Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review

By: Razielhqdefault

I entered the airport by jumping over an unsecured fence I hadn’t seen the two previous times I was here. My mission was to first identify an arms dealer and an official that were having a meeting, then extract or kill the official. I took my buddy D-Dog with me and he spotted 20 heavily-armed guards  patrolling the area around the main terminal, so I figured I should take my time tranquilizing, choking, and interrogating some of them before I go after the target. After 10 minutes of quietly taking care of most of the guards, checking my Instagram and Twitter, and stealing the guards´ resources, I received an intel report that a helicopter was suddenly on its way to pick up the official and the arms dealer and I couldn’t let them leave the airport. Taking my time with the guards and listening to The Final Countdown on my iDroid (the game’s iPad that lets you check mission objectives and the map, Mother Base’s status, and call for support)

was a mistake. I had very little time to act, so I considered killing everyone in the main terminal because none of the soldiers I interrogated gave me an exact location of the official and arms dealer.  I’d risk taking heavy damage and probably death in the firefight or my escape because I hadn’t destroyed the soldiers’ radios which allowed them to call for reinforcements, but I’d complete my mission.

Then I remembered that I had destroyed the anti-air radar on a previous side op at this location, so I decided to prone in the darkness and waited for the enemy helicopter to land. Intel told me that my targets were about 20 seconds from reaching the helicopter, so I called in an airstrike on the helicopter. My support team sent the airstrike in about 15 seconds and destroyed the helicopter before the targets reached it. The alarms at the airport started blaring and the targets were on the move trying to escape the building. I raced to the terminal’s main exit and saw the targets running toward it. I pulled out my tranquilizer pistol and shot both of them in the head in slow motion as soon as we were about to have our loving airport reunion. I managed to quickly extract the arms dealer with my Fulton device (a portable balloon that lets you extract people, vehicles, weapons, and cargo in the field), but the remaining guards were quickly surrounding me like the hyenas surrounded Scar, so they weren’t going to let me extract the official, so I picked him up and called in my helicopter to extract me in the middle of the airport while D-Dog and I ran to find cover behind some cargo containers.

Pequod, my chopper’s pilot with 15 lines in the entire game and my favorite character, arrived with little resistance and landed in the middle of the airport due to the destroyed anti-air radar. A guard noticed me as Pequod was touching down, so I sprinted toward him while hoping I could dodge the bullets coming from every direction. I put the official on the chopper, climbed up, and immediately took hold of the gatling gun to provide cover fire as Pequod lifted off. One guard shot a missile at us, but I shot and destroyed it in the air which allowed us to finally escape the hot zone with barely any health left.

That was just one main mission in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

MGSV is the first complete Metal Gear game in Hideo Kojima and Konami’s long-running series that simultaneously launches on multiple platforms, and it’s definitely the most accessible MG yet. Newcomers to the series don’t have to worry about getting lost in story and lore that is as confusing as War and Peace because MGSV doesn’t have long cutscenes like previous games, but short scenes that are supplemented with cassette tapes that you can listen to while you’re out in the world knocking soldiers out and hiding them in dumpsters and portable bathrooms. A lack of cutscenes may turn off series veterans, but the overall focus on the open-world gameplay gives players the opportunities to create their own memorable stories that no one else will care to hear you describe or post on Facebook like your friend’s cliché backpacking trip in Europe.

The game has you playing as Big Boss AKA Venom Snake and leading a new group of soldiers called Diamond Dogs in Afghanistan and Angola during the Soviet-Afghan War after waking up from a nine-year coma. You are on a mission to find clues that’ll lead you to the people responsible for Mother Base’s destruction almost a decade earlier. The story is light and fast-paced, and there isn’t much character development for anyone, but the dialogue and voice acting is not as cheesy as in previous games. I liked that the story attempts to tackle more serious themes about war, child soldiers, and the cost of doing what is necessary, but the game never tried to make you question your actions or some of the more mature themes; it just tells you that they exist and they are a problem, but it doesn’t go any deeper with the characters involved like the typical Upworthy video or social media post about an important issue. The last third of the game’s story also feels awkward and incomplete because the missions don’t unlock with natural progression, and it leaves some important storylines without an ending.

The main missions have you saving prisoners, eliminating officials, extracting cargo and intel, and more while traveling to various outposts and locations in the world. While some of the main missions are very intense and full of tension like the one I described earlier, some aren’t challenging at all and raise your expectations before dropping the tension at poorly-timed moments. It’s disappointing when you’re carrying an important item or intel out of an enemy stronghold in a sandstorm with enemies chasing and shooting you, when the enemies suddenly decide to stop chasing you and you’re still half a mile away from your helicopter that is waiting to extract you; it’s a worse feeling than when she gives you a glimmer of hope that you’ll get out of the friend zone.

What makes MGSV great is the opportunity to complete a mission in a variety of ways. You start most missions from your command center and decide what time of day or night and where to land, what guns, items, and vehicles to take, and which buddy (a horse for travel, a dog for recon, or a sniper for cover) to take with you. You can attempt to be Rambo by landing right next to your objective where enemies will start firing at you as soon as they see your helicopter, but you can quickly ride your horse into the outpost and kill enemies while riding circles around them, or just blow them up with your tank. Other players might decide to be a ghost and land a safe distance away in the mountains and slowly make their way toward their objective with only tranquilizer guns, camouflage, distractions, and their hands to strangle or knock guards out quietly.

There are dozens of main missions, but there are also over 150 side ops. These are fun because they give you the same freedom you have in the main missions and you can travel from one side op to the other like you would in an open-world. However, you quickly realize that you return to the same outposts and bases from previous missions multiple times and guards are in the same position with similar patterns. You would assume that these well-trained soldiers that noticed a slaughter or a ghost town at a base would change security measures for the next group of guards they place at a base, but things stay the same. Even when you return to a base that you had previously infiltrated, you can overhear new guards discussing rumors of a soldier with one-eye that is a one-man army and is taking everyone out, but their security didn’t change. I suppose this is why the Soviets lost the war to ´MERICA.

The repetitiveness of the side ops reminds you of how empty, static, and disconnected the open-world feels in this game at times. Yes, you are in a warzone with little to no civilians, but there’s hardly a war going on without your interaction like in Far Cry. The wildlife never interacts with the enemies and there isn’t much variety even when you’re in Africa. The soldiers and prisoners you extract or eliminate could’ve had their own subplots to invest you emotionally, but there’s no incentive besides doing it because it’s on the list and for improving your Mother Base.

Overall, the AI in this game is much better than in previous games as guards and patrols won’t ignore you after a few minutes of a failed search, but it’s still inconsistent. Sometimes the guards have the eyes of a hawk and can see you from 200 feet away in darkness, and sometimes they’re like Stevie Wonder when you’re choking a guard five feet away from them. Guards do adapt to your play style over time as they’ll wear more helmets if you take out previous guards with headshots, body armor if you go for body shots, they’ll use night vision goggles if you frequently do your missions at night.

No matter what approach you take, MGSV has fixed the clunky controls from past games in the series. Snake is agile and his animations are quick, so you aren’t stuck in a motion for too long. The d-pad was too sensitive during some moments when switching items which lead to throwing a hand grenade instead of a stun grenade, but those moments are so rare that you forgive Kojima when you accidentally kill a hostage or a sheep instead of carrying them out of a base.

The sound in this game is fantastic as you can easily hear enemy footsteps, conversations, the sounds that different guns make, the rush of a tank shooting you, or an enemy helicopter following you. You’ll definitely want to play this game with a great headset or surround sound.  Complementing this is the soundtrack which ranges from classical to popular 80’s music which makes you feel as if you are in the era. There is something special about riding around on your horse mowing down dozens of soldiers with your customized machine gun while wearing a chicken suit and listening to A-Ha’s Take On Me.

MGSV also has a metagame similar to Clash of Clans that has you looking for resources, and soldiers to improve your Mother Base. This is Diamond Dogs’ headquarters that allows you to develop and upgrade weapons, items, outfits, vehicles that you´ll take on your mission, and call in airstrikes, air support, sleeping gas, and more out in the field. Your base starts out as the equivalent of a mudhouse with one platform and grade-E soldiers, but you are given a device called a Fulton to extract soldiers and items while you’re on your mission. As you extract and enslave better enemy soldiers that the volunteers that you started out with and find precious resources, you’ll upgrade your Mother Base to the size of a fortress with talented staff members that hate you for taking them away from their families, but will put a smile on their face while they pimp your suit and guns out with a new paint job. It seems overwhelming at first with so many options to assign staff to different units and the ability to send some of them on their own missions, but it eventually becomes simple.

After your base has grown strong enough, you can start invading other players online to steal their resources and staff members. You deploy to their FOB (Forward Operating Base) and your goal is to make it to the core of staff’s platform while killing, tranquilizing, or extracting soldiers and stealing resources for maximum theft. You have about 25 minutes to make it to the center of their Tootsie pop with only one life. If the player’s guards kill you, then you will not take any of the soldiers or resources you had already extracted, so you will have wasted all your money and time for nothing.

When a player’s FOB is invaded, the player is messaged if he is online and asked if they want to interrupt their mission or selfie-taking time to defend their FOB. The player can say yes and they’ll take control of one of their security guards and join the hunt for the invading player. If a defending player’s guard dies, then they’ll take control of one that is alive. This mode can be exciting at times when the opposing player has smart security guards and surveillance, and when the defending player is online to take control of their defense as it becomes a game of cat and mouse.

FOB mode still has some issues with its guards and platform layout as most platforms and guard patrols are similar, so players can memorize a layout, the best landing site, and guard patterns and easily make it to the core of a platform repeatedly. The metagame could’ve used randomized guard patrols and layouts to make the mode more difficult for invading players, and more Mother Base and FOB personalization to make bases not look like cookie-cutter houses in some American suburbs.

MGSV is one of my favorite games of the past few years and definitely my favorite stealth-action game. Its change to an open-world design allows veterans to test themselves and newcomers to easily try out any method they want to complete missions. You’ll have fun trying different techniques and equipment loadouts while creating your own stories and you’ll feel like a great espionage agent with smooth controls and movement. The game’s story, while feeling incomplete at the end, takes about 40 hours, but, in the end, you choose your own pace.

However, a change to an open-world also demands higher expectations and MGSV’s decision to cut down on a main story could’ve led to a strong focus on the open-world itself and its side ops. The world and its missions are not as dynamic and varied as they could’ve been, and the AI is still not up to par with its gameplay mechanics. This is truly a great game that does everything well, but it doesn’t do enough things to stand out and innovate amongst other open-world games. Maybe if Konami had given Kojima the extra resources and time he wanted, he would’ve fully painted his masterpiece.



+ A variety of ways to complete missions leads to memorable, personal stories

+ Top-notch sound and graphics and polished gameplay

+ Accessible main storyline


– Side ops become repetitive with the same outposts, bases, and guard patterns every time you infiltrate

-Lack of emotional investment in Side ops and awkward storytelling in the last act

-Inconsistent AI that both disappoints and infuriates you

Raziel AKA Papa Razi didn’t realize he was an addict until he noticed that pop culture is his meth. You can discuss video games, movies, TV series, and sports with him at any time and he’ll be ready like Pavlov’s dog.

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