The Metal Gear series is one that has picked up quite a following since its inception. The series spanned a period of nearly 30 years and has just gone from strength to strength. After much anticipation, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has been released and looks to finish what Ground Zeroes started.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain takes place after the events of Ground Zeroes and once again, players will assume the role of Big Boss or as he is nicknamed in the events in this game, Punished “Venom” Snake. The Phantom Pain takes place approximately 9 years after the events from Ground Zeroes. Big Boss has just awoken from a 9 year coma and is not in the best shape. Weak and missing his left arm, Big Boss escapes certain death when the hospital he is lying in is suddenly attacked by a group that wants him dead.
During the escape, he meets up with Revolver Ocelot, who aids him in getting to safety and is working with a new mercenary group called Diamond Dogs. Diamond Dogs was created by Boss’s old partner from their previous group MSF. As the game progresses, Big Boss uncovers more clues about the group on which he and Diamond Dogs would like to exact revenge. He also discovers that the group, Cipher, has some secret plans that he will need to put an end to.
The story is crafted nicely and provides adequate motivation for players to undertake various missions for Diamond Dogs. However, unlike previous games in the series, The Phantom Pain’s storyline contains fewer scripted memorable moments. The prologue to the game was an excellent introduction and possibly even overshadows the story that follows. It’s a little unfortunate as the series has always been about telling a story with a few twists. The characters handle carry what story there is rather well, however, and there’s quite a fair share of them.
In terms of gameplay, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain can be a little overwhelming once the mechanics are explained to you and you are given this massive open world to explore. Once you get the hang of it, however, it makes the gameplay just so much more enjoyable.
The game will take players to various locations around the world, namely Afghanistan and Africa. Each location has a slur of missions and side ops that can be played through and these yield GMP, which is the game’s currency, and other materials used for development of new items and upgrades. The locations also have multiple areas littered with enemies, resources and ammo.
While it is primarily a game about being stealthy, The Phantom Pain lets you take the approach that you prefer to use. You may start a mission off stealthily but then decide to go loud halfway through; the best part being that it doesn’t punish you as much as other stealth games do. The game features a day and night cycle which can either aid or hamper your sneaking and guard shifts change regularly, leaving a gap for Big Boss to exploit. If someone spots you as you’re sneaking through an outpost, a brief slow motion sequence called “Reflex Mode” activates, giving you the opportunity to silently take out the enemy who spotted you in order to prevent a full combat alert. It’s a really nice touch and makes for some exciting moments. The choices made and tense moments of nearly getting caught make for some memorable instances that the campaign somewhat fails to deliver at times.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain offers incentive to not kill every enemy you come across, however, as every enemy you find can be added as staff to Mother Base, the HQ of Diamond Dogs. Players are able to play the main game without ever dabbling in the managing of Mother Base, but this can come at a serious disadvantage. Very early in the game, the Fulton Recovery System is introduced to Big Boss and this is where things become very interesting. Big Boss is able to recruit enemies to the Diamond Dogs cause by force; this is done by simply knocking them out or putting them to sleep with a tranquiliser dart. Once the enemy is out, Boss can attach the Fulton balloon to the target and it is collected by an aircraft which takes them back to Mother Base where Ocelot “convinces” them to join the cause.
Recruited individuals become a part of the Diamond Dogs ranks and are slotted into different teams based on their skills. Initially the only team available is the R&D Team, which allows Big Boss to develop upgrades for his equipment, new tools and items and of course, more guns. As progression is made throughout the game, more teams become available and additional functions are added such as deploying squads on missions to earn more GMP, resources and recruit more members. Teams are upgraded by recruiting skilled members with higher skills. The higher skilled potential recruits can be located in the world by interrogating the various soldiers littered around the map. The sheer amount of guns, gadgets and vehicles that can be unlocked via managing Mother Base is astounding. It also gives you new ways of approaching missions. It becomes quite enjoyable as the game goes on.
Visually, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain looks amazing. The various locations have been crafted well and are an absolute pleasure to explore. Character models and animations look great and the slow motion Reflex Mode adds the right amount of blur to show off the slowing down of time.
Audio wise, the game excels. Regular series composer Harry Gregson-Williams returns to provide a soundtrack that hits all of the right notes almost all of the time. The voice acting is quite superb, however, this is mostly for the supporting characters. Troy Baker does a fantastic job at voicing Revolver Ocelot. Kiefer Sutherland once again voices Big Boss, but unfortunately has very little to say throughout the campaign. There aren’t any real long conversations where we can hear him really giving life to Big Boss, which is a little sad.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a great game. While its story leaves quite a bit to be desired, the supporting characters are interesting and help move the narrative along. Additionally, the gameplay is excellent and is really a treat for the player as it gives them options for approaches to missions. Many of the memorable moments that can be experienced are likely to be unscripted events that take place in the field. While the typical Metal Gear narrative is not present and some longtime fans may be disappointed, the gameplay makes up for its shortcomings and will have players hooked on the various features within the game.
Lasting appeal: 9.3/10