Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, developed by Kojima Productions and published by Konami, this game continues on from where Ground Zeroes left off with Naked Snake’s Oil Rig base getting attacked by Cipher. Shifting an almost always linear game, with the ability to backtrack, to an open-world sandbox experience was a big change that some people couldn’t come to terms with whereas others loved the new take on the series. Sadly with turmoil between higher ups and Kojima leaving the company this game had a rough final production schedule, seemingly cutting out a lot of the game from the final release.
So a brief overview of the story up to now, you are playing as Naked Snake/Venom Snake, who is now called Big Boss after his victory over The Boss who used to be his mentor but then defected to the Soviet Union. You are tasked with building up your own “Private Army” known as Diamond Dogs, which used to be called MSF back in Peace Walker, but they were destroyed. This is technically the 5th game in the series, though it is set after the previous demo/prologue this game is actually set before 1, 2 and 4, with 3 being the first game around Big Boss as well as Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes. Solid Snake, Liquid Snake, Solidus Snake and all the Genome stuff from MGS 1 is still in the development stages, with the snakes being teens right now.
Without talking about Foxhound, XOF, Fox, GRU, CIA, Eva etc etc this game can be a bit overwhelming if you haven’t at least seen MGS 3 or peace walker. Ground Zeroes can be a must if you want some background as to why the game starts off in a hospital but that is your prerogative.
You don’t need all this previous knowledge to enjoy the game itself, but it all adds to the overall experience. Questions are answered, puzzles are solved and backgrounds are fleshed out, allowing fans of the series some sorely needed information about their favourite characters.
The game starts off with Snake waking up from a 9 year coma in a hospital, with some recovery over the course of 2 weeks allowing the player to learn some information from the doctor, from the shards in your body to the date and such. Sadly you don’t get to the physical therapy or hospital food as it is attacked by some special forces who seem to be looking for you and killing anyone and everyone inside the hospital. Thankfully a nearby patient is there to help you along, calling himself Ishmael and yourself Ahab.
You are able to escape the hospital, Ishmael leaving you to the care of Revolver Ocelot (who is on your side in this one) along with his horse that take you away from your crashed escape vehicle. Hunted by the Man of Fire you shoot you way to a ship to take you far far away, eventually returning to Mother Base and Afghanistan to rescue Kazuhira Miller (Master) to complete your Trio and begin your true path of Revenge against Cipher.
The game covers about 50 story missions, with around 8 of those being harder challenge versions of previous ones, as well as 157 side op missions you can complete whilst in free-roam mode. The main story can last you up to 40 hours of gameplay, either through playing the missions once, repeating for a better score, waiting for them to unlock because of side characters or needing a translator etc. I’ve racked over 70 hours and I’m only 61% through the game, with all the main story content done.
If you have played previous MGS games this will be a bit of a far cry from their gameplay, falling more in line with MGS 3 and almost exactly like Ground Zeroes. You can freely control Snake, or a combat member, into missions, free-roam and more, shooting with short or long range weaponry, doing recon or all guns blazing and even having some cartography thrown in for good measure.
The main gameplay of MGS5 is when you control your character moving about the different locations, using binoculars to scout and mark enemies then moving in closer to knock them out all stealthy like or killing them with shotguns and grenade launchers. Story Missions will have you invading basses for information, to destroy equipment or to save prisoners, with Side Ops allowing similar experiences with less setup time required, in and out style.
MGS5 brings in the buddy system ,allowing Snake to bring along an ally to free-roam and missions, D-Horse for transport, D-Dog for inside missions as well as scouting and single target elimination, D-Walker for quick and explosive gameplay and finally Quiet for an all-rounder packed into 4 different sniper rifles. As you take buddies with you they will grow closer with you, unlocking new weapons, skins and tools making them even better in combat or more aesthetically pleasing as they deal out some pain.
As you play through the game you will use the Fulton system, a balloon you strap to someone or something at which point you can say “See you later” as it takes them back to Mother Base. All these items you “steal” will be added to your base and unit structure, unlocking new development projects, missions as well as upgrading the different parts of your army and the base itself. No matter what you send off it feels worthwhile.
Shooting, sneaking and base building all meld beautifully in this game and there is so much more besides that; cassette tape hunting, Easter egg hunting, rare animal hunting and even more than that. I could continue to rabble on about all the side things you can do but I would suggest you find it out for yourself.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
The music in MGS5 fits incredibly well, from the Original Soundtrack to the 80’s soundtrack you can unlock through playing with tracks from A-Ha and Kim Wilde. There are tracks for the sombre moments, the action moments, the sad moments, moments of realization, before and after sneaking missions, setups, leisure times and when you simply travel Mother Base and enemy camps. The theme of music set in the era the game is in makes the world feel so much more believable, set against all the outlandish things that happen.
The side content, oh the side content, it is hard to go around a corner and not find something new or hear a cassette tape you must get your robotic hand on. There are creatures for you to capture, which you can then visit back at base, music to collect and then listen to or broadcast, resources to collect to improve mother base…. I said I wasn’t going to rabble on didn’t I?
There are problems with the game right now, with the Quiet mission/save corrupting bug that took about 2 weeks to patch, online being unstable and gameplay chugging because of Online updates through your Idroid. If you go offline a lot of these problems go away, the multiplayer is enjoyable when it can be accessed however, with base invasion being a good change of pace and difficulty increase from the main game.
Metal Gear Sold V: The Phantom Pain continues the series on from what is one of a few series that I played as a child that is still going strong or stronger than before (Looking at you there Sanic). Open world Stealth gameplay didn’t even really come to mind before Ground Zeroes came around, but with the ability to tackle a base from any angle really opens up the possibilities and strategies. MGS doesn’t really hamper on your creativity, if you want to drop a supply box on an enemy to knock them out you can do, or a truck to send them flying. Grab a hold of a fultoning crate and it will take you home. Secrets are around every corner and answers after every mission, though sadly the internal turmoil of company vs developer shows it’s ugly head very prominently near the end sections of the game.
Metal Gear Sold V: The Phantom Pain gets a 5/5, the nit-picks I can find are forgotten pretty quickly as they are replaced with more and more content for me to have fun with. While replay value is lacking, especially if you reset back to 0, the value of continuing you game never seems to diminish, there is always a mission to complete, a collectable to find or… I just opened a door and found something new… well time to nerd out again at some more content.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.