Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain can truly be considered Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus. Set in the 1980’s, it follows the story of the legendary hero Punished “Venom” Snake, the leader of the newly minted private military group known as Diamond Dogs. After the destruction of Mother Base, the death of his comrades and awakening from a nine year coma, he seeks to rebuild what was taken from him and exact his revenge, taking him from the vast cliffside regions of Afghanistan to the marshy borders of Angola – Zaire.
Whilst previous Metal Gear titles had a greater emphasis on story, Kojima seems to have focused more on gameplay mechanics this time around and it shows. Missions follow a formulaic pattern of: extract this piece of equipment or dispatch this commander. However the freedom that you are given to execute your orders is downright immense. To begin with the player finds themselves within the extensive expanse of Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, here we are given free rein of how we approach a mission. Scouting the enemies’ position helps you coordinate an attack, utilising binoculars to mark targets and interrogating enemies to gain precious intel. It is from here the player can choose their strategy for example, exploit the dynamic weather system and wait for a sandstorm to sleuth their way to the target, or go with shock and awe, riding on your armoured horse with a machinegun as your support helicopter provides air support, blaring ‘Flight of the Valkyries’ as it pummels your foes with a barrage of artillery. Your options are limitless.
Another mechanic which has seen a noticeable improvement is the enemy AI. Dispose of enemies with too many headshots and they will utilise helmets more frequently. Like to use smoke grenades and the cover of darkness to combat your foes? Gas masks and night vision goggles will be dispersed among your adversaries making them highly adaptable and challenging.
However one downside is that aside from a few film like cut-scenes, story content is buried under in-game cassettes which are optional to listen to. A shame as this is where Kiefer Sutherland’s (Snake’s) voice is predominately heard. Whereas the gameplay has seen many improvements, the story itself has taken a hit and focuses around the reconstruction of your Mother Base in your quest for revenge. Whilst it might sound tedious, your Mother Base will prove to be the foundation of the increased tactical liberties you may explore within the game. Rebuilding Mother Base is done so by airlifting resources from the battlefield to construct new platforms which in turn allow you to increase your development opportunities. Reconstruction of your base is crucial as it provides you with a place to spend an in-game currency known as GMP. This currency is easily earned after completing missions which can be used to upgrade your arsenal and expand your base. Moreover, alongside story missions there are also over 100 side-op missions which provide you with additional currency, specialised soldiers and optional story fragments. Mother Base also is a physical place you can visit, providing showers where Snake can wash the gore of battle away giving him a health boost or even interact with individual soldiers he has extracted all providing a refreshing pace of gameplay.
Soldiers can be air lifted back to Mother Base and be assigned to divisions based on their skills such as an R&D platform, allowing for more advanced weaponry and gadgets to be developed. This is crucial as it broadens your tactical capabilities like providing a long range sniper rifle that shoots tranquilizer darts or even the option to attach a chain gun to a bi-pedal walking robot of death you can ride. In addition to the men, vehicles and resources that can be extracted, animals too can be air lifted away back to your base in the prospect of creating a zoo (contributing towards your GMP). Whacky elements such as this are welcomed as it brings an equilibrium to the heavy themes The Phantom Pain explores such as the use of torture, child soldiers and the trauma suffered by those in war.
Overall whilst aspects of the story have been sacrificed, it was only to the advantage of creating a game that plays like no other.
- Superb combat mechanics at 60 fps
- Vast, beautiful world with dynamic weather
- Two exhilarating online game modes
- Customisation in abundance and a staggering amount of content
- 80’s music!
- Freedom of approach
- Story buried under in-game cassettes
- Kiefer Sutherland underutilised