Spending two weeks behind enemy lines in Metal Gear Solid 5

Metal Gear Solid V
(Image credit: Konami)
The rules

1. Two in-game weeks to gather intel on most Soviet Outposts.
2. Try and find as many high-ranking officers as possible.
3. Only observe. The Soviet Army can never know I was there.

This is a debrief report from Flaming Buffalo (I arrived late to codename assignment), from reconnaissance in the Soviet Army controlled region of Afghanistan. I was given two weeks to navigate and gather as much intel as possible on the USSR presence ahead of Big Boss' arrival. He's a busy guy, you know—it's not like he can be in two places at once. after all. 

I was inserted by helicopter at 1800 hours near Spugmay Keep at the region's southernmost point, with the intent of navigating the entire outer edge. On foot I made my way to the nearest small guard post, where I planted myself up on a ridge with a view from above. I spent a whole day watching this meagre camp to glean what I could about their operation and let me tell you, these Soviet soldiers are a disciplined bunch. They barely sleep, barely chat, and certainly don't take breaks. As the one and only sandstorm of my two week excursion rolled in they barely flinched. If we find out they're all robots, I wouldn't be surprised. 

(Image credit: Konami)

Heading north I came to a larger settlement called Da Shago Kallai with a dozen or so soldiers, though something that I would come to learn is quite standard across their occupation is the use of decoys. I planted myself this time in an abandoned house at the edge of town, which was useful for its close proximity and great view, but also because it made it a bit easier to rest and pass the time.

From here I made a log of the trucks coming and going. Or single truck, with the same one seeming to go on rotation with a few neighbouring settlements, returning roughly every four hours. I couldn't identify any hierarchy here. There were specialist roles like radio operators, but no officers or leadership visibly apparent.

I spent over a day observing this place and noticed a few shift changes, with two guards getting sleep at a time. Eventually, at no discernible prompting, they decided to expand the perimeter of their patrols to include the outskirts, where my building was. On the afternoon of my third day a guard decided to use this as his vantage, and forced me to stealthily climb down the back of the building to find a position on a ridge nearby.

I waited until nightfall before moving on, evading trucks and searchlights to head out into the dunes for a resupply before heading on to Lamar Khaate Palace. It occurred to me how little the region resembles the mountainous Afghanistan, home to rains and snows, I'd been told about. In fact, it sure looks a lot like Jordan, a country almost 3,000 kilometres away. Perhaps the Soviets terraformed it, like how Big Boss encountered that Russian jungle years ago.

The palace is one of the few places that does resemble somewhere in Afghanistan, looking a lot like the Darul Aman Palace. It turned out to be defended by a skeleton crew bolstered by decoys and numerous mines. A truck came and went, stopping for less than an hour on each trip north or south. Do these soldiers have any orders besides defending these arbitrary spots?

(Image credit: Konami)

Words and deeds 

It's about day five when I start listening to cassette tapes to help pass the time while I observe, in the absence of any life in the world or any dialogue from the soldiers. The only time I've heard these soldiers speak so far was to urge some goats to clear the road, an admittedly rare sign of activity. 

The most surprising, or maybe alarming, thing I came to realise was that there were no Afghan people—civilians, resistance fighters, or otherwise. It seemed absurd that there wouldn't be a single one present, especially given their resistance is one of the only things the Soviet soldiers stationed here spoke about. In fact, you'd be forgiven for thinking the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan simply so they could stand around and wait for Big Boss to show up. 

After a day of observing the palace I moved on, heading north to reach the Wakh Sind Barracks. While weaving through a small canyon I stumble across a bear. Despite the threat the creature poses, it's honestly pleasing to see a living thing out in the world. I watched it for longer than is probably reasonable given my mission. Thankfully, I didn't get mauled to death. 

Arriving south of the barracks, it was immediately apparent this is the most well-defended place I've encountered. Nestled on a steep slope, the place can only be entered from the front and is heavily fortified with high barricades and several emplacements where sentries scan with searchlights. There were still only a dozen guards present but the dense outpost makes those numbers count. With so little of the interior visible from outside, I decided I had to find a way inside if I was going to gather useful intelligence. Before I could get that far, though, a searchlight exposed me for a split second. Enough time for a guard to be convinced he saw something and call for someone to come check it out. I didn't hang around, and quickly reached a crack in the rock face, which I climbed to get inside the barracks. 

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Soldiers were speaking! An honest to god conversation! Something about Reagan and the futility of nuclear war. A sign of life in these automatons all the same. I crossed over the gateway to a high-up dugout that seemed disused and set up for a day of observation.

At dusk, perhaps due to me spooking them the night before, they had sentries posted above the gateway which certainly made my exfiltration trickier. I was halfway across the gateway when someone thought they saw me. Pushing on, I hugged the edge of the cliff and could do nothing but hold my breath as the soldier approached, torch in one hand, scanning the bushes. He came to stand just a few feet away.

If I had a tranq gun and no restrictions, this would be a nothing moment and he'd be unconscious already—but for my mission, this was as good as dead. I figured this was it, I'd blown the whole thing. There was no way he wouldn't spot me. I even got ready to draw my rifle. Then, impossibly, he failed to see me, and assumed he must have imagined it. Turning, he headed back to his post like an enemy spy hadn't been two steps away from him. Phew!

(Image credit: Konami)

Escape from new folk 

Eh... I hesitated to add this to my report, but after my escape I noticed I was being pestered by flies—a sign my odour from a week in the field had grown quite strong. Sadly, a dip in the nearest river didn't wash me well enough to get rid of them, so I was stuck listening to their buzzing. Facing certain death or torture is one thing, but these flies, boss? Nothing in my training prepared me for them and their incessant noise. They're the USSR's greatest asset, a weapon to surpass Metal Gear. Ahem, once Metal Gear is invented, I mean. What year is it? 

The supply depot to the north is surprisingly light on defences and vulnerable from the back, where I posted myself on a ridge that views the whole site. I'm not sure what supplies are kept here, since trucks never seemed to stop on their way through. I watched for a day and like every place before it, nothing unexpected happens. The Soviet Army is a well-oiled machine, its soldiers following an endless, unchanging routine. It feels... inhuman. 

I'd grown too comfortable and stopped being as cautious, like a fool!

I moved on under darkness to Central Base Camp, supposedly the largest presence the Soviet Army has in the region. What I found was skeletal: the bones of a massive base occupied by a handful of soldiers stretched too thin to adequately defend it. It looked formidable from the outside, but I infiltrated it quite easily. Half the hangars are ruins. There were no tanks or armoured vehicles of any kind. Again, I failed to find officers.

I saw what seemed like some kind of briefing among soldiers, but nobody seemed to be in charge. Who is running this place? There's a sense that their forces are simply locked in a futile effort, dwarfed by the vast landscape around them, in no way up to the task. They're little more than cannon fodder for Big Boss.

After a close call with a patrol, I got out of there and started the long march south, now worried I wasn't going to make the rendezvous on the 14th day. Thankfully the remaining sites I had to visit were easily observed and poorly defended. Things seemed to be going smoothly until I stumbled into a minefield. I'd grown too comfortable and stopped being as cautious, like a fool! I detonated one of the explosives by accident and injured my hand, but worst of all, put the entire area on high alert. I hope they thought it was a wild animal that set it off. None of the other outposts I passed afterwards seemed to be awaiting attack. I think I got away with it...

(Image credit: Konami)

Heading south again I found a single soldier patrolling alone out in the middle of nowhere. Mostly the soldiers stuck to their designated posts, so this was well outside the norm. Why was he here? And why on his own? I stalked them for a little while, matching my footsteps to theirs just a few paces behind until I could finally make my way around them, undetected.

On the 11th day I arrived back at Spugmay Keep. I hadn't anticipated being early, and made a brief scouting hike to the town to the north, which was as poorly defended and unremarkable as the others. When the helicopter arrived at dawn, I climbed aboard without hesitation, but started to feel a little wistful as the landscape rolled away beneath me.

Not for my two weeks in this place, but for what I thought it might be when I first saw it years ago: a bustling, complex beast full of life and the unexpected. Instead it's a lifeless rock, populated by robots that pose about as much threat to the boss as shrapnel to his face. He's going to have no trouble here. Hell, I think he's going to have to make his own fun to get any kind of challenge or tension out of the place. Now, if you'll excuse me, I really need that shower. Flaming Buffalo, out.