Metal Gear Solid V is a big, beautiful game that’s managed to garner quite a bit of high praise from critics and players alike. But while classic MGS DNA still pumps through its veins, Director Hideo Kojima and his team took a big risk and changed up the formula quite a bit in this outing. Thankfully, that risk paid off.

There are a few things we’ve come to expect out of Metal Gear games over the years, including goofball humor inserted into an otherwise stone-cold serious narrative, a motley crew of super-powered bosses to take out and some of the best stealth espionage action available on the planet.

As stated above, though, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain breaks from tradition in a lot of ways. The goofball humor is definitely still in heavy supply, but those boss fights and the typically overly convoluted story take a back seat this time around. Coming to the forefront in The Phantom Pain are those brilliant stealth mechanics, making this the most enjoyable MGS to date in terms of pure gameplay.

While I wouldn’t blame fans for being a bit disappointed by an almost mute Snake, a less insane cast of characters and a story that’s far less involved than in previous outings, Kojima and Co. have managed to fill those gaps with a number of improvements that have made The Phantom Pain an absolute treat to shoot, sprint, ride and crawl through. Here is a rundown of our three favorite new features.

Afghanistan in MGS5
The Open World
Easily the biggest departure from previous Metal Gear games is the open world you get to explore. Spread across two large maps, Snake’s adventures can be customized to a high degree by the player in The Phantom Pain, with the game empowering you to choose your drop-off point, scout the road ahead, choose a path to your objective and then get the heck out of Dodge before enemy forces overwhelm you.

This type of open world allows for more emergent gameplay, as the clever AI and various moving parts within the world allow for events you could not have possibly planned for. Thankfully, the improved mechanics and various tools at your disposal allow you to roll with the punches or, at the very least, high-tail it out of enemy territory in order to regroup and try again.

When you’re not busy taking on missions, The Phantom Pain offers plenty of rewards for those who like to explore, including blueprints for new gear, resources to expand your merc empire and more. There’s also a steady stream of side ops available, giving you a large number of additional objectives to complete between big missions or on your way to another objective.

There’s a lot to do in MGSV’s open world, but not so much that you’ll ever feel overwhelmed.
Diamond Dog
Buddy System
One of the most interesting new systems at play within The Phantom Pain is the ability to bring a buddy into the fight. In order to avoid spoilers, I’m going to refrain from talking about any buddies other than the three that have been shown off in loads of pre-launch media including Diamond Horse, Diamond Dog and the scantily clad sniper, Quiet.

The Metal Gear series has always been big about empowering the player with lots and lots of options. Rather than pop out of cover and shoot a guard, why not knock on the wall to draw him near and then unleash a flurry of CQC attacks to knock him unconscious instead? Or, if you just want him out of your way, why not throw an empty magazine away from your objective and cause the poor sap to go investigate the noise?

Those options open up even further with the inclusion of buddies in The Phantom Pain. The various buddies can be ordered to perform different actions that are helpful at causing a distraction or even taking out troublesome foes.

Want a truck to stop dead in its tracks so you can take out the driver from behind a nearby rock? Have Diamond Horse mill about on the road and take care of business when the vehicle stops and honks at your four-legged friend to move.

Want to distract one guard while you take out another? Sick Diamond Dog on one of the baddies while you beat the stuffing out of the other.

Having trouble sneaking past a particular guard but don’t want the entire enemy base to swarm you when you take him out? Why not have Quiet do the dirty work from a distance, fulfilling the objective of clearing your path while simultaneously drawing attention away from you.

Snake has a lot of nifty tools at his disposal, but his buddies offer some of the most interesting gameplay options in the series to date.
Mother Base
Mother Base
You’re only as good as the army you recruit in Metal Gear Solid V, which is why the Mother Base features are such an interesting and welcome addition to the game world.

While out on your missions, you’ll have the ability to snag soldiers, resources and gear that will help you expand your in-game headquarters, better known as Mother Base. These mechanics almost become an entirely separate game unto themselves, as managing your troops, expanding your facilities and ordering new equipment becomes an addictive little distraction from the main missions.

The troops you recruit can be inserted into various teams. The better the troops, the better gear they’ll be able to produce, missions they’ll be able to run and support they’ll be able to offer. You can spend resources in order to upgrade the various limbs of your Mother Base, which in turn allow you to house even more soldiers and gain access to even more features and abilities.

Beef up your R&D department, for instance, and you’ll be able to produce even more useful weaponry. Make sure your recon team is in top form and they’ll be able to give you even more helpful information about enemy locations and mission objectives.

That’s just two examples of how improving your growing army will, in turn, improve your options on the battlefield. Couple all of that with some light customization options and Mother Base becomes a base of operations you can really take ownership of. As the leader of a mercenary army, it’s nice to have a place you can truly call home.

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