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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain PS4 review: Kojima is perfect once more

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4)

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It’s difficult to put into words what it means to have Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain here at last. It’s difficult to put into words what it means for a global community to finally have one of the most storied franchises back once more. It is, however, not difficult to say that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the best game of the year so far.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain launches Sept. 1 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Permission given to use photo by Konami

Metal Gear fans are going to enjoy what The Phantom Pain has to offer, and it offers up that enjoyment over and over and over again. This game has been crafted with exquisite attention to detail, copious amounts of gameplay quantity and quality, all with an epic story.

The scope of this game is mind-blowing. Everything from Mother Base, to the game’s AI, to the level of personalization and customization; it's all simply astounding. In speaking with a colleague who also experienced The Phantom Pain, it was clear to us that Hideo Kojima and his team have paid attention to detail to the things that really didn’t need detailing.

Simple things such as Snake boarding a helicopter in a landing zone, him sitting there as the aircraft exits the mission area and then him closing the door all before a single loading screen is evidence of the level of this game's meticulousness, and it is absurdly impressive. As Snake trudges through mud, braces numerous gunshots and sheds blood mission in and mission out, his appearance becomes worn with filth and war. Snake stays this way until he cleans himself off with a shower, but again, Kojima and his team could have easily kept him clean and looking good the whole game, as many games do this, but they chose not to.

There was no need to pay a mind to these parts of the game. Snake could simply have gotten on the chopper with the game then going straight to a main menu, or he could have stayed cleaned no matter the hell he encountered, but no, The Phantom Pain goes the extra mile and gives the full experience.

There’s never a prouder moment for a gamer when he or she builds something great out of nothing. Mother Base becomes a part of your identity as a player and it’s wonderfully difficult to resist completing side mission after side mission and acquiring resource after resource all in the pursuit of building up the gargantuan home that is your Mother Base.

Kojima and his team have gone to outrageous lengths to make building up your Mother Base fascinatingly rewarding. By the time you’ve completely built up your Mother Base, if there is such a thing as completed, you will have created a new world. I found an incredibly strong sense of pride and in-game identity with my self-made home, and anytime I strolled around its platforms and saw a truck I had previously extracted from a mission or free-roam, it gave me chills.

The interplay between each element of The Phantom Pain is meaningful and none are wasted. While a segment of the game may seem small and insignificant, Kojima did a marvelous job of assigning value and reward for those who invested themselves in it.

At a certain point in the game, you can send out teams of your own to complete ops for you. In reality, this section of the game doesn’t really need to be interacted with much, however, The Phantom Pain does an effective job of rewarding you for doing so and doing it often. Vast amounts of GMP, the game’s currency, additional officers and resources can all come from these ops and they go a long way in helping you acquire equipment upgrades that are necessities as you progress.

The level of customization and the degree of choice are both staggering and freeing. Players are given so many options to choose their loadouts that it’s no one’s fault but your own if you can’t find the combination you like most. The Phantom Pain lets you equip pistols, assault rifles, SMGs, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, water pistols, you heard me; grenades, C4, Snake Decoys and so much more. Nearly every item in the game can be upgraded in one fashion or another, and in a funny way, it forces players to think strategically with what they upgrade first over something else.

I never really felt like I've fully experienced all that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has to offer, and that’s well over 50 hours into the game. The amount of gameplay is criminal and the quality of it is spectacular. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain challenges players to use their brains. It’s extremely difficult to get anywhere in this game by sprinting around and killing whomever you wish on a whim. This game beckons, compels and begs you to be tactful with your actions.

Some games say they are giving players the freedom of choice with an open-world, but really, they end up holding their hand through a linear path. The Phantom Pain gives you a sandbox and asks you to build the castle of your choice. There were missions I completed where I didn’t touch one enemy with a single bullet or hand, and then again, there were missions where I shot-gunned soldier after soldier. A mission might be better suited toward one play style or another, but if you are so driven, you can always find a way to play your game.

Mission objectives tend to stay a bit predictable with extracting an officer, exfiltrating a prisoner, killing a target or capturing a piece of equipment. In the end, that never mattered to me because of how obsessed I was with locating a prisoner for exfiltration, while fultoning materials for my next upgrade, therefore helping me complete a side mission to unlock weapon customization, so I could then silence my damn sniper rifle, enabling me to finally beat a different main op I’ve tried to beat fifteen times and have failed at every single time before. Obsessed, I tell you.

As you progress through the game, you’ll acquire new buddies who will help you complete various objectives. I found that among them, D-Dog helped me the most because of his ability to mark nearby enemies, weapons and objects. D-Dog allowed me to get through missions quicker and with more precision because I knew where everything was. There are other buddies who will complement different play styles, and that is what makes that system so essential.

The narrative is entertaining, disturbing, weird, surprising and incredible all at the same time. I found it was incredibly easy to connect with the game's characters, and each of them brings something different to the plot. Long-time fans of the series will thoroughly enjoy the game's story and really, it's one that only Metal Gear can provide. Child soldiers are eventually brought into the fold and not only are they some of the most realistic creations I’ve ever seen, they also made me feel for them in a powerful way.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain keeps you on your toes, guessing and wondering what will happen next, however, if I have one gripe with the game’s story it’s that the cutscenes are thrown at the player in massive helpings. For example, you will have just played through four missions, which would equate to a little more than a few hours, with no cinematics and then all of a sudden the game will toss 10 or 15 minutes of cutscenes at you with little gameplay mixed in. It’s not exactly the pacing I was hoping for in that regard, but the fact that cinematics are just as fun to watch, as the game is to play, helps make up for the lengthy pauses.

The single-player experience is reason enough to purchase The Phantom Pain alone, but if you are still longing for more, either see a doctor or check out FOB because it offers up essentially another game’s worth of online, multiplayer fun. I did play a few rounds of FOB and it is clear that players will find endless fun and possibilities inside it. It'll be interesting to see how FOB coexists with the single-player campaign because if you are online and are participating in FOB, it sounds like you can get attack by another player at anytime.

There wasn't an official word given as to whether or not there will be a cool down period in between one player being able to attack and then another, but I assume there is a control element there. If there isn't, it could turn out to be a distraction from the main game, always being pulled out from a mission to defend your base, however, we will see how it fits into the game post-launch. The scope of this game was intergalactic enough with single-player alone, but the potential of FOB just sends The Phantom Pain into another realm.

It’s difficult to effectively describe everything this game has to offer. It’s difficult to think about the next time we see a new Metal Gear Solid and when that will be. It is, however, not difficult to say that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the best game of the year so far.

Pros

  • Absurd detail
  • Quintessential gameplay
  • Marvelous game design

A PS4 review copy of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was provided by Konami for the purposes of this review.

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