The Best is Here
I am going to be realistic here; anybody that reads this review probably already knowS that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a fantastic game and one of the best games of the year. In case you are still here, I will explain why I think that statement is true.
Sneaking around and avoiding curious guards is the forte of the Metal Gear Solid series. Sneaking around and avoiding guards with great controls is not its forte. Thankfully, The Phantom Pain does both gracefully, and is easily the Metal Gear Solid with the best gameplay. The control scheme is unique, but it is very intuitive. Occasionally, I struggled on sloped surfaces that caused me to crouch when I wanted to be prone, and the inventory system is a little sensitive, but other than that, Snake moves perfectly.
The past Metal Gear Solid games were linear, with just one way to the goal. There was some wiggle room every once in awhile and the games always provided a variety of weapons and tools to use. As someone that loves the past games in the series, the extra tools felt unnecessary and I rarely found uses for them. The Phantom Pain solves that problem by setting each mission in a large chunk of an even bigger open world and gives a goal that can be accomplished multiple ways. Oh, I need to stop a convoy from getting to a location? I could ride up to it on my steed D-Horse and introduce the convoy to my rocket launcher. Or I could place a bunch of C4 and watch the fireworks from a safe position. OR I could fulton them and add the vehicles to my private army.
A perfect example of this variety and one of my favorite moments came from a boss fight against a sniper. It feels like an evolution of The End boss fight from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, which itself felt like an evolution of the Sniper Wolf boss fight from the original Metal Gear Solid. I did what my instincts told me and pulled out my own sniper rifle and started to try and locate the enemy. Before I make it sound like I suck at the game, this was a harder version of the fight that is unlocked later in the game. This time the opposing sniper, could kill me in one hit and was much more perceptive. I spent an hour running around, trying to spot her, only to get gunned down out of nowhere. Right as I was about to give up I realized something: why should I play fair? So I got a tank delivered to me and chased her around the map, and blasted away until she gave up and realized she should not bring a sniper rifle to a tank fight.
As mentioned earlier, the The Phantom Pain is an open world and features two large maps. I actually think they are a little too large. There is a vast amount of nothingness between the bases and outposts, and the fastest transportation is Big Boss’ trusty steed, Diamond Horse (often shortened to D-Horse). However, D-Horse is almost useless in combat, so I stopped using him when other buddies became available. There is a fast travel system in the game, but it is rather inconvenient and only explained once discovered. It requires finding delivery points in bases and hiding inside a cardboard box to get delivered to the desired location. However, to go to a delivery point, it must have been visited previously. On top of that delivery points cannot be used if enemies are alerted, which is rather easy since delivery points are located near enemies. It requires so many hoops to jump through that I ended up just sprinting everywhere, which is also made difficult by the rocky formations all around the place.
On top of the great basic gameplay, there is another layer that The Phantom Pain features; base management. While Snake is sneaking around, he can capture men, gun emplacements, and cargo containers to be used at Mother Base. The base can be used to develop a ridiculous amount of weapons, (I have never seen so many gun choices in a game before), provide different types of air support, and send troops out on missions. Again, the systems presented there are vast, and actually a bit overwhelming. The menu layout for the base has so many options, it took me awhile before I knew where everything was without having to pause for a minute or two and try to figure it out. It definitely could be laid out better.
Another mechanic that is added on later in the game are Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). They do what other platform upgrades do at Mother Base, such as increased population cap and faster resource processing time, but they can also be invaded by other players. If the players are successful, they make off with some staff and maybe even some resources. It’s a fine idea, but participation is forced and the game is clearly designed for it. Without upgrading the FOB, the main Mother Base’s population cap will be hit very quickly, and it takes a much longer time to process resources. Not only that, but the process resource system seems to exist solely to have something available for other players to take. Resources can be found within the game, and they are used to expand Mother Base, create upgrades, and even take certain equipment out into the field. However, instead of being usable right away, they have to be processed, and if you have an upgraded FOB, most of the unprocessed resources are located there, which is why players can take them. It is a frustrating implementation and I would have a much bigger main Mother Base if resources were instantly usable.
A hot way to market games nowadays is to tell everyone that it runs at 1080p and 60 FPS. What that usually means, is that the game can technically run at 60 frames, but regularly drops to the 40s or even 30s. I played The Phantom Pain on the PS4 and experienced a handful of noticeable frame rate drops that lasted two seconds at maximum. One of the last missions features several armored vehicles launching projectiles at Snake, and when I played that mission a sandstorm blew through the area. It was the most amount of action I have faced, and the frame rate did not drop. The game is no pushover when it comes to graphics. Character models look real, and in the hospital, I noticed that movement in Snake’s muscles can be seen. It may not be the best looking game ever, but with the amount of systems running in the background, and the expansive world, it is one of the best running games this gen.
Metal Gear Solid is known for its long winded cutscenes and codec calls; that is basically absent from The Phantom Pain. The only thing that comes close to the usual length is the hour long prologue, which often feels like one long cutscene. It does have some playable moments, but is the only real linear moment in the game. I do not know if the story suffers from a lack of them, but the story is the weakest one in the main Metal Gear Solid series. (I am excluding the original two Metal Gears in that due to the fact they were released at a time where cutscenes and plot were minimal in video games, and yet they had a few plot twists. Without getting into specifics, I feel like it adds little development to returning characters, and new characters are forgettable at best, bad at worst. Most of the important exposition are in cassette tapes that unlock periodically, which seem to be a substitute for codec calls from the previous games. The fact that this is supposedly the last Kojima supported Metal Gear disappoints me, and I actually would have preferred if this game was not connected to the franchise at all.
The Verdict: 9.5 out of 10
I feel a little weird about expressing extreme disappointment and then scoring the game so highly. That is a testament to how fantastic the moment to moment gameplay is. There is a vast amount of possibilities, including ones that are not stealthy. It is some of the most fun I have ever had with a video game, and hopefully it is an inspiration for other games. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is one of the best games of the year and the most fun the series has ever been.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Riley Berry is an Associate Writer for MONG, who would totally replace his arm with a bionic one if he could launch it like a rocket. You can follow him on Twitter.