It’s only fitting that the franchise that popularized stealth, has returned to revitalize the dying genre. The culmination of a franchise that has spanned nearly 30 years, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a masterpiece like no other. As with most open world games, The Phantom Pain can not be simply stuffed into one genre. It’s an RPG as much as it is a stealth or action game. Due to the sheer amount of content in the game, my review will be broken into two parts. Part 1 will focus on stealth, while Part 2 will focus on story elements, Mother Base, FOB, etc. Sit back folks, this is one hell of a ride.
Developer: Kojima Productions
Format: Xbox one
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
The Phantom Pain (TPP) is unlike any other Metal Gear Solid game before it. As stated by Kojima, if the other entries into the series felt like movies, TPP feels more like a television show. Yes the credits do roll at the end of every mission and there are even a few “to be continued” moments, but the idea goes much beyond that.
With the world being so open for exploration, it is really up to the player on how and when the story progresses. Much like any other open world game, you can finish a mission and free-roam the map with tons of options at your disposal. Much of these distractions are aligned with the newly fleshed out Mother Base.
The Mother Base was introduced in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, but TPP has taken the idea an expanded to match the scale of the game. The Mother Base is a metagame that affects nearly every aspect of TPP. As you gather soldiers to form your army, each of the XXX teams will gain experience and unlock new abilities. The R&D team creates new and powerful weapons and gadgets; the Intel team reveals enemy and resources during missions; the Medical team keeps your staff healthy; the Support team improves supply drops and artillery strikes; the Combat Unit can be deployed to missions for money and resources; and the Base Development team creates materials on a constant bases.
Each and every team in your Mother Base is vital to your success. During mission, you’ll quickly become consumed with extracting soldiers, finding blueprints, and locating specialists all in the name of furthering your Mother Base. With a maximum level of 50, TPP does a very nice job at slowly feeding you more new gadgets as your teams rank up. Items such as silenced snipers, wormhole fultons, the parasite suit, and more were slowly given to me throughout my entire 80 hour experience. This is possibly the best example, and probably most overlooked, of an RPG/open world game consistently providing you with new gameplay experiences long after you start.
The other aspect to the Mother Base are the additional Forward Operating Bases (FOB). These are extra (and optional) bases that you can create to provide added bonuses to your Mother Base. The main difference being the FOB’s are connected online and thus are open to invasion by other players. Once you unlock the FOBs you can begin invading other players bases and stealing their resources and soldiers before extracting. If discovered, however, the other player will be alerted and come to the defense of their base. I only barely scratched the surface of this mode due to server issues, but it doesn’t seem like a minor addition to the game. With leaderboards, a “clan” system, rivals, and more, the FOB is a fully fleshed out experience.
*Metal Gear Online is not available at the time of this review*
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)
- Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (2006)
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010)
- Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes (2014)
- Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain (2015)
- Metal Gear (1987)
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Solid Snake (1990)
- Metal Gear Solid (1998)
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001)
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)
- Metal Gear Rising (2013)
My problem was that I didn’t really get into Metal Gear until Metal Gear Solid 4. After that I played Peace Walker, Rising, Ground Zeroes, and finally The Phantom Pain. But as you can see from the story timeline, those games jump all over the place. There are videos online that sum up the story, and trust me I watched them, but it still didn’t help the my facts being so jumbled up.
The main problem I had with the story is how new characters are presented. Eli, who is Liquid Snake, enters the picture for no real reason. If you didn’t have prior background knowledge on Liquid, you really have no idea of this random blond kids purpose. He simply shows up, is always angry, the steals a Metal Gear and runs away. The information you needed to know is that he is in fact a young Liquid Snake and that you are simply watching his childhood unfold.
Another similar character is the floating boy. The game never outright says it, but he is obviously a young Psycho Mantis. Again, he’s there, he’s fucking things up, and then he leaves. The really isn’t a rhyme or reason to anything he’s doing. But as is the case with Eli, you need to have the background knowledge of Psycho Mantis.
Quiet on the other hand is completely new to the series. Before the game released there was a lot of attention being drawn due to her “costume”. Like any other form of art, TPP created a believable reason as to why Quiet was forced to wear a bikini and fishnets leggings and barely speak a word throughout the game. I didn’t find any issue with this, but the explanation seemed like somewhat of a stretch, even for a Metal Gear game.
The final main character was Skull Face, who really seemed like a throwaway villain. He isn’t is the game all that much and simply dies near the end without a any type of bang. He main purpose for existing is likely due to the genius of Kojima and the team to embedded a new character in a story where the beginning and end are set in stone. What should be one of the most applauded aspects of TPP, was their ability to pull off this feat.
Finally comes the twist. Again, the twist is implemented in a way to appease the fans and tie up loose ends in a 20 year long franchise. The fact that there are two Big Bosses explains how Solid Snake kills one and there is still another. My biggest issue with the ending is how it is not clearly laid out the to player. Mission 45 appears to be the end of the game as it is clearly the end of Quiet’s story, however Mission 46 is the true ending. The problem is that the game does not tell you how to unlock Mission 46. Hell, I could barely even tell I was missing it! Konami even went as far as to not include the unlock requirements in the strategy guide. It’s one thing to keep the ending under wraps, but this seems a little too extreme. I wouldn’t be surprised if people finished Mission 45 and stopped playing the game thinking they were done.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is easily one of the best games I have ever played. The open world aspect lends perfectly to the Mother Base, FOB, and various other aspects of the game. The story can be played at your own pace and there is an enormous amount of activities to do between them. The music is superb and the graphics are gorgeous. The servers however are unforgivable and the missable, critical story elements are questionable. I also experienced a reoccurring frame rate issue that seems to only affect the Xbox One version. On top of that I couldn’t help but to imagine Jack Bauer every time Snake spoke.
It has a few minor issues but no game is perfect. Our review scale is based on 10 being a “Monumental” game and that describes Phantom Pain to a tee. A classic in the making, this was the best any fan could hope for as the final entry in a storied franchise. I can’t wait to see the next chapter for Kojima, and am glad to be apart of the story. We are all Big Boss… Nope, that’s too cheesy.
Part 2 Summary:
+ Mother Base
– Server Issues
– Missable Story Elements
– Keifer Sutherland
– Frame rate drops
Score: 10/10 “Monumental”