Let's start off by saying that anyone who hasn't watched the extended Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain E3 trailer should go and do that right now. Before Konami and Kojima Productions started the gameplay demo for Phantom Pain they showed the extended E3 2014 trailer, likely to set the mood. I, however, believe it was meant to serve as a point of contrast for the gameplay that was about to be shown. The emotional intensity of that trailer was quite in contrast with the gameplay demo, but together they show just why Metal Gear Solid is as significant as it ever was.
The trailer shows Kojima's vision condensed into an easily consumable cinematic. The gameplay trailer shows just how much respect the franchise continues to have for its origins, including the humor and and levity that makes the moment to moment experience fun and approachable. Together, the two aspects of the franchise balance into a compelling journey between these troughs and peaks of drama while remaining constantly compelling. It was because of the spectacle that was the extended trailer that I was able to open up to what followed.
What followed, of course, was a half-hour tour of one of The Phantom Pain's first open-world missions. It's a simple mission set in Afghanistan where a newly revived Big Boss, now with an impressive robotic arm, must infiltrate a Soviet compound in order to retrieve info on a friend who has been taken hostage. It's not a mission with much gravitas, but it was perfectly set up to introduce the style and pacing of the game.
Big Boss has several tools at his disposal that no other Metal Gear Solid game ever features -- Big Boss has his own army, his own war-chest, and some technology that would put Destiny to shame. What could be played entirely as a classic stealth Metal Gear experience, with CQC and a pair of binoculars, almost becomes cheating with all the extra tools at-hand. Everything still comes down to patience, proper sneaking and good aim in the end though.
With a tranquilizer gun in his hand, Snake is able to infiltrate the soviet base without breaking a sweat. He's able to mark enemies with his binoculars (and other, satellite-based tech) so he can follow their movement as he infiltrates, making it almost too easy. Other tools we're shown are the classic cardboard box, which is incredibly complex stealth equipment these days, Big Boss's robotic arm which can simulate knocks, and then when the worst happens Big Boss's quick reaction time lets him get a single shot off in slow motion before the alarm is raised. Big Boss is over powered, but only with proper use of the The Phantom Pain's many features.
The absolute most wonderful feature in the game, and potentially most exciting, is evacing... everything back to Mother Base. Enemies who have been knocked out can be evac'd with the press of a button, suddenly attaching a balloon to their waist to be picked up high above and taken back to base to be trained as soldiers for the Diamond Dogs. Recruits aren't all, however, because players can evac vehicles, supplies, and even... sheep? Yes. Sheep. The demo guy wanted to show us how it worked, okay?
Each recruit can be associated with research or other areas of use, bolstering Big Boss' already impressive armory and field-tech. Each vehicle or dollar made can be used to customize each player's very own Mother Base -- which looks rather like a series of oil platforms in the middle of the ocean. Helicopters? Yeah, get a few of those. Defense drones? Sure. Just be prepared to defend base against all the enemies that Big Boss is stealing from. Players can come to Mother Base at any time, all it takes is a ride on something being evac'd.
I have to admit, I was worried about The Phantom Pain at first. Kojima's narrative can be quite a bit oppressive, by which I mean he beats players down with plot, rhetoric and philosophy. Real people don't talk like people in Metal Gear games. It's like new readers taking up Shakespeare. But gameplay can be universally translated and what I was shown to day means the same thing in every language: fun.
I doubt many people will play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain the same way. Some will go all stealth with bare bones technology. Some will go full commando. Some will use everything they can to get the advantage. I also doubt many will respect how those options correlate to the different types of audiences the Metal Gear Solid franchise has seen through the years? I doubt any of that really matters.
All I can say with confidence is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is going to deliver an experience unlike any other. Forget about Ground Zeroes and the meaningless controversies, Big Boss has big plans and it's going to lead to some sort of heaven for fans. Perhaps... some sort of... Outer... Heaven...
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is planned for release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. There's no currently announced release date, beyond some sort of cryptic teaser saying "1984". *shrug*... that's Kojima for you.