NO ONE likes a snake in the grass but, then again, most snakes don’t wear camouflage, have a bionic arm and carry enough weapons to host the Hunger Games. Most snakes don’t knock you out, tie you to a balloon and send you back to an army base on the ocean.
Most snakes, in short, aren’t Hideo Kojima’s Snake, who makes a triumphant return in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It’s the best game of this console generation so far. Metal Gear was also one of last generation’s best games, along with the generation before that, and the generation before that.
This series has stood the test of time, adapted to change upon change in the industry, and that is what makes The Phantom Pain so special. Hideo Kojima has taken everything that is brilliant about Metal Gear Solid and propelled it into modernity.
He has refused to compromise on old-school gameplay, instead using modern techniques to bring that gameplay to life like never before. The result is a joy to play. In creating the foundations for Metal Gear Solid V, Kojima has borrowed liberally from some superb source material.
There are large doses of Red Dead Redemption in the sweeping landscapes that Snake can explore. There are a plethora of weapon and equipment loadouts that have clearly been inspired by modern first-person shooters.
There are multiple side missions and objectives that are reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed and most other third-person, open world games. Even Splinter Cell’s ‘slow motion’ effect has been borrowed for when Snake is spotted by an enemy.
All of these modern touches are merely tools, however, used to create mightily atmospheric missions and challenges that are presented like beautiful puzzles to be solved by the player. An enemy base camp becomes an exercise in role-playing.
Are you James Bond, or John Rambo? Are you Liam Neeson or Bruce Willis? Are you a bull or a snake? This sense of ownership is often missing in modern blockbusters, but not all of them. The Witcher 3 did it well, as did Dragon Age Inquisition, but both those games also suffer from a hidden linearity.
Those games offer different approaches to combat, but the result is almost always the same.
The Phantom Pain, on the other hand, truly feels like a different experience depending on how you approach it. You might sneak into an enemy base at night, with a lightning storm raging above, interrogate each soldier for information, knock them out one by one and then leave like a shadow, with no one hurt.
Or you might approach that same scenario at high noon, taking out the enemy with long-range sniper shots, before disposing of the stragglers with a semi-automatic rifle and some grenades, leaving no one alive.
Or (with this being Metal Gear) you might hide in a cardboard box and let your semi-naked companion Quiet use her sci-fi nanotech do all the work, before riding into the sunset on a one-man robot.
The Phantom Pain is everything that makes gaming great. In fact, it is everything that makes old-school and modern gaming great, at the same time. It may be Hideo Kojima’s last Metal Gear Solid, but boy has he gone out with a bang. (Or very quietly, depending on how you play).
Old-school gaming is the last thing we expected to associate with the new Apple TV, but that’s what has happened.
Apple, often unfairly chastised for copying and repurposing the ideas of other companies, will surely silence the doubters in this case. The new Apple TV will feature a revolutionary motion controller for gaming, one that uses a gyroscopic sensor to play games. It’s nothing like the Wii controller that first debuted almost 10 years ago. No sir.
Microsoft and Sony can breathe a sigh of relief for now, then. Apple clearly isn’t taking gaming very seriously just yet. They certainly won’t be treading on the toes of Mario or Master Chief any time soon.
On the other hand, it will be interesting to see if casual Apple TV owners will be drawn to gaming on the device. Maybe one day, we’ll even see Snake on an Apple. Snakes and apples — there’s a story that’s bound to end well.
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