Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review
Open World works really well
Controls are great
Tons of options to approach each objective
Story is convoluted and ending is fairly bad
Missions can get a bit repetitive
So after a good long while, I’ve finally managed to beat this game. It was a hell of a ride and it’s a pretty nice send off for the Metal Gear Solid series now that Konami, being the worthless assholes they are, have pushed Kojima out of the company. I got the game the day it came out and I pecked away at it for about 2 months from start to finish without playing it absolutely obsessively. Not bad.
The beginning of this game is a long and truly tense mindfuck. You will obviously want to have played Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes before starting this game, because it takes place with the story right after that. You, as Big Boss, end up in a coma for several years and finally wake up in the 80s. A hilariously 80’s cover of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World” is playing on the radio to remind you the decade you’ve found yourself in, and you are made to sit in the bed for a while as you start to slowly wake up. Once you’ve done that and the doctors have finished all their questions, all hell breaks loose. I don’t want to ruin it really, so suffice to say shit gets real very quickly. Once you’ve finally made it through this surprisingly long and again, seriously tense, opening mission, you will finally be escorted away to play the actual game. Your first mission will be to save Miller, and this is where the game really begins.
One thing I really began to notice as I played through this game is that there is actually NOT a ton of story here. As opposed to Metal Gear Solid 4 where literally more than half the game time of that game was spent watching cutscenes, this game truly embraces its open world style and sends you on your way. You will encounter some cutscenes here and there (I mean it’s still Kojima), but they’re considerably less prevalent, and I honestly found that refreshing. I got to play the game and I got to play it a lot. As for the story itself, well, it’s your typical convoluted Metal Gear Solid story. I will take this moment to say that if you do not have the bonus disc as part of your package, go to Youtube (SPOILERS) once you’ve “completed” the game, and watch the scrapped last mission. Watching that made me fairly angry since it ties up things and brings the game to a close a lot better than the actual “ending” we get. That being said, there are quite some twists and turns, and overall I enjoyed it. There is quite a bit of intrigue here in this game for me, and as someone that isn’t an expert on the story of the series, I still managed to follow along fairly well. The story should keep you interested from start to finish and the last mission, without spoiling anything, is really going to get some mixed reactions. Myself, I thought the ending was interesting but there are a lot of people that feel betrayed by it. To each their own.
Now let’s get down to the gameplay. I can say unequivocally that this has the best gameplay in the series for me. This game is obviously a first in the series, in that it has adopted an open world concept. My favorite part of playing this is that there are always several ways to approach each objective. You can be quiet and stealthy to sneak around people, you can tranquilize everyone, or you can be loud and obnoxious and just fucking kill everyone…and all the types of play in between. Right at the beginning of the game, you are given the ability to start fultoning out people. Using your fulton device, you can attach a balloon to a passed out guard and extract them to Mother Base, your base of operations. From there, they will sit in your brig until eventually you are able to “convince” them to join your cause (because you’re fucking Big Boss). By fultoning these people out and having them join your crew, you are able to level up the several areas of expertise at your Mother Base. This allows you to research and build better guns, upgrade your fultoning device, and all kinds of things to help you out. In my game, I immediately did all I could to level up my tranq gun, and then managed to get myself a tranq sniper, and finally a silencer for said sniper. This was pretty much what I used for 90% of the game because I actually WANTED to play stealthily.
Your buddy plays a fairly large role in the way you play the game too. You start the game with your Horse and he doesn’t really have that many options. You’ll get different armors and such, but really the horse just gets you from A to B faster than running there, which is nice since it’s a while before you can start fultoning out cars and such. At first, you will find D. Dog and he can bark out the locations of soldiers, plants, etc for you to pick up but as you play more, you find more buddies to help out. Quiet is an excellent sniper companion and you can use her to basically take out people FOR you so you don’t have to waste ammo (or maybe because you want to take out a person at the same time…cannot even begin to put a value on this). You can have her run ahead and scout out a base to tell you what’s ahead as well, which is especially nice if you’re having a hard time finding enemies or if you just want to be lazy and have her tell you where they are so you don’t have to look. You will lastly find the little Walker buddy. I really had no use for this buddy. It had some nice options and I’m sure it’s good for just dicking around, but I found myself primarily using either Quiet or D. Dog for the battle field stealth advantages they afforded. You’ll also find that as you use your companions more throughout missions, your bond level increases. As this level increases, they begin to learn new skills or gain the ability for you to give them different upgrades. D. Dog can eventually gain a skill where he will attack and Stun someone rather than killing them (good for mission ratings) and Quiet eventually earns a tranquilizer sniper and then eventually you can get a silencer for it! Your buddies can absolutely change the way you play the game and they just open up even more options for how you approach each mission. I found myself using Quiet almost exclusively at the point I got the tranq sniper, because it was an absolutely game changing addition. Just for fun, I would take out entire camps of enemies by directing her to shoot them. She is that good.
Eventually, as you fulton people out, you will also notice that over time the game starts giving you better and better skilled people to fulton out as well. This just helps you keep increasing your level over and over, until you can finally get what you want…even some of the crazy shit you saw when you started that you thought you’d never see. As for how you actually play, I found myself wanting to be stealthy because by NOT killing people, that meant I could fulton them out and level things up. I also noted that you generally got a better rating for the mission when you didn’t kill people or get spotted. They kind of incentivize playing the game as a stealth game instead of a shooter. That being said, if you get tired of being stealthy, there are just SO many weapons to kill people with, so you can make that as fun as you like. When you really want to go for some carnage, the options are endless, and there are a few times in the game where you are just going to say “you know what, fuck it” and just roll through a place killing everything you can, because you’re tired of doing it the nice way. Having both styles available to me was very satisfying.
As for Mother Base itself, there’s a lot to it in addition to staffing. You can in fact control the staffing at a granular level, deciding who goes where, but in the long run you can eventually just leave that to the game to do for you automatically. Each department, to start, can only have a certain small number of people in it (say like 30). You have to use the resources you find while playing the game to build more platforms for each department. So if you want to put more people into R&D and therefore level it up more, you simply build another R&D platform. In addition to the department specific platforms, you can also build up your “Command” platform to give all of them the ability to hold more people. Now one nice thing the game will do for you here, is that as you fulton out soldiers, if they are BETTER than soldiers that you already have, it will automatically move the crappy soldiers into the waiting room and add in the better ones. So that is actually extremely helpful because it keeps you from doing tedious staff management very often. One of the parts Mother Base does as well is process the unprocessed materials you collect. You won’t really get these until you upgrade your fulton to carry out cargo, but having a higher level in Base Management makes it happen quicker.
Finally, after a certain mission you will also unlock Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). This is basically an extension of Mother Base and it lets you hold even MORE soldiers, process resources faster, as well as launch missions against OTHER players’ FOBs. At first, I was extremely worried I was going to get attacked, but as far as I can tell, as long as you don’t attack other people, you won’t GET attacked. When I finally stopped pussing out and disconnecting, I noticed that I never got attacked. You definitely want to use these FOBs because they hold a shit ton of resources and they will add a LOT of capacity for shuffling soldiers into groups. My R&D level jumped up like 3 or 4 levels the moment I got an FOB. Being the money grubbing assholes that they are, Konami actually sells an insurance plan. Now it uses a currency called Mother Base Coins (MB Coins) that they give you occasionally but this is their way of adding micro transactions into the game (you can buy the MB coins using real money). Also to create a 2nd FOB, you need WAY more MB coins than they ever give you, so that’s kind of a crapshoot. You’ll most likely just stick with one FOB and honestly that should be more than enough anyway. In addition to building platforms on motherbase, you can build them on the FOB as well…giving you an assload of capacity for assigning soldiers. By the time I beat the game, I hadn’t even built all the platforms, so that should tell you a little about just how much you can do.
To bring this to a close here, the point of all this upgrading at Mother Base is to give yourself new toys and skills. The options for upgrades are honestly overwhelming when you first start getting there. There are several different categories of upgrades (assault rifles, rocket launchers, arm upgrades, suit upgrades, etc) and the options in the categories seem to expand on forever. You can try to be strategic about it and upgrade a certain weapon, because eventually it gives you an attachment you want or you can just choose all kinds of fun stuff to play with. A good example of this is when I upgraded a certain assault rifle to a point that it gave me a sniper rifle silencer. At this point, I was finally able to take people out from a distance without setting off alerts and it was completely amazing. I’d gone from using my little pea shooter tranq gun to this thing and one of the major advantages, besides distance, was that it was a hell of a lot easier to hit someone in the head with it since it had a real scope rather than iron sights. This really becomes one of the major focuses of the game as you play and it is what pushes you to keep fultoning people out and trying not to kill anyone. You want to keep recruiting them to increase your levels for each department at Mother Base. By the end of the game, I’d given myself all kinds of cool toys with things like a tracking rocket launcher, an arm upgrade that allowed me to grab someone from far away and bring them to me, a rocket arm, as well as sleep grenades, stun grenades, and all manner of explosives. I found myself constantly reading through these upgrade menus trying to figure out what was just around the corner when I upgraded departments in my base. You even have the ability to just move more people in one group to bolster the level of another so I could say, move people from Base Development to R&D if I was like 1 level away from an upgrade I really wanted. I loved the flexibility and the endless number of upgrades and new gadgets kept me trucking through the game.
So overall, I was honestly very impressed by this game. The fact that several months after I played it, I can still remember all the details with such perfect clarity is a statement itself. I am actually quite surprised to see Kojima successfully expand this series into something so different yet still retain the core feel of the series. The spirit of Metal Gear Solid lives on in this game but with SO much more openness. You can attack a situation in so many ways and the game will reward you for doing it skillfully. I think that’s important in that sense that you want to play in a stealthy way a lot of the time because there’s something in it for you other than just a high ranking (who really even cares about that outside of trophy hunters and dick measuring contest participants?). This game is worth owning and it goes on sale frequently these many months later so you might as well. In the genre of open world games, this game is a breath of fresh air. It is not the same old shit, it’s not an open world GTA clone, it isn’t Metal Gear Solid with open world just bolted on, the game clearly had some love put into it and it shows. You would seriously be missing out to not play this game.