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Metal Gear Solid V hands-on preview – Out into the great wide open

Japan has always had a weird relationship with open world games. Despite many attempts, Japanese developers don’t seem to be able to replicate the type of experience companies like Bethesda and Rockstar have all but perfected. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has been advertised as an open world game, but if you’re thinking of The Witcher 3 or Grand Theft Auto V when you load it up, you’re going to be surprised. I think it’s still an apt descriptor, but it’ll help if you go into it with proper expectations.

Metal Gear Solid V isn’t a game with one large, contiguous world. Instead, each mission takes place in a large world with a primary mission objective, side objectives, and plenty of little things to do.

We checked the game out at E3 and from our very short time with it, this seems like a smart approach for a game like Metal Gear Solid V. The story director Hideo Kojima is putting together and the time period he’s putting it together in don’t feel like they’d do well taking place in one tiny part of the world. Restraining it to a city or a region would hamper it significantly.

By putting each mission in its own little open world, though, players will still have some of the benefits that come with that type of game. In fact, it seems like Metal Gear Solid V might do a better job of it than many other supposedly more open games. In MGS V, you’re presented with a mission goal and little else. How you approach it from there is up to you.

Before the mission, you can select from any number of companions, like the eyepatch wearing wolf D-Dog or the bikini-clad sniper Quiet. You can drop in with any number of vehicles and potential weapon loadouts.

Once you’re in, you can roll up with your guns out or go for a stealthy approach. You can find a high place from which to scope out the surrounding area, marking enemies and setting waypoints or take a more improvisational approach to the mission. You can do sub-missions that might assist the main one or head straight for your primary goal. You can, one by one, send every soldier you find back to your base via the Fulton Recovery System.

In short, you have a lot of options.

In the demo, Snake – this is Punished/Venom Snake, formerly Naked Snake or Big Boss – not Solid Snake, just in case you were wondering if Metal Gear is still silly or not – is tasked with rescuing someone being held by Russian soldiers. I took a fairly straight-forward approach to the mission but found myself looking for ways to improvise, using my equine companion, D-Horse, creatively to mix faster movement and stealth.

I left the demo thinking about how I handled the mission and how many other ways I could’ve gone about it. This is also what I enjoyed about Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. While some saw it as a glorified demo – and it was pretty short, there’s no doubt – it offered a lot of replay value for what was ostensibly a quick rescue mission.

Like Ground Zeroes, The Phantom Pain challenged me to think creatively about my approach. I’m a long-time fan of both Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, though, so I’ll be the first to admit it’s difficult for me to break out of the tried and true methods of walking in a crouch, scoping the environment, and simply taking down enemies as necessary. The variety of brushes to paint with, though, is exciting and has me anticipating the game’s impending September 1 release more than ever.

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Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...

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