For many fans out there, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain isn’t simply the latest game of the franchise; they see it as the last Metal Gear game the series’ creator will dish out. The Konami versus game designer Hideo Kojima controversy is responsible for various online forums where discussions of disgust and hate towards publisher Konami is the hot topic. Others, however, defend the game, saying that they should treat it as being the creator’s attempt in making the best game of the moment. Regardless of which side you take, regardless of how you feel towards this whole controversy, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain remains a game aching to be played and fully explored.
Back in March 2014, Konami released Ground Zeroes, a short title based in the same universe which is set prior to the events in The Phantom Pain. Although it had the purpose of preparing you for what was about to come, it failed to come even close of doing so due to the lack of elements. That being said, The Phantom Pain is a lot more developed in every aspect, thus making Ground Zeroes look like a bloody rib steak being thrown at a famished Siberian Tiger.
The Phantom Pain takes place right after the event set by Ground Zeroes; you play as “Punished Snake” and “Venom Snake”, Big Boss’ new codenames. Now, after waking up for a coma that lasted nine years, you lead a mercenary group called Diamond Dogs in an attempt to seek revenge over the men responsible for the destruction of Militaires Sans Frontières (MSF). This leads you directly on the Afghan countryside, where your story really starts and shapes up.
When it comes down to story telling, Metal Gear games always delivered the package; cinematics were engaging, the plot was compelling, and the characters were vivid. Unfortunately, The Phantom Pain doesn’t hand over the same level of captivation towards the aforementioned elements. The narrative as a whole lacks memorable moments, disappoints you when it comes down to story telling, and the characters feel like a bunch of actors paid to pass their script on to you and stand on screen with a drastic look on their faces. Additionally, the mentions of revenge, child soldiers and torture captivate you, but aren’t truly explored. Needless to say, the story lacks drive and build up, but nothing can be as uneasy as a sought out character portrayed so neutrally.
However, not all players in this adventure projects such a letdown. Quiet, the sniper in our story, is a perfect example of a wonderfully designed character. As soon as her presence is spotlighted, you feel her warmth and at the same time, her mature ferocity. Imposing a lack of clothing to make her look like an object of lust was totally uncalled for and utterly useless, but the relevance is understandable.
There aren’t many letdowns per say in the game, and that is a great thing. While the story lacks excitement, other elements have such a stronger impact that makes the preceding almost insusceptible. It requires around 30 to 60 hours to complete, all depending on the answers you are seeking and how you engage the game.
Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain isn’t like any other titles from the series. Instead of focusing on a linear gameplay, you find yourself strongly overwhelmed and intimidated by the freedom the open-world offers; the Afghan countryside is a large area and while you have so much to do, it feels as though you truly are challenged by its size. However, what truly jacks your mind up and pumps you is how lively the weather can be and how you can take advantage of Mother Nature’s manifestation.
Say you are in the middle of a mission that requires you to retrieve intel from an enemy base. Beforehand, your intelligence team back as base would have warned you that there will be a change in weather; they said it was going to rain. This seemingly insignificant detail will actually permit you to walk faster and closer to enemies without being caught due to your footsteps being almost muted by the sound of the rain pounding down. You can also take advantage of the night to stealth more efficiently and other changes in weather and time as well.
Since there can be so many variables to work with, the flexible core gameplay makes the title very approachable; you can pretty much take on mission the way you see fit. Let’s say that, for example, you are to eliminate an enemy and retrieve precious intel from his person: you have the liberty of reaching the checkpoint and escaping the way you want. Will you plant C4 to create an explosive distraction, stealthily disable all of the enemies to ease extraction, disrupt communication for a passive confusion, or will you simply act like a reckless mercenary and shoot everyone like a real commando? Regardless of the decision you make, you will have to use all of the tools at hand and everything you have learned in order to succeed.
Going in silently is always the best option; avoid encounters and take down your foes without notice for the best success rate. Of course, this takes a lot more time and preparation, but the result is a lot more rewarding. Getting caught or messing up a mission, however, isn’t the end of the world; the game adjusts itself and keeps the mission alive, but will require you to opt for either plan B or C. One of the most common things that might happen has to be being spotted while trying to hide. If that is to occur, you will enter for a brief period Reflex Time, a feature that slows down time for a few seconds and allows you to take out the bad guys silently to prevent a full combat alert.
Given that the enemy spotted you and forces you to roar your way Rambo-style – the responsive gunplay eases your shooting skill development – reinforcements will start closing in, so you might have to revert your initial strategy and call for backup; you can be aided by close-combat aircrafts if you really need it. Instead of being frustrated by this failure, the mission will progress accordingly. The real fun about this happening: you get to experiment new ways of challenging puzzles and get the opportunity to test out heavier and more interesting toys. The Phantom Pain makes it painless to experiment, so when you get used to the gameplay mechanics, you should force some situations to happen with carefully calculated risks created from mistakes. Tense moments are always welcome in the Metal Gear series.
Fortunately, engaging in active gunplay with massive casualties doesn’t affect your mission rating as much as Ground Zeroes, for example. However, it can end up being really disadvantageous in the long run, since it will ruin your potential Mother Base gains.
Nowadays, games tend to offer players a management position where you deal with your personal ‘army’ of NPCs with their own side missions to complete. Just like in Assassin’s Creed and World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor, to name a couple, your Mother Base requires various resources and recruits to develop construction, staffing and R&D needs. The problem with going berserk in missions and killing everyone, is that it affects your resource collection; every time you play passively, you increase your chances of gaining new recruits and material. That being said, the game promotes a stealthy approach, but doesn’t reinforce it.
Running a successful military organization isn’t cheap: money, manpower and materials are all required and necessary for its evolution and future survival. The more recruits you have means that your Diamond Dogs military team is larger, healthier, and can complete more and more side missions. It can be a hassle to manage such a team, but in the long run, it will help you unlock a vast amount of guns, gadgets and abilities that will make you a better soldier. Acquiring new sidekicks and vehicles also demand several criteria to be fulfilled, so taking some time off of your busy box hiding schedule to develop Mother Base can be very beneficial. Send out the right mercenaries for the right jobs and keep that income flowing in!
Resource management is without any excuse the bread and butter of The Phantom Pain. Interrogating enemies to have them spill out the location of supply trucks, or blacksmiths, for example, might get you far from your main goal, but in the end, in exchange, you will get closer to getting that overpowered modified weapon you were searching for.
Set aside the fast world to explore and the story to get acquainted with, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain offers an online PVP mode called Forward Operation Base (FOB). In addition to your Mother Base, from the campaign mode, FOB allows you to build yet other fortresses to which you can allocate resources, manpower and fixed defenses that you have gained in order to create a strong defence line that will protect you from eventual online perpetrators. Of course, you must defend, but you can also be the one doing the invasions which secures you loot such as resources, enemy nukes and strong recruits.
At the end of the day, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is a respectable masterpiece baring a brand known and loved by many gamers of all ages. It promised to deliver an innovative and memorable gameplay experience mixed with a vast amount of content, and it did. Not only did Konami and Hideo Kojima brought together a fantastic looking game, they ensured that the end product respects the series and most importantly, respects you as a player. Big Boss’ adventure in this title only gets better and better as you progress!
The Phantom Pain is a title that deserves as much respect as you can give it. After all, it was designed by the one and only Kojima-san! Although the controversial story might have you turn against it – the fact that the voice actor was replaced didn’t help the cause – you mustn’t act recklessly and call it a failure; give the game a chance to shine, because it offers everything it needs to put it on the best games of all times list. My statement might seem bold, but nowadays, cheer content, beautiful visuals and engaging gameplay mechanics are an absolute must. I was able to work around the story being unattractive, which honestly wasn’t enough to ruin the exquisite experience I got from the rest of the game’s elements. As for how it looks, I was really impressed with visuals. Honestly, I expected nothing less from this title.