In an early mission in “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” (Konami, for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, $59.99), the player is tasked with assassinating a corrupt colonel who’s up to no good. While such a chore is standard fare for a video game, “Phantom Pain” provides dozens of ways to off the military leader.

Should he be taken down first thing in the morning or the middle of the night? Would it be better to shoot him in the head with a sniper rifle or blow him to smithereens with explosives? Does it make sense to stage his death and force him to work for your private military corporation? Oh, and do you also wanna nab his top-secret tank while you’re at it?

Those decisions — and many more— await players in over a hundred missions facing “Metal Gear” protagonist Snake, who awakens at the start of “Phantom Pain” from a nearly decade-long coma during the Cold War. After a lengthy prologue, the vengeance-seeking mercenary is unleashed on free-wheeling renditions of Afghanistan and later Africa.

Other open-world games predating “Phantom Pain” have similarly offered players such freedom, but the latest edition in the stealthy 28-year-old “Metal Gear” series masterfully does so with hardly any flaws. It also inventively rewards players for sticking to the shadows and avoiding unnecessary blood on Snake’s hands — bionic or otherwise.

The rewards come not just in points and virtual currency but in resources that Snake (played by Kiefer Sutherland) must use to advance Mother Base, his off-shore headquarters that can be visited between assignments. The development of the base is almost another game unto itself, requiring Snake to snatch recruits and assign them to duty.

This additional layer of gameplay means each moment on the battlefield is also an opportunity to take Mother Base to the next level, whether that means collecting herbs that can be turned into medicine, pilfering blueprints or tethering a balloon to an interpreter to send him back to headquarters to assist with enemy interrogations.

The highly detailed vistas where Snake does his bidding contain collections of villages, military outposts, bases and other encampments dotted across vast landscapes. They’re deliciously vibrant but oddly more lifeless than an “Assassin’s Creed” or “Grand Theft Auto” realm because most populated areas are — for story reasons — devoid of civilians.

This time, Snake isn’t operating solo in the field. He’s able to call on a trusty steed, trained attack dog, mechanized robot walker and assassin sidekick for assistance. His gear and so-called “buddies” can be upgraded and outfitted with stuff like better armor and higher tech weapons, depending on the progress of the R&D department back on Mother Base.

As with most quests for revenge, “Phantom Pain” is not without casualties. The switch from linear to open-world adventure means the story has suffered. A few integral plot points are revealed off-screen through cassette tapes, and when the narrative pops up between all the sneaking around, it feels less important than it should for a game this huge.

It’s a minor annoyance considering previous “Metal Gear” installments were actually too heavy handed with story and cut scenes. It ultimately doesn’t deter from the gameplay. For fans of open-world games or anyone who has played a previous “Metal Gear” title, there is no choice, really. They must experience “Metal Gear Solid V.” Four stars out of four.




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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The deep sea hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner will likely include cutting-edge sonar equipment when it ramps up again in October after the stormy southern hemisphere winter has passed, the Australian search leader said Wednesday.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which oversees the recovery operation on Malaysia’s behalf, has been criticized by some deep-sea salvage experts for not choosing synthetic aperture sonar, or SAS, from the outset of the search for Flight 370 that began far off the west Australian coast in October last year.

With the standard side-scan sonar that has been used to scour half the search area so far, the sonar image of a seabed feature becomes less clear the farther it is away. With SAS, the sonar image remains sharp regardless of the feature’s distance.

Martin Dolan, the bureau’s chief commissioner, said negotiations are underway to hire SAS equipment to add to a fourth ship that would join the search during the approaching summer, with the aim of combing the entire 120,000-square kilometer (46,000-square mile) search area in the Indian Ocean by the middle of next year.

Only two ships have continued the search through the harsh winter months using standard side-scan sonar.

“Our preference would be to get synthetic if we can, but we can make use of conventional side-scan,” Dolan said.

“The advantage of synthetic is that you can get greater resolution, so it helps in those areas that require closer examination,” he said.

Fugro Survey Pty. Ltd., the Dutch underwater survey company hired by Australia to search for the plane that vanished on March 8 last year with 239 people aboard, has defended its use of traditional side-scan sonar. Fugro search director Paul Kennedy has described SAS as developing technology with some questions about its reliability.

Critics fear that aircraft wreckage several hundred meters (yards) from traditional side-scan sonar transponders could be invisible. Fugro points to its success in March in finding a 19th century ship wreck more than 300 meters (900 feet) from a sonar transponder as proof that their equipment works.

The search has covered more than 60,000 square kilometers (23,000 square miles) of seabed, focusing on flat and featureless expanses where the expensive sonar equipment can be towed quickly with less risk of crashing into underwater mountains.

But the searched area includes holes that searchers describe as “data gaps due to shadows caused by geological features.” These sonar shadows have been catalogued and will be searched later before any seabed is declared free of wreckage.

Dolan said these shadows will be searched in detail from October by an underwater drone equipped with a video camera. The so-called autonomous underwater vehicle has spent the winter at the Australian port city of Fremantle because it does not cope well with mountainous winter seas.

He hopes SAS will also be used to search shadows. But even without SAS, he expects the search will be completed by June or July if wreckage is not found.

Senior government officials from Australia, Malaysia and China — which lost 153 Chinese citizens in the disaster — are to meet in Australia next month to discuss the future funding of the search.

So far, the underwater search has cost 80 million Australian dollars ($57 million), with the Australian and Malaysian governments splitting the cost. China refused in June a request to pay a third.

Malaysia has so far committed to spending a total of AU$43 million. Australia expects the search will cost another AU$80 million in the fiscal year that started July 1, and hopes Malaysia will again pay half.

BANGKOK (AP) — Thai explosives experts say substance from the bomb that blew up in downtown Bangkok last week smells like TNT, although police still have not received chemical test results, the national police spokesman said Wednesday.

Prawuth Thavornsiri told journalists that it was still not clear if the bomb that killed 20 people Aug. 17 was made of TNT or C4, a plastic explosive. But the bomb disposal experts believe it contained TNT based on the power of the blast and “the smell” left behind, he said.

Prawuth says investigators are trying to find other pieces of the bomb to analyze.

More than a week after the bombing at the Erawan Shrine, which also left 120 people injured, police appear to be no closer to tracking down suspects or determining a motive for the attack.

Police have released an artist’s sketch of the suspect who was seen in a security camera video from the open-air shrine leaving a backpack at a bench and walking away. A separate camera showed the suspect, wearing a yellow T-shirt, on the back of a motorcycle taxi leaving the site.

But authorities say they don’t know if the suspect has left the country, what his nationality is or if the attack was linked to internal affairs or international terrorism.

WASHINGTON (AP) — New Defense Department guidelines allow commanders to punish journalists and treat them as “unprivileged belligerents” if they believe journalists are sympathizing or cooperating with the enemy.

The Law of War manual, updated to apply for the first time to all branches of the military, contains a vaguely worded provision that military commanders could interpret broadly, experts in military law and journalism say. Commanders could ask journalists to leave military bases or detain journalists for any number of perceived offenses.

“In general, journalists are civilians,” the 1,180 page manual says, but it adds that “journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorized to accompany the armed forces, or unprivileged belligerents.”

A person deemed “unprivileged belligerent” is not entitled to the rights afforded by the Geneva Convention so a commander could restrict from certain coverage areas or even hold indefinitely without charges any reporter considered an “unprivileged belligerent.”

The manual adds, “Reporting on military operations can be very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying. A journalist who acts as a spy may be subject to security measures and punished if captured.” It is not specific as to the punishment or under what circumstances a commander can decide to “punish” a journalist.

Defense Department officials said the reference to “unprivileged belligerents” was intended to point out that terrorists or spies could be masquerading as reporters, or warn against someone who works for jihadist websites or other publications, such as al-Qaida’s “Inspire” magazine, that can be used to encourage or recruit militants.

Another provision says that “relaying of information” could be construed as “taking a direct part in hostilities.” Officials said that is intended to refer to passing information about ongoing operations, locations of troops or other classified data to an enemy.

Army Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, a Pentagon spokesman, said it was not the Defense Department’s intent to allow an overzealous commander to block journalists or take action against those who write critical stories.

“The Department of Defense supports and respects the vital work that journalists perform,” Sowers said. “Their work in gathering and reporting news is essential to a free society and the rule of law.” His statement added that the manual is not policy and not “directive in nature.”

But Ken Lee, an ex-Marine and military lawyer who specializes in “law of war” issues and is now in private practice, said it was worrisome that the detention of a journalist could come down to a commander’s interpretation of the law.

If a reporter writes an unflattering story, “does this give a commander the impetus to say, now you’re an unprivileged belligerent? I would hope not,” Lee said.

“I’m troubled by the label ‘unprivileged belligerents,’ which seems particularly hostile,” said Kathleen Carroll, AP’s executive editor. “It sounds much too easy to slap that label on a journalist if you don’t like their work, a convenient tool for those who want to fight wars without any outside scrutiny.”

The history of war is replete with tension between military commanders and the journalists who cover them. War reporting is meant to train an independent eye on combat – its horrors as well as its heroics, as close as possible to the action without interference from commanders. That can place journalists, who sometimes rely on the military for their own security, at odds with officers who may see openness and access as potential threats to their troops’ security and to battlefield success.

The nature of the problem has evolved over time. In conflicts like World War II, in which each side fought under generally accepted rules like wearing uniforms, the U.S. military and the media worked out guidelines for coverage, which included official censorship. Today’s battlefields in Iraq and elsewhere are more complex and fluid, with front lines less well defined, greater ability for remote and instant communication, and combatants who are not always distinguishable from civilians.

A system of “embedding” journalists with U.S. military units was formalized during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, providing a measure of security for the journalists while imposing security restrictions and giving commanders control over the journalists’ movements. It’s unclear whether the Pentagon’s amended Law of War manual will change that relationship; Pentagon officials insist it should not.

Journalists working for The Associated Press and other news organizations have been detained or thrown out of embed arrangements for stories, video or photographs that the military found unflattering, even before the new manual was published on June 21. But the manual has raised concerns that commanders would feel even more free to find fault with reporting — or that other governments might use the U.S. rules to mistreat reporters working on their soil.

The Law of War manual pulls together all international laws on war applicable to the U.S. armed forces, and is designed as a reference guide for the military.

Defense officials said the manual describes the law for informational purposes and is not an authorization for anyone to take any particular action regarding journalists. The manual also notes that journalists captured by the enemy are supposed to be given the rights of prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention.

“At a time when international leadership on human rights and press freedom is most needed, the Pentagon has produced a self-serving document that is unfortunately helping to lower the bar,” wrote Frank Smyth, senior adviser for journalist security at the Committee to Protect Journalists.


Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

Orlando Scandrick’s season is over before it started after the Dallas cornerback tore two ligaments in his right knee in practice at training camp Tuesday.

A person with knowledge of the injury told The Associated Press that an MRI exam revealed tears to the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the injury.

Video showed Scandrick’s leg bending awkwardly under rookie receiver Lucky Whitehead at the end of a play in Oxnard, California. Scandrick, who was carted off the field, had recently returned to practice after sitting out with soreness in his left knee.

“He said immediately, ‘It’s my ACL. I know it. It’s gone,'” secondary coach Jerome Henderson said.

The other defensive backs formed a circle for a prayer when practice ended.

“I heard it in his voice,” said cornerback Morris Claiborne, a top-10 pick in 2012 who has had injury issues, including a torn patellar tendon in his left knee that limited him to four games last year. “After just sitting there and looking at him and just holding his hand, squeezing. I know that feeling.”

Whitehead said he bent down when he thought Scandrick was going to hit him as the receiver came out of a route.

“I kind of felt it,” Whitehead said. “I heard him make a noise.”

Scandrick became the team’s best cornerback as Brandon Carr struggled in coverage the past two seasons and Claiborne underperformed when he made it to the field. The eighth-year player has 48 starts among his 102 games, with a career-high two interceptions each of the past two seasons.

His injury will test a position that has much more depth than it did going into training camp last year. The Cowboys picked up fourth-year player Corey White on waivers from New Orleans, and he has been solid in camp along with undrafted second-year player Tyler Patmon.

Dallas also drafted Byron Jones in the first round this year.

“It’s next man up if he is out,” Henderson said of Scandrick. “You hate that it happens to such a great player. We have to keep moving.”

Tony Romo was among several Cowboys who tweeted their support of Scandrick not long after practice ended. “Sending prayers out to Orlando Scandrick,” Romo wrote. “Fear he has a torn acl. Your (sic) the best bud.”

The Cowboys have brought Claiborne along slowly in camp, keeping him out of both preseason games even though he reported to California much further along than expected in his recovery. And Jones returned to practice Tuesday after an injury earlier in camp to his left shoulder, the same one that required surgery when he was at Connecticut.

“Injuries are a part of football, but it’s an awful feeling when it happens to one of your guys,” Jones said. “I just hope the best for him. He’s a veteran, been here a long time. He was looking forward to the season.”

All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant had his most extensive work at practice since injuring a hamstring Aug. 2. He missed the offseason in a contract stalemate with the Cowboys.

Tuesday’s practice was the first of three this week before the Cowboys break camp ahead of their first home preseason game against Minnesota on Saturday night. That could be Bryant’s only chance to get on the field with Romo before the season opener Sept. 13 at home against the New York Giants.

“There’s a heightened sense of urgency every day,” coach Jason Garrett said earlier Tuesday. “Nothing to do with three days.”


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PHOENIX (AP) — Three weeks after he took a line drive to the face that nearly killed him, relief pitcher Evan Marshall was back at Chase Field on Tuesday night, hugging his teammates and recounting what so far has been a remarkably fast recovery.

After a strong season with the Diamondbacks in 2014, Marshall struggled this year and had been sent to the minors, where his game had improved greatly.

He was pitching for Triple-A Reno in El Paso on Aug. 4 when Jason Haggerty unleashed a vicious line drive up the middle.

“I never saw the ball but I knew it was coming,” Marshall said at a news conference before the Diamondbacks faced the St. Louis Cardinals. “I kind of flinched and it hit me pretty firm on the right side of my face. It ricocheted all the way to first base. He picked up the ball and stepped on the bag to end the inning. Poetic justice for what happened.”

The ball was traveling at an estimated 105 mph when it hit him.

The 25-year-old right-hander was able to walk off but started getting sick in the dugout. Within minutes, he was in a hospital, where a scan was taken that showed a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain. He was rushed to the University of Texas-El Paso and immediately into surgery.

“It was a very severe brain injury,” said Dr. Christina Kwasnica, director of rehabilitation at the Barrow Neurological Institute of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. “I hate to talk about it in front of patients, but it was a hit right in the wrong part of the skull, where the skull is thin. And right below there is an artery, so he had immediate bleeding.”

Every second counted.

“Damage was being done with the pressure that was building in the skull,” Marshall said. “They got me opened up and they relieved the pressure really fast and stopped the damage from being done. Twenty staples up the side of my head. If those scars are the price I have to pay to continue to play, that’s fine.

“The speed of which they did everything is what prevented the damage from being done. I was minutes away from not making it.”

His wife Allie was back in Reno, watching the contest on “Game Tracker,” and all she saw was a routine out. Then came the awful call from Andrew Hauser, the Diamondbacks’ minor league medical coordinator.

“Ev was in critical condition, had a fractured skull,” she said he told her. “His brain was bleeding. They didn’t know if he was going to make it through the night.”

The Diamondbacks immediately flew her to El Paso.

“The doctors in El Paso and the staff, they saved my husband’s life,” she said. “It was terrifying, absolutely terrifying. We’re going on two years of marriage. I’ve known this kid for six years and to be told you may lose your spouse.”

When he awoke, Marshall could feel the effects of the injury. Two weeks ago, he was transferred to Barrow, one of the country’s top neurological facilities. His improvement has been dramatic.

“At first it was a little cloudy behind my eyes,” Marshall said. “Thinking was a little hard, even carrying a conversation on. But they explained to me that the more that I talked and conversed with people, the more math and problem solving that I did, the connections would rebuild.”

Dr. Kwasnica has marveled at the speed with which Marshall has improved. A week ago, he was sent home.

“Right now he’s in outpatient therapy,” she said. “The focus of therapy right now is brain recovery and making sure everything is back to baseline. Then the focus will shift to returning him back as an athlete, which he wants to have happen as quickly as possible.

“It’s remarkable we’re even having this discussion and are talking about this kind of thing three weeks after it happened.”

If Marshall played a contact sport like football or hockey, his career would be over, Dr. Kwasnica said.

But she believes he can return to baseball, with some protective wear.

Marshall said he isn’t worried about that day he climbs back on the mound.

“When this happened I never saw the ball,” he said. “I haven’t seen the video, either. It was like I got blindsided with 105 (mph) and just have to deal with it. I’m not worried or scared about that day. And if the worst thing that happens from all this is I have to a wear a funny-looking hat to continue my career, I’ll take it.”

And his wife wants him to go back to work.

“This guy has shown a ridiculous amount of strength these past couple of weeks,” she said. “I can’t wait to see him back out there.”

Marshall quickly added, “We’ll get her a funny hat to wear, too.”