You may have noticed dozens of happy internet people popping up this afternoon having played two days' worth of the new Metal Gear Solid. Bastards, all. With Konami offering an unusually long two-day preview period, and The Phantom Pain being such a huge project, we guessed that there might be some features our preview simply couldn't cover. Which is why we got OXM's own MGS-playing bastard, Matthew Castle, to answer your questions about the game, from nostalgia to new features and almost everywhere in between.
Luke Summerhayes (@Buskalilly - Twitter) - "How much scope was there to make guards' lives a nightmare?"
Aside from murdering them, there's plenty you can do to mess with guards. Just from a psychological warfare perspective, the idea of a gunship pumping out 1980s pop hits (you just attach a loudspeaker and select the cassette of choice) as it lays down machinegun fire on a guard outpost is pretty traumatising. Dying is one thing, dying to the strains of A-Ha is quite another. But the meanest thing you can do is perform a Fulton recovery on a live subject. Targets normally have to be unconscious for you to hook them up to a balloon, but if you hold a guard up at gunpoint you can attach them on the spot and wait for the plane to extract them at speed. The panic is hilarious; the years of psychiatrist bills, less so.
Luke Summerhayes (@Buskalilly - Twitter) - "Is David Hayter's absence still felt or does Kiefer Sutherland do the trick?"
Sutherland has a suitably gruff voice, but it's still hard not to think of Jack Bauer. The interesting thing is how little Big Boss actually speaks in the game. Okay, you'd be a little woozy straight out of a nine year coma, but he's a far more sullen character than before – though his silence might have something to do with the lack of CODEC conversations. My lasting memory of the two days was hearing an awful lot of radio chatter from Revolver Ocelot and Kaz Miller – to the point that a lot of Big Boss doesn't register. Playing devil's advocate for a second, I'd also say there weren't many moments that really showed off Sutherland's motion capture performance – the key reason David Hayter was, allegedly, dropped for the role. Big Boss looks pretty grumpy from start to finish, though I'm sure the bigger emotional beats are yet to come.
Peter (@Holo_drone - Twitter) - Does it have an iconic theme somewhere in the score?"
I was too busy listening to the cheesy 80s pop. Sorry!
OnyxReconGaming (@OnyxRecon008 - Twitter) - "What is the co-op/multiplayer like?"
We didn't get to try the multiplayer, though we were talked through the Forward Operating Base, a kind of Dark Souls-ish idea that lets other players invade your Mother Base and attempt to steal your in-game resources. Of course, you can defend Mother Base by kitting it out with military hardware stolen from the battlefield using Fulton balloons.
Tom the Iron Man (@SgtHarvey - Twitter) - "Any real world brand weapons, or are they still using the unlicensed weapons like the "Type 67 Rifle" in Ground Zeroes?"
Weapons are currently unlicensed, though we were told that weapon names weren't final in our build. Weirdly, the game does feature real world sunglasses – when characters appear their make of glasses flashes up on the screen. A typically bizarro Kojima touch.
Rowdy (@rowdyinc - Twitter) - "Is Kojima in the credits? ;)"
Yep. As in Ground Zeroes, every mission ends with a quick credit sequence – don't worry, they're easy to skip – and Mr Kojima appears in all of them. To address the implied question, whatever happens down the line with Kojima and Konami this feels like 100% a Kojima Production – its ideas, jokes and systems have his fingerprints all over them.
Andrew Marling (Facebook) - "Does MGS5 fully utilise next gen like the Witcher 3 and have your beard grow out while exploring?"
No obvious beard growth, no, but Big Boss does accrue filth and blood as the game goes on. All the cutscenes are in-engine, too, so you can have these grand, dramatic moments only for Big Boss to rock up looking like a mad hobo. It's easily fixed, however – just fly back to Mother Base and take shower to emerge good as new. I'm pretty sure being clean boosts your health regeneration speed, though I might have imagined this.
Kevin Krusty Haskins (Facebook) - "Is there sheep"
Yep, and goats too. The noise they make when you attach a Fulton Balloon is absolutely hilarious. I can't begin to imagine how Kojima Productions managed to engineer the sound effect. Probably don't want to know.
Rob Moorhouse (Facebook) - "Are the cut scenes 14 hours long like in MGS4?"
No, and this was a big surprise. The opening prologue begins with the lengthiest cutscene I saw in the my 15 hours with the game, but after that the cutscenes tend to only appear at really key story moments. I've seen some of our readers worry that this removes a big chunk of the magic, but it really doesn't. 1) When the cutscenes do happen they feel really special, and 2) When the cutscenes do happen they are always pretty awesome and packed with fan-service. Instead of cutscenes, the game using lots of incidental dialogue: characters chatting over radios, overheard guard conversations and a vast library of casette tapes that contain old intel. Personally, I really liked the cassettes – you can pop one on your iDroid, whistle for D-Horse and go galloping off with the sound of nerdy Metal Gear Solid lore filling your ears. Heaven!
Steven Murtha (Facebook) - "Does Snake still insist on aiming down the sights with an eye patch on?"
Patrick Levy Capeto (Facebook) - "How does the size of the map affect stealth? In GZ it was pretty big with plenty of options, but in PP it looks so immense! Is the stealth part just at the objective or does the route we take also have to be planned?"
While the world is massive, it also uses mountainous terrain to split it into natural segments so it never feels quite as open as, say, Red Dead Redemption (the closest game in geographical tone). It's a really smart move as it lets the level designers build quite traditional stealth levels 'within' the landscape – they use steep cliffs to shepherd you down certain routes and deal with specific threats. For example, one level involves finding a network of caves, but the only access road leads you across a dam – that dam then becomes a whole challenge in itself. Do you clamber down to the base and try and sneak up the other side (difficult as there are snipers watching the ground below) or do you try and take the road across, dealing with the tens of guards that roam the area? In moments like this it's easy to forget you're in an open world, but then you turn the corner and find miles of empty fields to gallop across. It's a very neat balance between freedom and directorial control.
Daniel Ward (Facebook) - "Can you tell me more about boxes please? Are there other such things to use to hide in?"
Boxes are amazing. When you hide inside one you can now pop out of the lid and plug any guards foolish enough to wander past. Stand up inside the box and it hangs over your front, letting you punch open the flap and stick your gun through the flap in first person. The best trick – and this is my favourite part of The Phantom Pain – is the ability to use a box as a toboggan. If you run and dive while wearing a box, Big Boss uses the cardboard to slide along on his belly. Perform the trick on a slope and he'll carry on sliding. I must have spent a good thirty minutes of my demo climbing up hills and sliding back down – it feels more like a Mario move, but it's a great touch. As for other hiding places? You can hide when riding the horse by hanging to the horse's side – from the guard's perspective they just see a riderless mare trotting by. A cool move.
Peter Kelly (Facebook) -" Do any of the conspiracy theories brought up online hold up? Like Snake actually being Grey Fox but believing he is the real Snake?"
Konami has a sniper aiming at my heart in case I try to break the embargo, so no story details I'm afraid. I've avoided most of the conspiracy theories in the lead-up to the game – don't like having surprises ruined – but the few I have seen are pretty wide of the mark. That said, some of the stuff you'll see in the those first 14 hours will have you asking some pretty mad questions yourself – at some points you're not entirely sure what's real and what's leftover damage from the coma. It's a very trippy game.
Mark Brophy (Facebook) - "Can you transform into a peanut in order to eradicate psycho mantis and his cronies?"
I couldn't find the peanut transformation button.
Aidan Hosie (Facebook) - "What are some changes in gameplay and controls from Ground Zeroes?"
Big Boss has a new 'crack climb' that lets him dig into dirt cracks to clamber up the side of certain buildings and cliffs. He can also use his prosthetic arm to emit a noise and draw guards over – replacing the missing wall tap of old. As for larger gameplay changes there are loads – unlike Ground Zeroes you're now dealing with changing time of day and weather conditions, both of which can have a big effect. Guards change shifts at certain points in the day, which means that body you thought you hid earlier may not stay hidden for long...
Hans Vargas Navarro (Facebook) - "Will I get that nostalgic feeling from previous MGS games?"
The number of returning characters ensures there's a certain amount of nostalgia – the second I see Revolver Ocelot it feels like coming home. Nostalgia really comes from the tiny touches – the sound effect of a weapon select, or the shuffling around in a cardboard box. There are also some brilliant Easter eggs for returning fans. Without spoiling it, I recommend everyone attempts several Fulton recoveries on Ocelot during the Fulton tutorial...
Joseph Norris (Facebook) - "Are boss battles back?"
Another embargo zone, but if you cast an eye over our cover art you'll surely spot some less-than-friendly faces. What's really interesting is how the open world feeds into boss encounters – it almost feels like you can happen upon them by accident. But I will say no more.
Venom Snake (Facebook) - "What can you do with the iDroid?"
The iDroid is your most important bit of kit: it acts as your map, contains mission objectives, lets your manage Mother Base (assigning soldiers to various support teams so that they can help youin the field) and contains all your intel.
Zane Jebus Keating (Facebook) – "Ishmael??"
Chris Seago (Facebook) - "I've never played Metal Gear, but I want to. Why should I, and what do I need to know?"
Chris, Chris, Chris. How much time you got? It's almost impossible to boil down Kojima's fictional universe into one pithy description – the joy of the series is getting lost in its ludicrous mythology, seeing how real-world concerns are blown into insane conspiracy theories played out by one of the most colourful casts ever assembled. Every Metal Gear fan will give you a different reason for loving the series. For me, it's down to the experimental nature of Kojima's designs: it's almost as if no matter what you try to do to test the boundaries of his world, he has already thought of it and has a reaction in store. Whether it's watching ice cubes melt in Metal Gear Solid 2 or discovering that Phantom Pain's cardboard boxes double as a sled, there's a mischievous streak to his games that I can't get enough of.
Andrew Ward (Facebook) - "Did Big Boss steal Zadornov's arm? And who is Skull Face?"
Kojima will kill me if I tell you.