Hands-Off Preview: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – A New Bag of Tricks

Hands-Off Preview: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – A New Bag of Tricks

While Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes was great, it left a lot of us wanting more. We will get more of that sweet, sweet Metal Gear Solid goodness with The Phantom Pain and I got to see some of it while at E3. Although this was itself just a small portion of the game, it featured quite a few additions and also showed a bit of the wackiness that the series is known for.

After we were shown an extended version of the trailer seen during Sony’s press conference, the demo started. This portion was something we’ve seen during last year’s E3: Ocelot and Snake on horseback overlooking an Afghan village. Ocelot tells Snake about his mission and how he is the only man who can possibly pull it off. The mission in question deals with Snake having to rescue a prisoner who is being held deep within enemy territory. After Ocelot finishes his speech, Snake descends down the mountain trail toward his objective.

Snake has a lot more sneaking options in this game than he did in Ground Zeroes. As he got to the base of the ridge and approached his enemies, he slide down to the horse’s right side so as to stay hidden. Snake then quickly dismounts and goes toward a wall which is right near a guard. Here, Snake can distract the guard by either knocking on the wall or by making his robotic hand make noises. Once the guard got close, Snake did some quick CQC to take him out. Although the ability to distract guards is a series staple, it was not available in GZ. It was good to see it back.

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Another returning feature which was showcased prominently during this presentation was the Fulton Recovery System. If you’ve played Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker then you’re familiar with this. If not, the Fulton allows you to attach a balloon to enemies so that they can be sent back to Mother Base–your central hub. These enemies get turned into allies and can be used to gather information or to help in the building of Mother Base (more on that later).

The Fulton isn’t just limited to enemies. You can send back vehicles, dumpsters and even animals. In the demo, Snake used tranquilizers on a sheep which he then sent to the base. If an object is big enough, Snake can get on top of it and use that as a means to return to Mother Base (although this will end the mission). I should add the the FRS doesn’t always work. If you’re inside of a building or if the weather is bad then you can’t send anything off. The balloons can also be shot down by guards if they see them.

Snake eventually makes it to the edge of the enemy camp and, using his binoculars, scopes the place out. Doing this tagged every visible enemy so that their location would always be on the map. The time of day affects enemy patterns and behaviors and if you want to infiltrate at a specific time you can make time go fast by smoking an e-cigarette. Yes, I know that there were no such things as e-cigs in 1984 (or robot hands or holographic displays) but considering that this is a series based around a giant bipedal tank, I think we can let this one slide. The person demoing the game decided to infiltrate during the day for the purposes of the demo.

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When Snake got closer to the enemy camp he called for a supply drop. He needed a highly specialized and advanced piece of stealth technology for this mission and was given… a cardboard box. That’s right, the series’ signature sneaky box is back. The box isn’t just for simply hiding and can now be used in a variety of ways.

While inside the cardboad box, Snake can shoot no longer needs to swap between it and a weapon in the item select menu. Enemies can be pulled into the box to knock them out. The coolest new thing that you can do is use the box as a decoy. In the demo, a guard saw Snake moving while he was in the box. Snake then slowly backed away from his line of sight and jumped out of the box and hid behind a wall. When the guard came to inspect the box, Snake shot him with a tranq and promptly Fulton’ed him away.

Snake eventually made it to his destination and completed his mission of rescuing the target who was actually the man playing the demo for us. The Fulton didn’t function indoors so Snake had to go outside with the man over his shoulder and then sent him on his merry way. Shortly after this, a guard spotted Snake and a heated gun battle ensued. With his mission complete, Snake called for an airstrike on the compound. He hopped into a Jeep and drove off as the camp behind him was blown to holy hell.

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The final section of the demo took place on Mother Base which is located in the open sea. Unlike in Peace Walker, you can actually visit this thing. This particular Mother Base had several sections to it which were all connected by bridges. In the distance you could see other sections which were under construction. The base is highly customizable and no two bases will resemble each other.

As Snake toured the base, he ran into some of the soldiers he sent to it as well as the prisoner and the goat. The base was also outfitted with AA guns and had several tanks and other vehicles in designated areas. All of these were found in the field and sent back via the Fulton Recovery System.

I can’t end this preview without mentioning the graphics. The demo we saw was played on a PlayStation 4 and it ran at 60 frames per second at 1080p. The Fox Engine which powers the game is a true monster and rivals that of any of the other big engines out there. Even though the majority of the demo took place in a dusty desert, it was still impressive and you could practically feel the heat coming off it. The character models were well done and things like the water around Mother Base were truly awe inspiring. If the entire game–which is said to be about 200 times the size of Ground Zeroes–looks as good as this then it will be a technical achievement.

This demo was about 20 minutes long but it had a lot of stuff in it. Clearly, Kojima and company have pulled out all of the stops in making this game. Every new Metal Gear Solid entry ups the ante in every department and this one will be no different. All of the myriad ways that missions can be completed and all of the secret goodies scattered throughout it will make this an MGS game that people will play for months on end.

The only real complaint I have about Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is that it won’t be released anytime soon. I need this game in my life already!