Kept you waiting huh?
Metal Gear is one of the most captivating and special video game franchises in the history of the industry. It’s story is a very complex work of art, and it may take most individuals a while to really grasp what is going on in this huge world of diverse, dark, and even wacky characters. Ok, all individuals. I’ve been loving the Metal Gear Solid franchise since I was only a toddler. The first Solid game released when I was 4 years old and I still remember picking up that controller and playing. This series is near and dear to my heart, and it’s the same way with many other gamers. Metal Gear Solid V is Kojima’s swan song as he leaves the franchise, and he goes out with a bang.
Metal Gear has always been known for it’s crazy, convoluted, yet well written story. While the story in Phantom Pain isn’t as “in your face” as in previous games, it still remains a large focal point. Don’t worry fans. In true Kojima fashion, it is still crazy in nature and filled with plenty of secret meanings and special imagery. One of the most impressive aspects of the game is the insane prologue. I’ve played many prologue/intro sections to games and none of them quite grabbed me or kept me as excited as this game’s intro.
The game begins in 1984 when Big Boss wakes up in a hospital from a 9 year coma, following the events of Ground Zeroes. He then finds out that his left arm was missing because of the accident he sustained at the conclusion of that game. Phantom Pain throws you right into the action. You start with some trademark stealth, and you end with a flaming whale being launched at you. Lest we not forget the flaming man riding on top of a horse in pursuit of you, or his levitating accomplice. These are crazy set pieces that only Kojima can think of. MGS4 was known for it’s extreme use of cut scenes throughout the game, but that is not the case in The Phantom Pain.
Instead of including insane amounts of cut scenes, Kojima takes a different approach to story telling this go round. There are hundreds of cassette tapes found throughout the game that do a fantastic job filling out the narrative. I recommend any player to listen to at least a few dozen. There are so many lines of dialogue in the game, and the voice acting is brilliant. Troy Baker is a legend in the voice acting business and he does an excellent job at portraying Revolver Ocelot. I’ll admit I was sad when I heard David Hayter was being replaced as Big Boss, but Kiefer Sutherland does an exceptional job. The aspect of the story that I was most amazed by was how dark and brutal things are compared to the other games in the franchise. The main thing that stuck out to me was how Snake was coming to terms with morality and how he feels about what he does. The story tells a tale of a war between soldiers, but also of a war inside all of these characters between what’s right and what’s necessary.
The Metal Gear Solid series has always paid attention to the little details big budget games overlook, while still giving that AAA production level. There are two different locales in the game: Africa and Afghanistan. Both of these places look absolutely stunning with much detail in the environments. From the beautiful waterfalls of Africa, to the cliff-side views of the dry Afghan desert, everything just looks outstanding. The Phantom Pain may have a few blurry textures, mostly due to an engine that must also accommodate the previous generation. It takes away from how good everything else looks and the sheer detail in this big varied world.
The sound design of the game is also fantastic. From the sounds of the weaponry and the vast wilderness, to the sounds of being spotted by enemies, the audio effects are very well done. The stand out aspect of the presentation in Metal Gear has long been the music, and it does not disappoint in this game. The Original tracks made for this game are absolutely amazing, and they help set the mood for the various missions that they are in. “Quiet’s Theme” is a standout song heard in the game and in various trailers, and it is just awesome.
Gameplay is by far the most important part of this game, and it does not disappoint at all. I have honestly never been so overwhelmed by a game, in a good way. It is overwhelming because there are so many ways to complete missions. There are hundreds of different weapon types, and support options. The main story has about 40 missions, with about 200+ side missions that you can complete. The side missions range from capturing high skilled soldiers to eliminating enemy armor squads, so there is a lot of variety.
The core of the gameplay and the most important element is your management of resources and upgrades at “Mother Base”. After the game’s intro, Snake is reunited with MGS Peace Walker’s “Diamond Dogs” at the base he started in that game. Just as in Peace Walker, Snake can get new recruits by using different methods, and put specific staff into certain positions. There are a few different divisions at Mother Base that supply you with different things that’ll help Snake on the field. For example, the R&D team is the most useful because they are responsible for making new weapons and gadgets that Snake uses. There are an absolute crazy amount of gadgets such as one that shoots Big Boss’ arm, and also one that can be used to grab enemies from afar. The vast amount of things to use on your journey through this game is just incredible.
One new addition to the franchise are buddies. These are companions you have throughout the game and there are 4 of them. The one that has the biggest impact on the story and plays a large role is a female sniper called Quiet. She is a new character to the series and she brings a lot of mystery and amazing moments to the story. Buddies are used as support on missions and they are especially helpful in tough situations. For example, Quiet can take out enemy helicopters for Snake if he were to get caught. This is just one of the many examples of what your buddies can do. This Buddy system is a great integration into the game and makes it that much more fun to play.
The Metal Gear games are known to be stealth focused and push the player to stay as silent as possible while on missions. This time around, the player has the ultimate freedom to do these tasks however they see fit. Do you want to go in guns blazing and kill everyone while blowing things up? Have at it! Maybe you want to be sneaky and knock out enemies while trying not to get caught. Perfectly viable. The amazing thing is that the choice is up to you, the player. The nonlinear structure of how you do missions is the standout point of the game, and it is what kept me hooked. The game also has many rewards for the player as well as a ranking system for the missions which is used to unlock those rewards. Things that Kojima usually includes such as special costumes and abilities are all in this game.
The sheer amount of things to do in the game is absurd. The fact that I have played for 43 hours and I am only 41% complete is just amazing. I plan to 100% the game eventually and it will all be worth it in the end. It’s rare to play a game and feel like simply playing is a reward in itself. There is no game I have played that blended complexity and fun so perfectly. Phantom Pain truly excels in all the different things that it tries.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a very special video game and a remarkable adventure. It is very bittersweet to have completed this game because it is the end of an era for video games. Hideo Kojima set out to make a special and memorable video game franchise, and with this truly amazing game his legacy is cemented. This series has always been special to me, and this game just makes it that much more important. Metal Gear Solid V excels at everything it tries to do and gives the player twists and turns in it’s complex story and design. This may perhaps be the best in the series, and it is surely one of the greatest video games that I have ever played. Kojima is an artist and Metal Gear Solid is his Mona Lisa. There will never be a game series quite like this. The Phantom Pain is possibly the closest thing to perfect you can come to in video game. Thank you Kojima. Thank you.