Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Looks at the Less Serious Side of Stealth-action Espionage

The Metal Gear Solid series has never been afraid to inject some humor into its serpentine story lines, dramatic cut-scenes, and neck-snapping action. If you’ve ever hidden in a cardboard box, distracted a guard with a risque magazine, or played that memorable section of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – where Raiden runs around naked – you’re already well-aware that director Hideo Kojima’s stealth-espionage epic enjoys tickling ribs when protagonist Snake isn’t breaking them.

As we learned during a recent presentation of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Snake’s next world-saving mission similarly shows off its silly side. Upon braving a sandstorm on horseback, Snake (AKA Big Boss) approached an enemy compound in the Afghanistan desert. The infiltration objective, as it turns out, was the same one we saw Snake undertake during the game’s E3 demo earlier this year. While the mission was familiar, though, the eye-patched protagonist’s approach to tackling it was anything but.

After spotting an oncoming jeep that could blow his cover, Snake instructed his steed to relieve himself in the vehicle’s path; following a “Go on” command, the horse raised his tail and dropped his road apple payload. The disturbingly realistic animation had us instinctively holding our noses, but we couldn’t help but marvel when the jeep skidded out of control upon hitting the manure mine. Perhaps even funnier than seeing the terrorists incapacitated by a pile of poop, was watching them – and their entire transport – get lifted into the air by a self-inflating Fulton balloon that the sneaky hero had fastened to their bumper.

Upon using another one of the surface-to-air devices to rescue a goat (that hilariously bleated as it was hoisted from the frame), Snake continued his infiltration. The camp was crawling with guards, however, prompting him to call upon his trusty cardboard box. Kojima, who has described the game’s approach to open-world stealth-action as “free infiltration,” stated that he wanted to “go a little bit deeper” in displaying how this design could work with the box.

On top of popping out of the makeshift hiding place to surprise targets, Snake can now outfit the box with various distracting images. During our demo, for example, he donned a version of the cardboard cover-point that was plastered with an image of a swimsuit model; a very excited enemy ran up to the faux female, ogled her up and down, celebrated his find with a fist-pump, and then promptly received a slo-mo beating from Snake.

Following some traditional tactical espionage – choking guards, destroying power grids, gathering intel – Snake returned to more unconventional means to eliminate his final threat. Rather than pulling out a rocket launcher to pluck a pursuing chopper from the sky, he crashed a jeep into the bird by using another Fulton balloon. As spectacular to witness as it was effective, the inspired strategy’s resulting distraction allowed Snake to mount his horse and ride into the moonlight like a Metal Gear-thwarting Long Ranger.

As with any great 
Metal Gear Solid game, The Phantom Pain promises to pack all the exposition-filled cinematics, complex storytelling, and bizarre baddies fans have come to expect from Kojima’s masterpiece. That said, it’s also taking the series’ signature sense of humor to new heights by organically weaving it into the gameplay.

Thanks to the freedom afforded by the title’s open-world infiltration, players are, of course, welcome to forgo the fan-pleasing shenanigans for a more serious approach. Those who appreciate a little levity with their lethality, however, will want to make sure their horses are full of fiber before crossing enemy lines.