Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Review - Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Warning! Spoilers within! 

I have been a Metal Gear fan since Metal Gear Solid on the PS1, and have played most of the games in the series. I love the series so much and get so excited every time a new release comes out.

The series provides a deep story (something a lot of games nowadays fail on), amazing set of characters and unique boss fights. You can definitely see and feel every bit of love Hideo Kojima puts into each Metal Gear game. It saddens me that he left Konami, but this also gives him chance to make something new in the game industry.

So thought I would review the final Hideo Kojima Metal Gear game (maybe even the final Metal Gear game ever with the way Konami is at the moment). So lets begin this review for a game that was shown so all the way back on December 7th 2012 at the Spike TV game awards."Kept you waiting, huh?"


To understand the events of Phantom Pain, let's first take a look at the previous events. Flashback to Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, where Big Boss infiltrated a camp called Omega that trying to extract Paz from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, who has information about an organisation called Cipher. He was also trying to find his friend Chico, a former child solider captured by commander Skull Face of the special forces XOF that was working on behalf of Cipher.

By the end of the game, (working as a prologue to Phantom Pain), Snake has successfully extracted Paz and Chico. Chico discovers that Paz has been implanted with a bomb, prompting Snake and the medic team to remove the bomb by hand in the helicopter. They then arrive back at Mother Base, finding it is under attack by XOF. Snake lands long enough to extract Miller and to fly away from the destroyed Mother Base.

While flying away from the Mother Base, Paz regains consciousness and warns everyone that there was another bomb implanted in her. Hastily, Paz jumps out of the helicopter to try to save everyone, but the explosion throws the helicopter out of control, colliding into a pursuing XOF helicopter.

Now for Phantom Pain...
The story of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain takes place 9 years after the events of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. Big Boss awakens from his coma to discover his body in a very bad shape, whilst Cipher soldiers are trying to kill him. I wont spoil anymore of the story, as thats one of the main draws of the Metal Gear games.

The story of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is kind of different than the previous games. Usually it is told by long cutscenes and codec conversations, but in Phantom Pain it is told more over cassette tapes, what can be accessed in the menu system, plus some cutscenes but no where near as many as previous games had. 

I prefer how they told the story in the last games more as it felt more cinematic, you was more engaged by the characters and you felt a greater connection to what was going on. However, I understand why Kojima changed the formula, as some gamers complained they didnt want hour long cutscenes and wanted more gameplay. 

Unfortunately due to this, a lot of Metal Gear fans that came for story was left out a bit. As a result, they got a game with better gameplay but not an in-depth story. This seems a shame, considering this is potentially the last game in the series. 

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain starts off with strong story elements but as soon as you get into the open world, it takes a back seat to the great gameplay, only getting a bit here and there depending on the mission. The plot never really picks up too much until near the final missions of the main story.

Unfortunately, this is the downside of Phantom Pain compared to previous games in the series. Even when you see the credits roll, you feel a little let down as you expect more from the series with how grand their stories usually are. However, as with all previous Metal Gear Solid games, I felt satisfied and very happy with the ending. They closed all the loose ends, there were many epic moments and I couldn't stop playing them as wanted to see what happened next, they even made Raiden go from a character I didn't really like to someone I now love.

Luckily, there is more story to the game even after the credits roll. Once you finish the game, it says 'chapter 2'. This isn't really part of the main game, but it is kind of like an epilogue that tries to tie any loose ends of the story with Quiet, etc. I feel like these missions didn't really feel like how the story missions should of been. The story should of been put into the main part of the game, making it a more satisfying overall package and story. 

With the ending of the main game I felt let down story wise, but once I finished the epilogue I was a little happier as it what happened in the game was explained in more detail. There is also a huge twist but it was a bad idea that they put this behind boring missions that a lot of people wont finish. Therefore, not everyone got to see the true ending, losing the connections with the other games.

So please if your'e reading this review, either finish chapter 2 to see what really happened in the story, watch the true ending online after finishing the main game to complete the story and get a deeper understanding of it.

I feel that due to the whole mess between Konami and Hideo Kojima, he wasnt able to tell the story he envisioned for this game and was rushed to finish what he could. If you also watch the deleted scenes online for chapter 3, it will tell you more what he wanted to do if he wasn't cut short. It's a shame, as this is the game fans should have got.

Gameplay-wise, this is the best in the series by far. Everything is fluid and reacts exactly how you would expect it to. You have so many things you can do in Phantom Pain with main story, side ops, Mother Base and more.

The series carries on the over-the-shoulder view for Snake that was introduced in Metal Gear Solid 4. I find this makes gameplay so much easier to control and harder to make mistakes. One example of this was when two soldiers were leaving their base in a jeep. I had no horse with me or vehicle to pursue, so I thought I would try to sniper them quickly before they get away. I was able to take both out without even looking down the scope as they were close enough near me driving by without even alerting anyone in the surrounding camp.

Kojima has really improved the way you can execute the mission. Originally, it used to be that you had to stealth and there was only really one path to go, but now that it is open world you can take any mission in multiple ways. If want to go completely stealth like previous games-go for it. Or you can go in guns blazing, kill everyone and still finish the missions, get your buddy to kill most of the enemies, order strikes on the area etc.

There are so many ways you can tackle a mission that you dont even have to follow the path to the missions. If you have to infiltrate a camp but dont want to go from the entrance, go from behind, sometimes this the better idea anyway as likely the objective is at the back of the camp so you can sneak in and do what you need to and get out before anyone even notices. 

I love the freedom as if you ever start getting bored of doing the same thing, you can change it up. If you get caught sneaking, it isn't the end of the world. You can quickly deal with the surrounding area then go back to stealth mode again. If you ever do get caught, the game slows down to allow you a brief chance to either kill or tranquilize the enemy who spotted you. Do this correctly and surrounding enemies won't get alerted (unless the weapon makes a sound).

Your arsenal also had expanded massively from previous games, but this time you slowly unlock them with material, money and your Mother Base level in the development department. It takes a little while till unlock the really good items and guns but once you do it is really fun playing around with the different things you can do. This even includes the famous cardboard box that fans will be well acquainted with. You used to only be able to hide under one and move about whilst trying not to not get spotted, but now you can jump out to shoot quickly, jump out from the box quickly leaving it behind as a distraction so you can get away, or put a poster on it of a sexy lady to distract the guards,making it easy to disarm them.

Its very fun just playing with these options in the missions let alone all the other gadgets the game has to offer, but I'll leave you to discover them all yourself.

Outside of the main missions, there's a lot of different aspects that create extra hours of gameplay. For instance, side ops alone gives many extra hours varying from extracting a certain target to fighting a bear, whilst some side ops even turn into main missions. 

After a while you will unlock the Mother Base properly, allowing you to set your team to departments they are best suited to, expand it so can have more crew members and buy better equipment, whilst it also allows you to send out teams on missions to collect material.

Not only is this all accessed on the menu easily, you can fly back to your Mother Base to find diamonds, see all your crew, and discover little easter eggs. It is a fun distraction seeing all your hard work going to good use, rather than just a picture on a screen. 

Another new addition to Phantom Pain is that you're now allowed a vehicle and a buddy to come a long with you, allowing you to easily traverse the big maps and have some assistance completing the missions. 

The buddy system is a great addition to the franchise. Players will get four buddies in total, that have unique abilities. These abilities help you tackle missions in different ways. For example, if you want to scout out a camp and get support from afar then Quiet is a great choice for this. If you want to sneak through a camp knowing where every enemy position is, or work as a distraction, then use the dog. The more you use these buddies, the more you'll form a bond with them so that you can give them new orders to help you in the mission.

There is one let down though gameplay wise compared to the others and that is the boss fights. In all the previous games, these are all memorable and a big part of why the series has come so far, but I feel like the bosses didn't have any real back story or memorable fights in Phantom Pain. In all the previous Metal Gear games, each boss was unique and interesting to defeat, but in this game i didn't feel like it was the case. Sadly it was either run away from the character or shoot loads with the most powerful gun you have at the time.

Graphics/ Level Design

Of course this will be best looking Metal Gear game yet as it on newer hardware, but I feel like it could of been pushed a little bit more in level design. At first I really liked Afghanistan and Africa, but after a while it does get samey and needed more variety. It felt a little empty in areas and I felt like I was just driving for ages in sand or jungle terrains to get from point A to B. 

Maybe it is just me but after playing Witcher 3 which had so much packed into every part of the game, it felt like Phantom Pain could of had more stuff happening in the open world for people to look at. 

However, it has gone above and beyond with its character design and how much detail is on everyone (you'll see details such as veins, dirt and pores) making for a very believable looking character that is capable of showing great emotion. The world does have nice touches like lighting effects, the way the trees sway, weather conditions, day and night cycle that makes the world feel more believable.

Lasting Appeal

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will give you many hours of gameplay, and that's just the main story alone not counting all the side ops, Mother Base, animal collecting, collecting resources. With all of these aspects, you can easily enjoy a whopping 40 hours or more from the game. This also isn't including how many hours you will be able to put into the multiplayer once it is released in the near future.

Final Verdict

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a great game. Don't get me wrong I did really enjoy it, but its not the game we were meant to get. We were going to get a deeper story, longer game and likely so much more before Kojima left. While the gameplay is best in the series so far,  the story is lacking compared to what we are used to in previous games. This makes Phantom Pain one of the best games of the year, but unfortunately not a memorable one compared to the previous entries. Perhaps in 10 years time Phantom Pain may not be regarded a true classic in comparison with the rest in the series. We shall see?

8.5/10 - Great gameplay and visuals, but sadly the story is a bit disappointing.

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