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Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain preview: wide open tactics

Last year, Konami set the table for the latest installment of Metal Gear Solid with the prelude Ground Zeroes. Depending on perspective, that was either a taste of what Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain would look like or an all-too-short demo. Regardless, The Phantom Pain is coming along and Shacknews recently had a chance to go hands-on with Hideo Kojima's apparent swansong.

The major addition to the series is evident right off the bat. Big Boss isn't merely trying to get through linear facilities. There's a massive open world to play with this time around and it's big enough that wandering on-foot is not advised. Snake is provided with a horse to get him across the world, which will be one of his only forms of fast travel.

Regardless of where Snake is in the world, he's not exactly considered a desirable. If spotted in anywhere near a hostile camp, enemies will call in reinforcements, meaning stealth is the name of the game at all times. Smaller camps are easier to clear out, with only a handful of guards on patrol. When approaching any of them from behind, Snake gets the option to interrogate them, knock them out, or kill them. Regardless of what happens, the body stays around, meaning Snake has to find a place to deposit it. That makes trudging through larger camps significantly more difficult.

The other thing to note is that there's a full day/night cycle at work throughout the game. Trying to infiltrate hostile areas at each time of the day has its advantages and disadvantages. Trying to sneak in during the day requires hiding in the shadows and maintaining awareness of enemy patrols. Sneaking in at night is slightly easier, since guards will trade off shifts, with some of them going off to bed. The problem with that is, Snake will also have to compete with search lights and avoid their gaze.

At one point, I thought about sneaking into a window to take out a guard, without realizing that the window was closed. The sound of shattering glass obviously attracted unwanted attention, so I quickly ran off, making sure to stay under the cover of night. The upside of an open world is that the option to run completely off the facility grounds was right there. Normally, this is where I'd expect the AI to simply give up and return to their normal routines, allowing me to try again. That did not turn out to be the case.

After I ran off to hide in the desert cliffs, the enemy sent out search parties with flashlights to hunt me down. The enemies searched thoroughly, forcing me to move around a couple of times or sneak up on individuals and take them out. Even once the search parties gave up, they returned to their camp with a heightened sense of awareness. Worse yet, the guards that I had taken out prior to getting spotted were quickly replaced with reinforcements, essentially forcing me to start from scratch. So there were definitely consequences on display during my time with the game.

But The Phantom Pain will eventually give way to some new mechanics to make Big Boss' journey a little easier, thanks to his staff at Mother Base. A mechanic called the Fulton extraction allows Snake to take subdued guards and attack a giant balloon that sends them (hilariously) back to headquarters. Those foes then become allies, filling a select spot on Snake's R&D staff. They'll help supply Snake with supplies, like his trusty cardboard box. (Do not ask why it takes an R&D staff to supply Snake with a cardboard box.) Snake can also occasionally ask for some assistance from allies like the silent assassin Quiet, who can lend her aid in a variety of ways, beyond just taking out the enemy.

There's definitely more to come from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, with Konami looking to reveal additional story details at a later date. But in terms of MGS-style stealth transitioning to an open world, Phantom Pain looks to be doing so capably with some satisfyingly smart AI in place.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is coming soon to come to PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on September 1.

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