It's here. Finally, the long-awaited interquel, the missing link, what is sure to be the final Kojima-directed Metal Gear Solid game...this year, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has been released.
What transpired between Operation Snake Eater and Solid Snake's infiltration of Outer Heaven has been a question of large import for fans of Metal Gear since MGS3's release 10 years ago. You could imagine Snake/Big Boss's frame of mind at the end of Operation Snake Eater, as he stood there saluting The Boss's grave, but what actually happened to put him in place as the big bad later in the series?
Portable Ops, while filling in a few ancillary series details, offered little in the way of clues. Peace Walker did a little bit more, but that game still left more than enough undetermined in Big Boss and Outer Heaven's future. Ground Zeroes, the prologue to MGSV, really got the ball rolling with the attack on Mother Base that put Big Boss into a 9-year coma, and The Phantom Pain looks poised to finish closing the loop. I expect more on the nature of the conflict between Major Zero, who created Cipher, Cipher itself, and Big Boss to come to light during Snake and Diamond Dogs' exploits in 1980s Afghanistan and Angola and Zaire and beyond. Who is Quiet? Is she really Chico, a decade removed from the trauma of Peace Walker and especially Ground Zeroes? What's Miller's aim, besides revenge? Or is it all-consuming? Who else is Ocelot working with besides Diamond Dogs? Who else is he working against, perhaps, is the question. Where are EVA, Amanda, Strangelove, and others?
What is Snake's will in all this? So far he's only sought advice from Kaz, and taken orders from Ocelot. Does Big Boss want to usher in The Boss's dream of a nation for soldiers because he believes in it, or because it's all he knows anymore? Is his heart still in it? These questions may be up to the player to decide, since we are the ones inhabiting his being in the game.
The play is fantastic in MGSV. It's the sort of open-world stealth you would see in something like a Hitman or Far Cry 2 or Deus Ex, done very well with lots of overlapping and interlocking systems that ensure no two encounters or missions play out alike. It also brings back the base building side systems from Peace Walker as well as that game's discrete missions, though these can also be accessed from the free-roam maps of the game's world. It's easily as much or more of a functional sequel to Peace Walker as it is to the rest of the series proper. I like this because it shows Kojima Productions really believed in the Peace Walker formula, despite it being released on an otherwise dead platform and overemphasizing the multi-player components of that game.
The Phantom Pain seems like it is shaping up to be a very large and very long game, so I'll continue these thoughts later. I should mention here, though, that I did play a lot more of Ground Zeroes leading up to this release, and it is also great in its own right. It is very much a smaller-scale version of MGSV, elaborated upon and made into a fine smaller-scope game of its own.