Konami’s Metal Gear franchise came a long way, from its humble beginnings on NES to becoming a cult favorite on the PlayStation with Metal Gear Solid and growing to even bigger heights with sequels on PS4 and Xbox One with last year's Ground Zeroes.
This September, Hideo Kojima will conclude his work on the series with Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, a sequel that promises to change how players look at the franchise. We already received a hint of what the famed director had in mind with the short yet satisfying Zeroes, but Phantom Pain is the full package, with lots to do in the world of Big Boss, aka Venom Snake.
The game follows the events of Zeroes, with our lead hero (voiced this time by 24 actor Kiefer Sutherland) falling into a coma. He awakens years later, aware that some loose ends still need wrapping up, following what happened with his former employer, MSF.
He teams with a group of mercenaries called the Diamond Dogs to fly into Afghanistan, where things are tense with the Soviet war in full swing, to finish the job. Reteaming with former allies Ocelot and Kazhuira "Kat" Miller, he discovers the Cipher organization is building a new weapon system that could be even bigger than Metal Gear.
Following in Zeroes' footsteps, The Phantom Pain takes place in a much larger world than previous Metal Gear adventures, placed squarely in the heart of Afghanistan. In it, Snake will utilize a number of items as he visits nearby villages, tags (and then eliminates) enemy soldiers and gets that much closer to thwarting Cipher's plans.
Snake has a number of items he'll use over the course of his journey, including binoculars, maps, pistols, assault rifles and explosives. While that may seem like an invitation for destruction, Snake needs to continuously rely on his sneaking skills, as alerting a nearby guard patrol will mean reinforcements and possible endangerment to his mission. No word yet if the infamous cardboard box from previous games will appear, but if it returns, we intend to hide beneath it.
Other new elements were added to the game, expanding on Snake's abilities. He'll now be able to commandeer vehicles, such as tanks, cars and horses, which will make it easier to get from location to location, though in some situations, he'll need to use cover and sneaky takedowns to avoid detection. He can also climb the sides of mountains, should be prefer a less noisy approach.
Your character isn't alone in his quest. In addition to calling for helicopter support during certain missions (or calling fellow commandos to scout the area), Snake may call upon helpful characters, including the provocatively dressed Quiet, a female soldier who utilizes supernatural techniques, and DD, a trained wolf that could easily give Call of Duty: Ghosts' Riley a run for his money.
Another interesting aspect of The Phantom Pain is being able to build and customize your home base. After the events of Ground Zeroes, the base is in ruins, but Snake has the ability to rebuild this place, as well as recruit former prisoners rescued over the course of particular missions. The base can also be accessed through a special smartphone app that will be released alongside the game, in case you want to keep track of what's happening when you're not playing the game. Customization options are also available, in case you want Snake and his allies to coordinate with certain colors and/or gear.
Really, though, it's all about the action, and Phantom Pain will deliver this in spades. Gamers can play however they wish through this massive world, opting for stealth or stepping up to the challenge guns blazing. However, Kojima and his team included a new adaptive AI system, where enemies learn from what Snake did to their allies. For example, if Snake is prone to taking head shots, future soldiers he comes across may wear modified helmets for added protection. If they see a hole in the wall from an explosion, they won’t walk away from it like nothing happened.
Players can also choose missions in any order, which changes the flow of the story so they can comprehend events as they occur. In addition, there’s a real-time night-and-day cycle, which can easily be witnessed as Snake travels between locations. If you prefer to speed up time and attack at night, light a Phantom Cigar; no word yet on how this will affect Snake's health.
Using time to your advantage can play a part in how successful Snake is during a mission. For instance, he can keep a better eye on patrols in the area, and find weaknesses to strike quietly and effectively. The weather can also change, with rain pouring down hard enough so enemies are unable to detect when he sneaks in until it's too late.
With this wide-open approach, loaded with possibilities for tackling objectives and taking out soldiers, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain will innovate a number of ways. That's good news for the franchise, even though Kojima will depart following the game's completion.