Diamond Horse, and 9 other reasons to be excited about MGS5's sandbox
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is two weeks away, and I can’t wait. I’m a huge fan of the series and I’m delighted that the new one is coming to PC—and earlier than we were expecting. I’ve even booked some time off work to play it.
If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a rich, systems-driven stealth game with—for the first time in the series—big, open environments. It’s as deep, non-linear, and reactive as immersive sims like Deus Ex. It has an absurd sense of humour and stars Kiefer Sutherland as its hero, the mighty Big Boss.
Look out for Sam’s review in the coming weeks, but in the meantime here are some of the tools, gadgets, and other tricks Big Boss has up his bionic sleeve—and be sure to watch this E3 gameplay demo to get an idea of how it plays.
This customisable bipedal mech can be called in and used as a mobile weapons platform. It doesn’t offer much in the way of protection, with the driver exposed, but it packs a punch. It can run on its two mechanical legs, or switch to a super-fast wheeled mode. Very handy for zooming around the desert dunes.
That’s not all it does, though. The D-Walker can be instructed to scan an area for enemies and mark them on your HUD—even if you aren’t piloting it. It’s the little brother of what will eventually become Metal Gear, the nuclear tank the series is named after.
The Phantom Pain has a real-time day/night cycle, and the time of day (or night) will determine how many guards there are, their patrol patterns, and how visible you are from a distance. If you need time to pass quickly, have a puff on Big Boss’s Phantom Cigar—an electronic cigar that emits little clouds of holographic smoke.
It’s infused with a mysterious ‘medicinal herb’ that makes time move faster. Ideal if you’re planning a night assault on a base, but the sun’s still high in the sky. The digital watch face that appears as you smoke the Phantom Cigar is that of a vintage Seiko G757-401A—one of many details that reinforce Metal Gear Solid V’s 1980s setting.
Big Boss uses this handheld holographic device to bring up a map of the surrounding area. You can view marked enemy positions, set markers, and look for vantage points to scout enemy bases with your binoculars. You can also use it to call in support, including item drops and airstrikes, and manage your Mother Base. The Mother Base is a huge part of the game, and is detailed extensively in this gameplay video.
Fulton Recovery System
Mother Base needs staff, which is where the Fulton balloon comes in. Attach one to a guard you’ve subdued and they’ll be scooped up by a helicopter, taken back to your base, and convinced to join your side. You can also use the Fulton to steal enemy hardware, including vehicles and anti-aircraft guns, and even animals.
As you Fulton more people and gear, your Mother Base grows stronger. The R&D team will develop new weapons and gadgets, while the Intel team can mark enemies on your iDroid before you start a mission. You can visit Mother Base throughout the game and watch your team grow. They even salute you as you walk by.
Even with all these advanced, high-tech gadgets, sometimes you can’t beat a cardboard box. This has been in Metal Gear since the beginning, and The Phantom Pain’s is the most fully featured yet. You can slide down hills in it, pop out and surprise guards, and lure them towards you by sticking pictures of bikini-clad women to the side.
But mostly you’ll use it if you’re in a tight spot and there’s no way to dash to a hiding place. Equip the box and guards will wander past, oblivious. Unless they’re suspicious, then they might take a peek under it. Yes, it’s silly, but that’s Metal Gear. In previous games you could equip boxes in enemy delivery trucks to covertly ship yourself around the game world, so expect something similar in Metal Gear Solid V.
After the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Big Boss loses his arm and has it replaced with a bionic prosthetic. Not only does this mechanical arm look cool, but it can be used against enemies in a number of interesting ways.
The default model can be used to knock guards out with a powerful robo-punch, but upgrade it and you’ll be able to detach it and use it as a remote-controlled rocket or grab distant enemies and yank them violently towards you. And when you use it, it makes that awesome sound from The Six Million Dollar Man. I want one.
Or DD for short. Mother Base has its own dog, complete with Big Boss-style eyepatch, and you can take it on missions with you. DD will sniff around enemy camps and bases, marking their positions on your iDroid. He also has a habit of urinating to mark his territory while he waits for Big Boss to give him an order. Lovely.
You can also use DD as a distraction, ordering him to bark at nearby enemies. Be careful, though: it seems that if DD dies in battle, he’ll be dead permanently. You just know that’s going to happen to someone without them realising and make them really sad. It’s possible to miss the moment where you can recruit DD, apparently, so make sure you keep your eyes open for him as you play through the game.
Big Boss has a horse too! He moves quickly and relatively quietly, making him ideal for getting around the map without being detected. If there are enemies nearby you can hang off the saddle and hide from them as you gallop past.
But the best thing about Diamond Horse, or D-Horse, is that you can order him to poop on command. It’s not just for laughs, though: enemy vehicles will skid out of control if they drive over his turds. But you’ll have to form a bond with him first before you’ll be able to command him to dump his load. Video games are amazing.
Aerial Command Centre
Big Boss’s helicopter has a lot of uses. It’s his base of operations away from Mother Base, can be called in to extract prisoners and captured enemies, or can be used to stage direct base assaults. Metal Gear Solid V is a stealth game, but you can choose to go in loud if you want, and the ACC’s mounted guns are perfect for making an entrance.
You can set music to play when the helicopter arrives, blaring from its speakers like that bit in Apocalypse Now. Yes, Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ is in there, but personally I’ll be using Spandau Ballet’s new romantic classic ‘True’ when I call in MY chopper. That’ll really strike fear into the hearts of Big Boss’s enemies.
And finally, Snake has a Sony Walkman that you can listen to tapes on as you play. Sometimes these will offer useful intel about missions or important story details, but you’ll also be able to listen to music. As well as tunes from the Metal Gear series, there’s a variety of classic pop songs, from Hall & Oates to David Bowie.
You’ll often hear stereos in enemy bases playing music. Interact with them and you’ll take the tape for yourself, unlocking more tracks for your Walkman and helicopter. Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ will be a popular choice, I think. Music and pop culture references have always been a big part of MGS. For example, Big Boss’s army, the Diamond Dogs, are named after a David Bowie album.