Game Review: Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain (Playstation 4)

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The Story:

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has brought a new edge to the Cold War, and in 1984, a one-eyed man with a prosthetic arm appears in the country. Those who know him call him Snake; the legendary mercenary who was once swept from the stage of history and left in a coma by American private intelligence network Cipher. Snake is accompanied by Ocelot, an old friend who saved him from attack when he finally awoke. Now, Snake’s former partner Kazuhira Miller is being held by the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Snake must undertake a solo mission to rescue Miller and prove to the world that the legendary mercenary is not dead and gone. That first step will lead to a path of vengeance against the very Cipher that slaughtered so many of Snake’s men, and to a battle that will embroil the whole world…

What started in Ground Zeroes… must finish with “V”

Oh man, what can I say about this story without it becoming an essay? I wasn’t surprised one bit at how complex and engulfing how it would be or how much I would get invested in it. It continues off from Ground Zeroes and you get some answers as to what happened after the fateful explosion aboard the helicopter which is pretty crazy. One of the best parts of the experience is that it starts off by throwing tons of questions at you. Questions that certainly make you scratch your head. Kojima managed to give us a narrative that tells us what we already know but expands upon it immensely and when I say expands I really mean “expands”. I waited a bit to write this review because I wanted to thoroughly play through the game but if I waited to get through it all then this review would be coming out in November most likely. I’ve invested roughly about 50 plus hours into the game and yet there are still pieces of the story that I know I haven’t uncovered. The one negative thing that I spotted was the endings’ lack of connectivity to the initial Metal Gear game (MSX). They give us the layout of what we already knew but I was hoping for direct connectivity. My thought is that they may be saving it for another Metal Gear game. Possibly a remake of the MSX game? Whatever the reason for the lack of connectivity was, it made the game feel somewhat incomplete. When the credits roll and the game is done you’re left there thinking “That was it?!”. One of the things that felt like it didn’t make sense was being forced to replay missions on a harder difficulty in Chapter 2. There really was no reason to include these in. Not has main missions anyway. Either way Hideo Kojima gave us his Magnum Opus and as you play you will be pulled into the story until the very end without a doubt.

The Graphics:

If you’ve already played Ground Zeroes then you’ve already gotten a taste of what the Fox Engine can do but The Phantom Pain is the perfect product of it. The environments are ultra realistic and look like you’re looking at actual terrain. The motion capture is the best I’ve ever seen in a game and is pretty much one step away from it being live action. You can see the wrinkles and pores in someones skin which can been a little creepy but so impressive. With it being so realistic it made me that much more emotionally invested in the cut scenes that drove the story along.

The Gameplay:

This is the part of the game where it has really changed. Instead of the typical linear type of gameplay we are given an episodic style that most Metal Gear Solid fans may find a bit weird. There are some aspects that feel somewhat similar to Call of Duty with each mission consisting of a loadout screen where you can select certain weapons to take with you as well as a list of objectives that need to be completed in order to advance. That was a little strange at first but it wasn’t anything that I hated. In fact I started to enjoy the customization of weaponry and items that you could take with you. The biggest change was in the inclusion of Mother Base. This feature was introduced in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker but (much like everything else in this game) was greatly expanded upon. I won’t lie, when I first started up the game I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of things that you could do or had to take care of but as I played, it became a part of everything that I did without me even having to think. There is a moment in the game that a disease started to spread among my troops and you have to navigate through all your staff to figure out what the common thread is and that impressed me. Sure it was a little tedious trying to figure it out but it caused me to get completely immersed in what was going on with my soldiers as I was out on a mission. The reflex mode was a great inclusion in the game as well. It gives you the opportunity to attack an enemy if you get spotted suddenly. Some may say that it makes the game a bit easier and that might be true to a certain extent but it does give you the ability to turn it off in the options menu. Another thing that is helpful for newcomers of the series is the Chicken Hat. If you choose to keep this feature on then after a handful of failed mission attempts you literally wear a chicken hat. Yup, they went there. The cool thing about it is that it gives you 3 “freebies” of being detected. Now, if you STILL can’t pass a mission there is an advanced version of the chicken hat the will completely cloak you from being seen….BUT with either hat you will limit your mission completion score a bit. The buddy system is a feature that really comes in handy. You have D-Horse which will help you get through long distances , D-Dog which if you’re lucky enough to find him as a pup will become a great ally, Quiet who is an assassin that you convince to join your ranks and D-Walker which is a smaller mech that you can ride with weaponry. All of them are fantastic to use and each can be utilized in certain situations.

I’m sure I’m missing something here and there because this game is huge so I might continue to come back and update it a bit if I remember something else but so far my feelings on the game are pretty finalized at this point. I loved this game so much but I couldn’t help but be bummed out and disappointed in a way. Kojima did a phenomenal job but it felt unfinished. There seemed to be things that didn’t close the gap or didn’t explain things thoroughly enough. Maybe this was his “finger in the air” or maybe he was rushed too much that he didn’t have time but either way something is missing. I hope that one day we’ll get to see another MGS game under Kojima’s lead but if not then it was a great run. 10/10

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is available NOW on Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC

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