Hideo Kojima was at his tricksiest when he decided to tease and reveal the latest in the Metal Gear Solid series, The Phantom Pain. In a long and convoluted breadcrumb trail, Kojima fabricated the existence of an entire video game studio to release a teaser trailer for a mysterious game about a comatose man. Using interview footage generated using the same engine that would be used for the game, Kojima laid down a mysterious network of hints that soon had the internet more than a little interested. And then bam – suddenly, The Phantom Pain became Metal Gear Solid V, and the rest is history.
Well, sort of.
There were some complications along the way, like how Metal Gear Solid V would be split into two parts, on sale separately. And how series stalwart David Hayter would not be reprising his role as the smoky-throated Snake, instead making way for the considerably more famous Kiefer Sutherland. And there were those who exasperatedly rolled their eyes at Kojima’s penchant for obtuse showmanship, and the complicity from some members of the games media to amplify the ruse.
But then again, it wouldn’t be Kojima or Metal Gear Solid if it didn’t involve some kind of weirdness.
Kojima Productions is shaking up the Metal Gear formula quite a bit in The Phantom Pain. Foremost is the use of the brand new in-house engine known as Fox. Boasting some truly fantastic visual capabilities, the Fox engine is allowing MGSV to expand visually. Scanning and capturing the likenesses, motions, and voices of actors and rendering them in-game, MGSV is set to be one of the most realistic games to date. More critically, the Fox engine unshackles Metal Gear Solid from its traditional linear area progression and expands it into an open world game.
Departing from the previous entries, The Phantom Pain is dumping Venom Snake/Big Boss into a huge Soviet War era Afghanistan. Here, Snake will be free to explore, tackling areas and objectives in whatever way he sees fit. Snake can traverse the world in numerous ways, from trucks to motor bikes to horseback to rock climbing to helicopter. A full day-night cycle will either help or hinder Snake depending on what needs to get done, with Snake being able to fast forward time using an e-cigar to take maximum advantage of patrol route changes.
Expanded from Peace Walker is the base building system, where Snake can obtain and sequester resources for later use. Key to this is the Fulton system – a balloon tag that whips whatever (or whomever) it is attached to back to base. Resources – from jeeps to sheeps – can be acquired by Snake for later use in his base. This also includes sleeping enemy troops, who can be recruited into Mother Base’s forces, and can be used as AI companions, intel scouts, or military assets in the field. Mother Base is fully explorable and customisable, giving Snake a place to hang out away from the dust and blood of Afghanistan.
Of course, it’s not just the new that makes MGSV special. It also has returning staples including but not limited to: sneaking, CQC, holdups, third person shooting, alert and evasion, distraction, items, and, of course, cardboard boxes.
Following the destruction of Militaires Sans Frontieres and Mother Base after Snake’s attempt to rescue Paz and Chico from the US black site in Cuba – as told in Ground Zeroes – Snake is injured and endures a nine year coma. After waking up minus a hand, Snake sets out to gain revenge on XOF with Kaz Miller. This takes him to Afghanistan, where he meets up with his old frenemy Revolver Ocelot, and forms a new band of mercenaries – the Diamond Dogs. Now under the moniker of Venom Snake, Big Boss takes on the enemy in Soviet War Afghanistan, uncovering a plot by the mysterious Cypher to create a weapon even more powerful than the Metal Gear platform.
I think that’s what’s happening, anyway. Who knows, really? It’s Metal Gear Solid, so chances are it has nanomachines and weird conspiracies and the la-li-lu-le-lo and it’s all a dream or something absurd. Either way, Kiefer Sutherland as Snake will give a compellingly gruff performance that justifies punching a bunch of dudes in the face and we’ll all be confused by the end. It’s all about enjoying the ride, anyway.
Metal Gear Solid V’s part one, Ground Zeroes, was really quite a deep experience, packing intricate stealth gameplay into a single map microcosm. It was the proverbial Tanker chapter to The Phantom Pain’s Plant. If The Phantom Pain is 200 times bigger than Ground Zeroes, as is being promised, then we’re in for a big game with massive amounts of depth. Ground Zeroes was great, and if Kojima and co. can maintain it over the course of the entire story and the breadth of an open world, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will undoubtedly be one of the most spectacular games released this year.
Even if it isn’t, I’ll still get to balloon up some sheep while wearing a chicken mask, and that’ll be more than enough for me.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is coming to PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC sometime in 2015.