Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has an incredible open world to explore and exploit. You'll discover resources to collect, from raw diamonds to processed metals medicinal herbs. You'll use helium balloons to extract unconscious enemy personnel and even animals, whisking them away via helicopter. You'll even find saucy posters, music and propaganda.
All of which gets sent back to Mother Base, your home away from home. Jutting out of the beautiful blue waters of the Seychelles, this offshire platform is more than just a place to lick your wounds: it's your lifeline. Throughout the game you'll develop and grow it, kidnapping your own private army who'll develop new technology, provide intel and even accompany you into battle. Including a dog who'll grow from pup to companion... and a notorious mute sniper.
It's an amazing set of management mechanics that, while
stolen from heavily influenced by Peace Walker, make Metal Gear Solid V even more in-depth.
Click here to read the first part of this preview: Metal Gear Solid V's open world is enormous, radical & utterly incredible.
Ocelot introduces players to Mother Base after extracting Miller (you did read Part 1, right?), who then briefs you on the basic setup. You'll roam around the repurposed oil rig, bumping into your fellow Diamond Dogs who'll reverently salute you and use its shower to clean Snake's bloodsoaked garb between missions. However, you'll quickly notice that there's a severe staff shortage and Snake will have to engage in a little "recruitment."
Which, as MGS: Peace Walker fans will already know, is a two-step process. You'll need to render an enemy soldier unconscious (the choice is yours: throws, choke holds, CQC and tranquilliser rounds are all fine options) and then attach them to a Fulton Extraction Device. Or in less grand terms: a helium balloon. Depending on the weather conditions, which might make your target drift off and die, your helicopter will then extract them and take them back to base where they'll eventually join your ranks after a little coercion. Most soviet soldiers seemed to jump at the chance.
Well, waking up and being told that you're being offered a job with better equipment and pension has to be the best case scenario!
Each soldier you extract has different skills and aptitudes from R&D to intelligence gathering (as well as hilarious randomised callsigns such as "Frigid Badger"), depending on their rank. It always pays dividends to go after high-ranking enemy personnel, since they'll often boast massive bonuses to your growing army. One mission, for example, tasks you with assassinating three enemy captains, but if you take the time to extract them instead your intel division will thank you for it.
Speaking of which, once an enemy defects to the Diamond Dogs, you'll have to assign them to a division: the most important of which are Development, Support, Intel and expansion. All are essential and confer massive gameplay benefits.
The Development division research new weapons, upgrades and technology to use - and there's a lot of it. Every class of weapon has multiple different options available, all of which can be upgraded multiple times if you've brought back enough resources from the open world. Everything from your pistol to your horse and even your helicopter can be upgraded, whether with additional armour or massive speakers to aurally terrorise the enemy as you fly overhead. There are even numerous varieties of cardboard box to research, let alone gadgets and explosives.
What makes this system unique is that you can research items remotely in the field using Snake's iDroid PDA and then task your Support Division with deploying them directly into the open world via parachute drop! At one point I realised that a sniper rifle would be really useful, so I just researched, upgraded and ordered one in. It's sensational and allows you to adapt your playstyle on the fly. More advanced items do take time and a lot of resources to develop, though, so bear that in mind.
Then we come to the Intel Division. These shadowy operatives provide useful information about enemy locations, patrols and collectibles depending on how skilled they are. As mentioned, grab a few enemy captains if you can, as their expertise will come in very handy indeed.
Finally we have the builders, the expansion team, who are tasked with building new platforms to expand Mother Base. Each platform can only house a set number of operatives, so you'll need to build new sections and carefully decide what you need. A Command Platform can house anyone you bring back, whereas an R&D tech platform can only hold Development staff yet provides a massive bonus to research.
Your 'Buddies' will also hang out back at base, a technical term used to describe allies that can accompany you into the field. The first is your trusty horse, but eventually you'll meet an adorable one-eyed pup who'll gradually grow into a stalwart hunting companion. There's also a mech and even... well, the cat's out of the bag now... Quiet. The Diamond Dogs hate her guts and want her dead, so you'll need to revisit frequently and bring them back plenty of new stuff to keep morale high.
There's so much stuff to bring back. Animals will appear back at the base, including sheep, vultures or gerbils, which gradually creates a hilarious menagerie on deck. There are posters of the sexy and propaganda variety, all of which are good for morale. Just visiting and saluting your men, however, will make a big difference in terms of morale. Raw diamonds grant you money (GP) while metals, biological material and other pickups are all necessary for expansion. It creates a compelling gameplay loop that encourages you to explore and experiment, then unlocks new equipment or weapons that exponentially increase your options the next time you return to the field.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain releases on September 1st.