V has come to.
This is it. Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game. Konami confirmed his departure from the company last month and now all that remains is his final chapter in the Metal Gear Saga - Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. How appropriate. The sting of Kojima-san’s departure is very real and yet, his presence can still be felt in this game.
The Phantom Pain has a feeling of finality…yet is incomplete.
Let’s dive into what is the most playable and entertaining Metal Gear experience ever!
Set nine years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, Punished “Venom” Snake wakes up in a hospital in Cyprus only to realize he is missing a forearm as well as sporting a horn of shrapnel. It isn’t long before XOF, a rogue division of Cipher lead by the aptly named Skull Face, sends an assassin to eliminate our hero. Helped by an mysterious fellow patient, Snake escapes and reunites with Revolver “Shalashaska” Ocelot.
After Ocelot’s debriefing, Snake travels to Afghanistan to rescue his fellow MSF comrade Benedict “Kazuhira” Miller from the Soviets. After returning to a new Mother Base with a mutilated Miller, we learn that he and Ocelot have established a new private military force in the Seychelles waters called Diamond Dogs. It is here where Snake begins to take on new missions while at the same time seeking out Skull Face. All for revenge.
Kiefer Sutherland does a great job portraying Snake via motion capture as well as voicing the character…whenever he does speak. Snake didn’t speak too much in this game, most of that is relegated to Miller and Ocelot. Speaking of characters that don’t speak too much - the silent assassin named Quiet, portrayed by Stephenie Joosten, is a mysterious element who deliverers quite a unique physical performance.
One more character to note is Code Talker, portrayed by Jay Tavare, an old Navajo working against his will for Skull Face. He is one of the best additions to Metal Gear since The Boss. It would have been so easy to have a voice actor deliver a stereotypical Native American performance, but he pulls it off faithfully and knocks it right out of the park. Every word he speaks is given weight and meaning. Despite the great performances, exciting set pieces and engaging mission objectives, the second chapter of the story is poorly executed with only a small number of memorable moments. The ending is very clever however, but may disappoint some fans.
Metal Gear Solid 5 focuses a great deal more on user choice and the actual feeling of being a legendary soldier than previous games in the series. Here the focus is on you, the player. You are Big Boss! He has never been more enjoyable to control. The control scheme is the same as last year’s Ground Zeroes. The new streamlined inventory system makes it very easy to access different weapons and gear quickly in order to best handle any situation how you see fit.
There are also options to bring vehicles with you into battle as well as buddies such as D-horse, D-dog and Quiet. D-horse is great for traversing long distances. D-dog is great for tagging enemies during sneaking missions. Quiet is fantastic at scouting as well as providing cover with her sniper rifle. Oh, and there are bipedal units called D-walkers that you can use - complete with a gating gun!
The Fulton Recovery System, which was introduced in Peace Walker, makes its return in The Phantom Pain. It is a good idea to ‘recruit’ enemy combatants out in the field and make them Diamond Dogs via the Fulton. This helps expand your Mother Base and allows you to develop better weapons and equipment for yourself as well as your buddies. And again, it’s only choice that determines what weapons and gear you wish to upgrade.
The Phantom Pain is a stunning game. I played on the PS4 and while there were a few minor bugs, this updated FOX engine is just wonderful to look at. Just like Ground Zeroes before, all the characters look fantastic. The realistic and stylized lightning ‘glitches’ bring character to the environment and add to Metal Gear Solid 5’s visual persentation. Realistic weather effects such as sandstorms, thunderstorms and fog add to the open world experience.
The environments are very well put together and create an incredible backdrop for the game’s numerous main missions and plentiful side-ops. It really is everything gamers have grown to expect from Kojima Productions over the past decade - just at an even higher level of technological prowess and design. Everything from the weapons, character models and vehicles are extremely detailed.
Also, this game is silky smooth. It runs at a high frame rate and the animations of Big Boss, his allies and other NPCs are very well done. The stellar graphics coupled with the lifelike animations make everything flow during game play and create a truly memorable, enjoyable and fun experience. All the pieces form like Voltron to create the most complete Metal Gear experience ever.
EXTRAS & ONLINE
In addition to the main story missions, there are well more than a hundred side-ops to complete. The missions vary from extracting prisoners and highly trained soldiers to eliminating enemy units and removing land mines. There is a good amount of variety, but will start to feel a bit repetitive over time.
Last month, Metal Gear Online was added to the overall package and is a serviceable multiplayer component. You can create your own Metal Gear character with specific abilities depending on your play style. There are also three different modes to choose from - Comm Control, Cloak & Dagger and Bounty Hunter. Comm Control requires teams to control several communication arrays in order to download (or prevent the download) of the other teams data. Cloak & Dagger allows players to use Stealth Camo in better hide themselves before moving in for the kill.
Bounty Hunter is by far my favorite as you and your team have to eliminate the other while at the same time avoiding players who wish to Fulton you instead of kill you. This is because as players rack up kills, a bounty is placed on you and if you get Fultoned successfully - the enemy earns back tickets you took away! However, Metal Gear Online is more of a fun distraction from the singer player campaign rather than a serious threat to Call of Duty and Battlefield as the premier choice is online shooters.