Mento Gear Solid V: The Fandom's Pain: Part 5

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Boomshalashaska! Welcome to another tension-wrought episode of Mento Gear Solid V! I packed a lot into this update in my rush to hit an ideal end point - Mission 25, which I believe to be the halfway point of the game - so it's a little bulkier than usual. However, at this juncture I've already explained so much of how the game operates that I'm able to focus on mission rundowns and story beats without stopping frequently to discuss a brand new feature that's been foisted on me out of the blue. MGSV seems to do that a lot.

Also in this episode: A lot of features that get foisted on me out of the blue. Hitting child soldiers. Weird diseases. More nicknames for Bones Jackson and the Human Torch. Quiet dentistry. A few half-assed recaps of the story so far. And a certain seal is broken, to my ultimate displeasure.

With all those enigmatic portents, let's get on with this update:

Part 5: FOB-washed

  • Mission #17. Gotta rescue a couple of Intel team members who got themselves captured. Hoped this would be one of those slow and deliberate missions where I scope out the joint and recover the prisoners from their hidden cells, but instead I was forced to quickly find the first guy who had escaped and had several enemy search teams combing the Savannah for him, and then forced to quickly find the second guy in the enemy camp who was about to be picked up by some hardcore-sounding mercs from Cipher. All these ticking clocks are not what I would call conducive to careful, cautious stealth gameplay. Not much to say, got spotted by a whole pack of guards right at the end before grabbing the second one, took the hit of a perfect stealth bonus and the big penalty for the combat alert for a meager B-rank. I could've reloaded, but I have no idea where the checkpoint would've put me, and if I'd gone any slower I'd have been screwed anyway. An unpleasant rescue mission.
  • Mission #18. All right! A new worst mission ever! That's quite the achievement after that multiple-target vehicle-hijacking mission back in Afghanistan. This mission is a little bit of a morality play, as you're told to execute six Mbele freedom fighters by their bitter rivals (and currently ruling) ethnic group, the Buta. Presumably they want the Mbele dead because they can't believe they're not Buta. The first guy was a regular soldier who switched sides to work with the PFs when you first see him. I extracted him as a matter of course, but Miller was adamant that we ought to be killing them as outlined in our mission parameters. It's when you find the next five prisoners in the subsequent outpost that the mission takes a turn: they're all children. The next half of the mission involves escorting them all downriver to where the LZ awaits. Now, you probably instinctively flinched at "escort mission", but it gets worse: one of the kids can't walk, so you're forced to carry him to the LZ while the rest of the Little Rascals are mostly autonomous (except for when you get more than 50m away and they just stop), and that means dumping his emaciated ass whenever you want to get a primary weapon out. The second wrinkle is that the river route is absolutely crawling with guards, and if you're like me and trying to be quiet you're probably low on suppressors and ammo for your sleepy-time gun at this point. I have two sleepy-time guns, but going through two whole outposts whittled their ammo/suppressors down a lot. Third, the guys back at the base find out in like two minutes that the prisoners are gone, despite the fact that they tossed them deep in a cave with no guard, and as soon as that happens about four guards spawn about twenty yards away - not from where you found the kids, but from wherever you happen to be standing - and start jogging downstream with searchlights. When I finally got into the LZ, I was spotted as I was boarding the Pequod and all the kids got scared and wouldn't jump in the chopper with me, and I flew off staring at them all crouching on the ground as more teleporting guards started to close in. I was about to throw my controller at the screen, knowing I'd failed the core rescue mission at the very last second and was penalized all to shit besides for getting spotted several times, but then Miller piped up talking about how awesome I was as I stared in disbelief at another S-rank results screen. WHAT EVEN.
  • Agh. Well, my intent was to create an unbroken series of mission reports this update to demonstrate that I was serious about getting on with the game's critical path rather than faffing about with extraneous entries explaining how capture cages work, but after that last mission I have to take another time out and unwind with some side ops. Sometimes missions that sound better on paper - Snake discovers that the rebels he's been sent to execute are children! He mounts a daring rescue downriver while the jailers search for them! - end up playing abysmally in practice, even with all of MGSV's sophisticated gameplay tech. If you created a supercomputer who could design and program games better than any living person with a technical precision beyond mortal ken, it still wouldn't be able to figure out how to make an escort mission fun. So here's what I can take from all this: sometimes what works in the movies doesn't work as a video game. You'd think the thousand shitty licensed platformers I've encountered during all my SNES wiki editing would've told me that much, but it's an immutable fact of game design even in its modern state. Design games to be games, not movies, even if that means a few cinematic set-pieces that probably looked awesome as they played out in Kojima's mind are left on the shelf.
  • So maybe I misread the conclusion of the last mission and maybe I didn't. The game instantly takes me back to Mother Base (giving me a chance to shower and rip down another anime Paz poster) with a cutscene featuring just one of the kids, presumably the one that couldn't walk since that was the only one I could successfully get on the Pequod. Walking around, the kid hassles Miller a bit and is sent on his way by medical personnel, and we get a cutscene where Miller outlines what he intends to do with the multiple children (??????) we brought back. They'll be given lessons in the three Rs - reading, writing and reloading - and small jobs to do around the base, but the intent is to arm them as soon as they're ready. We are, after all, a mercenary outfit where everyone must do their part to pay for all my cardboard box upgrades. One day that brat's going to risk his life in one of the most dangerous warzones on the planet so that I can afford to put a red stripe around my box instead of forest camo. Makes you proud.
  • While checking out some side ops, I also noticed that a few of the core missions have "reset" their rewards: the GMP you earn after a mission is halved if you play it again, but it apparently goes back to the normal amount after enough time has passed. That meant I could revisit an easy one like eliminating that Spetsnaz commander in mission #3, take him out with a high-powered rifle from 150m away and run off for an easy S-rank. Five minutes later, and I got a healthy injection of GMP to spend on various upgrades I was lacking the cash for. I guess it might be worth keeping these revisits in mind if I want to take a break from whatever stressful garbage the next big mission has in store for me. Especially those I sucked at the first time, since you also receive bonus rewards for achieving A-ranks and S-ranks for each mission.
  • Mission #19. It's another tailing mission, though a mercifully short one. We simply follow a guy in his jeep along a few hundred meters of road before his clandestine rendezvous with his commander. Now, I wasn't sure to attack while both men were still in the area, or follow the commander a bit so I could get the jump on him without as many guards around. I decided that I was done following jeeps for today and went for the first option. I got spotted of course, despite the use of a sleep grenade to take down the nearest handful. There were a lot of guards, and there was nowhere for Quiet to get coverage (I forget how to use her when I'm standing in some random place rather than a demarcated guard post or outpost), but a few tranqs and sleep grenades did the trick and I grabbed both dudes, the two cars they were using and a few other nearby guards before bailing. At least I got a free AV after listening to their conversation about nukes, so that was neat. I wonder if I replay the mission, I can just go straight to where the boss man is waiting...?
  • Right, the story. I've been really negligent with that. After the first mission in Angola, we sort of breezed right past the whole "corpses in the oilfields" terror to an ongoing plot about what Cipher's doing in the area and whether or not it has anything to do with the production of nuclear weapons. This is a plotline that's been developing from mission #16 - the one with the Skulls accompanying a truck with nuclear materials on it - and each successive mission has shed more light on this line of inquiry, either directly via mission directives (the intel from #17) or indirectly (like #18, which had nothing to do with anything) with post-mission exposition drops regarding the analysis of the uranium-enriched materials we recovered. Riveting stuff, and you might be wondering why I didn't describe it all in rapt detail as it occurred. Well, the answer to that is fairly simple: it's... oh hey, there's a new mission about a place ominously referred to as "The Devil's House" by the child soldiers we rescued! Let's go get spooked!
  • First though, we get a scene where Huey describes a new "Battle Gear" he's building for us. He made it sound like it was going to be a walker with four legs instead of two, though I suspect it still won't be as impressive as the mech that attacked us at the end of the Afghanistan chapter. We won't be using it yet; the game just wanted us to see a cutscene where we sign off on its production, letting us know that we can visit the unfinished construction work on Mother Base at any time. You know, I haven't really used D-Walker yet - I'm not the "all-out" sort of MGS player, so while a giant walking tank seems fun it doesn't strike me as the most subtle approach - and I'm fairly sure I won't take to this thing either.
  • I also wondered how long I could continue not mentioning Psycho Mantis Jr., the ragamuffin in the gas mask who has the same floating trick and can throw things around with his (her?) mind. Now that I've recently watched Stranger Things, and that the game is set in roughly the same era, I figured I'd drop the whole gaslighting bit and wonder aloud if we don't have a similar Firestarter situation on our hands. Plus, given that I first saw the telekinetic tyke accompanying the fire guy, that comparison might prove to be more apt than I realize. So, yes, I did notice them floating around during the intro and again when the Saha- Sehan- Sallycantdance big robot showed up in Afghanistan. I'd assume they work for Cipher and their leader Papyrus (nyeh heh heh!), but assuming anything is a mistake with this series.
  • Felt bad to do it, but I sacked everyone at HQ that was C rank or lower in their best discipline. Got no time for scrubs, as the popular vernacular goes. I've been running out of room for a while, and the various platforms are getting extraordinarily expensive to produce - I'm not sure why every platform bar Support needs the same Fuel resource, seems like they could've spread it out a bit more with the other types. At any rate, I've been focusing on Base Development for faster resource production and R&D for better gear. I'm not wholly invested in the dispatch missions - you can only ever send two squads out anyway, at least at the level I'm at - to focus too much on the Medical or Combat wings. Intel stopped being useful a while ago now that I have D-Dog or Quiet on almost all missions, and I'm trying not to depend on Supply drops as much to conserve GMP. Still, though, you see one of those yellow A+ or A++ soldiers on the field, and you kinda have to drop everything to go grab 'em.
  • Mission #20. All right, back to the critical path. Mission #20 was an exercise in suspense. A vast majority of it is uneventful but directed in such a way to make you feel uneasy - after passing through Munoko ya Nioka Station ("The Snake's Mouth", since it rests at the end of a winding valley) it's a long trek to the target area of Ngumba Industrial Zone. Along the way, you pass through a guarded area of "permanent mist", which is enough to put me on edge after the last few Skull encounters. Finally, you reach the apparently deserted Industrial Zone, following a blood trail to a bunch of infected civilians dying on makeshift hospital beds including, alas, our child soldier leader. Then all hell breaks loose, with Skeletor, Psycho Boytis and Fryguy showing up to torch the evidence. Yet, before you get spotted by the Monster Mash, the cutscene almost suggests that they were here to put everyone out of their misery irrespective of you turning up. That, perhaps, this facility is what created them along with the Skulls and they're determined that no more should suffer. The subsequent "boss" fight with Cinder took a quick turn for the worse as he's fairly indestructible, but then I realized you could destroy the water tower and douse Blaze to incapacitate him long enough to call the chopper in. The arrival of the Terrible Trio should've been an unexpected twist... except, because the game is pretending each of its missions are separate episodes of a TV show complete with opening credits, I saw all their names before I even stepped off the Pequod. That's also served to spoil the surprise appearances of various other characters too - I knew when Skulls were going to show up, when I'd meet an important NPC like ol' Stalfos and what sort of enemies I'd be facing. It's a bizarre stylistic feature for anyone wanting to maintain any semblance of surprise with their plotting, which I'm fairly sure Kojima would.
  • You know, when I completed Mission #18, I was given a special reward from the kids that in turn allowed for a new development item: the water pistol. I figured it was a fun goof, something I could use to squirt the guys back on Mother Base. That the very next mission related to those rapscallions involved fighting a man made of fire has given a whole different context to that novelty offering. They knew!
  • Mission #21. Our goal this time is to... oh wait, something's up.
  • Mission #22. So some genius PF has found out where we are (we hid this enormous multi-decked oil rig so well) and has taken over the R&D platform. I had to interrupt the last mission to handle it, because the 400+ trained soldiers I have on the facility can't deal with it themselves. It's the standard "find the boss man, take him down" mission, which would've been made extra easy if I remembered to bring a lethal sniper rifle - interrogate a dude for his location, pop him from three decks away - but I figured he was worth more to us alive. There's no way I wasn't going to get spotted climbing that labyrinthine tower on the core R&D deck, but fortunately I managed to extract the prisoners (well, some of them) already and the mission doesn't have a ranking to worry about. Seems more like a tutorial invasion to set up a certain big feature of the game that I've been dreading.
  • That feature being FOBs, or Forward Operating Bases. These are Mother Base clones that expand our staff limits and capabilities but draw more heat than our Mother Base, which essentially means they can be targeted by people playing online who get their jollies from stealing resources and manpower from other players. I need to build one to continue, and honestly the security team - the new category that was created for the purpose of defending FOBs, who I believe are at the most risk of getting Fultoned - is probably the best place to dump all these low-level soldiers I keep needing to dismiss. If someone takes time out of their day to Fulton away a bunch of B-rank soldiers, more power to 'em. I'm more concerned that all my unprocessed materials (thankfully the legit stuff is protected) will disappear with a relentless series of invasions from griefers who have very few other targets left on the PS3 servers for this game. At any rate, this at least means that I can increase the staff size and levels for all my departments, which had been limited by the huge amount of resources needed to upgrade the platforms I had left. I can upgrade the FOBs too, and increase those numbers further. I also notice that FOBs have their own unique currency for getting set up: Mother Base coins. I've been getting these as daily rewards from time to time, but nothing like the quantities needed to set up a new FOB. I'd assume they're either PvP currency or some sort of Michael Transaction dealie. Either way, I'm not going after them and I'm going to pretend this part of the game doesn't exist as best as I am able.
  • Anyway, Mission #21, for real this time. I really liked this mission, because it allowed me to be sneaky in a strategic way. It was also easy, which if I'm being honest is about 70% of the reason why I enjoyed it. The goal here is to eliminate/extract a CFA official (CFA are one of the rival PFs in the area, who we believe has ties to Cipher) as he takes an inspection of the Nova Braga airport. Security's been beefed up as you might expect, with a handful of guards in walker gears and at least one gunship patrolling the skies. However, by interrogating a guard for the official's predicted route - or seeing it for yourself and restarting so you can make use of the intel - you'll notice that he eventually drives far away from where all the guards can see him before doubling back. It was simply a matter of laying down some electromagnetic stun mines around that point and sweeping up the official, the gunrunner he was with and the truck they were in and quickly getting out the way I came in. Easy S-rank, and fun too. Why can't all missions be like this?
  • Apparently I caught eight Tree Pangolin, a creature designated as "Super Rare", by setting down all my traps right at the LZ. That's a quick and easy 400k GMP to add to the reward pile. Don't you just love days when everything goes right? It'll give me perspective knowing that the game can be generous when it wants to be if and when I get another nightmare mission like the child soldier escort one.
  • Listening to the intel for the next mission, we have the challenging subject of kicking some kid's ass. Child soldiers are raiding other locations from within Bwala village, the first location we encountered in Angola, after all the CFA soldiers posted there mysteriously died and left the boy scouts with no other way to feed themselves than through warfare. Early intel for this mission suggests that they're being led by a blond white kid who is suspiciously stronger and faster than the rest. Wait... in which conflict and which era was Raiden a child soldier again? Didn't he get mentored by Solidus, not Big Boss? Maybe it's some other blond combat prodigy urchin...
  • Mission #23. This mission was probably easier than it looked, but I had to make things complicated by indirectly Fultoning every child soldier in the village because the mission briefing told me so. Well, it told me that it "would be cool if I did" in so many words. You can't Fulton children because the ride is too dangerous to their fragile, half-starved little kid bodies (not to mention traumatic, I'd bet). The indirect method, I discovered on the internet, is when you supply drop in a low-cost vehicle like a jeep, fill it with kids and then summon another jeep. All vehicles are automatically Fultoned back to base free of charge when they become surplus to requirement, and thus I managed to get several carfulls of anklebiters zooming into the stratosphere before they could say "Are we there yet?" in Afrikaans. White Mamba, as predicted, was an obnoxious little shit who took several CQCs to stun, and then proceeded to manspread on the Pequod. I took way too long to Fulton everyone, even if I did all right with the sneaking around part, so I ended up with a B-rank. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to start a literary punk band called Manspreading On The Pequod.
  • The kid's name is Eli, so I don't think it's Raiden (pretty easy to remember that his name is Jack, Rose called him that enough times even after he told her not to). Could still be Liquid Snake, but I think the age is off? I forget how old Solid Snake is in the 1980s, but I feel like at least one of the first two games was set then and he would've been in his 20s at least. But... fuck man, when you start considering hypothetical ages of fictional characters, you've gone too deep and gotta pull out. Whoever he is, he pulled a knife on Big Boss and paid for it with an immediate arm dislocation. He's going to be a handful, that one, though maybe not two for a while. While I didn't get any bonus mission points for my earlier largesse in recovering all those kids, I did get a challenge bonus reward for it, so that's cool. I mean, I did it for the shorties first and foremost of course, but it's nice to know I'm getting rewards for punching children in the face, loading their unconscious forms onto a convertible and then launching that convertible into space. It's like they get to be in their own ZZ Top music video. Kids love ZZ Top; they all look like rowdy Santas to them.
  • Mission #24. On the surface, this mission seems fairly standard: rescue two prisoners. Of course, at this stage of the game, it's going to be anything but simple. As soon as I arrive at the guard post, both of them are getting prepared to be driven off in opposite directions. I had the presence of mind to take out the first vehicle as it rolled towards me with another electromagnetic mine (those things are really paying for themselves) and I guess I made enough of a commotion at the guard post to distract the guards heading the other direction with the second prisoner. They didn't even have time to hop in the jeep before both were asleep and all three were escorted back to Mother Base by Delta Air's more comfortable sister service.
  • Also, it took god knows how many hours, but I finally extracted a Hungry Hippo. Just three more and we'll have game night at Mother Base ready to go.
  • Rather than hang around the area and complete a nearby side op for the sake of convenience, I'm instead booted back to Mother Base so I can... have a shower, according to Miller. Well actually, it's so I can be there when Quiet goes apeshit on some random grunt and tries to stick a knife down his throat. I suspect the guy she attacked might not be on the up and up - I'm more inclined to believe her than him if it came down to a decision. We send her back to her sunbathing pit with extra guards and I get word that Eli is probably Liquid Snake after all, or some other product of the Les Enfants Terrible project (Gaseous Snake? Plasma Snake? Bose–Einstein CondenSnake?), and they even throw in a line about the "age being about right". Well la-de-da, Captain Counting, excuse me if I haven't got the MGS chronology down pat.
  • Mission #25. Oddly enough, I have to extract two people here as well, though only one is a prisoner - the Mbele rebels' General's brother who is also his number two in command. The enemies are more child soldiers, their leader being the second target, so it's another mission we're going to have to handle with kid gloves. I say "handle" but what I mean is "punch", and by "with kid gloves" I just mean kids. Such is the life of Big Boss, who must feel like an even bigger boss pummeling all these ten-year-olds. Dealt with this one the exact same way I did Bwala village in mission #23: took all the kids with me along with the mission targets using the "car trip" method. Fittingly, the General's "#2" - who opted to stay with the Diamond Dogs - has sanitation problems.
  • Speaking of which, looks like one of us (looking at you, Ocelot) brought that disease from Ngumba's Industrial Zone back to the Mother Base. A number of Mother Base staff has a case of the chesty wormies, and it's my job to separate the unhealthy ones to the Quarantine Platform we just had built, about which I made the immediate decision to start referring to it as Leper Island because I'm proactive in a crisis, dammit. I have to now guess which dudes in my facility - and I will point out that I have over 500 now, at least at present - is an unknowing vector for the disease and quarantine them ahead of time. Of course, there's no way of knowing who has it, so I guess my options are to quarantine as many people as possible and lose a huge amount of staff levels, or let the disease run rampant. Awesome. I guess I better keep doing missions until a cure is found...
  • The audio tapes concerning this epidemic highlight one hypothesis I suspected - Quiet only attacked that guy because he was already infected - and suggests a second, in that the infected have something in common and it's to do with their "mouths". I figured it out after checking the handful of folk put into quarantine already: they all enjoy the same flavor of chewing gum. I noticed a backwards-talking little person strutting around the base offering sticks of gum to everyone he met, so now I suspect that we have our biological warfare saboteur. Actually, they all spoke the same language - Kikongo. As a precaution, I stuck everyone in quarantine who also speaks that language as their first, or second, or fifth... all right, so there were a lot of folk to quarantine. I hope jamming a platform full to the brim of potentially sick people doesn't make things worse...

This seems like a good place to stop. The game's now introduced two methods of gradually reducing the number of Mother Base staff I have over time - though I've stemmed the negative flow temporarily for both right now, via quarantine for the virus and Mother Base insurance for the PvP (first hit is free, fortunately, but it won't last long) - and I have to wonder just how much MGSV actually respects my time, given I'll have to keep replenishing my numbers faster than they can die off. I've brought up respecting the player's time as a universally applicable game design tenet before now and I realize it's one that Kojima, being the eccentric auteur that he is, regularly disregards - consider his original plan to make The End's boss fight take a real-time week or more (or, hell, how the online dispatch missions in this game take almost as long). It's something to consider as I move slowly but inexorably toward the game's conclusion, but at least I reached the halfway point with this update and I'm almost certainly going to stay focused on missions for the time being, at least until this whole epidemic is sorted.

I certainly still admire the game for its mechanical complexity and versatility and I still enjoy playing it, don't get me wrong, but I'm bracing myself to hit Burnout Junction (™, Criterion Games) soon and I want to be sure I've seen all there is to see story-wise before I reach that point. There's a lot more hokey plot to mock, so stay tuned for more of that early next week.

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