E3 2014: Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is what you expect from next-gen gaming
I was at the Konami booth for one reason – Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. It did not disappoint. First things first… this was a live demo, but hands-off. We were shown a mission and then the Mother Base. Konami said that the demo was running at 1080p 60fps, and it was on the PlayStation 4.
The demo started with Big Boss and Ocelot on horses in Afghanistan, walking through a sandstorm and through some ruins. After the storm subsides, we are greeted with a breathtaking view of the landscape – a sprawling vista with mountains in the distance. It’s stunning, but details like grass and shrubbery look a little pixelated. We asked if these were the final graphics and we were told that they weren’t – there’s still some polishing to do. The same goes for the character models. The bodies, faces, clothes and facial hairs, as well as their animations, are top-notch; but when it comes to the hair… it’s just meh.
What so special about what I’ve seen is the world that you’re playing in and the animations/movement of characters. The world is a living landscape populated by humans, settlements and animals. There’s random settlements of people you’ll encounter. When a sandstorm comes, there’s low visibility, meaning the enemies can’t see you, but you can’t see them either. Then there’s the realtime weather effects like rain, which will affect your missions and your mother base.
Lighting, as well as a day/night cycle, also plays heavily into the game. Lighting transitions from indoors to outdoors, and the other way around, are gorgeous and realistic. And the shadows cast as the sun moves from sunrise to sunset are wonderful to look at. That’s especially true when you use the Phantom Cigar, which advances time. While Snake will stay still, time progresses very quickly, and you get to see that first hand. Weather, time of day, the sun, shadows, and people in the environment will move quickly as hours pass, and you’ll be able to see all of it in real-time. This is a good tool to use if you want to tackle a mission at a different time of day, like when there are less guards at night.
Then there’s the combat. It’s the same stealth/action combat you’ve come to love from the franchise, but there’s a smoothness to it that we haven’t seen yet. You’re in complete control and there’s new moves, tools and abilities at your disposal.
I won’t go through every single detail of the gameplay that was shown. I’m sure IGN or other outlets have covered the demo step-by-step as to what Snake is doing in the mission, but I will give my highlights. Setting up your strategy and calling for actions from your Mother Base are awesome, and Snake’s animations – like hanging on the side of a horse to avoid detection, rolling on the ground, or ducking in and out of cover – are smooth and seamless. It’s all natural motions that you’d expect to see from a highly trained and skilled operative. You’ll get in and out of cover much faster than Ground Zero. Then there’s the new ‘knock’ ability; with Snake’s prosthetic arm, you can do it anywhere, and it draws the attention of the enemy. As for everyone’s favorite cardboard box, there’s new abilities for it like being about to pop out, take out an enemy, and get back in. You can also Fulton the enemy from it (which attaches a flying device to them and brings them up to the Mother Base). As a matter of fact, you can Fulton people, animals, cargo crates and vehicles, all of which will help build your Mother Base. Be careful when you Fulton something/someone during a sandstorm, though, as the wind can blow it/them off course.
Speaking of the Mother Base, the second segment we saw was on your mother base. In The Phantom Pain, the Mother Base is an actual location that you can visit and walk around. It’s in the ocean on a series of platforms that you design. Everyone’s mother base will be unique based on the upgrades you choose and the shapes it takes. As such, you’ll know best how to navigate it. Everything you’ve been fultoning – even the sheep – will be there. There’s a shooting range for your soldiers where they and you can train, Ocelot walking around, anit-aircraft guns that you have fultoned from the field that give you defenses, and so much more. There’s also drones that are patrolling to help guard your base.
Your Mother Base will have to be defended too. It can come under attack by enemies you’ve made throughout the game, so make sure you Fulton plenty of soldiers, defenses and more.
That’s the end of what I saw, and I’m super impressed. I’ve never been a huge Metal Gear Solid fan, but I want to play this game so freaking bad. I know I’ll be lost in the story, but the gameplay mechanics, visuals, combat, animations, and the open world are the embodiment of what next-gen gaming should be.