In Now Playing PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today, Andy gears up and returns to MGS5's earlier missions.
It’s been 46 hours since I last played Phantom Limbs, the first proper mission in Metal Gear Solid 5. It’s a simple one: infiltrate an enemy base and rescue a prisoner, Miller. When I first did it, I only had the most basic equipment and was still getting used to the game. But now I have all manner of high-tech gadgets and modded weapons, and I know it inside out. So I thought it’d be fun to try it again, but this time fully kitted out.
I equip Snake with a level 3 tranq pistol, which has a long range and an extended clip, and a nonlethal sniper rifle with a suppressor. I’m wearing an upgraded sneaking suit, which makes my footsteps silent, and I’ve brought a prototype stealth camo, which will make me totally invisible for a few seconds. Compared to the meagre loadout I had when I did the mission nearly 50 hours ago, I’m hilariously overpowered.
But it won’t be a walk in the park. In The Phantom Pain, enemies get stronger over time. As I use my scope to mark targets and plan my next move, I notice that most of them are packing much bigger guns and tougher armour than before. They’ve also littered their bases with blowup decoys, which look like real guards from a distance.
I love this, because it makes replaying missions worthwhile. So do the optional bonus objectives, which reveal themselves after you finish a mission for the first time. It feels like I’m playing a new mission entirely, and it presents a stiff challenge, even with my developed skills and upgraded arsenal. Before I rescue Miller I decide to complete all the bonus objectives, which include extracting an enemy commander from a nearby barracks and locating a hidden diamond.
I head towards Ghwandai Town, the Soviet-occupied settlement where Miller is held. I find a spot overlooking it and spend some time marking guards. Compared to the story missions I’ve been doing recently, it’s positively understaffed. I’ve developed a pretty sharp instinct for how far guards can see, and I slip into the town easily. I snipe a few of them along the way, because the less people roaming around when I’m escaping with Miller slung over my shoulders, the better.
The combination of the sneaking suit, my silenced weapons, and the stealth camo—which I use to slip silently past a pair of guards blocking the path to Miller’s location—makes me feel stupidly powerful. I still have to be careful, though, because I want a high score. Using the stealth camo automatically prevents me from getting an S rank, but an A will do. I meticulously move through the town, incapacitating guards and dragging their bodies out of sight. I reach Miller, free him, and throw him over my shoulders.
The extraction is hindered by the arrival of the Skulls—the most annoying thing in the entire game. The first time around, they spotted me and I had to sprint away from them. This time I use the stealth camo to wander casually past. They don’t seem to notice Miller, even though the camo doesn’t make him invisible, but I don’t complain. They really are the worst.
I escape on the chopper with Miller, earning a tidy A rank and a few elite volunteer soldiers for my troubles. It’s remarkable how different the mission feels, and now I want to revisit more to see how my new gear changes things.