Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Reviewed on: PS4
Distributor: Ster Kinekor
Developer: Kojima Productions
Release Date: 1 September 2015
Price: R699 PC / R799 Console
*This review contains no spoilers and is strictly based off the single player portion of the game, as the online portion is only going live in October 2015. Although I did not complete the game, as it is pretty long, this review and its score represents my overall experience with the game within the given time I had with it. I do not need to justify my opinion in anyway as I was extremely pleased with the experience that the game offered during my time with it and I trust that it will continue to entertain me way past its initial release*
With all the drama surrounding Kojima and Konami, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain managed to release without a hitch, and will probably be one of the most successful Metal Gear solid titles in the series. Saying that, the game takes our favourite stealth mechanics, flashy cinematics, light humour, and the most iconic Metal Gear Solid characters, and mixed them around a little, but still stays true to the Metal Gear Solid franchise.
Set 9 years after the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Big Boss has fallen into a coma after the destruction of the MSF, and awakens in the middle of a war, a war that puts him at the centre of the action. Adopting a new name “Venom Snake”, he makes his way to Afghanistan to put a stop to Cipher, the man responsible for the attack on the MFS. Big Boss has teamed up with the Diamond Dogs, a military group that have formed in order to help stop Cipher, but this is still a Kojima game at heart, which means there will be so much more going on than you think.
About 3 hours into the game, it will start to set a steady pace, whereas you will begin to understand how it works, and how each mechanic in the game plays out. The intro to the game is pretty lengthily putting it lightly, so don’t expect to just jump right into the game and start playing, and for the first 2 hours, you will be extremely confused. Saying that, it is of utmost importance that you play through Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, or even hit up Wikipedia to brush up on the events of Ground Zeroes, and Metal Gear Solid in general.
Once you have played through the intro, and have been introduced to the Diamond Dogs, and Mother Base, you will then begin to understand how Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain sets itself apart from other titles in the series. It is a process that you will begin to familiarise yourself with. You start off in a helicopter, choose a mission, a drop off location, change your loadout, and get dropped into the mountains. Your objectives are pretty clear for each mission and in case you get lost you can call on support to guide you. Stealth is vital, but not as forced as you make your way into an enemy’s base tagging enemies ahead of time with your binoculars. Depending on what time of day you decide to drop in on the mission, this will alter the difficulty accordingly. At night for example, more spot lights will be around looking for you, but you will be harder to see in the shadows. During the day, it is harder to get around, but enemies will not be as hostile.
The Phantom Pain focuses on three main themes, exploration, stealth, and base management. In the new massive world all three of these themes will be put to the test as you play through the game. This time around there is an expansive world to explore as you take on missions, capture enemies, and complete Side Ops missions. There are a variety of main missions, these missions will focus on the main game’s storyline and although most of them might not seem to progress the main story, they will unlock a new mission.
The militia that you go up against are smarter, they learn your movements and actions and will start to adapt to them accordingly. If you are always using the stun pistol and getting headshots with it, they will start to wear helmets that make it harder to do so. Hiding in toilets and under beds constantly will not work the more you stick to your ways. You have to try keep a variety, and although you might not like it, there are so many ways to experiment with tactics that it is actually a good thing that the game forces you to be versatile.
You can explore the world by either selecting Side Ops missions, or just free roam mode, where you can infiltrate enemy bases, gather intel, plan you approach for an upcoming mission, or just gather resources. As much as I want to say I love the idea of the open world, it is dull and lifeless, there is very little to keep you busy, and getting from one point to another is a whole other story due to the large mountains that block direct paths to your waypoints, forcing you to go around. Although your horse makes things a little faster, it is still really tedious and just not ideal. The world kind of feels like a pre-beta environment that is still awaiting all its added mechanics.
Each main mission takes on an episodic form, you start-up the mission and credit rolls, like the beginning of a TV show. You can skip them, thankfully, because they become extremely repetitive. At the end of a mission all your resources you gained throughout the mission, like diamonds you pick up, herbs you gather in the wilderness, and Intel get added to you iDroid, which is your personal digital companion.
The iDroid is the hub of all things Mother Base related, map related, and even vital to getting out of a mission by calling a helicopter to a pick up point. But the most important aspect of the iDroid is managing Mother Base. Similar to Peace Walker, The Phantom Pain has a base operational mode in which you enslave enemies using a Fulton Recovery Device, and send them over to your base to work in various departments. These enemies become staff that will help you research new equipment and devices for Big Boss. As you capture more enemies with the device and send them flying in the air to your base, various departments level up with the ability to purchase new gear using currency earned from gathering diamonds and resources, and completing missions.
The Mother Base feature is great, and allows for a better control over what you want to focus on. If you want new sniper weapons, you will focus on a specific department, if you want a better looking D-Horse, then you will focus on another. Not only is Mother Base an actual mechanic, you can also visit it throughout the game and as you progress through the story, it will develop and open up new areas to explore.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain lets the player do whatever they want and approach a situation anyway they wish. Although the missions get tedious as many of them have similar objectives, the story will keep you playing as you just want to know more. There is plenty to do in the game, and it is probably best to take it all in, in bite-sized portions, as the missions become long. It surely is a step in a different direction after Guns of the Patriots, and there are some questionable gameplay mechanics that make me wonder what Konami and Kojima were thinking, like the plentiful mission based gameplay, and the dull open-world. It is also not the best looking game in the world, and you can clearly see it is a cross-gen game.
Overall Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is truly a Hideo Kojima game, even though the promotional part of it might say otherwise. It takes the series’ best features and works them into a new type of Metal Gear Solid. Saying that, the game works pretty well and is probably the best in the series.