Mento Gear Solid V: The Fandom's Pain: Part 3

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Heavens to Mother Base, it's only another episode of Mento Gear Solid V! When I last left you all, I was complaining non-stop about how difficult Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was and attempting to disguise it as enlightened critique. You'll be ambivalent to hear that this is one again the case with Part 3, its kvetching already in progress. I'm covering the remainder of the missions and events that occur in Afghanistan (though I'm sure I'll come back at some point) and preparing to move to the sunny shores of Angola which, like Africa itself if you believe Dan, is a country in Africa.

Normally I try to pad these introductions out a little so that the image I insert in here doesn't mess up the formatting of the bullet point list (gettin' too real already with this episode) but I'm actually at a loss for how to broach the subject of how I feel about this particular Metal Gear Solid. The story's getting stupid in that wonderful way that only a Metal Gear Solid story can, but I'm also starting to grasp that this game isn't really structured in a way conducive to my usual format. Or maybe it is? I suppose what I mean is that I can play this for ten hours without seeing anything story significant to remark upon, leading me to fill this war journal of mine with inane entries about D-Horse's poop command or Ocelot's stupid face or how I wish I could find a way to combine the two, but it's also a pretty good means of getting my views out on the game's many individual missions, which I'm learning can fluctuate wildly in how effective they are both on their own standalone merits and as part of Metal Gear Solid's usual approach to stealth mission design.

One of those aforementioned wonderfully dumb aspects about this game is how each mission is presented like an episode of a TV show, with a pre- and post-mission credits roll for the "actors" and its "director" Hideo Kojima, former lead designer for Konami and current President of the Norman Reedus fan club, "We Need Us Some Reedus™". It's easier to think of these missions as miniature Metal Gear Solid games as a result, even if only a handful actually contain the bizarre nonsense military conspiracy writing I've grown to expect and love like tolerate from this series. Maybe the relative scarcity of all that from mission-to-mission is why I'm tepid on the game so far and why so much of it feels like filler, but I can leave all the reviewing for the feature's conclusion. For now, let's see some damn dots already:

Part 3: Huey, Screwy and Kablooey

  • The Medical Unit showed up just after I completed that last mission (#10). Closely linked to the next unit type unlock, as I suspected, the medical bay can assist in the R&D of drugs like series mainstay pentazemin - which steadies your aim - and a few fun ones like being able to see lifeforms around you if you're looking for critters or are moving through the interior of a building. Guards can't be marked easily from a distance if they're indoors, which leads to a lot of surprise encounters if you aren't prepared for them. Medical staff also tend to soldiers that come back from dispatch missions all busted up, hence why it's a bit odd the doctors got unlocked first. Well, at least I managed to find a few surgeons while out on the field. Simply a matter of moving them over to the medical wing via the staff management widget. Having doctors without borders around is like a novel spin on the Militaires Sans Frontières of Peace Walker, only now it's... "Médecins Sans Frontières"? Weird.
  • Mission #7. In this fun little mission, you have to kill (or extract) three Soviet colonels as they meet up in a local village. The village is crawling with guards, of course, but once you know where they meet it's not hard to quickly get there in advance without arousing suspicion. The colonels then show up to the hut one by one - the first is already in there - so it was simply a matter of tranqing each one as they arrive and carrying them outside using the far door away from the guards to Fulton them to back to Mother Base, which appears to be an acceptable non-lethal solution in every assassination mission - the clients are simply told that "we took care of them". I'd have gone with something punnier, like how they underestimated Big Boss due to their inflated egos or that they've gone to the big soldier recruitment drive in the sky. Anyway, because I was able to jog straight to the meeting place, grab all three colonels without getting spotted and get a bonus for the extractions, I managed to net my first S rank. I think speed was the biggest factor there: you can lose a few thousand points getting spotted, restarting from a checkpoint or killing a guy, but a fast mission completion can be worth a huge amount in comparison.
  • And with that, we have unlocked combat units and dispatch missions. I can now build up a unit of my toughest recruits and send them off on little missions that get completed while I'm busy saving the world elsewhere, one New Romantic cassette at a time. These dispatches operate almost identically to the ones from Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and its sequels, except I have to manually accept the rewards for some reason. Maybe it's like a lootcrate thing. I'm also recruiting a lot of crappy staff members who volunteer themselves as one of the rewards, so I'm going to have to cull this base of its "E" weenies at some point. Anyway, this is handy as another source of revenue, but I'm starting to hit feature creep with how much there is to keep track of. Doesn't help that the biggest flaw of the PS3 version - which I was gifted to me shortly before I bought a PS4, so that's what I'm playing - is that it takes forever to load anything on the iDroid. I have to keep micromanagement to a minimum.
  • So here's something fun: I loaded up the game, was told that the Konami servers were having a few problems (possibly because some former Konami game developer turned masseuse decided to give them all a mineral scrub) and that I couldn't log in, and found that my GMP account was somehow 80k in the red. Apparently a lot of your GMP is tied up online, so I'd suddenly lost close half a million because I didn't have access to the cloud I was storing it on. At that point you either let everyone walk out because you can't pay them or just stop playing until Konami's servers blink back to life. What a strange way to handle your online component. (P.S. I'm not even dealing with FOB bullshit yet. I'm sure that's a whole bunch of extra headaches to deal with.)
  • Mission #8. The first mission that called upon attacking vehicles, and probably not the last. I devised of a smart plan of stopping these tanks in their tracks by dropping in a vehicle in their path and then Fultoning them all as they stopped to figure out a way around, but couldn't act on it because of my unfamiliarity with the mission and the way the game's checkpoints can sometimes be too generous for their own good. When you hit the absolute last time you can accomplish the mission, moments before the tanks arrive at their final destination of the mountain base from Mission #6, the game chooses to make a checkpoint save there instead of, say, at any point before the tanks get there so you still have time to stop them. The last, desperate attack on the base and its many soldiers in full view of the tanks probably cost me a better rank than the "B" I got, which strikes me as the gentlemen's "F", but like many missions in this game I was happy to see the back of it. I really don't see myself coming back to half of these - they're just so annoyingly designed with alacrity in mind, when MGS (or really any stealth game) should be about taking one's time and getting a clear picture on the whole situation before acting. I suppose that's what mission retries are for. Still, though. Ugh.
  • D-Dog is now big enough to join us on missions! The scamp is useful for picking out enemies, prisoners, plants and other useful map objects within range, though I sort of have my Intel team for most of that. I think for missions like #10, where I had to rescue a bunch of prisoners from inside a building as quickly as possible, he'd be invaluable. I am starting to get the idea that a lot of these early missions would be considerably easier with some of the tech (and pups, in this case) I'm unlocking now. At any rate, I'm torn between continuing to build up a bond with D-Horse - I've unlocked the poop command, so we're getting along just fine - or getting a headstart on double D over here. Might be for the best if I take him on some Side Ops so I can get used to the little guy before he joins me on something more substantial.
  • Turns out there is a Side Op I should get to completing, as evinced by how it's marked as "essential": the game color-codes its missions, side ops and dispatches with a gold dot if it's story important, or leads to some unique reward. For this particular Side Op, I'm to help one Dr. Huey Emmerich defect from a Soviet-operated facility. Now, here's the first SMAKA in a while: SMAKA #3, Huey is Otacon's dad and also someone who featured prominently in Peace Walker. Presently, Miller blames him for letting Cipher destroy the Mother Base of Peace Walker, and once we've retrieved him he intends to have a long chat with the withdrawn robotics scientist. Hey, I wonder if grabbing this guy will let me have a D-Robot I can bring on missions? Something like the Metal Gear buddy from MGS4.
  • On the way to the power plant where Huey works, I bumped into our sniper friend Quiet. She's holed up in a section of ruins with a convenient amount of cover, but after observing her turn invisible, sprint across the stage at the speed of sound and leap three vertical stories to another nest, I've decided that I clearly wasn't meant to fight her yet and followed the mission objective marker to bug out of there. Of course, I immediately lose a huge amount of heroism for doing so, so I guess fuck all mission objectives forever. This game can be awfully cryptic at times. At any rate, I'll come back once I've R&D'd a tranq sniper rifle and fight her at her own game. I doubt a pistol with an effective range of 30m is going to get me far in that battle, and I strongly suspect I don't actually want to kill her.
  • Getting into the Power Plant to spring our wayward weaponized walker wunderkind wasn't so bad, but I wasn't quite prepared for what followed. Not only is Dr. Emmerich working on a new giant bipedal robot (that part wasn't surprising), but Spinal was there too and quickly had Huey and his Trenc Iron Brigade walker escorted to a more secure location after learning that I was onto him. Now it's suddenly...
  • Mission #12: ...a new story mission. I figured I'd have to go back to Mission #11 to continue the plot, but Quiet's really more of a side-piece. Sorry, side-quest. My words and deeds have shamed me once again. The goal now is to sneak back through the power plant (which has naturally replenished its staff) and head to the local Soviet headquarters to recover Dr. Emmerich from wherever Mr. Bones stashed him. It's a good thing I can call supply drops whenever, ain't it?
  • Well, I got a C for that one. Turns out they don't appreciate it when you spend eighty minutes to complete a single mission. Frankly, I don't particularly appreciate a mission that takes eighty minutes to complete, so I suppose that makes us even. Once I'd finally reached the interior of the base - I may have been a bit klepto on all these wonderful cargo containers - I was then required to carry Emmerich back out of the base the way I came. All the enemies had reset in the meantime, of course, and the game gave me a "fuck alerts" options with a miniature walker robot that some of the guards were using to patrol such a large base. Before getting out, I was attacked by Manny Calavera's enormous new Metal Gear, the Spellcheckfuckeduponus, and had to quickly evade it to reach the LZ in what was a particularly irksome sequence of hiding behind rocks until it finally gave up. It's not easy hiding from something twenty feet tall, turns out.
  • More story ensues. This particular Emmerich gets tortured a lot - presumably that was one for the fans - but it seems he's clueless about the events that lead to the destruction of the previous Mother Base, which I'm just going to call Grandma Base for clarity's sake. When the bad guys dropped Grandma into the ocean, they were operating incognito as members of a nuclear inspection squad, like Hans Brix. Only it was a Hans Tricks! They were secretly Cipher's strike team XOF (which is perhaps the dumbest backwards alias since Alucard first lamented humanity's hard lot) and sank it. Huey actually believed they were who they said they were, and I sort of believe him. I can believe this entire family is as guileless as each other. Then again, listening to Otacon whine non-stop, you get the impression his dad was kind of a jerk (along with how Snake keep killing everyone he loves and that Kill La Kill is a garbage anime for garbage people), so I'll just let Miller and Ocelot get the truth out of Ironside while I get back to work.
  • The conclusion of that mission also leads to unlocking the next big region of the game: Africa. Specifically, the northern territory of the nation of Angola close to its border to Zaire (since renamed to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is one of those cases that exemplifies the fact that if you have to put "democratic" and "republic" in the full title of your country, it's probably neither). I imagine the game's going to ramp up its difficulty now and presumably its rewards to match, because it's getting expensive to build anything. All the same, I don't want to leave Afghanistan yet, as I've got some unfinished business. Like a certain underdressed sniper I left all alone in a drafty ruin.
  • Mission #11. MGSV brings back an old favorite for this mission - the sniper boss battle. The arena is far smaller than the one in which Snake faced geriatric grenade-bait The End, but the idea is the same: the enemy sniper quickly moves from vantage point to vantage point after she's made, generally finding some way to slip past the player's attention en route, and the first warning sign you get is either a flash of scope lensflare or a full metal suppository depending on which direction you're looking. Quiet's far too quick to pin her down with normal gunfire, and I didn't think I could reliably hit her with my non-lethal weaponry last time, so now I've made my triumphant return with a tranq sniper rifle and a magic dog that tells me where people are hiding. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I managed to walk away with another S rank this time instead of the prior embarrassment of fleeing the scene. Given the circumstances, I think this would've been the one S rank that was mine to lose: no guards means a whole lot of easy bonuses. Now those are some words and deeds I can be proud of.
  • Some hard emotional swings occur next: Miller wants me to finish her off, while Ocelot thinks we can gain more by keeping her around and extracting information about Cipher. Presumably, Ocelot thinks "Quiet" is one of those ironic names people sometimes have. They deduce that she's one of the Skull units, the recurring badass undead warriors who I strongly suspect are tied to the Cobra Unit in some way if only because this series has a nasty habit of repeating itself when it comes to boss squads. The matter is moot, though, as she escapes our grasp on the flight back after I elect to bring her with us because why wouldn't I want someone like that on my team. It seems she can go into "ghost" mode, get some gnarly eyeshadow and then pull off weird phantom shit to perform her more inexplicable abilities, like slipping a pair of cuffs and vanishing.
  • Turns out she was here the whole time though (Big Boss didn't think to wave at the air around chest level? What happened to the man who once ogled Eva's cleavage?), and rematerializes to keep a MIG off our six by shooting its missile and its pilot with a sniper rifle we kept on board in case of miracle bullshit. I'm starting to wonder if she's the vengeful gestalt of everyone who ever got banned from Overwatch and CS:GO for using wallhax.
  • Quiet freaks out the Mother Base personnel with her combat bikini and ability to turn translucent (probably more the latter, but then there aren't a whole lot of women around), and they escort her away with Big Boss promising to pull the trigger himself if she ever proves to be too much of a problem. I hope my dire wolf wasn't in earshot when I made promises to murder anyone who turned evil on us. Or Ocelot for that matter. Without him, I'd have no-one to tell me that ravens are deified by certain indigenous Canadian tribes every time I looked at a bird. Would that be the same indigenous tribe that also reveres miniguns torn from fighter planes?
  • Out of curiosity, I went to visit Quiet in her new habitat all the way out on the Medical platform (thanks to @mirado for the tip about using delivery boxes to get places, saved me an expensive chopper deployment). Naturally, she was sunbathing topless while The Cure was playing on an invisible radio. I'm just going to ignore this ridiculous woman until she becomes relevant to the gameplay at some point in the near future.
  • Mission #9. "Backup, Back Down", a.k.a. the Limp Bizkit mission. This is the last remaining mission for Afghanistan (for the time being, at least) and the last thing I want to do here before I start sweating the Angola stuff. Like many missions, it gives you a selection of starting points; unlike many missions, the starting point you select is very important, and if you pick the wrong one and don't have a vehicle you pretty much need to start over and pick the correct one instead. The reason for this is that the mission requires the destruction (or extraction) of various enemy vehicles before a bunch of Mujahideen show up for a raid, and the first few vehicles are already on the move from one location to the next as you begin. Your starting points therefore include: the place they started from, the place they're heading to, the place they're heading through if you want to ambush them, and - the option I initially selected - a place that is a million fucking miles from any of the above. This is definitely a D-Horse mission too, so puppers is going to have to sit this one out. What's more is that the mission actually has seven of these armored vehicles to either capture or destroy, and they all appear at specific but distant points on the map. You need to play the mission at least once to know where they all are, when they show up and how best to reach as many as possible for the best completion grade.
  • I'm beginning to accept that the game is built on retries, which is why it gives so much consideration to deployment costs - each piece of equipment you bring with you, or buddy or vehicle, carries with it a (admittedly small) price every sortie - and to additional bonus conditions after the first completion. You have so very little actionable intel before getting into a mission, and so situations like the above or others where some unexpected hurdle appears in situ are irritatingly common. Once you've played a mission once or twice and know it inside out, that's the point where you can start finding the optimal route to success and getting those S-Ranks. It does, however, mean that your initial forays are almost certainly doomed to awkward failures unless you're quick with the checkpoint restart button or can think on your feet, like I apparently can't whenever a stealth approach goes to shit and I begin to panic and start throwing bait bottles at people.
  • So, for instance, with the above mission I started in the wrong place with the wrong equipment. The game has a wonderful depth of resourcefulness with its various gadgets, especially as you get further in and can R&D new types of gear to suit your playing style, which means that I could then restart the mission with a much more beneficial loadout. In this case, I took a vehicle, started at the north drop point (where the first two vehicles were heading towards), used a bridge and my a vehicle as a barricade, sneaked up behind the enemy vehicle as it parped its horns angrily and 99 Luftballoon'd that mother back to the mother of all bases. Pretty effective, though I'm sure I could've been faster.
  • I say that, because I managed to score my first "E" rank. Until now, my worst had been the "C" for Mission #12. You know what? I feel absolutely no compulsion to return to that mission for a better score. It was beyond awful. You are essentially forced to quickly drive between several chokepoint locations to destroy/extract vehicles before they reach their destinations, but you drive by a heavily fortified supply base each time. I got spotted so often that I actually ended up with a minus score for "play rating" (pushed, barely, back into a positive by the bonuses). Ideally, I think I can set up shop away from that base and not have to pass it at all, but it means patiently waiting for all the enemy vehicles to come to us and I dunno if that's the most exciting thing in the world or would result in a much better score given I'd be running down the clock. Either way, I appreciate that they went for a more exciting action-packed mission that relied on explosives and schedules, but it blew chunks regardless.
  • All right, maybe I'll try it again. Later, when I have better gear (which I think will eventually become code for "never" once I burn out around mission 43). I know seeing that "E" every time I scroll down is going to bug the hell out of me, though I'm equally sure it won't be the only disappointment on the ol' report card if I discover a mission equally as repellent. Given this game has around fifty missions (I've heard), you can't expect them all to be winners. That I'm barely a quarter of the way through them is probably the bigger concern.

Now that my tenure in Afghanistan is over, for however long that lasts, I think it's time to take a bow on this episode and start it back up after I touch down in the cradle of civilization and start tearing shit up again. Just, you know, non-lethally. (Hmm, I really wonder how much longer I can keep up the pacifism before missions like #9 drive me insane.)

Mento Gear Solid V: The Fandom's Pain
MGSV: Part One: Missions 0-2.MGSV: Part Two: Missions 3-6, 10.
MGSV: Part Three: Missions 7-9, 11-12.MGSV: Part Four: Missions 13-16.
MGSV: Part Five: Missions 17-25.MGSV: Part Six: Missions 26-31.
MGSV: Part Seven: Missions 32-40.MGSV: Part Eight: Missions 41-47, 49.
MGSV: Bonus Tapes Edition