This is the game every fan has been waiting for – the conclusion of the Metal Gear Solid story arc by now ex-Konami director Hideo Kojima. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has in its very genes triple-A material. Everything about this game screams perfection, and yet something just feels missing for the long-running Metal Gear fan.
The year is 1984, nine years after the events of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. Venom Snake awakes from a coma in a hospital in Cyprus, but his rest is short lived as a female assassin is dispatched to take care of Snake, in an attempt to wipe out his super-soldier legacy for good. Fortunately though, a patient named Ishmael, in an adjacent bed, saves Snake and helps him get on his feet. The whole hospital sequence can be summarized as an interactable cutscene. You want immersion? Kojima delivers. This seems to be the latest trend nowadays in video games, and it’s heartening that the Metal Gear series has adopted it as well. While the move away from the series’ notorious hour-long cutscenes may be generally well-received, those fans who get a bit nostalgic for the series’ quirks may miss them now they’re gone. Which brings up yet another quirky problem with MGSV: TPP. We fans are used to sitting down and watching a movie whilst eating popcorn, absorbing all of the glorious Metal Gear lore, but this time around we are presented audio tapes instead. Similar in fashion to games like Bioshock, a good heap of the story details are narrated through tapes you have to tediously select and listen to through the menu – I may not be speaking for all the gamers out there, but this isn’t exactly my cup of tea and breaks gameplay flow very jarringly.
Graphically, the game is stunning, like previous MGS games have been for their respective consoles. MGSV: TPP without a doubt pushes once again the graphical limitation of its platforms. Armaments are meticulously detailed, terrain is realistically portrayed and characters are accurately modeled down almost to the pores on their skin – one can confuse Quiet’s motion capture model Stefanie Joosten for her very own in-game doppelganger, just by adding a costume (or lack thereof), a sniper rifle, and some make up. Given that MGSV‘s graphics are jaw-dropping in almost every way, players may feel dismayed that most of the sandbox terrain takes that term literally and appears to be dead or monotonous. The game is set in Africa and Afghanistan, where across large areas, large wildlife and green swaying trees aren’t exactly rife. For fans of the lush and lively open worlds of Far Cry 3 or Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, you may be a little bit disappointed. Sound design is beautifully recreated in MGSV: TPP, everything from distant gunfire, servo motors in machines, and even D-Horse trotting down a wet surface, Kojima has proved once again that he spares no expense in his games- not to mention returning MGS composer Harry Gregson Williams is back once more to accentuate the game’s combat with his own brand of military themed compositions.
MGSV: TPP is played very differently from previous iterations on home consoles, though players of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker will feel right at home. Base development through recruiting and material collecting is an integral part of the game, and failing to do so will make later missions seem almost impossible or, at the very least, leave the player short on options when in a firefight. All missions require infiltration through various drop in points for the player and his/her buddy, someone the player assigns to be an escort during the duration of an operation. Each buddy has a different set of attributes and skills – D-Horse for example can distract enemies while Snake infiltrates an outpost or can help him speed his way throughout the world if time is of the essence.
As in MGSV: Ground Zeroes, the game presents combat maneuvers through button commands that appear whenever Snake is near an interactable object, this eases gameplay as the player will always be fully aware of what he/she can do within the game. Camera controls are on the right analog stick and are easy to manipulate during heated combat- the game features multiple control schemes to suit different play styles. Though MGSV has a refreshingly new take on the traditional MGS formula with it’s base development, recruiting and buddy system, the lack of cutscenes and open-world gameplay might give the impression that the missions are somewhat repetitive in nature, usually missions boil down to, extracting somebody, acquiring something or plain old killing – at least compared to past editions, MGSV might leave the player asking: “Wait, why am I doing this again?” A new gametype is also introduced in The Phantom Pain. FOB or Forward Operating Base is Kojima’s take on Clash of Clans – essentially you build up your FOB using resources gathered from the single player mode, or from stealing from other players FOBs via Xbox Live or PSN, they of course will try to do the same to you. These resources can in turn be used to upgrade your FOB’s security drones or for arming troops with better weapons, armor, etc. There is a microtransaction element present in FOB, though after much criticism it is thankfully not necessary to do well.
Returning once again to the MGS saga is the stand-alone game Metal Gear Online 3, which went online last Tuesday. MGO3 plays like past MGO iterations with borrowed elements from MGSV, such as Fulton recoveries and walker gear mechs. Players progress by completing objectives and eliminating opponents – this in turn levels them up, granting access to newer weapons, items, outfits and gears which are purchasable via “Gear points”, these points are are earned during matches, as of today there are three different gametypes namely, Bounty Hunter (Team Deathmatch with a Fulton twist), Cloak and Dagger (MGS’s version of Capture the Flag) and Comm Control (King of the Hill/Domination)- Konami has promised more gametypes to be released as the months pass. As for any online game within a week of it’s release, the game tends to lag at times with issues such as shot registration and player teleporting. Though it happens very seldom, it is rather irritating particularly if you’re in the midst of a firefight.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a game worthy of being part of the legendary Metal Gear saga. It shares the same tactical “feel” of past entries and adds new ones to keep the game fresh and exciting, the base development system is intriguing even for hours on end, the story will piece what has been left unanswered in past games (albeit presented in a less compelling manner) and upgrading Snake with a myriad of weapons will always be addicting. Bundle all of these together with user friendly controls and next generation graphics, and you can bet MGSV:TPP is a prime contender for Game of the Year, and a proper send off for Hideo Kojima.