Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, is highly anticipated for several reasons. Firstly, it’s another outing into the world of tactical espionage that arguably kicked off the stealth genre, a ‘next gen’ one at that, which promises to be the best experience yet. Secondly, Kojima, the mastermind behind the franchise, and Konami, the publisher, parted ways with each other. I’m not here to talk about those politics, but my point is: you can bet that Kojima wouldn’t leave his beloved series behind without making his final project something truly special. Lastly, and this is probably the most important reason to be excited (and possibly the scariest), we will finally know the truth behind Big Boss (Naked/Punished/Venom Snake), and find out what made him change from legendary hero to, well, the Big Bad Boss we encounter later in the overall Metal Gear story.

And what a story It has been, filled with more plot twists and surprise revelations than a hundred M. Night Shyamalan movies combined, taking 28 literal years to tell. I’ve honestly wondered whether Kojima planned it all from the very beginning, or whether he has been making everything up as he goes. Regardless, The Phantom Pain is his swansong, and by the mouldy, overused cardboard box of Snake, is it spectacular!

First and foremost though, it must be said that I never got around to finishing the The Phantom Pain. I say this with burning tears in my eyes, as I really did try to reach the juicy conclusion as best I could during my limited time with it at a review event. Still, I plugged 35 hours into Big Boss’s latest open world adventure. If that isn’t enough time to indicate whether a game is good or bad, then I don’t know what is.

Teehee

To newcomers, the plot of The Phantom Pain may come across as a little tangled and confusing. For this reason, I would recommend reading up a little on Metal Gear Solid 3, Peace Walker, and the more recent Ground Zeroes at the very least to get some sort of understanding as to where the story is at.

Before diving into the game myself, I had only played Metal Gear Solid 1 and 2 (a sin, I know), both of which have very little to do with Big Boss and his overall tale. Still, I was able to follow the overall plot of The Phantom Pain, albeit vaguely.

All I can say is that some of the finer story details may have been lost on me, but I know long time fans will have several “a-ha” moments as pieces of the Metal Gear puzzle slowly fall into place. I won’t spoil anything – I’ll leave that for them to discover first-hand.

AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

What I can talk about extensively however, is actual gameplay. This is where The Phantom Pain truly shines. It’s an odd experience at first, truth be told, because while everything certainly feels very much like a Metal Gear title, it doesn’t at the same time.

Tradition is kept alive thanks to the familiar series formula of sneaking around, cardboard box equipped (or not), and attempting to avoid detection. Controlling Snake is easier than ever in this regard, with an automatic snap to cover system in place, and movement, prone, crouched, or standing, handling in the most optimal form it’s ever been.

This is Metal Gear Solid, through and through, yet, it doesn’t feel like it is. This is thanks to the new open world approach, which gives players the freedom to tackle objectives however they wish. There is no “right” way to do something. The only right way is what YOU feel suits the situation best.

SO PRETTY

For example, a day in the life of Snake might require him to extract a high-value target from a heavily fortified position. There are several ways to perform this task.

The more traditional approach may be to find a vantage point during the day to scout the camp from afar, tagging targets and learning their preferred locations and patrol routes. Once that’s done, it makes sense to wait for the cover of night (or perhaps a wild sandstorm to appear) to ensure sneaking around is a lot easier. Where is this high-value target? No clue, which is why it is probably a good idea to isolate a guard and interrogate them for more Intel and a more precise location. Once that’s done, and the target is found, it’s a matter of carrying them out of the camp; either to a chopper, or for extraction via the Fulton system. See how nobody died in this scenario?

Alternately, you could just blow everything up… shoot first, ask questions later. Seriously, for a game that has roots in avoiding conflict it all costs, it’s unreal how well The Phantom Pain handles as a third-person cover shooter. Following this approach means disposing of any enemy that gets in the way, and simply searching each building till the target is located. Find the resistance a little too much? No problem, call in some chopper support or, oh I don’t know, an airstrike to level the playing field, quite literally.

COME WITH ME IF YOU WANT TO LIVE

I opted for a combination of both approaches, not by choice mind you. Usually, I would sneak around until I was inevitably spotted, at which point I would call in backup and shoot everything in sight. It didn’t make for good business however, as a dead soldier is no good to me or Mother Base – a rather integral part to the overall Phantom Pain experience.

You see, Mother Base is your safe haven, your base of operations. At the start of the game, it is, sorry for the lack of a better description, an offshore base for ants. It’s a tiny little oilrig, with barely any staff manning it. It’s up to Snake to find the people, resources, and finances to expand it into something bigger and far better. Which brings me back to my point about shooting everything as being bad for business. Every soldier on the battlefield is a potential asset, excelling in some thing or other that may be useful on Mother Base.

For example, an enemy camp may hold a specialist who is knowledgeable in R&D. Isolating them and knocking them out (see: NOT KILLING THEM), and then sending them back to base via the Fulton system, would help me in researching newer, better weapons. That one guard manning the tower in the middle of the camp may be a specialist with regards to intel. Securing his employment will result in a better overall radar system.

YEEHAW

This is where, to me at least, The Phantom Pain turned out to be the most enjoyable. You’d think that spending 35 hours doing mission after mission would result in some sort of fatigue. It really didn’t! Not once did I feel tired or bored of the game. Obviously, I would focus on my main objective, but going out of my way to secure staff and resources for Mother Base supplemented my experience quite nicely. Besides, it meant I had to use the Fulton system pretty often, and damn is it a fun toy to play with! Beyond being key to sending soldiers back to Mother Base, the Fulton system (a high tech extraction system) has other applications once it is upgraded sufficiently.

My most memorable experience with it came in the form of a mission where I had to secure a truck. The catch was, it was being protected by a tank and an armoured anti-air vehicle, one in front, and one behind. I decided to go in, guns blazing, destroying the tank in the process. All attention drawn to the front of the convoy, I flanked and snuck around with the intention of placing some C4 on the anti-air vehicle at the back. Destroying it would leave the truck completely unprotected, and mine for the taking. Imagine my surprise when I reached the armour and a Fulton notification popped up. Yes, instead of destroying the damned thing, I attached that balloon, and watched the vehicle fly skyward, and off to Mother Base to be put to a use that involves NOT shooting me in the face.

It’s ridiculous to even imagine, but remember, we are talking Metal Gear Solid here, where craziness and unlikeliness is the order of the day. Yet, it somehow manages to be believable, if you’re willing to be open minded and open to a little use of imagination.

Smoking means faster time progression. WHAT

While the overall experience is fantastic, The Phantom Pain does have some minor hiccups. In terms of story pacing, past the explosive prologue, it really feels like things take a while to really kick off. Like I’ve said already, this is Metal Gear Solid for sure, but it doesn’t feel like it at times. Fans expecting long winded cut scenes throughout the entire experience will find themselves sorely disappointed. Instead, it’s mission after mission, with titbits of important dialogue between each.

In terms of gameplay, there are some inconsistencies that can throw the whole experience out somewhat too. While I found the enemy AI to be solid, and genuinely smart, there were some moments when they were truly dumb. At one point in the game, I snuck up to a tank in the middle of a base and blew it up with C4. instead of going into full alert like I expected, nearby enemies transmitted to HQ that they suspected they were under attack.

Lastly, and this was by far the most annoying snag; failing a mission or dying on the job meant starting right back at square one. I can’t tell you how many times I came close to fulfilling my objective, only to be spotted and killed. Having to start back outside the base is disheartening to say the least. On the flip side, it does encourage players to try again, in a new, creative way.

mgstpp_gc_2015_06_1438604319

Beyond those minor annoyances, The Phantom Pain is a masterpiece by Kojima. I was constantly astounded by how beautiful the game looked. The dusty plains of the Afghanistan playground (and the dry, though more tropical planes of another location, which I don’t wish to spoil in case you don’t know about it already) are a joy to take in.

I could happily ride atop Diamond Horse for hours, drinking the visuals in, watching the dynamic weather and 24 hour day cycle taking place. Not once in my time with a PS4 copy of the game did I ever experience lag or slowdown either – even when there was a ton taking place (explosions, sandstorms, million of enemies, and so on) at any given time.

The travelling between each mission, and time spent at Mother Base may be perceived as unnecessary padding, and not to everybody’s taste. It never bothered me once though. I loved the whole experience of preparing for a mission, and tackling it however I wanted to.

DHORSE

Should you go out of your way to play this new Metal Gear Solid? I can only tell you this: after my time with the game, I went out and ordered the limited edition Phantom Pain Playstation 4 bundle. I am that confident in the game, that hooked, and that excited to play it once more!  Basically what I’m trying to get at is, should you be excited? Yes! This is a The Phantom Pain is a phenomenal title that should be experienced by everybody – newcomers and hardcore fans alike.

Disclaimer: This game was played at a review event over a week. We spent about 35 hours in the game, playing it normally – without any magical chicken heads.

 

Last Updated: August 24, 2015

The Phantom Pain is an unusual Metal Gear experience, one that not everybody may enjoy if they cling to systems of old. If they’re willing to adapt and accept this new way of exploring Kojima’s world however, they are going to be blown away, absolutely, and one hundred percent guaranteed. This new open world is one that is begging to be played with, in whatever way a player wishes.
9.2

53 Comments

    • Hammersteyn

      August 24, 2015 at 10:58

      hhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmm

      Reply

    • RinceThis

      August 24, 2015 at 12:14

      0_O

      Reply

  1. Umar

    August 24, 2015 at 10:55

    Also, awesome review Matty!

    Reply

    • hairyknees

      August 24, 2015 at 11:01

      Thanks man! 😀

      I am so excited to play the game more O_O GET ON THE HYPE TRAIN WITH ME!!!!!!!!!

      Reply

      • Umar

        August 24, 2015 at 11:02

        Already on it! No getting off.

        Reply

        • hairyknees

          August 24, 2015 at 11:04

          ONE MORE WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          Reply

          • Umar

            August 24, 2015 at 11:05

            week?…WEEK?WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!!

          • hairyknees

            August 24, 2015 at 11:16

            LOL xD

          • HairyEwok

            August 24, 2015 at 12:53

            Don’t go weak because of the week.

  2. Hammersteyn

    August 24, 2015 at 10:59

    9.2 O_o are you happy now @LlewellynCrossley:disqus? ARE YOU? No perfect score here. Although 9-2 = 7 so it’s perfect for you 😛

    Reply

    • hairyknees

      August 24, 2015 at 11:04

      If I had received a yacht, that score would’ve been an easy 9.5 😛

      Reply

      • VampyreSquirrel

        August 24, 2015 at 11:12

        A yacht only gets 0.3 of a point? What the hell did you get to give it a 9.2?

        Reply

        • hairyknees

          August 24, 2015 at 11:16

          A fantastic experience 😀 DUH!

          Reply

          • VampyreSquirrel

            August 24, 2015 at 11:23

            SUUUUUREEEEE… I suspect ‘something’ happened in Cologne… 😛

        • Mossel

          August 24, 2015 at 11:30

          It has a happy ending…

          Reply

          • VampyreSquirrel

            August 24, 2015 at 11:31

            “Exclusive ‘viewing’ and ‘interview'”?

      • Hammersteyn

        August 24, 2015 at 11:28

        They have yachts in DOTA? O_o

        Reply

        • HairyEwok

          August 24, 2015 at 12:55

          It’s a courier that carries all the tears of your enemies to you in style.

          Reply

        • hairyknees

          August 24, 2015 at 13:41

          O_O

          Reply

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      August 24, 2015 at 11:23

      Review would’ve been 20/20 if he had both eyes. tee hee.

      Reply

  3. Jonah Cash

    August 24, 2015 at 11:00

    Mmmmmm…. I will get this and Destiny… and Fifa all in September! Good bye life

    Reply

    • Hammersteyn

      August 24, 2015 at 11:27

      Im getting what you’re getting. Except for the soccer game.

      Reply

      • VampyreSquirrel

        August 24, 2015 at 11:29

        But you can play as FC Porto 😛
        Edit: Or Man U *chuckle*

        Reply

        • Hammersteyn

          August 24, 2015 at 11:56

          XD

          Reply

      • Jonah Cash

        August 24, 2015 at 12:01

        I don’t play soccer games… I play football simulators… Pfffttt

        Reply

        • Hammersteyn

          August 24, 2015 at 12:04

          Teehee

          Reply

  4. Timmy_The_Good_Troll

    August 24, 2015 at 11:03

    Why is the site format changing every 2 hours?
    Im going dizzy!

    Reply

    • hairyknees

      August 24, 2015 at 11:03

      Sorry 😛 we are experiencing technical difficulties! Using a “dumbed down” version for now just so everything is readable and working at the very least 🙂

      Reply

      • Timmy_The_Good_Troll

        August 24, 2015 at 11:04

        Ok, thanks

        Reply

  5. Thami Afurika-Jin HD

    August 24, 2015 at 11:04

    Why not 10/10???? *throws tantrum*

    Reply

  6. Sageville

    August 24, 2015 at 11:05

    Baloons in a horse…

    Sold!

    Reply

  7. Alien Emperor Trevor

    August 24, 2015 at 11:05

    11/10 will purchase next year xmas Steam sale. 😉

    Reply

    • VampyreSquirrel

      August 24, 2015 at 11:11

      Unless if the Rand – Dollar exchange rate keeps going like it is.

      Reply

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        August 24, 2015 at 11:16

        Then I’ll have to buy a tub of vaseline as well. 🙁

        I’d already decided to postpone my PC upgrade until I get something new that I just can’t play, now I’ve got no idea when I’ll do that & slightly regretting the decision hehe.

        Reply

        • VampyreSquirrel

          August 24, 2015 at 11:25

          I can imagine.

          If I had to go on the whole “I can’t play this, need to upgrade” ideology then I should have upgraded 2 years ago.

          Reply

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            August 24, 2015 at 11:34

            I can play Witcher 3 on medium just fine. I’d like to play on high, I don’t need to play on high. Right now I’m guessing I’ll only upgrade once Star Citizen is released, and even then if medium works fine I may just… not.

          • VampyreSquirrel

            August 24, 2015 at 11:41

            I’ll stick to finishing whatever of the 54 games on my Steam Library have endings, or can be played almost indefinitely (like Warframe).

            That excludes the games on my friend’s library that I have access to.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            August 24, 2015 at 11:47

            Warframe. I blame that game for half of my backlog haha. Almost 900 hours on a F2P game while I haven’t touched stuff I’ve bought.

          • VampyreSquirrel

            August 24, 2015 at 11:51

            I’ve added a lot of hours into Warframe recently (as you know), and there are games on my backlog that haven’t been installed, never mind played.

            I have to blame Terraria, Don Bradman 14, Rocket League, Borderlands 2 and a little to Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 as well.

          • VampyreSquirrel

            August 24, 2015 at 12:42

            Oh and Heat Sword + Boltor = epic upgrade from what I had. Just trying to build a secondary weapon now.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            August 24, 2015 at 13:15

            If I remember right Boltor does some nice ragdolling, all the pretty butterflies pinned to the wall.

            Half the fun I get from the game is leveling up new weapons, some of them are really fun to play with even when they’re not the greatest damage-wise.

          • VampyreSquirrel

            August 24, 2015 at 13:39

            Yep, it’s like playing with an automatic bow 😛

            You’re running out of achievements too.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            August 24, 2015 at 13:46

            Attica – automatic crossbow 😀

            Yes, almost all the ones I don’t have relate to mastery ranks hehe. Only another 18k XP and I’ll be an…

          • VampyreSquirrel

            August 24, 2015 at 13:55

            Haha, I saw that Rank’s name and laughed. I, on the other hand, hit Gold Initiate yesterday 😛

            That crossbow looks cool. I need to actually check the clan labs for weapon blueprints (after I get 2 Orokin Cells to make Seer)

  8. fred

    August 24, 2015 at 11:06

    Will pick up second hand , got Witcher and Mad Max to finish first.

    Reply

  9. Francois Knoetze

    August 24, 2015 at 11:35

    this and the rest of my piling up backlog…goodbye life

    Reply

  10. RinceThis

    August 24, 2015 at 12:15

    9.2. Can you be more SPECIFIC please?!

    Reply

    • hairyknees

      August 24, 2015 at 12:35

      I was going to say 9.25… but decided against it 😛

      Reply

  11. RazMan

    August 26, 2015 at 14:07

    NO NO NO NO NO NOOO! You should be charged with treason and crimes against humanity! 10/10 🙁

    Reply

  12. Sayno

    August 26, 2015 at 14:48

    and is there microtransactions

    Reply

  13. Dark_Kitarist

    August 28, 2015 at 03:47

    Great review!

    Reply

    • hairyknees

      September 1, 2015 at 07:39

      Thank you! 🙂

      Reply

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