Reviews: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Seeing as I’ve seen the secret ending and played every single mission and side op at least once (the missions I’ve largely gotten S ranks on) I feel it is now time to review this game. Metal Gear Solid 5, here on out probably called MGSV, has you playing as Big Boss 9 years after the events of Ground Zeroes. Your basic objective is to get revenge on those that wronged you while also trying to make the world a little better. It’s not really all that much more complicated on the motivational side.
The actual story and what transpires during these goals is much more diverse and I quite enjoyed it. The story is delivered in a much more reserved manner than MGS4, no longer do you sit through five to ten minute cutscenes every time you take three to four steps. I was likely in the minority of people who had no problems with that in 4 but I’m equally aware that that isn’t cheap. You’ll feel this as you play with most of the game taking place through audio recordings (acquired by collecting cassette tapes). They are interesting enough and I found that they really spiced up my travel times by giving me something to listen to as I ran across the Afghan deserts.
A lot of the game demands you be patient and play slowly. In order to achieve the best score you need to make it through a mission without actually being seen and without killing anyone. This becomes easier and easier as the game goes on with your gear improving but it can also become challenging as the enemies adapt to your playstyle. Are you shooting people in the head a lot? Expect to see some helmets soon. Dropping them in the chest? Probably going to see some bullet proof vests. Sneaking around like a little..well…sneak? Snipers and land mines will start cropping up.
This does help to keep the game feeling alive but I also feel like it took away from my planning for missions. Sometimes I’d play a mission and everyone was in their street clothes and then upon trying again they are all suddenly heavily armored. I’m exaggerating a bit, the transition is not quite that fast, but when it hits it’ll likely slow you down. The game is basically split into two sections. Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. The first chapter is pretty great in my opinion. I liked it from the beginning to the end. I had planned to platinum the game while playing through the first chapter but it was the design decisions of the second chapter that have put me off.
Depending on how you play the game you may experience what I did from anywhere between 40% to full completion all the way up to it literally being the last thing you do. But basically if you move through all the missions too quickly, and without an arbitrary butterfly logo on your emblem, you’ll be punished heavily by the end of the game. Someone at Konami apparently thought it was a great idea to literally remove a fairly important chunk of game from your options once you complete a mission. There is no warning, no hint that it is coming, you just complete it and boom.
It won’t help either that this is the worst mission in the game by far. It’s completely action oriented with your enemy being a bunch of superhuman tank drivers. They’ll snipe you with tank shells from a great distance away. By the end of it you’ll be furious. Then at the height of your fury the game will punish you.
I’ve heard jokes online that this elicits “A Phantom Pain” but for me it really didn’t. It just annoyed me. So much so that the more I play the game following this mission the less I enjoy it and I find that to be a damn shame. I don’t recall the last game I played where this happened. Literally had I written the review before this event I would have given the game five stars. Now I’m struggling at 4 in my mind. It’s not where the story went but the gameplay decisions made.
Well, alright, it’s also where the story went. A big problem that video games have is that your characters stop acting like they should once the cutscenes start. No longer is your character nimble and all seeing, they get snuck up on by giants, can’t see obvious clues right in front of their eyes, and can’t fight for shit. It is infuriating like watching a horror film and seeing a bunch of humans in it not acting like humans.
It puts me at odds because the actual gameplay of the game is rock solid. The stealthing is amazingly fun, kidnapping people for your private army is endlessly amusing, collecting animals is a fun diversion, and in terms of choice each mission is almost infinitely replayable. Seeing Ocelot before the later games is a blast and frankly I’d have loved to go on missions with him. The Villain is pretty great and his plans are interesting and just mysterious enough that I didn’t quite see it coming until it was there.
It takes a lot of talent to craft an absolutely amazing game and conclude it so badly that it kills the buzz that the entire game built up. That’s a talent that deserves some kind of credit. I don’t know how Kojima’s team did it but I applaud their ability to ruin something that was almost perfect.
That said, if you don’t count this (potentially) post main story wrap up of one of your compatriots, the rest of the game is absolutely amazing. It is a shame that that one decision was so badly done and so unnecessary that it ruined it all for me. However perhaps you will fair differently when you play and not find it as infuriating. This game is a definite buy and it’ll provide for tens of hours of very solid entertainment.
MGSV maintains a smooth 60 FPS at, what appears to be, all times. The OST you collect in it is fantastic. The visuals are stunning from start to finish. The character designs are fun (I like them all, which I hear is heresy) and the characters themselves are engaging. The effort put into adding an online mode could have been better spent actually finishing up and polishing the single player experience. Alternatively they could have actually cut out the entire second act, minus perhaps the missions involving Huey, and this game would have been entirely better for it. As it stands this is a send off for Kojima and I like to think that it embodies the environment with which he worked.
An amazing relationship that ends in catastrophe, just like his time at Konami. Well played, if intentional.
A nearly perfect relationship that is tainted at the end when the game promptly shits in your lap. I still highly recommend it but I might suggest you stop playing the main story once you reach the conclusion of the "Truth" mission.