It was a hard-fought battle, but the Middle of Nowhere Gaming staff has come to its decision. 2015’s Middle of Nowhere Gaming Game of the Year is…
Not so long ago, I completed my first playthrough of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and like many loyal Metal Gear fans before me, my initial reaction to the finale was more than slight disappointment. For myself, in light of recent developments this past year concerning games publisher Konami and series creator Hideo Kojima, MGSV marked the last installment in a beloved franchise. I had somehow expected the entire story arc to be complete by the end of this title, but it’s simply not. For those who have searched the game in vain for an Episode 51 in the 50 Episode campaign, you know, deep down, that the vision for this game appears to have not been brought to its truest fruition. In many’s eyes, the game was not finished. And yet, this is Middle of Nowhere Gaming’s Game of the Year; here’s why.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is an extraordinary feat in gameplay. Boot up the game, work through its stylishly directed introduction, and eventually start throwing Fulton Recovery Devices onto everything you see. You’ll soon understand how much fun there is to be had in this sandbox. Often, it’s hard to believe that any idea for creating a dynamic world was left on the cutting room floor. Get covered in blood and refuse to take a shower for multiple missions at a time? Big Boss is going to get rank and easier to detect. Forget to send your recruits on missions to diminish the enemy’s supplies? Expect a lot more resistance when infiltrating a base. The dynamic weather system is yet another aspect that delivers some of the greatest rewards in gameplay. And these are just mere examples of what Kojima Productions was able to think up and implement for the Metal Gear swan song.
And yet, we cannot ignore that the game’s story ends unexpectedly. SPOILERS ahead. You’ve been warned.
After the events at Mother Base nine years ago, Big Boss and Kazuhira Miller are forever changed both physically and mentally. For much of the campaign, their main goal is to exact revenge on those who stole everything from them. Skull Face becomes the subject of their ire, and when they finally seem to have reached the conclusion they desire, even the sweet cruelty of that event is stolen from them. The game could end there. It concludes in a dramatic fight with Sahelanthropus and our protagonists learn that their vengeance has brought them no peace. Instead, the plot aimlessly continues in a second chapter, forcing Big Boss to replay old missions on higher difficulties, seldom offering anymore scenes to the convoluted plot the series is known and loved for. And then it wraps up with one last twist that could have been revealed earlier, and an open-ended story arc that only reaches its conclusion in additional content on a separate disc only available in the Collector’s Edition of the game. Why?
2015 was a year marred with a gaming news cycle focused on the events of a singular conflict between Hideo Kojima and Konami. Although the specifics of this split remain unknown, there are undeniable similarities between the real-world situation and the fiction within Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Drawing the lines, we’re left to wonder if the state the game ends in was not a masterful statement against the gaming industry’s established figures, revealing the mess made of art when corporate politics and greed interfere. Perhaps that feeling of loss and emptiness Big Boss and Miller share in the end should not be lost on the player. Perhaps in its imperfection, this title transcends the fourth wall Hideo Kojima is so fond of breaking, and the phantom pain is not for our heroes to suffer alone, but ours to feel for the ever-distant peace the Metal Gear series will persist in.
It strikes at the core of our innermost fears and desires as gamers. It asks us to carefully consider how we approach the complex themes our games introduce. It’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, 2015’s Game of the Year.
Jordan Loeffler is Editor in Chief for MONG who drives a 2006 Pontiac Vibe with Minnesota license plates even though he lives in Portland, OR. She’s seafoam green, and she drives like a wave. You can also follow him on IGN and on Twitter.