size and importance; you can even change the colour of you base if you choose. During the many gameplay previews we’ve seen so far, we already know the role of the Fulton, but just in case you don’t or need your memory jogged, I’ll briefly explain. The Fulton is used to extract personnel, weapons, gadgets, vehicles and even wildlife to your Mother Base. During the preview, I was only able to extract smaller items, but as you upgrade the Fulton (like with just about everything else), you will be able to acquire heavier good such as vehicles and heavy artillery.
An example of how the Fulton could be used was when I had to extract an individual via one of the many side-objectives (there are around 5 for each main mission) who could translate Russian. Once he was extracted and sent to the Mother Base, I was then able to understand Russian dialogue for later missions, which came in handy for when eaves dropping. I also extracted that cute wolf puppy known as Diamond Dog, who can then be taken out of missions with you once he has grown. Unfortunately I did not play the preview long enough for him to age and take on missions. Though not all wolves in TPP are as cute as D.D, as while I was scouting an enemy base, I was interrupted and chased out of the area by a pack of wolves! So it will be interesting to see what other wildlife inhabitants we’ll have to look out for come September, apparently I hear wild bears freely roam.
Much has been said about the open-world approach of The Phantom Pain and Konami were not exaggerating when they expressed how huge the maps really are. I only got to sample the Afghanistan map, but my god, it’s immense. My initial plan was to fly through the preview as quickly as I could, but I simply could not resist partaking in the side-objectives and generally exploring its inviting world. If you think of the Ground Zeroes map, but times it by 100, which may be exaggerating myself, but I think you get my point.
How you approach each mission is all down to you, simply pick the location in which you want the helicopter to drop you off, saddle your horse and away you go. While out in the field, you can also gather plants and herbs, which can be used as health potions (so to speak) and even poisonous weapons to inflict upon the enemy. I genuinely believe that if you played the same mission several times over, it would go down differently. Being the somewhat cautious gamer and Metal Gear fan that I am, I like to scout my surroundings, tag all enemies, look for the best vantage points, work out the best way in and way out, heck I even leave some vehicles in certain locations just in case I needed another way out (this is exactly why I was unable to rush through the preview).
Once you feel that you know your approach, its mission time. In the most part, my mission success was very effective and very rarely did I get caught by the enemy. In fact I was quite proud of my stealth skills; I was clearly putting all my years of playing Metal Gear to good use, other than one silly hiccup. Basically I had completed my main objective, with no alerts, I was in and straight back out. So I thought to myself that I could take on one of the remaining side-objectives which required extracting an enemy specialist personnel that could aid my weapon development back on the Mother Base. So I snuck into enemy territory like the expert that I thought I was. I got into the specialists dorm room and thought it might be wise to tranquilize him before sending him on a one way trip with my Fulton. However, unbeknown to me, I had my sniper rifle equipped. Obviously when I fired this weapon, not only did I unintentionally execute the specialist, but I alerted the entire surrounding enemy to my location.
I fled the scene as quickly as I could, remarkably unnoticed. Yet despite my amateur error, I got to see how thorough the enemy was in searching and tracking down my location. If you thought they searched extensively in Ground Zeroes, then think again. Their search radius is huge and it seemed like around 15 minutes before they gave up. During that time they split up into packs and not only examined my last seen location, but just about every other hiding place around it. They are even able to not only track your footprints (which we gear in the PS1’s MGS), but also the hooves of your horse too. So it’s even more important to complete missions unseen, because you could find yourself spending a lot of your time hiding in the bushes.
As I approached the last 15 minutes of my preview, I decided that if I was quick, I could squeeze in one more mission before heading off back home. So rather than using stealth, I would call in my chopper from the get go and run in all guns blazing. When I kicked off the mission, the prisoner that I had to rescue was being driven away in a jeep and was guarded by a tank of all things. So I pierced the jeeps front tyre to slow them down with my sniper rifle and called in my air support to take out the tank. I assumed that once the tank was disposed of, the air support would then return back to the Mother Base, how wrong was I? The chopper stuck with me from start to finish, gunning down any enemy that stood in its way, even killed the snipers tucked away in the watch towers. My job was now relatively simple; I sat distantly on my horse, picking off what remaining enemies there were with my sniper rifle.
By the time I had reached the enemy fort to rescue the prisoner, it was practically an empty house. So I threw the prisoner on the back of my horse and I headed off to the extraction point to be picked up by the chopper. It took me a mere 5 minutes to finish the mission and I was rewarded with an A for my efforts. Though as fun as this approach was, I wouldn’t recommend it for all missions, as 90% of the time; stealth would certainly be the best approach. Speaking of end of mission grades, your score will depend on many factors such as completion time, objectives complete, spotted by the enemies and so on, and you will also be rewarded with bonus GMP.
I will also briefly mention a new enemy type that I encountered during the preview, which I don’t think I’m allowed to say too much about at this time, especially regarding their name. What I will say is that if you crossed The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (but evil) with The Walking Dead, you might start to get the jist.
Before attending this event, I thought 7-8 hours of game time would be plenty, but it wasn’t nearly enough. I could have easily sat there for 24 hours and I’d still want to play more and even when you’ve finished all the main missions and its side-missions, you can venture back in to complete any objectives you may have missed, even attempt to best mission scores. I imagine that it would take weeks, maybe months to do all there is in The Phantom Pain’s campaign and I’ve not even sampled Metal Gear Online, which I hear is also a very comprehensive mode, so I can’t wait for that one.
Hideo Kojima has often spoken about his fondness of the GTA series, more recently with Grand Theft Auto V. Despite being a different genre, I can already see similarities forming with the GTAV campaign and GTA Online against The Phantom Pain’s campaign and Metal Gear Online. If Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain isn’t a 2015 Game of the Year contender, then you can amputate my right arm and replace it with a Bionic Arm (that actually sounds quite awesome). Now all we have to do is excruciatingly wait for that September 1st release date.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will release for PC (via Steam), PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on September 1st.