THERE I said it. Many people will now have quite promptly decided they would like to throw bricks up my nostrils, but please, hear me out.
I am not arguing the quality of the mechanics, controls, menus or mother-base; they are all superb. No, exclusively, I am critical of the re-imagined Afghanistan that we are given to explore in the first 10-20 hours of the game. Through definition, yes, this initial map is an ‘open world.’ You can get up on your D-Horse (giggle) and ride (so far) in any direction on your compass.
But it never feels like an open world.
If you look up the level maps from previous MGS games you will of course see that they are all linear, all following a path that you must reach the end of; past soldiers, bosses and other obstacles.
MGSV’s Afghanistan is just this, but with less direction.
The initial map in V may look like a sprawling slab of the middle-east on the iDroid, but look close and you will see that it does not offer as much freedom as you will first think.
It is simply a network of linear paths that have been stitched together. Every road is at the bottom of a canyon, at each side of which are impenetrable cliffs, and along the roads there are bases at regular intervals.
There is not enough variety to this landscape, every approach to a base feels the same. Get as close to the impenetrable cliffs as possible and creep forward around the awkwardly placed boulders while avoiding the singular road in the valley; every. Single. Time.
Navigating this map is also quite naff, due to it all being at the bottom of a canyon you can rarely go cross country, you will always be sandwiched between a cliff and a road which has an enemy truck drive by on it every five minutes. This makes travelling extremely repetitive and dull. You ride your horse until you hear an engine or you receive some intel of incoming threats, then press ‘X’ to hide behind your horse, wait for the enemies to go and then continue.
This all makes me very angry because I love the game, I am a big Metal Gear fan but it seems to be awkwardly spooning between the genres of stealth (espionage blah blah…) and sand box.
I wanted to be able to gallop off towards an horizon, discover an oasis and then perhaps do some ‘Snake Eater’ survival while hunting a mark in the desert.
Instead, what we have is a series of fun covert ops and enemy bases, strung together by narrow and restricting canyons that defeat the point of this being an open location.
My complaints are somewhat remedied when you’re allowed to travel to Africa. It’s wider with more options for enemy approach. But this doesn’t alter how my first 15 hours with the game were hampered being stuck between a rock and a hard place, literally.
I may not enjoy the map’s restrictions, but I do respect the necessity of them. If the world had been completely open, it could have easily killed the stealth gameplay. In MGSV you must confront enemies and think to find a way past them. In a big world you could simply take a wide berth and avoid everything. With the numerous geographic obstacles there are also shorter lines of sight making it an easier stealth location than the later wide African plains.
I suppose, the point I’m making is that I fell victim to hype. I created this image of a Red Dead-esque world yet with all the fun quirks of Kojima. I wasn’t expecting it to feel this intense, always on alert.
What we have is brilliant, it just isn’t my idea of a great open map.
Let me add, this is an opinion on what is undeniably an exceptional game. There is so much to do and play with in MGSVTPP (dat acronym doe) that everyone will certainly find at least one aspect to enjoy; this just happens to be one that I don’t.