Title: Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain
Platform: Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 (Reviewed on)
Developer: Kojima Productions
Release date: Out Now!
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Personally speaking, this is a game I have wanted to play for a long time.
I’m by no means an ‘expert’ at the series where I can run through the entire game on a speed run without any alerts, though I would say that I’m a veteran of sorts. I’ve played all of the main titles including MGS, MGS2 and MGS3: Snake Eater. The original MGS was actually one of my first PlayStation games so will always hold a special place on my dusty, retro shelf.
Snake Eater was probably my favourite of the series and probably the one title that, with a few predecessors to compare to, proved that the series went from strength to strength.
Admittedly, I almost missed out on the fourth instalment because that was released when I was confused and had defected to the Xbox. I borrowed my brother’s console after much heckling and remembered just what it was like to play a Metal Gear game… blissful.That one itself was yet another title that followed the trend and proved to be another step in the right direction.
I could only hope that The Phantom Pain proved to be much of the same.
This title is actually the first title that doesn’t feature the series regular David Hayter as the voice of Snake. Instead, taking over the reigns is Kiefer Sutherland, or Jack Bauer to any fans of the hit TV show ’24’.
It’s an exciting time to be a part of the gaming culture because since the early days of voice acting in titles (just think – Master of Unlocking in Resident Evil – apologies for the poor quality link) because games have evolved to include some of the world’s most notable celebrities.
A bit of a shame for Mr Hayter but if anyone is suitable enough to voicing a character in an action game, it’s an action specialist like Kiefer.
Ok… me personally, I’m one of those ‘Snake only’ fans that thinks Raiden was a bit of a tool (I only played about 10 minutes of Revengeance and only cleared MGS2 about twice) and The Phantom Pain yet again promised to deliver so all things considered, with pride… I opened the game carton and loaded up the game.
Included in the game carton was a map and I got quite a sad feeling. A lot of articles and previews of the title praised the open world approach the game was taking and seemed very eager to explore what Konami/Kojima could do with it.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was not sold on it at all.
As a massive fan of the originals, I loved the idea of enemies being on pre-set routes where sheer mastery of the game and its mechanics could see the player effortlessly sneak through and feel good about it. The award in itself was moving from location to location with ease and getting the famed blackout/loading screens with area names as your guide.
To me, they were small victories on the journey that an open world couldn’t replicate.
With Metal Gear Solid games, I’ve always enjoyed the story-lines themselves but always appreciated the execution of them even more.
Metal Gear isn’t afraid to pull in a whirlwind of emotions and aim to get the player in tears of sadness whilst making them laugh out loud; but it weaves conflicting elements of comedy and tragedy in such tremendous fashion by not taking itself too seriously in the interim.
It’s perhaps the only title that I’ll admit has had me so lost in the story but can sneakily remind me at the most inopportune moments that I’m playing a game, snapping me back into reality (take the exclamation mark mohican individual from the fourth title, or Psycho Mantis commenting on your memory card saves in the first).
All in all, the game might have been taking a new direction of sorts… but I had faith. My personal feelings on Raiden aside, the Metal Gear series has never really let me down.
From the very beginning… I was hooked. The prologue is detailed and justified in its long but well-paced approach; likely to re-familiarise players with the controls, whilst introducing new ones to them.
Fast forwarding the prologue and getting into the bulk of the game, I have to admit that I found myself getting bored travelling between locations, even if the game did give me a horse for my troubles. Even worse when you prefer the use of a different buddy – notably the D-walker, D-Dog (my favourite), Quiet… your speed is slightly reduced unless you fly in a vehicle for assistance. Though the game allows for you to switch buddies, you need to spend the in-game GMP currency to switch, which isn’t much on the grand scale of things but if you are running a little low – you can feel that it really does add up.
However, a point I will note is that I was very keen on completing side-ops alongside the main story and found myself back tracking across places that I recognised. A lot of my time traversing the world was self inflicted but not necessarily mandatory. I just wanted to get the most out of the game so couldn’t complain really.
It’s worth mentioning that even in vehicles, the travelling aspects seemed painfully slow. Perhaps it’s a way of casually hiding and preventing much loading screens in game but it felt like the world was a little ‘too big’ as a result.
Naturally as an impatient player when I know I have thousands of metres between me and an objective, I try to take shortcuts and avoid the roads. The way the horse handles off road and suddenly stops at edges/rock walls shown some poor design elements that lacked realism but I figured I was splitting hairs on the grand scale of things.
I did however, in amongst the frustrations, really like the idea of the Fulton recovery device; ideal for capturing sentries, turrets, animals, vehicles and consumables (fuel, metals etc) for your ‘Mother Base’. Mother Base is Snake’s main hub of operations where he pushes to rebuild ‘Diamond Dogs’ and the whole capture endeavour really seen the open world element flourish.
This element of the game was actually pretty amazing. To watch your base flourish with multiple platforms and more, was truly amazing. To touch base on the distance aspect of travel… some of the bridges between locations could have been a bit smaller but again, I’m splitting hairs!
Going back to using the Fulton… I’ll admit that firing loads of tranquilliser rounds and hooking up a brown bear to a parachute and hearing it roar as you send it back to back to base is extremely amusing. It’s as equally amusing with vultures/sheep etc…
Nevertheless, hilarity aside… it made me realise that the small things and jolts of humour that are still injected into the game really made it feel like a Metal Gear game – it’s not all ‘serious’… it’s fun too.
I actually ended up going through most of the game armed only with tranquilliser guns, or equally non-lethal armaments to ensure that my staff count was constantly buffered with new, higher ranking recruits and my resources were never running low.
The game isn’t all about Snake or mother base either. As the leader of Diamond Dogs, it’s up to you to manage your staff and ensure they are assigned to the best locations possible. Granted, you can auto assign but it made for a welcomed simulation side job. You don’t even need to play as Snake. You can pick a staff member and let them go out into the field!
The game might have seemed slow to begin with but it just got better and better. Travel times didn’t matter because I was likely going to have something to keep me occupied in between (the epic battle with Quiet for example or the escape with Emmerich as you chased by *spoiler alert*, the Skulls – that’s just in chapter one!). I could continue but I’d end up just summarising the whole game. My point is simply that the game naturally flowed as I got into the bulk of it and my initial complaints seemed premature. I actually enjoyed exploring or travelling because something could happen at any time.
The open world warmed to me, quickly.
Older titles might have had one specific route that could lead to a perfect area run but the open world approach permitted multiple. The Phantom Pain has truly opened up Metal Gear to accommodate for the most patient player, to the least. Run and gun, perfect stealth or a combination of the two… it’s up to the individual player to decide.
You can focus on the story alone, include every side op and build the best, fully equipped Mother Base possible.
You can even assault other player’s bases online and try to steal their staff or resources so the re-playability aspect of the game is not only apparent but encouraged with both single player and online mission objectives.
I don’t want to spoil anything but I figured out who the Flaming Man was quite early on. It was nice to see the game stick to the backstory already in place.
All in all… this doesn’t feel like a game that was rushed and released quickly for cash. A lot of time, effort and I suppose, respect for the fans is poured into it and it was executed perfectly.
The game is sheer perfection and doesn’t miss a step. Definitely makes my list of best games ever played.
I honestly cannot fault it and would encourage every gamer, hardcore or otherwise to give it a try.
You’ll truly witness a masterpiece. Undoubtedly a contender for Game of the Year!
If Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain is anything to go by, we are simply moving from strength to strength.
I can’t wait to see what is round the corner for gaming.
- It is Metal Gear Solid, what else needs said?
- Kiefer Sutherland does Snake justice.
- A fully immersive, breathing world.
- Action packed.
- Stunning storyline.
- Amazing soundtrack.
- One of the best games I have ever played.
- My initial complaint about travel time aside – nothing.
Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain is definitely made for the more mature audience.