Masterful, superlative, unparalleled. These are just a few of many words that could be used to describe what it’s like playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Never before have I started a review off with such high praise for a video game but then, The Phantom Pain is not your average video game. Nor is it a game of high-quality. The Phantom Pain will go down as the final creation of Hideo Kojima for Konami and what a way to end an era! If you are going to read this review to find some negatives about Metal Gear Solid then I’m sorry but there is just nothing negative to say about this masterpiece of gaming.
For the past nine years, Snake has been in a coma. Upon waking, Snake is justifiably upset to not only discover he has been out of action for so long, but also to find out he is missing a limb. Cue a few doses of sedatives and Snake is finally ready to accept his predicament. Just when it appears that things are looking up a new future is imminent, all hell breaks loose and Snake is forced to quickly figure out how to use those leg muscles after nine years and fight for his survival all over again. It’s just one of the numerous heart-pounding moments throughout the game. If you have a heart condition then take the meds before playing because the heart rate will be racing throughout the bulk of this action packed adventure.
An epic beginning that is fitting for an epic game. From the extraordinary opening in Hospital, Snake is transported into Afghanistan, the central background for the Phantom Pain and later to the Angola-Zaire border. Snake, as Big Boss, will command the Diamond Dogs private Army. His mission is to recruit new member into the army (more on that later) and to take down the people who are trying to push their own agendas in a time where global politics is highly unstable.
Metal Gear games have never been made in sequential order and that remains true with The Phantom Pain. Whilst this is basically a prequel to the original Metal Gear from the 80’s, this is essentially the middle part of the Metal Gear story, telling us how Big Boss goes through his transformation. The story is at times brutal, reminding us of the full horror of war. The plot and sub plots with The Phantom Pain are often confronting and unapologetically brutal with Torture, Child Soldiers and the human toll of the nuclear arms race all on display. With such heavy subject matter, there is no tip-toeing around it. Snake will confront these topics head on and fight the battles that we try and turn a blind eye too.
Get familiar with that word choice because it is a central theme in The Phantom Pain. The sheer scale of the game is simply massive. There is just so much to do that there will be times where you’ll be overflowing with choice. The Phantom Pain plays host to an open world environment and there is just so much to do with gameplay that could account for around 100 hours to take in everything on offer and complete every last aspect of the game. The main missions are well paced but there is plenty to distract Snake with well over 100 side missions to sink ones teeth into. Throughout the environments you’ll encounter outposts, sprawling compounds, the fury of nature, to name a few. Be it a vehicle, supplies or useful intel, the rewards are plenty and deciding what to do when presented with so much choice and freedom is likely to be one of your toughest challenges.
When it comes to the mechanics of the game freedom once again comes to the fore. A responsive control scheme gives Snake an excellent platform to get around the environment. The exact method that he chooses to get from A to B is entirely in the hands of the gamer. Walking, crawling, sprinting, hiding, scaling a cliff face, riding a horse or driving a vehicle, you name it Snake can do it. There are numerous times where just about every method is required in order to get around successfully and the control scheme is perfectly thought out to deliver an intuitive, smooth experience, even when transitioning from one method to the next.
An aspect that I really love is the reflex system. For anyone unfamiliar with it, the reflex system will come into play when Snake is spotted by an enemy. Time will slow down briefly to provide Snake with a small window of opportunity to take advantage of the situation and take down the enemy or even dive out of sight, all in an effort to stop the enemy from alerting his mates. For anyone thinking that the reflex system will make the game too easy then just jump into the settings and turn it off and let a real challenge await.
It wouldn’t be a Metal Gear Solid game without some brilliant gadgets and tools so it’s not surprising that a plethora of options await. Getting your hands on the bulk of the tools will involve having your R & D department build the tools. In order to build the tools, a few things are required, time, money, materials and resources. This is partly where that objective of building the numbers in the army come into play. Recruit more soldiers and you’ll have more resources available, some of which will be put into R & D to help get things built. Once the tricks of the trade are built then get ready to call in an air strike, make use of grenade launchers and even utilise a sonar that is activated by punching the ground. Of course there are many more cool toys to use along the way but to name anymore of them would be spoiling the fun.
So you need to build an army but how do you go about it? Recruiting and training new soldiers could be a hugely time consuming process but The Phantom Pain does it in a novel but highly effective manner. When encountering enemy soldiers, instead of killing them, knocking them out becomes a much more strategic move than you’ll be used to. Once an enemy is rendered unconscious a balloon can be strapped to them that will launch them at a million miles an hour into the air and safely deliver them to Mother Base. Mother Base must have a pretty effecient brain washing unit or maybe a neuralizer because within seconds of arrival, your captured enemy will now be working for Snake. As I said, novel but highly effective.
When it comes to the storytelling, graphical and audio aspects of the game, The Phantom Pain flawlessly delivers an experience that rivals Hollywood. I’ve seen some amazing games on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 but The Phantom Pain is really in a class of its own. Everything is highly polished and the animations are superbly fluid. The accompanying soundtrack and voice acting is on par with what you’d expect in a soundtrack accompanying a movie. Add to that a cinemtic presentation, especially in the cut-scenes, and the entire game plays out like a Hollywood Blockbuster.
Right from the very start Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will draw you in and refuse to let go. The freedom of choice and depth of gameplay is unlike anything that has been seen in a Metal Gear game, in fact there would be few console video games in general that can rival The Phantom Pain in this area. The crisp, fluid visuals are an absolute delight, as is the soundtrack, all working together to create a cinematic experience that will no doubt make some Hollywood executives green with envy. The topics that The Phatnom Pain tackles are bold and confronting yet work perfectly to build a unique rapport that will take you on a heart-pounding adventure right from the opening cinematic through to the emotionally charged gut wrenching conclusion. Fans have long debated what game is the best in the Metal Gear series and today that debate is over. Make no mistake, this entry in the Metal Gear series is unrivalled. It sits atop the pile as the best Metal Gear game and manages to climb even higher, sitting at the very peak of video game greatness.
- Brilliantly Cinematic
- Unapologetically Confronting
- Stunning Visuals and Excellent Soundtrack
- Epic, Immense Depth of Gameplay
- Huge Amount of Choice
- Sorry Guys, this is as close to perfect as a game gets