Date: January 13, 2019
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is flat-out the best Action-Stealth game ever released. Never has a game provided so many varying options to the way a player wants to approach. For some, The Phantom Pain will be a pure stealth game, with players restricting themselves to non-lethal weaponry. For others, however, it will be just as action-packed as any Call of Duty campaign has to offer. No matter your preference, you will be rewarded for your efforts.
I was able to achieve an S rank, not by shimmying along the ground and using a dinky tranq pistol, but by trying to complete the mission as fast as possible, doing whatever it took to speed the process up. Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty and figure out what Kojima and his team did to make this game an instant classic.
Right from the beginning, you are given a sense of the mood that the story will hold consistently right to the end of the campaign. You start the game in the hospital Ground Zeroes left you at. You find out you have been in a coma for 9 years, and that you are missing an arm, and that you have a large piece of shrapnel lodged into your head that will certainly kill you if you try to remove it, so it is fair to say things are not going well.
Unfortunately, things get a whole lot worse when, while in the middle of recouping, the hospital is attacked by an elusive task force known as XOF, who start killing innocent patients and staff in an effort to find you.
After a hairy situation with a female soldier, who gets launched out a window by your mysterious saviour Ishmael, you manage to escape the hospital. You then meet Ocelot, who takes you to a ship, gives you a prosthetic arm, sails you to Afghanistan and tasks you with freeing your old pal Miller from Peace Walker. I won’t go any further in terms of spoilers. Eventually, a second map is unlocked, Africa, which is almost as feature packed at Afghanistan.
The story, in general, is dark and highlights some of the major issues seen in modern conflicts today. As well as this, the story has many interesting twists and turns, and perhaps one of the most heartbreaking missions in a game to date. The story kind of falls apart near the end of the game, however, which is no doubt a consequence of the infamous feud between Kojima and Konami which ultimately led to Kojima leaving the company. It is known now that an entire chapter had been removed from the game, and it’s lack of inclusion really badly effects the story of one character in particular.
The ending also ends with an unsatisfying cliff-hanger, begging to be finished. Overall, however, the story is gripping and will keep players engaged.
The Phantom Pain introduces many new gameplay elements never before seen in the franchise, while also bringing back many fan favourite features (Looking at you cardboard box). One of my favourite inclusions has to be the base building system. The game is essentially a private military simulator, tasking you with building up your “Mother Base”, either by freeing prisoners to have them join your staff or taking what you want using the “Fulton Extraction” system.
I have spent at least several hours just going to outposts and ballooning anything that wasn’t (and sometimes was) nailed to the ground including soldiers, turrets, vehicles and even large containers of raw materials. All of these materials are needed to upgrade your loadout for missions, which drives you to collect more and more resources you find out on the field.
Speaking of equipment, the amount of weapons available to the player is baffling, from assault rifles to rocket launchers. This lends well into the games open mission design, which encourages you to find the best path for you to complete a mission. Take a hostage mission for example. Some players will use equipment such as a decoy to create a distraction, buying them enough time to infiltrate the area and rescue the hostage without being seen.
Another player may decide to crash a vehicle into a guard post, shoot down everyone they see and Fulton extract the hostage amidst the war with the enemy. These two approaches vary significantly in structure and are all possible due to the clever approach that has been taken to the game’s design. This is the main draw to playing the game, as it’s gameplay allows any type of player to jump in and have fun.
Other features, such as the reflex mode and first-person aim camera also carry over from Ground Zeroes. The game also adds buddies to assist you on your missions, and are also adaptable with your gameplay style, as you can choose to equip them with lethal and non-lethal equipment.
Toward the end of the game, I noticed the lack of high-rated staff in my base, such as S and S++. Missions also became quite repetitive near the end-game, forcing you to replay missions you have played before, with all be it interesting twists.
Graphics and Sound
Most of what I said in the Ground Zeroes review also applies here. It is a well-optimized port and also has additional graphics options when compared with Ground Zeroes, including the option to disable the in-game depth of field effect. This keeps the effect for the cinematic cutscenes. The game still lacks the ability to adjust different types of audio levels, although the audio is better adjusted this time to allow dialogue to be heard over any sort of background noise.
The game omits a difficulty mode and instead has the enemies adapt to your play style, and find ways to counter them. If you are frequent headshot hitter, the enemy will be issued with helmets. If you sneak through enemy lines, decoys will be issued will alert the enemy upon attack. The interesting twists I mentioned about the later missions involves increasing the difficulty through adding challenges and difficulty. These include having no equipment, stealth only and increased difficulty. I only wish these difficulties could be applied to more levels, rather than just the selected few.