When you here the title Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain this will raise two main questions. Will this be Kojima’s last Metal Gear Game and what does the future hold for this long running and much loved series? While these questions still remain to be answered they are easily brushed aside by a title which takes a gamble and changes things up, and is highly successful at doing it. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain takes place in an open word that has so much to do and so many ways to do it, if this is the last title from Hideo Kojima, he bows out with an almighty bang.
If you have never played previous titles in the Metal Gear franchise and are worried that you will get lost when it comes to following the story, rest assured you will still highly enjoy the game. Yes it can still be confusing but nothing so much that it will take away any enjoyment. In fact I would recommend this title over the others for newcomers. When it comes to reviewing this part of the game I don’t want to give away too much so will just give you the basics. If you do follow the franchise then this makes for another step forward coming off the back of Metal Gear Ground Zero. If you have previously played Metal Gear Ground Zeroes before playing MGSV:TPP you will be able to carry over things to help in your adventure of Afghanistan.
Metal Gear Solid V The Phantom Pain takes place nine years after the events in Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes. The prologue in MGSV:TPP has to be one of the longest I have played in a video game in quite some time. This is filled with many cut-scenes and very little need for you to take the controls. It actually feels like a short movie and for some can be a little off putting, but keep with it as what comes after is nothing short of superb. You take the role of Big Boss as you wake up in a hospital, where after a few weeks a doctor then tells you that you must get out as people are looking for you. Things then turn very nasty indeed (and not just because you spend a large chunk of time looking up Kiefer Sutherlands backside) as the nurse and doctor are murdered with you being the next victim. A bandaged patient comes to your aid and what follows is death, explosions, mysterious characters and lots of fire. During this time there are some memorable moments and a few Easter Eggs for the MGS fan to find as you attempt to escape the hospital.
After you get through the prologue the main game kicks in and you are tasked with rebuilding the Diamond Dogs as well as rebuilding Mother Base – More on the latter later. Both feel like their own game and it is clear to see that this game will take up a lot of your gaming time and that’s no bad thing. Your missions are split between the main core missions as well as side missions. Some of these side missions are categorized as important side missions meaning they are key extensions of the main ones. Tasks will range from the usual extract prisoners/key targets, gather Intel and destroy enemy vehicles etc. This may seem your run of the mill tasks but it is the way in which they can be taken on by you the player that makes this game so addictive. You can also drop into Afghanistan in free roam mode if you want to take a break from just going from mission to mission. Regardless how you play you will be certain of some great action moments and tense situations.
Metal Gear Solid has been made famous for it’s tactical and covert approach with you being a sneaky combat ninja making sure not to be caught. In MGSV:TPP though Kojima Productions allows you decide yourself how to take on missions. You can go down the classic MGS route or you can go all out 80’s style action hero, or even a mix of both. Due to the dynamic weather changes as well as a day/night cycle things can change in an instant. Rain and sand storms can help you infiltrate bases without being spotted but as soon as they clear up, you just better hope you are in a safe spot.
One mission had me tasked with identifying an interrogator and following him to my target. However I decided to go save a couple of other prisoners first only to be caught and my target eliminated. Not to worry I will have another attempt. This time I follow the interpreter to a building I just assumed my target was in and he wasn’t. Thinking fast I had to knock out him and his mate before anyone could be alerted. My team was not happy I just taken out the interrogator so I had to extract him till I got the information of where my target was. So in an instant I had to rethink my battle plan and this is one of the most addicting thing about MGSV:TPP.
On another mission I was to take out two tanks while executing my target and on this one I decided to go all guns blazing. I cleared out a base so I could take a vantage point to take out the two tanks with my newly developed rocket launcher. At one point during my multiple attempts on this missions I used my horse as a road block and it really did work. There is some amount of detail that goes into this game and more than not it can be the small things that make you laugh. If you use the box in the rain it will get soggy and disappear, its good to see the game having some well placed humour like this.
Your missions will always have more than one task to complete, although when you first play the mission most of them will be hidden. Again this is another genius move as it’s down to you to find out what the other jobs are by interrogating the enemy if you wish and finding Intel. In fact some things can only be found by interrogating people for example recovering blueprints etc. What I also love about the missions is that they can take as long as you want them too. It’s not uncommon for me to spend thirty minutes to well over an hour completing them. Normally in other games this would become tiresome but due to the uncertainty of how the mission will play out, this becomes a highly enjoyable gaming experience. There are certain missions you will encounter that have you make choices which will effect the story depending on your decision which is amazing to see included an already content rich title. I have played well over 20 hours worth and I am still learning stuff about the game as well as the best way to run Mother Base.
MGSV:TPP also introduces a buddy system which will initially start you off with having just a horse. While you can walk/run to locations the horse becomes key to quickly traverse the war torn country. As you take out the enemies anti-aircraft towers you will be able to open up closer drop-in points. The buddy system becomes a key feature and include a dog, and other mysterious buddies I will let you find out on your own. You are able to level up your buddies by developing better armour and the ability to take extra ammo and weapons into combat with you.
Some missions are best completed at certain times and you can choose to be dropped into a mission either in the daytime, night time or asap. However if you start sticking to a pattern the AI will learn that and better equip the enemy and better staff there posts. I have been mixing things up between taken out soldiers with headshots or to go in all guns blazing. This now means though that I am coming across more and more enemies with helmets and body armour on. So even if you think you have the perfect solution the AI will always try and out think you.
The controls in MGSV:TPP for the most work flawlessly with you being able to switch to FPS mode when gunning down your foes. Switching between items in you inventory like grenades and capture cages is done without a sweat. Driving vehicles is easy enough not presenting any issues for me, although I do like to go off road on them producing some hilarious results. I only have one issue with the controls and that is the cover system. Coming fresh off of Gears of War may not have been a wise thing but it just doesn’t feel as refined as that title. However after getting use to it it is gradually growing on me.
Outside of the missions your other aim is to rebuild Mother Base (an off-shore rig) which is like a fully blown game on its own with an RPG style to it. It is here you will be making the most use of GMP (MGS Currency) as well as resources you collect out in the field. Over the first few hours of the game you are introduced gradually on how to build the various bases which will house your staff. These run from R&D Development to things like a medical base and even a Brig. One thing I have to applaud Hideo Kojima for is the animal housing base where you are rewarded for extracting animal from the war torn plains of Afghanistan. This is something I haven’t seen in any other game of this type of genre. In fact it’s also this part or the game where Hideo Kojima expresses his own political feelings of war, with you having to set up a medical section for staff due to then getting injured and suffering from serious conditions like PTSD. You will also find staff fighting and getting discharged meaning you will need to keep extracting new staff from out in the field.
As you build Mother Base and level up its individual departments, this will grant you access to develop new weapons and tools to take with you on missions. This doesn’t just require GMP but also resources and staff which you will extract using the Fulton system while out in the field. You will be able to extract guards, weapons, vehicles and more to the base where these will be used to further expand, develop and guard the base. Your iDROID app allows you to run everything from anywhere, although things like customizing can only be done from inside the chopper. When expanding your base things will eventually need time to complete. This can range from eighteen minutes to over two hours. The only downside of this is that it this time only depletes when playing the game. Another feature of mother base is being able to send staff on combat missions, which doesn’t just get you rewards, but also effect the main game. One combat mission is to intercept a delivery of flash lights or hijack weapon deliveries and more. This is integrated well into the game and will have an effect on your missions.
While the Metal Gear Online segment of the game doesn’t fully launch till October, the Mother Base plays it’s part online and is working right now. Players will be able to attack other players Mother Bases in order to wreak havoc and steal essential items. This comes in the form of online combat missions. This is also where the game introduces you to the micro-transactions. These come in the form of MB coins which will speed up development time of weapon and time it takes to invade another players Mother Base. My first mission took 22 hours to complete or I can use MB Coins to speed it up. Coins can be bought in bulk in either 100, 500, 1500, 3500 and 6000 packs. The cheapest to buy to speed up the mission in question would be the 500 MB Coins at £3.99. Only time will tell if these micro-transactions make value for money. We will update this review once the other multiplayer mode becomes available in October.
MGSV:TPP showcases the advancements made with Konami’s Fox Engine which looks absolutely stunning. From cut-scenes to gameplay the visuals just don’t disappoint, even though much of your environment is the dusty hills and sand dune filled Afghanistan. The deeper into the game you get you will come across a more jungle like environment thanks to Angola-Zaire. Where the game really shines though is the lighting and weather effects. Sand storms are pretty much impossible for you to see through but it can be used to your advantage. The day night cycles flow flawlessly and the rain storm looks and feels very atmospheric. When caught in a full blown gun fight the A.I will use flares to light up your position again looking absolutely stunning and being very effective. The games audio is on point with some hilarious scripting in places producing laugh-out-loud one liners when using the Fulton system. If you can find all the cassette tapes there is an outstanding amount of 80’s songs very fitting to the game, be sure to search your surroundings and listen out for cassette players playing music.
The Good Things
- The perfect Metal Gear Solid title for newcomers to the series.
- Outstandingly strong gameplay throughout.
- Konami’s Fox Engine looks better than ever.
- Roaming Afghanistan is just as much fun as playing through the missions.
And The Bad
- The lack of control throughout the Prologue.
- Cover system may take a little getting use to for some.
- The checkpoints could be placed better.
- If there is one game in the Metal Gear Solid franchise I would recommend for new gamers to the series then without a question this is it. The almost open-world environment along with a solid control scheme makes this a welcoming title. Kojima Productions have put together and outstanding title which does everything right when it comes to third-person action gameplay. The amount of variety not to mention content on offer will certainly keep you gaming for many hours. It seems that this title strikes the perfect balance between stealth and action gameplay all rolled into one and even maintaining your Mother Base feels like a game in its own.
If this is Hideo Kojima last Metal Gear Solid title he has left the series on a high which is certainly in the running for my game of the year.