Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain Preview
I've never been hugely into the Metal Gear games; I've played a few of them over the years but haven't followed them obsessively. I think I did watch a housemate finish the first game on PS1 and played another myself coming away with a positive impression. If I'm honest while the games seem solid (can you ever forgive me?) there have been a few weird feature choices and overly silly plot devices.
However, after watching the initial videos of what Hideo Kojima was doing with this latest outing with Snake I couldn't help but notice it looks incredible. In March 2014 I played the Prologue to Phantom Pain on PS4 (Ground Zero) and whist initially it seemed restrictive (in terms of location) the replayability was undeniable. Kojima Productions have developed their own software calling it the Fox Engine and it looks fantastic: not just in its initial aesthetics, but also in how robust things like weather and time of day cycles work. The production values are also very high and it's clear the whole game is a labour of love for Kojima.
Of course these games, whilst good, have always bordered on the ridiculous and it seems even in 2015 Hideo couldn't help himself. Already we have inflatable decoys with attractive ladies painted on them, a versatile cardboard box (as standard) which can seemingly do anything - including sledging and something called a Fultan which allows Snake to airlift anything out of the mission area - and we do mean anything! It's here you have to decide is this all a bit too much or am I just going to accept the rules of this universe and have some fun? In the gameplay demo below there are plenty of nifty features but a few stand out moments are where Snake uses his decoy to knock a guard off a cliff and also when he throws a grenade and Quiet shoots it mid-air taking down an attack chopper. It will be interesting to see how these cool tricks fare when not in a scripted demo but, if Ground Zero is anything to go by, this is the real deal.
It turns out all these gadgets and toys can be used in many intelligent ways, for example planting C4 on a jeep, using the Fultan to lift it up and, as soon as its level with an attack helicopter ... boom! There is even a scene where the player uses an innocent air drop to take out a guard and it's this 'playing with the systems' which appeals to me the most and what makes open world games fulfil their promise. What is also very interesting is the fact that everything you liberate from sheep, to cars and even people, are all sent back to your mother base and assimilated into the cause. In the video below the developers have again shown off some incredible gameplay - some stand-out moments are the awesome walker buddy and after sending a Russian captive back to base you can then utilise him to understand Russian soldiers in the field.
In this latest video we again see Snake approaching the same objective from many directions and employing varied tactics: it's evident that every time you play the soldiers remember how you attacked on previous incursions. It's in these videos that I've been sold, because Kojima seems to have really embraced what an open world game should try to give the player: freedom. As Neo explains to his chums in the last Matrix film: this world isn't real but it does work on a set of realistic systems and once you learn the systems (or recognise they are in fact present) then you can exploit them. This has been done many times before, such as if an enemy guard sees something odd, he will investigate; once you know this you can lure guards to vulnerable places. The world of Metal Gear solid now has many systems which, if the demos are to be believed, give you the player a wealth of options on how to achieve your goals.
One nice idea in Phantom Pain is your progress is now measured by developing new tech and growing your new mother base. It's been shown off a few times and each time I see it I'm intrigued, you can even raid other players' bases and pinch their hard-earned gear. As I've mentioned in my latest blog post, I had assumed I would have to play this on PS4 but a PC version is planned for release in the same month. So my current plan is to pick up a copy of Phantom Pain on PS4 and then 15 days later when the PC version arrives trade up and do a full PC review. In the meantime I'm going to get myself a copy of Ground Zero on PC so I can compare how the prologue differs from console to PC.
For now, check out the videos linked in this preview and if you guys have any comments please feel free to comment here, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or follow me @riggedforepic