davidn: (Jam)
I've been playing loads of Metal Gear Solid 5 recently - the new entry to the series is a weird combination of stealth gameplay and X-Com: Terror from the Deep, making you responsible for a lot of base management and resource gathering while being free to roam on a horse around a war-torn environment taking missions and side quests. Listening to loads of The Unbelievable Truth on the car radio around the same time as playing it has made me realize that I could make up practically anything about the game and people wouldn't be sure if Hideo Kojima had actually put it into the latest installment of his increasingly mad series. Therefore, here is a short summary of the game. Six things are true. Good luck.




You start the game in an underground government bunker, where Big Boss has been kept in an experimental suspended animation process following the events of Peace Walker. In the first interactive sections, you can walk around listening to conversations through an analogue stick-controlled cybernetic ear implant which was given to him somewhere along the years, learning through overhearing dialogue that the location is part of a group that's implied to be the Patriots, and that many of your former base-mates from Peace Walker have been subjected to experiments in mind control - the head of the experimentation group heavily hinted as being Psycho Mantis.

Before you can act, the complex is suddenly shaken by the footsteps of a bipedal robot stalking nearby, and you have to make your escape during the confusion while following a fellow yet-to-be-operated-on captive who is wearing a hospital gown with his bum hanging out the back. During your escape, you are constantly harrassed by a large singing mechanical wasp and some vaguely humanlike creature with the limb-stretching powers of Mr Fantastic, creeping out of the building as the crisis unfolds and eventually reaching outside just in time to see a helicopter being swallowed by a space whale that's on fire. This omen seems to scare the Metal Gears leading the assault and they begin to turn on each other, screaming with dinosaur-like sound systems.

Amid this confusion you're suddenly rescued by the familiar face of Master Miller, who is in bad shape, missing an arm and most of one leg. It has to be said that Snake himself isn't looking too good either, with one entire arm being artificial and his eye having been replaced - however, it's an upgrade on his previous one, allowing night vision, thermal vision and X-ray to see through soldiers' clothing. In fact, if you put all the starting characters together you would only just be able to complete one human body before running out of parts.

The horse controls integrate with the controller as you would expect from a Hideo Kojima game - the analogue sticks are used to pull and twitch the reins to alter your heading, kicking it with your Attack button repeatedly will speed it up, and there's a "defecate" command that you have to use periodically to prevent your horse exploding.

Your base can be expanded by attaching small rockets to items and soldiers on the field, provided you've gathered enough fuel for them to make the trip home - this has to be kept topped up by finding wells or stashes of it around the map. Later on, you can actually forget about the fuel requirements as you develop a Star Trek-like system of beaming things through a wormhole directly to your base instead. Your prosthetic arm has a high-fidelity iPhone-like interface for reasons that aren't really explained - during gameplay, this offers the real-time overhead map that hasn't been seen since MGS2. Maps are up to ten kilometres wide and you can speed up your transport by using an extraction device yourself, clinging to the underside of an enemy helicopter, or simply by getting in a box and posting yourself to the right address providing you've collected the right stamps.
davidn: (prince)
I wrote this after playing Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker a few years ago, but because nobody reads Livejournal any more it gradually fell to the bottom of my notes file and rotted. Now that I'm getting into MGS5, which to my surprise seems to be going in very much the same direction, here it is at last.




This will sound rather harsher than I mean it to be bearing in mind the treatment that I gave Roxas's slash-tastic adventure, but Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker feels very much like the equivalent of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days for the series.

Let me justify that very quickly - I mean that in a series that has previously been very cinematic in nature and therefore based around adventures in continuous environments, it's a surprise to see such definition between levels. While the story is continuous, you go through it in a series of self-contained little set of environments - three or four rooms that are linked together - with a small objective to achieve in each section.

It was originally a PSP game, so the graphics are about on par with what I remember Metal Gear Solid 2 looking like, and the sneaking gameplay remains about the same as it was then (with a couple of gadgets that offset the lack of radar in the 1960s - and, at long last, the ability to swing the camera around so that you can actually see where you're going in directions other than north). The cutscenes came as a bit of a surprise, as they're not done in the series' traditional style (nor, mercifully, as endless expanses of codec calls) but in a papery comic book presentation with Yoji Shinkawa's artwork and large Batman-style sound effects. But the game's greatest shock came when I'd completed the first couple of missions, and was told that I would now be playing X-COM: Terror From the Deep.

Yes, suddenly you're thrust into a menu screen that asks you to manage soldiers and researchers and deploy them to parts of your offshore base in order to keep your team's effectiveness in top condition. In a gradually expanding set of considerations that you have to juggle throughout the game, people can be assigned to combat to keep your faction's reputation up throughout the world, the mess hall to improve troops' morale, the medical bay so that you can get injured soldiers to rejoin your forces sooner, and so on. You can also put people into research, which increases the budget you can spend to unlock better items and food supplies or bigger guns - mostly the progression is as you would expect with upgraded items gradually becoming available throughout the game, although there are a couple of frankly suspicious moments like when they invent "Spicy curry" and "C4 explosive" on the same turn.

Recruitment is done primarily through a new inventory item that seems like it's come straight out of Inspector Gadget, but that I was astonished to discover was a real thing. The Fulton recovery system uses a balloon to lift a cable into the air so that the subject can be hoisted up by it - but in the game's variant, the balloon ties directly to the recovery subject and shoots them upwards at about a hundred miles an hour for pickup by the aerial support unit. It's not explained how you can sneak about so effectively while being closely followed by a massive helicopter, or how the enemy soldiers in the indoor locations manage not to notice their comrades being tied up and then blasted through the roof, but all this just fades into the background when you realize you're in the peculiar situation of going around kidnapping people to indoctrinate them into your culinary school.

As for the storyline, well, during this game I honestly started to wonder whether Metal Gear Solid might actually be madder than Hatoful Boyfriend. The answer is "not quite", but frankly reaching that level is an achievement in itself. Metal Gear Solid 4 was a bastion of fanservice-fuelled lunacy due to trying to tie together and conclude every single insane plot point that they had ever set up throughout the entire series, but when given the opportunity to do a prequel in a previously unvisited environment, Hideo Kojima came up with this: in amongst all the craziness I've already described, you're chasing the ghost of the Boss who is now distributed across the central computers of a range of huge singing robots.

It's all pretty good if you're comfortable with Metal Gear Solid's usual massive gulf between how preposterous it is and how seriously it takes itself. If there's one huge annoyance I want to mention, it's that the bosses are almost universally annoying wars of attrition because they were apparently balanced for cooperative multiplayer, so if you're going it alone you will be s by crouching behind a convenient little wall and popping up occasionally with your rocket launcher. In fact, we still haven't completed what I would reasonably believe is the final one - I got within one rocket of defeating it and then ran out of time, so I haven't felt like going back to it in a while.

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