Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Review

It feels like a while since I’ve settled into a good game. In terms of good games that really appeal to me, there haven’t been many this year. There are however two games on my list this year; Star Wars Battlefront 3 and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

So finally Metal Gear V was released just recently and it’s been keeping me happily busy since. Now, at the time of writing I’m only 14% through the game despite at least 15 hours of gameplay (yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of side ops). So, what I can give is an account and opinion based on what I’ve achieved and seen so far.

My last foray into the Metal Gear universe was Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater on the PS3 ( and a bit of Ground Zeroes ) so it’s been a while between drinks but MGS V’s “Audio Tapes” can get you back up to speed story-wise if necessary. Essentially though the Phantom Pain is part of a prequel arc of sorts. The story is a new chapter and stands alone pretty well.

The game begins with a blurry view that eventually clears to reveal a first person view of a hospital ward. I won’t give to much detail into story here for the sake of those who haven’t played it yet, but it’s a little confusing at first. Information is gradually fed to you though and it’s not long before all hell breaks loose in the hospital thanks to the Cipher organisation who suddenly attack hoping to find and kill Snake/Big Boss. You take control of Snake and have to escape the hospital while severely weakened from being bed-ridden which is pretty tough. Making it even tougher is the fact that Snake here has lost one of his arms. When you do eventually make it out, you’re re-united with members of the Snake/Big Boss’s old gang, Revolver Ocelot and later on Kaz Miller, who you rescue from captivity Afghanistan. Miller in particular is pissed that Cipher used a plot in Metal Ground Zeroes to all but wipe out Snake/Miller’s organisation. Kaz wants revenge. Together with Revolver Ocelot a new “Mother Base” for your organisation the “Diamond Dogs” has been created in the Seychelles sea. It’s from Mother Base that you will branch out and take on various missions in Afghanistan and eventually central Africa.

Your base at the start is just a simple one-platform command center but you can build new platforms that perform new functions such as; RnD, weapons development, medical support, combat support, intel and so on. Build it and they will come? No. You have to staff your base. You do this by utilising the often hilarious “Fulton Extraction System” which is basically a large balloon that you attach to stunned victims ( human or animal ) which whisks them away at speed back to your base. Based on their skill level and attributes, you can assign these new recruits to various departments back on Mother Base.

So the actual gameplay! As always, Metal Gear games are stealth games. In your first mission in Afghanistan you’ll notice that Afghanistan is riddled with Soviet outposts. You can’t travel very far without having to revert to stealth tactics to either get past, or capture the base. It’s often not so difficult to get past a checkpoint, but if you want to recruit staff and pilfer equipment, you’ll need to carefully plan how to get in and stun the enemy guards without being seen. If you’re seen, reinforcements will be called. You’ll also drop in heroism points. I’d suggest always carrying a tranquilizer gun. Get good at head shots and you can stun enemies immediately. Also, as soon as you can, research and develop the scanner for your binoculars. This device will give you a readout of targeted enemies regarding their skills and abilities. You can quickly evaluate who is worth extracting to your base and who isn’t. Other basic strategy tips would be to always keep low and stick to shadows or cover. Try to find the puppy early on in your campaign. Finding the puppy and extracting it to Mother Base will allow you to later bring him as a companion on missions. “Diamond Dog” can sniff out enemy soldiers well before you can see them. Other companions that can escort you on missions are your horse and well, once again I don’t want to give too many details away but needless to say they are various with each having a unique set of skills for use out in the field.

As cute as a button now but he'll be tearing out throats in no time soon.

As cute as a button now but he’ll be tearing out throats in no time soon.

Overall this is a great game which I’m thoroughly enjoying. It feels like vintage Metal Gear but now in a sandpit environment. The ability to build and customise your base gives a nice sense of progression and provides incentive to raid bases and outposts. My only gripe so far would be the controls. Trying to get Snake to press up against a wall or move in the right direction when you’re in prone position gets really tricky. Snake seems to jitter and fit in some kind of seizure in prone position when you’re up against a wall or fence while an enemy soldier moves towards you and sends your panic levels ever higher. But all in all this is a great game.

There’s a bittersweet edge to this game though. Despite this being the biggest and most polished of the Metal Gear saga, Konami have ended their relationship with Kojima’s studio. The way things stand right now this looks to be the end of Metal Gear. There are rumours that Konami are restructuring how they release games and cooperate with developer studios which has led to an apparent spat between Kojima and Konami. Konami even went as far as removing “a Hideo Kojima game” from promotional material. Kojima had stated that MGS V would be the last Metal Gear, but he’s been known to say this about previous titles in the series. However, with Konami’s new stance on removing studio credits from games, in all likelihood this really is the end of the road for Snake and co. Enjoy it while you can!

 

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