Title: Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain
Platform: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows, Steam
Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Stealth, Shooter, Action
Players: Single player, Online Elements
Written by Whistler 17th September 2015
There are few video game franchises out there where the creator’s name resounds just as loud if not louder than the series’ themselves. Profile’s such as Shigeru Miyamoto, Gabe Newell, Markus ‘Notch’ Persson and of course Hideo Kojima are individuals well known throughout the industry for some of the most iconic video game titles to ever grace our glowing screens.
So when one particular designer’s name was suddenly absent on upcoming promotional pieces we all got a little suspicious about the outcome Kojima’s latest project. Now thankfully I can dispel most of anxiousness and assure you that Hideo Kojima’s swan song with Konami is one of utmost excellence and craftsmanship.
The Phantom Pain sees us fast forward nine years since the events of Ground Zeroes, Big Boss awakens from a coma after Cipher’s attack on mother base. After a close call with XOF forces a mere shadow of his former self, Big Boss escapes a hospital located in Cyprus then makes for Afghanistan to rescue his long time comrade Khaz Miller. Now it’s time for the legend himself to rise from the ashes with his private military force Diamond Dogs with one goal in mind, revenge; revenge against Cipher, revenge against XOF, and revenge against Skull Face.
Now it must be stated that the story this time around is still a solid experience to be expected in the MGS canon. The Phantom Pain boasts some magnificent scenes with excellent cinematography and gripping dialogue that had me in awe just as Snake’s previous missions had, but this time I feel they fall dramatically short compared to majority of MGS’ collective stories, nowhere near as clear cut and focused as say Metal Gear Solid nor as epically action packed as Snake Eater or Guns of the Patriots. Sadly despite introducing so many interesting characters TPP seems to shy away from fleshing out any of its cast including the superhuman sniper Quiet, and of course Skull Face, the antagonist we were all yearning to learn more of after Ground Zeroes left us wanting for more. But instead the game seems to do nothing but tread shallow waters, it repeatedly hints at going deeper but keeps catching its breath short.
Cut scenes are notably sparse comparably to previous titles and while I’m sure this has been received well with most critics and those who occasionally dipped their toes into the MGS franchise I found it difficult to stay invested when so many scenes seem to go nowhere. Character development this time around is poor compared to usual standards, character’s like Huey, Quiet and most of all Snake receive little to no development and honestly I feel Kiefer Sutherland’s voice acting was painfully phoned in which almost made me relieved with how little Big Boss utters even a word.
Pacing is rather painful to watch as well, I’ll confess it might be myself at fault as I made sure to complete almost every side op and took time to repeat missions aiming for a better rank but the story just didn’t seem to know when to switch gears. Plot twists are as ridiculous as to be expected in any MGS title but where usually Kojima Production’s would find a way to balance the sense of disbelief just enough not to break immersion, TPP goes for either full blown absurdities or just completely phones it in with thin explanations or build up so much so that notable moments or pivotal scenes seem like individual non-
Alas it grows more apparent that the devs were running out of time or needed to quickly hasten production on certain ends as despite some genuinely gripping moments I was disappointed at just how much of the story is removed from the missions and stuffed into condensed expositional tapes.
MGSV sadly holds probably the weakest story in the main series, plotlines don’t go anywhere, characters are dangled in front of us before being benched and conclusions just don’t end on a satisfying note.
Despite all of this, despite how much my inner fanboy is screaming something along the lines of ‘things were better in my day’, Metal Gear Solid V -
This of course resulted in a game lacking in narrative but instead generates exceptional and plentiful amounts of purely organic experiences with vast amounts of replayability and unlimited levels of enjoyment.
A shift from GZ will see our arsenal has been quadrupled tenfold, which offers hours of playtime as you perfect your style. In MGS V you can take on any mission or situation as you will it; you can become a ghost and sneak past your foes like a true Foxhound, you can stealthily take them out lethally or by sedating them, and of course you could go in guns blazing and call in a tank for extra fire power. This freedom both works as one of TPP’s greatest strengths and glaring weaknesses, for the hardcore fanbase it can be said that straying from MGS’s signature playstyle dilutes the experience. However in spite of what I expected I’ve embraced this change and just chose to play it stealthy.
The Phantom Pain has seen a lot of refinement, what were once small toys or side notes have now been forged into fully fledged in depth gaming mechanics including interrogating your enemies, calling in airstrikes or extra supplies/new weapons in the field (so long as you have a clear drop above you and have a minute to spare) and you’re own cast of buddies to choose from. Big Boss doesn’t need to go in solo anymore as you gain access to a handful of interesting characters adding to the variety such as the D-
Besides being a hilarious and effective means of clearing out enemy strongholds the Fulton balloon system is also your main method for rebuilding your private military force. Extracted soldiers and equipment are processed and assimilated into your very own Mother Base à la Peace Walker, your HQ is a large part of the game but I feel it can be a underwhelming at times.
Sure the main idea is to have a reason for collecting currency, materials and such as well as a means to research and develop all those shiny toys to play with but eventually I only found myself returning to Mother Base when the game forced me to. I felt little connection to my little outer heaven which was only confounded when I ended up with so many soldiers I lost track of their names (well besides Raging Squirrel, Steel Shark and Pirate Fox, those guys will be forever remembered for their sacrifices). Mother base’s main functionality is to act as a sort of gauge for your level as you fill your various departments such as R&D, intel or support with troops they’ll level up unlocking new gear and improving their designated roles eg. lowering times for supply drops.
Another role your HQ plays in is the sort of pseudo multiplayer elements (not the actual MGO as we’re still waiting on that) that sees you eventually being able to build Forward Operations Bases enabling you to further increase your levels. Once you’ve completed the tutorial for these you’ll be able to take your Private Military Force to the world stage by setting up defences and security teams to defend against player invasions whilst setting your sights on other player’s resources and soldiers. It’s an interesting gimmick that I certainly found enjoyable to a degree as I invaded my first few rivals without setting off a single alarm but there’s so little variation in everyone’s bases that it felt a little too repetitive to keep me playing with it. I will also mention while I didn’t really feel all that too hampered by it, it should be noted that it can be unfair forcing players to use this feature as once you’ve set your base up and if you're connected online at the time you are open season to any similarly ranked player. You are also capable of being invaded whilst offline which bothers some as they log back in to find some of their troops and resources have been nicked but so long as you don’t do any invading you can only be attacked once every 24 hours and if you keep your FOB at an all time low level you won’t be worth the effort allowing you to play the single player in peace.
There’s an almost disgustingly extensive and addictive amount of content available in Metal Gear Solid V that rewards the player in playing the game how they want as well as trying out new things out of the box like dropping supplies on a certain enemy or using a rather comical gun to stealthily deal with enemy equipment.
With over 40 main storyline missions (granted it retreads old missions occasionally to pad out certain parts) and something around 100 side ops you’ll be hard pressed to run out of game to play with two huge maps with superb esthetics.
Granted I think comparatively speaking it doesn’t beat Witcher 3’s visuals and environmental textures leave something to be desired when examined up close. TPP offers some amazing sights, gorgeously detailed character models and some of the most fluid facial and full body animations to date all whilst giving you plenty of video options capable of running at an almost constant 60fps on a GTX 660 and a guaranteed perfect performance on my new shiny GTX 980ti clearly demonstrating some great optimization for pc users.
Now I’ll admit I’m still arguing with myself if I’m okay with the now infamous cut conclusion, the awkward non-
But despite its narrative hiccups and shortfalls that leave both hardcore fans and newcomers a bit bewildered it has resulted in MGS quality gameplay arguably unrivaled by its predecessors in terms of freedom and raw enjoyment.
Sure it’s a somewhat black sheep of the MGS family (ignoring the other black sheeps like Metal Gear Rising and Metal Gear Acid, yeah who remembers that little psp title) and that’s perfectly fine, I experienced the highest moments in Metal Gear Solid’s narrative back in MGS1 through to Guns of the Patriots. I am perfectly okay with spinning the wheels this one last time with Kojima in this purely unadulterated joy ride. You can be damn sure this is a Hideo Kojima game, and I look forward to it not being the last.
Sure your projects have had flaws, and sometimes you get a little caught up in your narrative or gameplay elements, but thank you Mr.Kojima for this one last hurrah.
Almost unrivalled amounts of variety,
Impressive yet smooth visuals,
Large sandbox maps,
Solid PC port.
Somewhat padded at times,
Narrative falls short compared to predecessors,
Lacks interesting boss fights,
Glaring loose ends and questionable story pieces.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is certainly in the running for GOTY with a 9/10.