Popoptiq: Metal Gear Solid has traditionally been about successive corridors, lengthy cinematics, and narrative inertia. Each military compound, ruined city, or virgin forest would lead to the next and players would run or crawl or tiptoe headlong into an epic finale. Environments would be interactive and dense with secrets, but they would also be small and the connections between them straightforward. Players would feel trapped, stuck to a conveyor belt. Which was thematically apt because the protagonists were always pawns, susceptible to betrayal. Metal Gear Solid investigated what freedom and agency mean in designed products like video games, long before the theme became fashionable after Portal and The Stanley Parable.
Now we have The Phantom Pain. Our hero, Venom Snake, no longer takes orders from anyone. He’s his own Big Boss! And so the game naturally opens up. Vast terrains, humid grasslands, and sandy mountains; dozens of bite-sized missions that fragment your global destinations; a narrative weaved less during cutscenes than through marginalia like audio recordings. Gameplay can be chaotic. There are few rigid and linear paths, only a broad perimeter and scattered enemy locations. Anything, it seems, is possible.