When Metal Gear Solid’s AI plays by the same rules

Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a great game for a lot of different reasons, but when the AI of the enemy was affected by the same conditions and rules I was during general gameplay without it being scripted or a cut-scene, that was when I realised just how incredible this title really was.

You might wonder what I am on about, so let me tell you a story. Admittedly a recorded video would have worked better but I didn’t have recording software running when this happened so I decided to recollect the events in short story format. I did dramatize it slightly for affect but that just makes the read better. It all started while Snake was doing reconnaissance for a mission from a sand dune…

I just finished siphoning all the sand from my boots” he sighed. Snake could feel the storm approaching by the rising wind before the broadcast came from HQ, this was the desert after-all and Afghanistan was known for its dust storms.

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With his smart-binoculars against his eyes, he returned his sights to the enemy units patrolling the ruins ahead. He marked their patrol routes and locations on his i-droid, knowing that he might not be able to rely on his vision shortly. He also memorised the spot where he was to dig up the hidden data-drive. It was an easy infiltration mission but the enemy units were all heavily armoured, as if they knew trouble was coming.

Five, six… I count seven mercs on watch.”

He reflected briefly on his weapon choices; a tranquilizer pistol, a lightweight tranquilizer sniper rifle and a few grenades, nothing which would be of use in the face of his adversaries should he be caught up in close quarter combat. He looked at his hands and smirked.

Luckily I always have these and my CQC techniques, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Quiet’s peaceful humming mused his ears through the ear-piece, he knew he could rely on her shooting true and steady should he be in a pickle. A trustier ally he couldn’t ask for.

In a flash the air was thick with sand as the dust storm rushed in, reducing visibility to no more than three meters. Big Boss took the opportunity to sneak in. He passed the first two guards on the uphill dune without as much as a peep or breaking a sweat. He let the third pass on his designated patrol route while hiding behind the debris of a collapsed pillar, he could hear the heavy armour thump and clink as the weighty footsteps passed. 

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He was at the edge of the road that passed through the ruin checkpoint, it was a clear stretch under more favourable conditions but currently it was a mysterious danger zone, rot with potential peril. He knew he mapped all the potential enemies but he couldn’t help feel uneasy.

As he leapt over cover to cross the road, a soldier standing in the road no more than two steps away turned to face him, startled by the sound of landing feet followed by a light grunt. He lifted his weapon, readying his aim…

For a moment it felt like he’s reflexes was lightning fast, time slowed to nearly a halt, he pulled out his side-arm and fired a round at the helmet clad head of his opponent, only realising the futility of the matter too late. The dart lightly clanked against the metallic head-gear, redirected hell-knows where. His heart skipped a beat. Sweat ran down his face as he stared down the barrel of a heavy machine gun.

CONTA-UGH!”

Before the heavy could complete his battle cry, a set of lights appeared out of the dense sand storm, speeding straight at him, and hit him with lethal force, rag-dolling his now-lifeless corpse straight into nearby sand-stone wall. The jeep slams on the brakes and comes to a skidding halt. Two awe struck guards, very aware that they just ran over a comrade, sat lifelessly in the car staring forward, headlights still on the body.

The driver and passenger both appeared to have been so focused on the accidental killing of the only man who knew about the infiltrator that their sights missed the intruder in the passing.

After regaining control of his heart beat, Snake collected himself and slowly disappeared into the curtain of sand, leaving no trace of his visit.

If the dead could speak, he would be in trouble.

Needless to say, I had to pick myself up from the floor after nearly dying of laughter, the event was hysterical. Only after did it dawn on me that they were affected by the mechanics of the sand storm as much as I was, which made the event possible, and saved my life. Most game engines make these things impossible unless the game glitches, almost as if it’s hard coded to prevent team killing by the AI.

When the AI start playing by the same rules as the player, as a design feature rather than a flaw, it makes things more interesting and raises questions as to how advanced AI will get, and how lifelike future games might be.

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