Mento Gear Solid V: The Fandom's Pain: Part 4

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Welcome back to Mento Gear Solid V: I Already Regret the Pun Name I Gave This Feature! We finally reach the Angola-Zaire border this time and complete the first handful of missions, but like previous entries I'm still discovering huge amounts of this game and my observations are going to be as mechanically-focused as ever. I realize the whole point of this observations format was to register my utter incredulity at Metal Gear Solid's many fine, ridiculous cutscenes and story beats, but MGSV more represents the half of Kojima that is an unfettered auteur meijin of game design, and less so the half that's unabashedly a fan of dumb action movies and equally daft military conspiracies of the 20th century.

I've had my ups and downs with Metal Gear Solid V and, like Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3 before it, I've thought about quitting early because it was frustrating me too much. But, like MGS3 (and unlike 2), I've turned a corner on it and am not only appreciating the level of depth this game demonstrates on the regular but also having a lot of fun with its open-ended approach to mission design and player adaptability. I don't think I'll ever understand the GOTY accolades that Metal Gear Solid 4 received from many venues, almost including Giant Bomb, but I can understand it here. It's not only a Metal Gear Solid game, but one of the most endlessly creative open-world games I've ever seen. Of course, time (and another thirty or so missions) will tell if it's able to keep me engaged for the long haul. Check back in when I get to Part Nine or Ten. For now, though, let's make the GMP rain down in Africa (and if Toto isn't on one of the cassettes, someone done fucked up):

Part 4: All Quiet on the Naked Front

  • It's really funny and sorta cool that there's a lot more enemy decoys around. Funny because they aren't convincing at all - you might as well hire Otto Pilot from Airplane! - and suggests that the Soviet army isn't so much getting smarter than getting desperate to fill the gaps left behind by everyone I've given free blimp rides to. But that's also what's cool about it: the game is demonstrating that the soldiers aren't just passively taking my antics in stride, but are being reactive and attempting countermeasures. I've also noticed a lot more soldiers with gas masks - what I can derive from this is that, up until now, using various forms of crazy purple knockout gas would've been an effective strategy also. And don't even get me started on those helmets. My face falls every time I hear one of those loud "donk!"s.
  • I also appreciate that you get a tiny, tiny GMP reward for destroying decoys. It's like a consolation prize for being a half-blind idiot. (But hey, guess how I found that out in the first place. Pot calling the inflatable kettle black.)
  • So I was doing the target practice side ops on the Mother Base rig, since it seemed like easy money, and discovered two things: First, fuck the target practice mission on the R&D platform. It was like playing Where's Waldo, only thirty-five times in a row in five minutes with a high chance of falling to your death. Second, the Medical platform has a weird door with a blonde girl behind it. It's Paz! I guess! As in, the underage girl with a bomb in her hoo-ha from Peace Walker. She miraculously survived - the bomb was extracted and she fell into the ocean before Snake's chopper went down, but I imagine the original cutscene made it seem like she died - but now she has a dissociative amnesia disorder and I have to jog her memory with photos that weird ex-Grandma Base soldiers have on them. As a side ops category it makes as much sense as any other.
  • Right, before I forget and we can start on the Angola missions: I shot a bear in the face with rubber bullets until he eventually fell over and then tied a balloon on its paw. Felt that was important to note down. OK, now we can move on.
  • Mission #13. This is our first introduction to Angola, what I imagine is probably the setting for the second half of the game. It looks about as big as Afghanistan, though perhaps more of a vertical band than a giant circle. What's also striking is the difference in climate: Afghanistan only had two modes, desert and plains, but from what I've seen of Africa so far it's very green and balances jungle, marsh and grasslands. It's going to mean changing my cardboard box design, for one. This particular mission I figure is meant to be an introduction to the African theater: it not only guides you through a location crawling with guards (speaking Afrikaans, which means I'm going to need another translator side op before I can start interrogating anyone or listening in on their radio conversations) and introduces the type of environments you'll have to anticipate, but also how the country is doing politically. It's pretty bad, as you might expect; and problems around here concern child soldiers and oil leaks, as well as the sort of instability rampant in the continent. The mission itself was straight forward enough: Snake has to sabotage and turn off various parts of a disused oil refinery to halt a leak into the local rivers, while also avoiding the Cipher-funded private forces patrolling the area. We're back to stealth and recon, so that's a relief.
  • Another scene with Quiet. She shows off her skills once again by shooting the helicopter's rotor blades while in motion, though oddly enough the game doesn't then slow them down to show that each blade has a hole in it. I guess we just take her at her non-verbal word that she pulled it off? Ocelot's convinced, but then Ocelot's an idiot who gave his loaded revolver to a potential enemy. Either way, Snake's on board with bringing her along on... oh wait, we can't communicate with her. Sorry, Quiet. Back to your sunbathing pit. Hope you like lattice patterns on your back.
  • I've been using the capture cages a lot, but I'm wondering if it's mostly a waste right now considering it costs money to deploy with them and they aren't quite high enough level to capture the rarest creatures. I think this could be a real money earner with at least one more upgrade - I captured a fox once, no feedback on whether it was mysterious or could lead me back to some amazing leaves, and I got a huge amount of extra GMP for it because it was designated as "rare". I suspect that even fully upgraded the majority of my catches will continue to be gerbils and bats, but without the chance of a super rare or ultra rare catch right now it strikes me as fairly inert. I'll definitely keep an eye on new animal capturing developments as they roll in. Maybe a proximity laser-guided roach motel, or a really really technologically advanced box with a stick holding it up.
  • Mission #14. My prediction that I would immediately follow Angola's introductory mission with a task that involved procuring an Afrikaans translator wasn't far off the mark, as one appears in the very next core mission. Unfortunately, it's a tailing mission, which is bad for two reasons: first, having to tail someone in any game sucks and always has even in the already-deliberate stealth genre, and second because the mission moves at its own glacial pace which occludes the chance of a high score, since I've been reliably informed that "time taken" is the largest factor in the score-tallying process. I'm not sure if coming back to this mission and heading straight for where the last - and only essential - prisoner is being kept would work, since I observed that they get moved around a lot and the interpreter wouldn't be there. I suppose I could immediately go after him next, making sure to tag him at the start of the mission to make it easier on myself. That could be a feasible S-rank strategy, but it might also be the case that I'd only need to extract the interpreter once and then he'd no longer be an essential element of the mission. Either way, that's for late-game super-advanced stealth expert Mento Snake to figure out if/when I return to this mission for a better rank (though I got an A, so I'm happy with that for now).
  • I've been finding female prisoners, which I wasn't expecting. Laughing Wallaby was one of the British prisoners I rescued in the last mission, and thus probably the most visible female NPC yet ('cause Quiet's invisible, you see), but I've found a few before now as part of "extract prisoner" side ops. I got my first one, Rancid Dhole, killed while on a dispatch mission, but have recruited several more since then. I guess I could feasibly play as one of these instead of Snake, huh? It's cool they added female protagonists in to reach an expanded audience, and that Quiet isn't the sole representative of her gender in the game, but they're surprisingly rare all the same.
  • More Quiet! Ocelot seems adamant that we should take her on missions. He also explains that she eats via photosynthesis (not how that works, you need green chlorophyll pigment and she doesn't look like She-Hulk to me) and that she can't be submerged in water or wear clothes because she breathes through her skin and either would asphyxiate her. I look forward to the extra lore entries that describe how she'll die if she doesn't shake 'em every five minutes with a stripper dance due to the way she stores various life-essential vitamins in her chest like a dromedary's humps and can only distribute them throughout her body with rigorous jiggling. It's science. Words and deeds, naysayers.
  • Also her default uniform is "Naked" because, and I quote: "Exposes the maximum amount of skin, supposedly so as not to impede her transcutaneous respiration." (Emphasis mine.) I hope Kojima can be more honest with himself now that he has his own studio for real and no corporate oversight committee to worry about. You want bikini snipers in your game? Or Reedus with a fetus? Just go for it, dude, don't make up weird excuses to clutch onto some kind of moral high ground. I think that's what put people off the character most: when she was just a stripperific sniper, that was a little gross but mostly whatever. The same harmless cheesecake BS common to the series, like staring at Eva's cleavage or Meryl in her underwear. Hell, I've seen a lot worse on Steam lately and at least this time the sexy femme fatale doesn't have PTSD and collapses into a nervous sobbing breakdown in the middle of their boss fight. It's the bizarre justifications for why she's wearing next to nothing and doesn't talk back that is making things messy. Photo-fucking-synthesis.
  • Anyway, I'm suspending my beef with Quiet's design until two things occur: I reach the late part of the story where Quiet's characterization comes full circle, and after I've spent enough time with her as a companion to recognize what she brings to the field in that capacity. A sniper with superpowers, unusual limitations and some deeper plot relevance might pull through as a half-decent construct, but I'm still really skeptical about some of the choices they've made already. Because it insults my intelligence, more than anything else.
  • Mission #15. All right, enough of Quiet for now. Mission 15 has us infiltrate a village and emancipate the PF there of their four walker mechs. I feared the worst initially - the walkers were tricky to avoid during the final mission in Afghanistan, where they regularly patrolled the enemy's main base with moderate speed. Instead, the four walkers here are simply sitting on top of a hill with no pilot. The handful of guards around them took me by surprise (more on that in a moment), but I avoided a firefight and extracted the quartet with a decent enough A-rank. That's including the amount of time I was wasting cherry-picking all the guards with A or above for their skills and a prisoner or two. I'm starting to see a pattern here: the missions I am able to accomplish well the first time are also the ones I like the most. Funny, that.
  • So here's more on Quiet. She's very different to D-Dog and D-Horse as a buddy, and there's two significant differences right off the bat that means she'll take some getting used to. The first is that she cannot presently help me without going lethal, as the sniper bullets she uses aren't exactly the type you wake up from. By building the bond between us, I should be able to upgrade her gear to include a tranq rifle, at which point she'll be deadly. Well, not deadly, but you know what I mean. Indispensable. The second issue is that I was able to walk too far away from where she set up, and now I can no longer get in contact with her. She's stuck wherever I left her, and there are no commands to bring her close like D-Horse. I kinda figured she'd uproot (lil' plant humor for you there. She eats through photosynthesis, you know) and start following me as soon as I left the area, but I guess not.
  • She also sings a lot over the radio. Well, hums. Incessantly. It vaguely sounds like a duck quacking, which is even more distracting because it makes me think there's a rare waterfowl around somewhere. I'm not sure if this goes away if you increase your bond, or if it's something that's only triggered by talking to her on the radio. Either way, I guess it's good to know she's around even if I can't see the giant green laser sight from her rifle. Well, until she's no longer around because I walked too far. Fuck, I should probably go back and get her, huh. (Update: I discovered the "Buddy Support" iDroid menu has options to change Quiet from "scout" to "attack". The latter is default and has her stick to one place picking off targets for you. The former allows you to move her to a different location, marking enemies and weapons/vehicles in advance before you get there. What's odd, or rather irksome, about this is that the Buddy Support option is right underneath the Supply Drop option, suggesting that you're simply having a buddy dropped in to replace the one you have. It even says as much when you highlight it in the menu. And every other "tell your buddy to do a thing" command was accessible via the L2 radial menu. Some uncharacteristically lousy UI design.)
  • Let's talk about side ops, since I've been doing a few of them to get the lay of the land here in Angola - as well as get used to Quiet, and find a few of those delivery invoices that'll let me fast travel to the locations they pertain to. One thing I've noticed is that a lot of side ops are recurring: both in the sense that you can do the same one again after enough time has passed, and that many side ops are successive with an identical objective but in a new location. So extracting a prisoner, for instance, means sneaking into an enemy location and rescuing the prisoner there. Straightforward, and you'll get multiple instances with names like "Extract the Prisoner #3" and "Extract the Prisoner #6". There's also a similar side op for capturing high-level soldiers - funnily enough, the way they randomize the stats on these so-called elites irrespective of my current heroism, which I've learned is what governs the skill levels of enemy soldiers and volunteers, sometimes results in a primary target that is far less competent than the others around him.
  • There are some side ops that are a bit more fun than abducting people too. Mine clearing, for instance, brings back the claymores and their little lights to create puzzles where you can either figure out the best way to get behind and collect the mines for yourself, or destroy them the old-fashioned way (that is, shooting them from a distance, not the old-old-fashioned way where you walk into them). Eliminating tank and heavily-armored units present distinct problems: the tank will absolutely destroy you if you get spotted by it or the guards, so the goal is always to destroy/extract it first, while the heavily-armored goons that look like a Baton Rouge cop fell through a kitchenware display won't be affected by the weak penetration of my tranq pistol, so my best bet is to individually choke them out. It's the same gameplay, but made a bit more challenging than the norm. I particularly like the weird ones you get ever so occasionally, like taking down the confused former Mother Base staff for the sake of curing Paz's amnesia or extracting a ferocious bear. You can't easily tranq either, but you're also not allowed to kill them and they are much harder to sneak up on. I'm glad I invested in this beanbag assault rifle.
  • Mission #16. It's another "hijack a moving target" mission, and one of those ones where the initial intel doesn't even cover half of the bullshit you're going to have to deal with. The game introduces its second "breed" of Skull unit here: if the former were scouts, these guys are the stormtroopers. Heavily armored and very fatal once they spot you, they move just as fast as the other type and don't seem to go away eventually if you run far enough. They seem to bring the mist with them, instead of it being a large area of effect that you can leave by heading in one direction long enough. Essentially, don't get to the point where the convoy realizes it's under attack and deploys them. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to not do this: their activation appears to be proximity-based rather than "time after ambush"-based, so as soon as you get close to any of the three vehicles - one AV out in front, one behind and the transport in the middle - four of those armored bastards jump out of the truck and start looking for you. My strategy, then, was to quietly extract all three vehicles (I didn't need the AVs, but why not grab 'em too? I didn't want them shooting down the Fulton over the truck) by using previously-placed decoys to distract the Skulls. I'd also ensured the AVs wouldn't leave by placing three electromagnetic mines one after the other down the road. Having escaped all attention, I got away on the Pequod with an S-rank. Yet... I have to admit that I died so many times trying to figure out what to do with the Skulls that I'm actually feeling a little guilty about it. If I died so often that I was offered the Chicken Hat - the ultimate humiliation - could it be said that I deserved that S-rank? I'm going to say "Yes" so I don't feel obligated to replay that mission.
  • I should bring this up now before I forget: For as much shit as I give some of these missions on an individual basis, I can really respect how disparate each of them feels to play and how many different ways you can go about accomplishing them. I'm sure for every mission I didn't do well on, like that earlier vehicle mission (#9, see Part 3), there's a few strategies online that I didn't consider - in fact, I know this is true because I just saw a YouTube video of someone S-ranking that mission with perfect stealth (no detections, no kills). He used a combination of lethal explosive weaponry, from mines to rocket launchers, to quickly anticipate and eliminate each vehicle soon after it appeared. It was a marvel to behold, and one I might replicate if I get close to the end of the game and feel the completionist twitch take over, but it was also fake as hell that destroying a vehicle - presumably with its driver(s) still on board - didn't count as a kill. Likewise, every mission that I miraculously S-ranked, like this one, feels like a success not only because I accomplished the mission with honors, but because I found a solution that, while maybe not the ideal or intended path, was evidently one that worked.
  • All right, let's talk about Peace Walker and my progress in stitching together its plot from context clues and tapes. (To digress a moment - I plan to do a more comprehensive entry for the tapes alone, since they pack a huge amount of the game's exposition and lore.) Here's what I've gathered about PW so far: Big Boss and Kazuhira Miller helped put together BB's idea of a politically-unaffiliated nation of mercenaries named Militaires Sans Frontières, inspired by his time with his mentor The Boss. This occurred some time in the 1970s after the events of the fateful Snake Eater mission, the entirety of which was depicted in MGS3. Much of PW is spent in Nicaragua, which is where they met a Dr. Galvez (actually a Russian spy), Paz (also a spy? Kinda?), Chico (a child soldier) and Amanda (some kind of rebel leader?). They also picked up Dr. Huey Emmerich at some point, as well as someone called Dr. Strangelove. The conclusion of that game had Big Boss fight an AI that was based on The Boss, and the various walker mechs under her control. Beyond that, the finer plot details have not really been explicated upon as thoroughly, leading me to suspect that players were absolutely expected to tackle Peace Walker first. Yet I gotta go with my girl Beyoncé here when I paraphrase Single Ladies: "If you liked it then you shoulda put a number on it." (also, it's kind of a weird coincidence that she also has a robotic left arm in that music video, huh). No reason it couldn't have been MGSV and this one MGSVI if it was so vital to the overarching lore of the series. (I actually have similar reservations about Kingdom Hearts III, for that matter: How much of that game's story will be dependent on the lore from the many spin-offs and interstitial chapters released since Kingdom Hearts II? KH2 was heavily influenced by Chain of Memories, the GBA card-based spin-off few people liked or played, so there's cause for concern.)
  • So I'm starting to come across Boasters more and more frequently. Special skills are hidden bonus abilities that soldiers can randomly have, and they offer various positive and negative affects. While scanning a soldier you get their skill levels for the various units they can be placed in - combat, R&D, base development, support, intel and medical - but not what their special skill is. "Boaster" is a negative special skill that gives you a false impression of these unit skills when you first scan them in the field. In other words, they're not nearly as gifted as they appear. I've started to learn that while you don't know what a soldier's special skill is, you know what "type" it is by the icon it uses. The personality-focused ones, which also include all the deleterious "troublemaker" special skills and the comparatively useful "diplomat", have a distinct circular symbol. If I see a guy with fantastic skills and one of those circular symbols underneath, I'll know to treat that readout with a healthy dose of skepticism. Personally, even if it is annoying to accidentally snatch up one of these jerks, I like that they occasionally have these little personality flaws. I sort of wish Kojima's silly sense of humor took it a little further, giving you functionally irrelevant skills like "good kisser" or "daydreamer". One of my favorite aspects of Sega's Valkyria Chronicles was how each unit under your command had a semblance of a personality and a background due to their various quirks and talents, whether they were positive, negative or had no bearing on the gameplay whatsoever. (Update: After upgrading my INT-Scope again, everyone's special skills are displayed after scanning them. Handy!)
  • I'm going to leave you all today with a rad discovery: the weaponsmith. This guy required a chain of wild goose chase extraction side ops, but he's definitely worth the trouble; he's able to configure any weapon to support different stocks, ammo types, scopes, barrels, you name it. Initially, I thought about how cool it is that I can now apply a suppressor to my tranq sniper rifle, or boost the scope magnification of my non-lethal assault rifle. Then it occurred to me that new weapon parts would come from developing the dozens of lethal weapons I've been leaving alone, and I'd have a huge supply of parts with which to build some quality non-lethal gear. I'd have to keep building whatever was newest (and most expensive) to get parts superior to the ones I have already, but it's opened a whole new world in loadout customization. This game is like a giant onion, and not because it makes me cry whenever someone breaks Huey's legs again (it doesn't, for the record).

I swear I'm going to run out of random gameplay observations eventually, and future updates will almost entirely be mission reviews and story scrutiny that will cover more of the game per entry. There's just so much in this game that I wanted to highlight, that we're now at the point where we're four entries in and barely one-third of the way through the game's crucial content. This might call for some more focused playing: at this point, I have almost all the tools I need (though some better versions wouldn't go awry), so maybe the next entry will cover more of Cipher's African doings and less marveling at incidental mechanics and telling that darn woman to put on some clothes. Until next time, folks.

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