Until recently, it's been pretty easy for gamers on PC to remain largely unbothered by the whole Metal Gear thing. Metal Gear Solid and its sequel appeared on PC, but since 2003 the series has kept to its console roots; until last year, that is, when Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes was released on PC, looking every inch a proper PC game rather than a console port.
It's sweet but distinctly short; a prologue that serves as a taster for the gameplay and themes of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which will be hitting the PC in September and is shaping up to be the most ambitious and impressive Metal Gear yet. If you've played Ground Zeroes and enjoyed its scale, The Phantom Pain takes things to a whole new level. Set in 1984 against a background of the Soviet-Afghan war, it puts you in the role of Snake, who's just spent nine years in a coma after the events of Ground Zeroes. Now leading a mercenary group called Diamond Dogs, he's out for revenge but he ends up unearthing a plot to develop a devastating new super-weapon.
While the core of Metal Gear – stealthy infiltration with a preference for non-lethal methods – remains untouched, Phantom Pain's scope is much wider than previous games in the series. The open world approach previewed in Ground Zeroes is back, and on a larger scale – about 200 times larger. Given a huge play area with a number of drop zones to choose from, you're able to pick missions in any order you like and choose your own approach; it's no longer a case of finding the right way through a relatively small level.
The varied geography provides a whole new dimension of challenge – as does the realistic day/night cycle and dynamic weather – and this plus an assortment of side missions mean that Snake needs all the help he can get, and Phantom Pain delivers this in spades. Snake can call on air support as well as AI companions including Quiet, a mute sniper with paranormal abilities, a trained wolfdog called D-Dog, D-Horse – handy for getting around quickly and carrying equipment – and a futuristic mech named D-Walker. AI buddies and commandos prove vital for helping to scout enemy territory and mark out enemies that Snake might have otherwise missed.
Snake is also backed up by the resources of Mother Base, an offshore headquarters that serves as barracks and training grounds for his mercenary army as well as a research center for new weapons, vehicles and items. Any useful items – or subdued enemy guards suitable for recruiting to the Diamond Dogs – can be sent off to Mother Base using the Fulton Recovery System, a gloriously silly solution that involves hooking things up to a big helium balloon before they're snatched away by a passing aircraft.
Naturally there are also plenty of helpful gadgets, from Snake's iDroid – an all-in-one system for mapping, messages, keeping track of objectives and enemies, calling for support and much more – to his artificial arm that can be upgraded with the likes of a stun gun or even converted into a remote drone, and even a Phantom Cigar – an electronic cigar that Snake can puff away at to make the hours spin by while he waits for better weather or a more suitable time of day for his mission.
Even though PC gamers have been out of the loop for most of the Metal Gear saga, the latest installment looks like an extremely attractive point to join in on the fun. And if you're not quite sure about MGS but are definitely intrigued by all that Phantom Pain has to offer, you can get your hands on a copy for free: NVIDIA is bundling The Phantom Pain with select GeForce GTX 980 Ti, 980, 970 and 960 graphics cards and systems, as well as select GeForce GTX 980M and 970M notebooks.
That's a pretty sweet deal, since NVIDIA is also working with Konami to ensure that The Phantom Pain looks its best on GeForce GTX GPUs, resulting in a deluxe edition that'll outstrip the console versions visually. Expect more detailed graphics, higher-quality effects, extended view distances and higher rendering resolutions, as well as 4K and Dynamic Super Resolution support. For a better idea of the enhancements you can expect, take a look at NVIDIA's graphics and performance guide to Ground Zeroes. And to see if your gaming PC is ready to play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Menace, check out NVIDIA’s handy GPU Analyzer.
Beat the game with Prima's free walkthrough for Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.