Hideo Kojima has never been afraid to take a meaty swing at that fabled fourth wall. Be it the pad-swapping malarkey of MGS1 or telling you to switch off your PS2 in Sons Of Liberty, the Metal Gear creator loves to push boundaries. And now, the esoteric director has his sights firmly locked on smashing game taboos.

“Game technology and hardware have always been evolving and becoming great, but we’re always fighting against aliens and shooting. I didn’t want to be like that,” says Kojima of the thinking behind his latest work of love. “I wanted to make a game with a deep theme and change the industry.”

While it’s too early to say whether The Phantom Pain will realign gaming’s tectonic plates, our first behind-closed-doors look at Big Boss’ latest was a 2013 highlight. Clips of child soldiers first wielding AKs like grizzled vets and then huddling together in cages is the sort of imagery that’s bound to push buttons. But even the dramatic impact the game’s dark themes could have is set to be dwarfed by the consequences of Metal Gear getting its GTA on.

It’s difficult to put into context just how much of a sweeping change this is for the series. MGS4 had some fairly large ‘levels’, but they were exactly that: corridors that provided the illusion of freedom. But now, as you watch the legendary soldier stare over countless miles of Afghan desert from atop a mountain ridge, the possibilities are dizzying. Kojima Productions is one of the finest studios in the industry when it comes to eking out incidental detail. Sprawl that level of careful craft out on to the
colossal real estate that’s evident in the latest trailer and, again, we direct you towards ‘dizzying’. 

“Distance is a very big factor,” claims Kojima. “In the trailer you saw Snake riding a horse, but you can also walk to a mission or take another mode of transport.” Watch and you’ll notice a lovely touch where your hero repositions his weight to lean against one side of his horse and avoid being spotted a technique similar to a move in Shadow Of The Colossus. It’s a clever example of hardwiring the series’ stealth into the challenges open-world transport brings about, and continues the gloriously
playful controls seen in Guns Of The Patriots.


But what prompted such a radical change of design? Metal Gear has never been afraid to subvert expectations, but Snake slithering into sandbox mode is the most fundamental change for the series since he went Solid. Surprisingly, Kojima reveals the decision was made so that The Phantom Pain could incorporate second screen functionality.

“All the freedom is up to you and there are no rules [like] the linear games in the past,” Kojima states. “You can use smartphones and tablets to interact with the world. That’s why we did an open world, because we thought about all these interactions on multiple devices.” Snake’s visionary, movie-mad auteur also hints at an interest in using cloud services in the future, and it’s certainly something he’ll have a platform to explore on PS4, thanks to Sony’s 2012 acquisition of Gaikai.

There’s a more exciting prospect on the horizon than potentially sniffing out the location of cardboard boxes with your iPad, though. Kojima has also confirmed The Phantom Pain will enable players to create their own missions. “Using tablets and smartphones you can also enjoy MGS V and create user-generated missions within the world.” If you’re given ample tools to create bespoke stealth mini games within this playground, it could be a game changing addition for the stealth genre. Although
inFamous 2 only had minor success with user created content, we’re confident MGS can pull it off.


For fans of the sadly now-defunct Metal Gear Online, there’s some chipper news to get Codecs bleeping. Yup, MGS V is bringing back the beloved multiplayer, with Kojima Productions’ new LA studio in charge of the mode. It’s a sensible move that will allow Kojima’s main team to focus on creating a single-player masterpiece. And really, that’s what The Phantom Pain is shaping up to be. With the more linear hospital sequence acting as a prologue to ease stealth fans into this brave new world, there’s an admission that this is a major reinvention for Metal Gear, and looks to redefine stealth. Koj does love to push those boundaries, after all.

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