Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is undoubtedly one of the big games of 2015. Under development for the last five years, The Phantom Pain claims to finally resolve the missing link in the Metal Gear saga. Players will take on the role of Big Boss a.k.a. Venom “Punished” Snake as they embark on a mission of revenge against Cipher and the mysterious Skullface.
The Phantom Pain is the first Metal Gear game in the series that has an open world aspect to it. Gone are the days where the player will navigate Snake through a set of narrow corridors and hallways. The main focus of The Phantom Pain is giving the player full freedom in infiltration with tactical thinking and intelligent utilization of resources on the field. You are Big Boss and the game will make you feel like one by providing you with a military unit which goes by the name of Diamond Dogs. At its soul, it promises to be everything that Peace Walker was and then some.
"While the open world certainly is a massive environment, it’s teeming with tense moments and between outposts and bases, enemy soldiers patrol via vehicle, and paired up looking for Snake ready to catch him unaware."
Having said that, there are some concerns within the Metal Gear community regarding the game’s departure from the linear aspects that the series is known for. There are also reports circulating around the internet that the game will have less emphasis on cutscenes and will involve grinding so that players can progress further in the game.
GamingBolt recently got in touch with Robert Allen Peeler who is the community manager at Konami to talk about these concerns. Fortunately, it seems that Metal Gear fans should not have anything to worry about.
Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain promises to be 200 times bigger than Ground Zeroes. However there is some concern within the Metal Gear community that some areas are barren and devoid of any activity. This isn’t like The Witcher where you can have hundreds of NPCs and each of them have their own side story. But given that this is a new direction for the series will this be an issue for some players and will the improved stealth/gameplay mechanics divert player’s attention from it?
“I personally haven’t found that to be the case. While the open world certainly is a massive environment, it’s teeming with tense moments and between outposts and bases, enemy soldiers patrol via vehicle, and paired up looking for Snake ready to catch him unaware. I think most players will find themselves caught off guard by changes in the environment and unexpected patrol points,” Robert explained.
"Powerful weapons and upgrades may require a hefty amount of GMP or resources, but if a player so desires they can tackle the majority of any missions with minimal weapons and support."
If you have paid close attention to the barrage of gameplay footage that have been released in the past, one of the coolest things about The Phantom Pain is the amount of freedom and dynamism it provides in gameplay. It seems everything has an effect and a counter effect. For example, the player will be able to send Snake’s combat unit to the field and blow up enemy supply factories which will make it difficult for them to acquire new gear such as helmets, body armor and scopes. This begs the question…will there be more opportunities such as these in the game?
“Absolutely. One of the main objectives when infiltrating different bases is cutting off communications to prevent backup and to confuse and distract soldiers. Additionally, as players engage in certain gameplay strategies, enemies overtime will use tactics to counter. For example, if a player employs a lot of tranquilizer darts, enemies will begin wearing thicker gear or helmets to prevent headshots. Likewise overtime, enemies will begin using helicopters and tanks to search for and dispatch enemies.”
In my opinion, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was a fantastic entry in the series. I know that the Metal Gear community is divisive about it but there is no denying that it was the biggest entry in the series on the smallest platform back in 2010. One aspect of Peace Walker which wasn’t received as well as the other gameplay mechanics was the constant grinding to unlock advanced weaponry and items in the game. With that in mind, how will The Phantom Pain try to balance the grinding and fun factor?
“Players can spend as much or as little time as they want out in the field looking for resources or improving the strength of Mother Base and the Diamond Dogs crew. Of course powerful weapons and upgrades may require a hefty amount of GMP or resources, but if a player so desires they can tackle the majority of any missions with minimal weapons and support.”
"You can finish most of the main game without touching a side mission, but not sure why anyone would want to avoid them. Some of the best moments in the game come from challenging and rewarding side ops."
But the game will reward players who invest their time into it. Collecting resources, taking down outposts and fultoning out as many resources as you can will play a big role in making Diamond Dogs a force to reckon with.
“The Phantom Pain rewards skill as well as time invested. Plus, a lot of the best gameplay comes from tackling outposts in new and interesting ways. Liberating an area of the map from soldier patrol by using all the tools at your disposal is tons of fun.”
Along with an in-depth campaign mode, The Phantom Pain has a ton of side missions. But how important are side missions to the game’s story campaign? After all, recruiting and doing more side missions results into more GMP which in turn results into more advanced weaponry and items. Where does a common player, who is only interested in completing the story, fits into all of this?
Robert explains that majority of story missions can be completed without side quests but there is no point missing them since they include some of the game’s finest moments. “You can finish most of the main game without touching a side mission, but not sure why anyone would want to avoid them. Some of the best moments in the game come from challenging and rewarding side ops.”
"There are plenty of dramatic and amazing cutscenes throughout the game. The open world design has created new ways to tell stories in the game, including breathtaking moments that are interwoven within the gameplay itself."
The Metal Gear Solid games rely on long and intricately produced custscenes to tell their lore. For example, Guns of the Patriots featured hours and hours of cutscenes, explaining the game’s convoluted yet intriguing plot. But there is a concern that Kojima Productions may have toned them down in The Phantom Pain. Robert revealed that the game still has a ton of cutscenes but since the game is now open world in design, Kojima Productions had to modify the way the game tells its story.
“There are plenty of dramatic and amazing cutscenes throughout the game. You are also correct though that the open world design has created new ways to tell stories in the game, including breathtaking moments that are interwoven within the gameplay itself.”
“Also the traditional codec format has been replaced in favour of a radio conversation system using the iDroid and your guides on base, Kaz Miller and Ocelot. Finally, while engaging enemies in the field, or simply planning your next move aboard the ACC high above the ground, Snake can listen to different cassette tapes that either contain 80’s era music or further details about the world around you.”
The Phantom Pain will also feature dynamic weather such as a day-night cycle, sandstorm and rain. But how will the weather affect the player? For example, will Snake leave footprints behind in wet/marshy areas and will enemies follow them and spot our hero?
Although Robert did not revealed whether this kind of feature is in the game, he did revealed that the player can use the weather to his/her advantage. “Enemies can use different tactics to locate Snake in the varied weather environments, but keep in mind things like rain and sandstorms can also be used to the advantage of the player. The weather often works to hide Snake’s whereabouts using both sight and sound as indicators.”
"The story resembles the tone and intrigue that was present in Ground Zeroes. Remember, this is a story of revenge, where Snake, Kaz and their new crew of Diamond Dog mercenaries are eager to take back what they lost at the end of the events on Camp Omega."
Enemy AI has come a long way in Metal Gear Solid games so it makes sense that it will be more advanced in The Phantom Pain. They are smarter and aware about their surroundings. Robert told us the enemies have tools which they will use to hunt Snake down.
“Enemies are definitely better at pursuing and locating Snake. They have much more tools in The Phantom Pain than in any previous Metal Gear and use them frequently to not only locate enemies such as Snake but dispatch him quickly as well,” he explained.
The Phantom Pain plans to tell a mature story that will reportedly tackle many taboos such as child soldiers and what not. Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, the prologue to The Phantom Pain touched on these serious matters resulting into a bit of controversy. We asked Robert whether these dark themes have been toned down in The Phantom Pain. Judging by Robert’s response, it seems that Hideo Kojima has remained true to his vision, unshaken by the Ground Zeroes’ controversy.
“The story resembles the tone and intrigue that was present in Ground Zeroes. Remember, this is a story of revenge, where Snake, Kaz and their new crew of Diamond Dog mercenaries are eager to take back what they lost at the end of the events on Camp Omega. Characters like Skullface and Quiet likewise add new elements in the story that detail the Metal Gear universe in new and unexpected ways,” Robert added.
"My personal feeling is that the “boss moments” in The Phantom Pain are some of the best in the series, but I encourage you to try them out yourself come 9/1 and weigh in!"
One gameplay feature that we haven’t heard much about are the game’s bosses. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was the pinnacle of the series in terms of boss fights. I still remember investing hours just to understand what am supposed to do against The End. Part of what makes Metal Gear games such fantastic experiences are the engaging boss fights and Robert believes that The Phantom Pain will have some of the best in the series.
“My personal feeling is that the “boss moments” in The Phantom Pain are some of the best in the series, but I encourage you to try them out yourself come 9/1 and weigh in!”
The game is out in a few days and these are exciting times for the development team. When asked how they feel about the game’s launch after years of hard work. Robert stated there is a sense of relief and anxiety.
“Excited! The reviews coming in have been very positive and we’re just happy that everyone seems eager to play. I haven’t personally been with the team the whole time but you can tell from talking with everyone that a combination of relief and anxiety is present with the entire crew.”
"I’m happy to talk with the community, fans, and media, who let’s face it are often also fans. I’m extremely proud to represent such an amazing game in an epic franchise I’ve enjoyed now for years."
And finally he believes that the success of the series should be attributed to the fans and it has been an honor for him to represent such a big franchise.
“I’m happy to talk with the community, fans, and media, who let’s face it are often also fans. I’m extremely proud to represent such an amazing game in an epic franchise I’ve enjoyed now for years. Thank you also for your incredible support as fans. Without you this game wouldn’t exist.”
Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain launches next week on September 1st on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC (Steam). GamingBolt’s in-depth review of the game will go live sometime after launch along with performance analysis and a complete guide and walkthrough.
Special Note: A big thank you to Robert for taking out the time to do this interview. This is undoubtedly GamingBolt’s biggest interview out of the 400 odd we have published since 2013.