Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain: seen at E3 2014

By Steve Watts, Jun 12, 2014 3:00pm PDT

WIth Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, we were given a short but undeniably enticing taste of what to expect from the open-world Phantom Pain. And while the hands-off demonstration at E3 didn't entirely resolve my concerns for Metal Gear's transition to an open-world, it was nonetheless an impressive showing.

First, the most obvious aspect: the FOX Engine is gorgeous, even in a large open-world setting. It is slightly less detailed in-game than in the cutscenes, but even so, the vast area of Afghanistan that Snake explored was really a sight to behold. Both the human characters and Snake's horse animate with a level of fidelity and realism unseen by the series. It was almost enough to make me ignore the silly dialogue.

Snake's arsenal of options has been greatly expanded to suit the more living world. He can now make noises to attract guards with his prosthetic limb, whether he's near a wall or not. More environmental CQC options make his takedowns appear all the more threatening. You can even request his infamous cardboard box as a supply drop, now equipped with the ability to pop out of the top for a takedown or eject out the side if it's spotted. Supply drops themselves can be weaponized, if you aim them carefully to land on some hapless guard's head. (Try to ignore why any elite guard wouldn't hear that coming.)

Those supply drops are provided by Mother Base, a mission hub with some creative bells and whistles. Rather than a static hub, Mother Base will purportedly evolve as you add more pieces and platforms to it. Using the Fulton Recovery System from Peace Walker, you can steal containers of goods, weapons, vehicles, and even personnel for use at your Mother Base. The base will occasionally be attacked, so stealing items to fortify your base will be a must.

The personnel you kidnap (with a delightful little scream as the balloon carries them away) turn to your side quickly, and can even be assigned to job roles within the same mission. The demonstration showed one such reformed soldier immediately put on intel duty at Mother Base, and subsequently provide valuable information about the buildings in the base.

All of these tools and options make this version of Snake very versatile, but I still have to wonder if the transition to the open world works for such an objective-based event. Konami took its time showing off all the tricks and tools, and that meandering approach gave the appearance of a long mission. However, with some care Snake probably could have made it inside to rescue the hostage with relative ease, and shortened it considerably. Given that Ground Zeroes was criticized for its length, I'm still not entirely sure that Phantom Pain won't raise the same concerns.

If it does manage to avoid that pitfall, though, Phantom Pain is shaping up to be quite a showpiece for the new generation of consoles. Despite some lingering concerns, I'll be looking forward to trying my hand at some tactical espionage operations.

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