Review – Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain

What’s good, everybody? So here’s the thing: this game has been out for a while, and is one of the higher profile games that’s come out this year… so why am I just NOW getting around to reviewing it? It’s seriously that good. Seriously, I play it a lot. Just ask Hannah. This is Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain.

metal-gear-solid-5Before I start on this, I should point out that I haven’t actually played all of the previous games in the series to completion, but I do have an active knowledge of they story’s progression and who the key players are. However, Metal Gear does indeed have a reputation for having an pretty convoluted backstory, so for the sake of my own sanity and staying on point, I’ll be focusing on just MGSV and its game play, while only briefly touching on the story. Seriously, it can be a complete mess for the uninitiated. The Phantom Pain takes place after the events of Snake Eater, Portable Ops, Peace Walker and direct prequel Ground Zeroes. Players step back into the shoes of the legendary super soldier Big Boss, or as he’s now known, Punished “Venom” Snake. We find him awakening from a nine-year coma to see that the world is still at war, all of his amassed forces are gone and people are still out to kill him. Oh, and he’s missing an arm.

But the Jedi Tony Stark aesthetic more than makes up for it.

But the Jedi Tony Stark aesthetic more than makes up for it.

The first thing I have to mention is the overall look of the game. The world of TPP is much larger than it has been in previous iterations and is beautifully detailed and heavily interactive. Kojima’s Fox Engine puts in some serious work in delivering the most staggeringly realistic imagery that the franchise as put forth so far. The sounds are equally well-done, with both natural and unnatural sounds being crisp, clear and serving a purpose. TPP is a full assault on the visual and audio fronts, so being with the world being as sprawling as it is, Big Boss has a multitude of options for navigation, ranging from horseback, to vehicles and even mailing himself from location to location in a box.

Special delivery for a Mr. "Yo Ass"?

Special delivery for a Mr. “Yo Ass”?

TPP also retains many of the classic game play elements as its predecessors, like the emphasis on stealth, sneaking, completing mission objectives and non-lethal methods to deal with enemies, and the game rewards players for the extra mile they go when the option is very much available to run and gun your way through the game. There’s more to it than that of course, as Snake can use his prosthetic arm to locate targets via sonar or echolocation. The general flow is still largely mission based, but the open world and ease of navigating it make that less of a chore than one might think. The mission types are a bit repetitive though. Snake is also no longer alone in his endeavors, as he can employ a variety of partners or “Buddies” to join him on missions. These buddies can be commanded to contribute to Snake’s effort in multiple ways; be it D-Dog distracting and taking down enemies, to the mysterious sniper Quiet covering Snake when attacking bases.

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Though to be honest, I’m not exactly sure where the “mystery” is.

Additionally, fans of Peace Walker will be delighted to know that they can walk around Mother Base, complete side missions and interact with characters and troops they’ve drafted. Literally “drafted”. Returning from Peace Walker is  one of the most hilariously awesome ways ever seen in a video game: the Fulton-surface-to-air-recovery extraction. Fans of the Christopher Nolan Batman series of films will recognize this from the second film in the trilogy, “The Dark Knight”. Snake essentially affixes a weather balloon to a target, which causes it to be floated up slightly into the air and then suddenly zoomed away to Mother Base for brainwa– er, recruitment. These troops, once turned, can be dispatched on away missions for resources and to raise their skills. This is important, since solo missions can now be played with recruited soldier characters as well as Snake himself. As players progress, the Fulton can be upgraded to lift any number of different things, from storage containers and weapon emplacements to be used on Mother Base, to large vehicles like tanks and even wildlife.

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I don’t even have words for what’s going on here.

Mother Base too is a living, breathing organism. Players can use accumulated materials and currency to expand Mother Base and develop and upgrade new and better weapons. There are even greater possibilities for base and arsenal growth depending on the skills of the troops you kidna–er, recruit, and any blueprints or schematics that are found in the field. You are also given the opportunity to construct additional Forward Operating Bases (or FOBs) that increase the amount of troops you are able to dispatch on mission, and are integral to the enhanced Metal Gear Online multiplayer. These bases can be near endlessly customized with different staff, security and defensive configurations. During MGO mulitplayer, your FOBs can be used to build additional income and resources. However, these facilities can be attacked or invaded by rival players. Defending players can summon aid from friends to help keep marauders out. In a controversial move, microtransctions were added as an option to players to simply purchase content to aid their multiplayer experience. Thankfully, this has not been proven to negatively impact the game in any real way, and players and friends are free to continue to slaughter each other’s bases as intended.

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You f*ck with one of us, you f*ck with ALL of us!

Many players have widely agreed that TPP is “the Metal Gear game that fans have been waiting for” and even as a casual fan of the franchise, I have to add my voice to that. It retains many of the elements that have made it the legendary series that it is, while subtly tweaking and improving them. At the same time, new touches and additions are peppered throughout that make the game feel fresh but familiar. Now naturally, some of those traditions include poop jokes, copious amounts of fanservice and somewhat cuckoo-bananas backstory. Skyrim and Pokemon have been incredible time-sucks for your author, and TPP is proving to be cut from the same cloth as those fantastic titles. At the time of this writing, Metal Gear Online has only newly been released, so admittedly, yours truly hasn’t had much time with it, but in terms of the single player experience, if you’re a long time fan or a casual fan who wants to dive into some fantastic open-world game play, you definitely want to be all over this one. Thank you, Hideo Kojima. You’ve cranked out a real piece of art with The Phantom Pain. 

— Evo out.

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