Firing up a Metal Gear Solid game, you can always expect some weirdness to go down. There’s the overarching military drama filled with espionage, betrayals, and danger. There’s the tragedy of the horrible costs of war and the way human lives are exploited and used up at the whims of unseen order-givers. And there’s the guy who can’t keep his bowel movements under control.
Like every other game in the series, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain meanders back and forth over the line between realism and fantastic strangeness. For every threat of nuclear proliferation and obliteration of humanity, there’s a boss with seemingly supernatural powers.
Metal Gear Solid V is brimming with its share of funny, goofy, strange and nonsensical offerings. Here are eight of the most ridiculous, for various reasons.
8. WHEN BEARS FLY
Possibly the greatest thing to ever happen to Metal Gear Solid is the addition of the Fulton Extraction Device, a balloon players attach to people, objects and animals to, uh—kidnap them.
See, in Metal Gear Solid V, your goal is to build a private military force. You strap the balloon to enemy soldiers and kidnap them back to your base, where they join up with your company. You’re even contracted to tranquilize animals and extract them from warzones. You’ll balloon sheep, birds, and horses, but best is when you fight, tranq and kidnap a bear. For some reason, bears are only ever Fulton’d by their ankles.
7. THE FIRE GUY’S FIERY UNICORN
There’s a strange man who keeps showing up throughout MGS V wanting to kill you. He is literally aflame and impervious to bullets, and apparently can teleport. He is a magic fire demon man. As you try to flee the Man on Fire in the game’s prologue, he jumps on the back of a flaming Pegasus that appears out of thin air. He also kills a helicopter by manifesting a giant fire whale, also out of thin air.
This is never even mentioned again. The end.
6. THIS DOG WEARS AN EYEPATCH
Early on in Metal Gear Solid V, you find a dog that gets trained to help you on missions. D-Dog, as he’s called, wears an eye patch, seemingly for no other reason than because his best friend in the world, player character Big Boss, wears one too (D-Dog is also missing an eye, but still). It’s cute as hell.
5. CALLING IN SOUNDTRACK SUPPORT
As you move around the world in Metal Gear Solid V, you often collect cassette tapes of ‘80s pop songs like David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” or “The Final Countdown” by Europe. Later, you can add them to your helicopter, so every time you call for pickup to get you out of a battle zone or request a helicopter to shower the area in bullets, you’ll have the added bonus of blaring “Rebel Yell” or “Kids in America” to demoralize your enemies. It doesn’t have any real effect, other than one: it kicks ass.
4. BEATING UP A 12-YEAR-OLD
In order to stop a marauding group of child soldiers, Big Boss eventually “extracts” their Lord of the Flies-like 12-year-old leader. That means you, playing a 49-year-old man, get to beat up a kid. Twice, in fact. Apparently there are no child cruelty laws when you live on an oil rig in international waters.
3. EVERY SINGLE THING TO DO WITH QUIET
Partway through the game, players get a chance to recruit a female sniper called Quiet. She doesn’t speak, she is always clad in a bikini and torn stockings, and she has super powers like the ability to turn invisible. Apart from her slightly bonkers story, the game also treats her as eye candy whenever possible, leering at her as she does weird cat stretches and plays in the rain.
Metal Gear Solid as a franchise has never been exactly what you’d call feminist, but as pretty much the only female character to appear in the game, the fact that Quiet’s almost naked and never speaks seems especially egregious. How ridiculously the game treats Quiet is best highlighted by this video PC players made by switching Quiet’s character model for that of another, fully clothed character, who looks totally idiotic going through the same motions she does.
2. BOMB BABY
Metal Gear Solid V was preceded by a short demo-like prequel called Ground Zeroes, which sets up the whole story and the coma in which players find themselves at the beginning of the game. In Ground Zeroes, Big Boss rescues a woman called Paz from an American POW camp, but it turns out Paz has a bomb surgically implanted in her stomach. In the rescue helicopter, Boss and his medic pal successfully remove the bomb—only to discover there’s a second bomb inside Paz. And it’s in her vagina.
MGS V returns to this moment and reimagines it with a semi-graphic retelling of the scene, in which the medic jams his hand in Paz and removes the bomb (in Ground Zeroes, she threw herself out of the chopper to save everyone and exploded). It’s a super gross, jarring moment—the implication was bad enough in Ground Zeroes, but returning to it in MGS V elicits little more than bewilderment. In fact, the whole story thread basically makes no sense, once players take it to conclusion.
1. THE GAME’S ENTIRE PLOT
In fact, the Paz moment, Quiet’s story and the whole deal with beating on the White Mamba are just symptoms of a larger disease: the plot of Metal Gear Solid V is a big mess. It’s full of gaping plot holes and unfinished threads that never reach a satisfying conclusion. Even the big twist of the game, presented at the very end and seemingly popping up out of nowhere, only serves to retcon the original Metal Gear game from 1987.
The plot itself makes no sense unless you listen to an abundance of cassette tapes in which characters dump exposition on you to explain what you just watched. Remember the Man on Fire? You’ll have no idea what his deal is unless you listen to around seven tapes. The objective of antagonist Skull Face? That’s another four tapes. Finding out how this game fits in with the rest of the series? Settle in, because you’re going to be listening to tapes for a while.
MGS V is full of missions that have little or nothing to do with the plot of the game, a pile of cutscenes that pop up seemingly randomly, and a number of story events that don’t make sense unless you spend time listening to related exposition dumps. If you read a novel and had to stop every page to read a Wikipedia article about a character or concept, you’d get the same effect. It’s, uh, not great. The end?
Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer and the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero’s Guide to Glory. He was hoping the latter would help him get Han Solo hair, but so far he’s been unsuccessful. He lives with his wife and annoying cats in Los Angeles.
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