Over the decades, I’ve played a lot of video games. A lot of video games. Strangely though, I hadn’t played a Metal Gear title since way back at the end of the 1990s. I was however prepared for something pretty special with The Phantom Pain. I knew that Hideo Kojima would draw me in, but I just wasn’t prepared for how much.
Let’s get one thing straight, nothing in this world matches the standard of the first couple of hours witnessed in Metal Gear Solid V The Phantom Pain.
Thankfully though, it doesn’t end there with the next tens and indeed hundreds of hours spent promising to rank right up there amongst the very best that the industry can offer.
A fully open world title, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is set just after the events of Ground Zeroes. Mother Base has fallen and the main man finally awakes in a hospital after missing out on nine years of action. A Cold War has gripped the world, Snake has lost his left arm, instead relying on the cybernetic advances of Konami’s 1984, and it’s time to to make sure you can dish out some revenge in a series of missions and objectives like no other.
The visuals of both the considerable cut scenes (my God Konami like a cut scene!) and that of each and every mission are first class. Occasionally, and this is only very occasionally, Snake or an enemy may become enveloped in the surroundings, with limbs dropping into tents and walls, but the vast majority of open world games see this kind of problem from one time to another. It doesn’t in any way detract from the experience though and shouldn’t be seen as even the slightest issue.
The audio is also first class, with scripts and voice acting all of the very highest quality. Dare I say that the Snake himself is sometimes a little dull – yes, yes I will – but for the most part Konami and Kojima have excelled in this area as well. Whether you’re going into the heat of battle with all guns blazing, or just scouring the land looking for plants, herbs and other raw materials in order to help your fight, the sounds are stunning. It’s even worth just sitting around, listening to the cheeping birds, and calls of the night owls instead of getting on with the task at hand.
When you do finally manage to drag yourself away from the many distractions which are present, the enemies that you’ll come up against range in various degrees of difficulty. On the whole though, they are full of a high enough level of artificial intelligence for you to have to think about making your move prior to doing it. Much of your time spent in the open world will see you scanning your iDroid’s map, scouting out the area ahead through the lens of your binoculars and stealthily crawling around in an attempt to go undiscovered. But it’s not as easy as it sounds, and with plenty of enemies covering much of the mission objectives and areas that you need to hit, you’ll need the eyes of an eagle should you wish to spot everything and go fully undetected. For the most part, a change from a suppressed weapon, kitting myself out with something big and brash has been my way of choice, but Metal Gear is so in depth and so happy for you to play your way, that even the stealthiest of players will find much love in the weapons department. With a reflex system designed to basically ‘give you another chance’, should your attempts at tactical espionage fail, and even a fully in-depth close quarters combat feature letting you decide on whether interrogation or a quick death is best for your adversaries, Metal Gear has grown up a hell of a lot from that which I remember from back in the day.
Prior to each mission, you’ll be thrown into a sortie prep screen which gives you the chance yet again to customise the game to your own liking. Full control of the equipment you take into the mission, along with your choice of buddy, vehicle and loadouts ensure that nothing is left to chance. You will of course need to unlock the best equipment by collecting enough resources and GMP, but as long as you do, the world is pretty much your oyster.
But for you to get hands on with everything, you’ll need to get the boss developing your stronghold, Mother Base, to a high enough degree in order to create new weapons and items. GMP is the king in The Phantom Pain and without it you won’t be getting very far. With each and every successful mission dropping a huge amount of the cash stuff, the further you play through the many hours of gameplay, the easier it’ll be for you to create and develop the items you wish, and indeed carry out your own style of play. You’ll need to manage your base however, setting certain allies to work on your favourite upgrades and careful consideration over who goes where, will ultimately decide how quickly your base moves from the bog standard, right up the huge monolith you desire.
The Fulton Recovery System has been supremely well implemented as well. Whilst hiding unconscious soldiers in crates and behind walls is all well and good (believe me, you’ll need to dispose of those bodies somehow), sending any guy, item, animal (!?) or anything else you decide is useful up into the night sky, magically appearing back at your base is super cool to pull off and damn helpful in ensuring that not only the mission you are currently on, but all future missions turn out to be something other than a failure. Upgrade that home of yours enough and you’ll soon find yourself shipping off items that were initially too large to be lifted. Tank anyone?
So, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is not just good. It’s very, very good. In fact, you’ll be hard pushed to play a game that grips you, shakes you around and spits you back out in such a way that you still want to play it, still want to explore and still want to check out how beautiful Mother Base actually looks. If I was being a little picky, I’d bring up the pointless rankings screens and moan that the story that starts so strongly and strangely fades away into the background, but then that’s possibly because the gameplay is so strong and so in your face, that narration isn’t overly needed. I’ll no doubt also find fans of the Far Eastern way complaining that rankings and screens are part and parcel of the participation, and whilst that is most definitely true, they split things up and slow progress down just a bit too much for my liking.
All that said, it’s a game that you should be experiencing pronto. Film fans will want to play it for the sheer delights of the cinematography and gamers will want to play it just because it’s one of the best games that has ever been created.
Hell, everyone will want to play it…and everyone should!