Well, that came out of nowhere! On Monday afternoon, the official Metal Gear Solid Twitter feed revealed that a PlayStation 4 Pro patch for MGS5 was imminent, the upgrade landing in the early hours of Tuesday morning. As huge fans of the title, we were excited to see what kind of upgrades Sony's higher-spec PlayStation 4 could deliver. The end result is somewhat lacking in ambition, but it's better than nothing and at the very least, it's a good opportunity to revisit what remains an excellent title.
Konami promised performance upgrades only in its initial tweet - which is kind of curious bearing in mind that the game mostly locks to 60 frames per second anyway - but later comms talked about an upgraded resolution. For the record, our measurements have the patch delivering a 2560x1440 resolution. Yes, it's yet another PlayStation 4 Pro upgrade that delivers 1440p, with little else added to the mix. Stress test scenarios in certain cut-scenes do see performance improvements, though it's not a completely clean bill of health. That said, we're already looking at a highly optimal game, and drops from the target frame-rate are definitely edge cases. With the patch in place, expect gameplay to be as good as it ever was, if not slightly better.
In terms of upgrades beyond resolution and performance, it's slim to non-existent pickings here. The Fox Engine is capable of more - much more - as we saw in the PC version of The Phantom Pain, which allowed for super-high resolutions, massively improved shadows and big boosts to draw distance, delivering a much richer open world. In short, MGS5 clearly has scalability beyond resolution and none of these elements have made their way to the PlayStation Pro upgrade. And with no checkerboard or similar smart upscaling solution in place, this patch does feel like a barebones release. After all, as we established a long time back when we built a PC to the Pro's GPU spec, 1440p does seem to be the best natural fit for a straight, no-frills upscale to an existing PS4 engine.
Metal Gear Solid games have often had a tension running through them - between the player and their purpose in the sublime Sons of Liberty, or between the mechanics and the cinematic pretensions in the ridiculous Guns of the Patriots. Phantom Pain, which still stands with the benefit of a few month's hindsight as the greatest Metal Gear Solid of them all, is riddled with a different kind of tension. It may well be a tension that's existed in the series' past, but it's the first time it's made itself known so explicitly in-game.
After 28 years Metal Gear Solid is finished. Or at least that's what the internet would have you believe. After all, the mastermind behind the series, Hideo Kojima, has unceremoniously parted ways with Konami, the publisher who owns the IP. Konami has been wishy-washy in its future plans since then; the publisher stated in March that it would continue to develop Metal Gear games after MGS5: The Phantom Pain, but then the company's worldwide technology director Julien Merceron left last month and reports indicated it was because Konami would be moving away from console games completely outside of its football series PES.
By many accounts, Metal Gear Solid 5 is unfinished. A final mission that actually brought closure to the game's convoluted plot was left on the cutting room floor, and many players felt that the entirety of chapter two, when compared to the confident execution of chapter one, seemed like a rush job. Metal Gear Online feels a bit like that too.
There's a lot of reasons to be disappointed in Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain's conclusion. In many ways, the game feels blatantly unfinished with plenty of plot threads left dangling and a twist that's haphazardly introduced when the game's final mission seemingly arbitrarily gets added to your docket. But one reason lots of fans are crying foul of Konami is because The Phantom Pain doesn't concretely complete Snake/Big Boss's arch into infamy.
"Wow them in the end" was screenwriting guru Robert McKee's mantra in Charlie Kaufmann's meta-masterpiece Adaptation. In real life, McKee's received as much criticism as he has acclaim, but I've always found that particular piece of advice his most sound. After all, how many movies have been acclaimed due to their final moments? From Citizen Kane to The Usual Suspects, that final shot can be what makes an incredible film.
Metal Gear Solid 5 has a dedicated online component that is yet to launch, Metal Gear Online, but multiplayer is already worked through the campaign's fabric in the form of Forward Operating Bases. Every player gets one FOB that exists as part of their main save, which can be customised and is basically another Mother Base. This can be invaded by others - and so too can you shoot for theirs.
Completing the quintet, Kojima Productions ensures a feature-rich PC version of Metal Gear Solid 5 launches on cue - taking pride of place next to well-optimised PlayStation 4 and Xbox One editions. The Fox Engine is let loose here, with PC opening the gates to a very high preset in the graphics menu, while adding 'support' for 4K gameplay. But what tangible benefit do these enhancements bring over console, and what hardware do you need to get the best out of them?
Does the arrival of Metal Gear Solid 5 finally close out the cross-gen era of console gaming? While the pre-launch focus on the game has centred almost exclusively on PlayStation 4, Hideo Kojima's swan-song launches this week on four console platforms, including the stalwart PS3 and Xbox 360 - a development and publishing choice made years ago, based on genuine fears that gamers would not upgrade to the latest generation of hardware. Cross-gen production was commonplace as we transitioned across to PS4 and Xbox One, and for good reason - game-makers needed to hedge their bets financially when tens of millions of dollars were sunk into individual titles.
If you're still on the fence, it's fair to say Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is a worthwhile purchase on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. In particular, the Xbox One version is much improved over last year's Ground Zeroes - this time offering a native 1600x900 resolution that gives the console a huge leap over the last game's disappointing 720p setup. But how well does this measure up to PS4's full 1080p - and indeed, does the resolution boost take its toll in terms of raw performance?
Editor's note: This is an early impressions piece of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, based on a recent review event. Our full review from final retail code will be live in the near future.
Hideo Kojima's name may not be on Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain's marketing, but it's all over the game. Every mission opens with a credits sequence overlaying its intro with Kojima's name popping up at least once once each time. Perhaps it's a jab at Konami, though maybe it's the sort of ego-stroking flourish his employers grew weary of. Regardless of your take on the corporate domestic dispute, the message is clear: with The Phantom Pain we're clearly back in Kojima town.
Editor's note: this article contains strong references to child abuse which some readers may find distressing.
At the start of the new year, we once used to run a series looking at the trends we think will emerge over the next 12 months - the ideas and technologies that will go on to shape and define the games we play and how we play them. This year, it didn't seem a particularly fitting way to tackle what lies ahead: not because there won't be grand themes emerging, and not because there won't be new approaches that will dazzle and confound us, but rather because it seems pointless pointing out what's becoming patently obvious.
Stop me if you've think that you've heard this one before. Japan's best years in the games industry are behind it, the Tokyo Game Show is an irrelevance to western audiences and consoles are all but done for in the land that was once their spiritual home. It's bunk, mostly, and this week's show has been a sweet, sharp reminder that Japan remains the source of some of the grandest in the world of video games, as well as the best barometer of its future.
Lara Croft and Solid (or Naked, or whatever) Snake: you can't rival these two rock stars of gaming for their iconic power. And though Snake's roots go back a little further, they both have a deep, emblematic connection with the fifth generation of game consoles, the so-called PlayStation generation - those heady days of the late 90s when gaming burst out of teen bedrooms, into 3D and into a cinematic world of high adventure and sexy intrigue.
Earlier this year we were given a taste of Metal Gear Solid 5 with the release of Ground Zeroes across four different console platforms. It was an impressive game with a robust graphics engine, but it only represented a small chunk of what will ultimately become Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, due next year. However, the release of a 1080p60 video of the 30-minute E3 demo (at 50mbps h.264 no less) allows us to post an update to some of the visible changes observed in this demo version of The Phantom Pain versus what we experienced earlier with Ground Zeroes.
Snake is undoubtedly the star of the Metal Gear show, but in The Phantom Pain, Mother Base runs him a close second.
Hideo Kojima's exacting standards for Metal Gear Solid 5 are plain to see. Few developers target 60fps, and fewer still actually achieve a completely locked, flawlessly smooth experience. Kojima Productions achieved just that with Ground Zeroes, and the brand new E3 2014 trailer gives us the chance to see whether the technology can achieve the same trick with a more demanding range of characters, actions and locales.
The new trailer initially leaked before its intended debut at the Sony press conference, but between YouTube's frame-rate limits and the immense quality hit of the typical live stream, it's safe to say that the majority of people have still yet to experience Kojima's latest offering in all of its intended glory.
While we're limited to 720p playback we can at least spend a little time on the encoding to get the best possible streaming quality, and of course you get the full temporal resolution of the original video. On top of that, we've also generated a 720p60 video download you can playback on your computer or (last-gen) console.
Jordan Amaro is a designer at Kojima Productions working on Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Mike Bithell is a designer working at home on Volume. Both are making stealth games, but both are taking radically different approaches.
2014 is upon us, and it promises riches and glory unlike any year before it. With their launches under their belts, the next generation of consoles will, hopefully, show us what they're made of. Virtual reality headsets may make their mark on the mainstream. And with a raft of crowdfunded games due out over the next 12 months, 2014 should tell us whether all that money we pumped into promising projects on Kickstarter was worth it.
For a series once so keen on long-winded exposition, it's amazing that the reveal of a new Metal Gear Solid still manages to maintain so much enigma. The extended unfurling of Metal Gear Solid 5 has has been a masterpiece of misdirection and drawn-out teases, with a fictional Swede thrown in for good measure. It's been a campaign that's born the mark of Kojima Production's own love of twists, turns and deft wrong-footing of its audience, but it feels like one of the final, biggest shocks was saved for last. Sitting down to watch a demo within Konami's Tokyo headquarters, it's soon clear that this isn't the Metal Gear Solid you've become familiar with over the past 15 years: this feels like something that shares the shadows with Ubisoft's Splinter Cell and Assassin's Creed games.
The bombastic E3 show floor was packed with open-world games.
At last week's GDC, Kojima Productions revealed its fifth entry in the Metal Gear Solid series, The Phantom Pain, also incorporating the previously announced MGS title Ground Zeroes. Precisely how the two fit together is currently uncertain, although Hideo Kojima himself has suggested on Twitter that Ground Zeroes acts as a prologue to The Phantom Pain and that the two are bridged by a period where the game's protagonist is left in a coma. Then again, Kojima is a master of misdirection, so who knows? The one link between the two we are sure on, however, is that they are both running on the ambitious new FOX Engine, initially unveiled with Ground Zeroes last year, and that the game is set to feature a radical overhaul of the traditional MGS gameplay set-up: Snake's new adventures take place in an ambitious series of open-world environments.