A parting nuclear blast from the man who trolled the world

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)

Witnessing the barbarism of March 2020, with people suplexing one another to secure toilet roll for themselves, a steadfast refusal to wear a facemask and a whole load of misinformation spreading even faster than the Coronavirus itself, it really brings home to me the chilling thought that mankind isn’t quite as adept at combating world-ending threats as American disaster movies have always told us.

Now let’s imagine for a moment that the circumstances were far more immediate and severe – it’s the US president’s last day in office, and his legacy hasn’t yet been cemented in his own mind. So he presses the nuclear button against, oh, let’s say Russia for old time’s sake. Putin, who’s seen it all before in his 50 year stint as President, dismounts from his trusty bear at once and immediately retaliates. That’s USA and USSR, ah, the Russian Federation, out of the picture already.

Not a good start, then. And I like to delude myself into thinking that Ireland would be a wonderful, safe vista from a nuclear exchange, but I fear the reality is that a whole wedge of nuclear bombs would engulf the UK during all of this, so we’d undoubtedly cop a few here as well, some airborne, airburst accidents. The world is now at nuclear war, and we all know what happens next.

Or do we? You see, Planet of the Apes tells me one story, and Terminator 2 tells me quite another, so I’m quite conflicted. There’s plenty of movies out there that you could watch to scare yourself half to death. Probably the most chilling of these is Threads from 1984. Not the most upbeat year when it comes to analysing the future of humanity, and it was a time when nuclear paranoia was sky-high.

You’ll need a hell of a stomach to watch this one, and don’t expect even a single bit of happiness, hope or laughter. Many truelife depictions are described as ‘pulling no punches’ – this one will have you like Apollo Creed in Rocky IV. What really makes it grim is that this isn’t some Yank propaganda movie, where the belligerent general shouts “DEFCON-1” and NORAD shoots down the goddam missiles; you won’t catch Dwayne Johnson stopping a nuclear warhead with his bare hands here. No, Threads follows two ordinary suburban households oop norf in Sheffield. It’s sort of Fallout meets Emmerdale Farm.

So what happens in Threads, and what notes can we take for when that same situation probably occurs in real life? And it will, because if anything is possible, and nuclear self-annihilation is most certainly possible and achievable by man, then given enough time it will happen with 100% probability. Unless something else finishes us off first, of course – let’s hope it’s the universe’s heat death. Isn’t it funny how, these days, humanity is at its safest when we are 15 minutes away from irrevocable destruction? It’s a pretty mad thought.

Anyway, after Sheffield gets the larrups, and people literally wet themselves with fear at what they know they’re witnessing, the game is already lost. In Threads, more nuclear warheads drop, blocking out the sun and causing crops and harvests to fail. The Government is essentially incapacitated – the Prime Minister and several ministers and officials never emerge from their underround bunker, dying of oxygen deprivation. That’s definitely the type of boob I can imagine Boris Johnson committing.

There is very quickly a lack of medicine, especially anasthetic, so infectious diseases and painful injuries run rampant in makeshift hospitals; money no longer has value, only food is desired in this famine-torn land; you can get food through exhausting physical work like farming, which really only makes you easier prey for the onset of radiation sickness, poisoning, cataracts, cancer and a miserable death. Education has gone out the window, naturally, and they really mean it this time – even the English language regresses. Children are born deformed, adults are left traumatised, and normality will never be achieved again.

Suitably depressed yet? And the best part of all is that even as a 1984 fim, Threads has been held up as possibly the accurate depiciton of the eventualities and aftermath of nuclear warfare to this day. And can you imagine the capabilities and power of today’s nukes? It tells you something – if the bombs do start dropping, your best bet is to run outside and try to catch one on yer ‘ead, because forget about living through whatever hells comes after the end. Cursed with that knowledge, can you really conciously turn your military outpost into a fearsome, nationless nuclear power, one of the goals of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain?

Mind you, you’ll have to keep yourself from getitng killed first. I’m not suggesting the controls in this open-world taste of Metal Gear are bad, far from it. But what usually happens to me is that I’ll be sweeping through an enemy base like Leon from The Professional, a proper cleaner, or if you haven’t seen that film then picture a particularly efficient Roomba armed with tranquiliser rounds, everything going beautifully.

But then I’ll commit some horrendous mistake, like hopping over a fence when I meant to trank someone, or firing a grenade when I meant to pet my dog. Suddenly the whole base is alive and on my ass, and what can I do then except slaughter everyone I see. Regular ammo is everywhere, but you may find your tranquilisers and rubber stun bullets very limited indeed.

But anyway, this is a hell of a game. We’re probably all a bit jaded by the open world, but I’ll say that Metal Gear Solid V is the closest I’ve ever felt to becoming a super soldier, the kind of armyman you always imagined yourself being as a kid when you’d be playing with all the other kids, making bases and pretending to have guns. You’ve got two fairly large battlefields to explore, each with several bases and installations – a mountianous, deserty area in Afghanistan, and a grassy, marshy wetland in Zaire, now the “Democratic” Republic of the Congo.

You’re not 100% alone out there on your mission though, there’s a few buddys you can bring down with you. Firstly, there’s a horse, who can ferry you around quickly. More importantly than that, it can defecate on command, spinning enemy jeeps out of control if they run over the offending jobbies. That’s quite appealing, but if you’re gonna bring an animal then I should think you’d bring the dog instead, who can hold a stun knife in his teeth and pick bases clean apart for you like he’s picking meat from a bone.

Failing that, you can choose a new character, Quiet – she doesn’t speak, but her baps speak for themselves. Remember that this is a quintessentially Japanese series, so a half-naked sniper is par for the course. Quiet will take out bases almost singlehandedly for you, and seems to have magical powers. You have to admire the balls on that Kojima fella – just before he got turfed out of Konami for Gross Madness, he delivered the expalanation that Quiet needs to go without clothes in order to breathe.

It was some last dance from Kojima though, this game. Of course, he had ambition ahead of appreciation, meaning the game was released unfinished and way overbudget, and the game’s ending is almost non-existant. You’ll have to swot up on videos to get an idea of what transpired. Actually, you’ll need to play two games to understand it all; there was a prologue entry, Ground Zeroes, which was essentially the length of one of the larger missions in The Phantom Pain. It’s probably just about worth the €2.99 you’ll find it at in shops nowadays, and it’s a short bit of fun. But if you bought it for €29.99, they saw you coming.

Better yet, pick up the Definitive Experience, which tends to sell for an absolute steal. You’ll get everything in one, except the ending of course, and it’ll give you more playtime than all of the other Metal Gear Solids combined. You can get 100 hours on this beast before you even know it, upgrading and exploring and using your Fulton device to balloon people skyhigh. Grab a copy of Metal Gear Solid V today, because it’s one hell of a way to nuke your weekend.

24 September 2021

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