Wot I Think: Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain

Like Snake with the open expanse of Soviet-occupied Afghanistan stretching out before him, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain [official site] is a massive game, both in terms of the systems that drive it and the number of plot threads it feels obligated to weave together. This breadth is the game’s triumph, as well as its downfall. The Phantom Pain is the best stealth-action game ever made, and one of the worst Metal Gear stories ever told.

There are two distinct narratives here. One is more easily accessible for those unfamiliar with the series. It’s the story of a legendary soldier building a private army to track down a villain and save the world from his secret weapon. Behind that plot is an attempt to fuse together over 25 years of often nonsensical Metal Gear lore.

This is a series which has previously featured a man who shoots bees out of his mouth, a seemingly-immortal shirtless villain named “Vamp”, and more retcons than almost any comic book continuity in existence. But here’s the thing: I still invested in and actively enjoyed all of that – until now. To go into specifics would entail spoilers, but take it from me, a die-hard Metal Gear fan, that The Phantom Pain is where the series jumps the shark.

It’s not just the narrative content that is nonsense, but often the way it’s actually told. Snake (AKA “Venom Snake”, AKA “Big Boss”, AKA Jack, AKA John…are you still with me?) remains oddly mute for many of the game’s pivotal dramatic moments. Characters continue to talk at him as though they’ve heard his imaginary responses, and nothing about the dramatic glances Snake returns make these cutscenes any less awkward. It’s bizarre, in a way that does not feel intentionally Metal Gear.

And yet, for a Metal Gear game, these cutscenes are surprisingly rare. In a way, it’s refreshing; rarely does The Phantom Pain’s narrative interrupt your stealthy sorties. Much of the characters’ lengthy exposition has been relegated to optional cassette tapes, which you can listen to while crawling on your belly through the underbrush. But this delivery from the backseat also results in a disjointed plot, the overt complexity of which does not benefit from this structure.

Dramatic pacing is shot to hell, too: the story moves along like a learner driver’s first time behind the wheel, alternately slamming the accelerator and brake every few seconds. The Phantom Pain’s less-linear, mission-based structure is responsible. You’re tugging at multiple plot threads at once, with dramatic revelations repeatedly interrupted by your need to constantly exfiltrate from one mission and redeploy via chopper to the next.

Once your boots have touched the ground and your helicopter departs, leaving you vulnerable in a vast, open, and hostile world, The Phantom Pain offers a transcendent experience. While the game’s plot collapses under the weight of 25 years of canon, the stealth systems at play are the result of just as many years of experimentation and refinement. You’ve seen many of these systems before, both in Metal Gear and in other open world games, but never before have they coalesced with such polish and purpose as they do here. Light and shadow, camouflage and stance, guards who get suspicious if their colleagues don’t report in via walkie talkie, outposts which can call one another for reinforcements via radios which you can sabotage.

There is so much happening in The Phantom Pain, but it’s never overwhelming. Every single interaction, from a single guard investigating a noise, to an entire fortress being sent into alert mode, is depicted with perfect clarity. Radial awareness markers on the interface, each guard’s animations, and the radio calls they make between one another, provide enough information to play intentionally on the micro level. And yet, an intoxicating ambiguity underpins these interactions – for without such doubt, there would be little tension.

Camouflage is still important, but the percentage index which communicated how hidden you are on-screen is gone. Even still, as I held my breath and prayed that I was fading away into the terrain, there was never a moment that didn’t play out entirely logically. When a guard hears a noise, you don’t immediately know whether he’ll investigate it himself, or broadcast on his radio that he’s about to check it out. If it’s the latter, and he doesn’t report back, you can expect company.

As tense as these small interactions are, The Phantom Pain is all about scope. It’s about climbing a ridge that overlooks a heavily-guarded compound, observing the area with your binoculars, and devising a plan on the macro level. Upon executing that plan, The Phantom Pain almost never tells you “No.” The game’s scope is not only incredible because of the size of the physical play area it takes place in, but because of the sheer range of complex possibilities the game actively supports. Sure, the more time you spend planning and preparing, the more rewarding the execution feels. Pulling off the perfect stealth infiltration is heart-pounding. But the game is at its best when those micro interactions, both perfectly clear and deliciously ambiguous, act as springboards for surprising or unexpected turns of events.

In one mission, I was tasked with pursuing an armoured convoy being led by a jeep which carried a prisoner. I dropped in at night, and galloped after the tanks on my horse, keeping out of sight by following a ravine by the road they were taking. Suddenly, the convoy came to a stop – the men in the jeep got out to shoo away some wild goats which were blocking the road. I leapt off my horse, crept up to the armoured vehicles, planted explosives and ran to the stationary jeep. As I detonated the bombs, the men turned back to their convoy – just in time to see me gunning the engine, running them both over and driving the prisoner to safety. “Mission complete – maybe you’ll break a sweat next time, Boss.”

Even when those unexpected events mean you get spotted and half the Soviet army starts bearing down on you, it never feels like you were cheated or the game was being unfair. Some of the most exciting experiences in The Phantom Pain are to be had upon crawling your way back from partial or total failure to a modicum of control over the situation. Once, after being spotted while attempting to sabotage some vehicles in an outpost, I was completely surrounded by tanks and well-armed men. I called in my chopper to provide air support – a risky move, considering the tanks would down it in a single volley.

As the helicopter arrived, blasting The Cure’s Friday I’m In Love from its onboard speakers, I began a one-man campaign of shock and awe to keep the tanks focused on me while the chopper picked them off with its rocket salvos. Smoke grenades, dramatic dives over hills with bullets and explosive shells impacting the ground around me, panicked calls from the chopper as it began to take damage. But it worked, and it fulfilled the objective. The fact that enemies from that point on started carrying rocket launchers to counter my attack chopper runs was just icing on the cake – a small example of how consequences can ripple through the rest of The Phantom Pain’s systems.

They’re felt throughout the Mother Base metagame, too, which sees you essentially kidnapping enemy soldiers (via balloon) and brainwashing them into joining your military outfit. Once there, they can be assigned to develop new items, provide intel or support in the field, or be sent on their own off-screen combat missions. Though you also collect resources, vehicles and other pieces of kit in the same way, people are your primary resource.

This solves one of the stealth genre’s lingering questions: why would you bother pursuing a careful, non-lethal approach, when so many of your items can kill with greater ease? Because dead men don’t deliver supply drops to you mid-mission. Though you can manually assign these minions in order to, say, go all-in on a big weapons development project, for the most part they can be left in their automatically-assigned positions and forgotten about. Regardless, the reward for running an efficient base is worth it, for every new item and upgrade expands your range of possible options in the field.

That scope almost never stops expanding. Entirely new game mechanics are introduced 20, even 30 hours in. I completed all story content after 55 hours, and I still don’t feel like I’m done with the game. Never before have I played something that so confidently rests on its mechanics to provide the substance and context for purely emergent drama. In doing so, The Phantom Pain is the rarest of creatures: a Japanese immersive sim. Echoes of Thief and Deus Ex and Far Cry 2 meld with the series’ own design to create something entirely unique. Unlike its po-faced Western brethren, The Phantom Pain revels in the often comedic and ridiculous results of its emergent interactions.

This is a game where you can defeat a boss by ordering a supply crate to drop on their head. It’s bizarre in a way that feels completely, wholeheartedly, intentionally Metal Gear. I don’t have nearly enough space to talk about all of these such moments, and I wouldn’t want to – they’re for you to discover.

Such player-driven drama, comedy, and action eclipses anything in the disappointing scripted narrative. The Phantom Pain is one of the worst Metal Gear stories ever told. It functions neither as a standalone narrative nor as worthwhile insight into the series overall. And yet, The Phantom Pain is the best stealth-action game ever made, one where playing flawlessly is just as thrilling as outright failure. And boy – what a thrill.

79 Comments

  1. Hideous says:

    I agree with this review 100%. Beat the story last night (57 hours!) and it answers no questions about anything.

    But damn if the game isn’t the best stealth game I’ve ever played.

    • SuicideKing says:

      Probably good for people like me that haven’t played MGS before (except Revengence, which I got frustrated with after a point).

      • Hideous says:

        But Nanomachines, Son.

        • Monggerel says:

          Incidentally, I’d be probably say that Revengeance is the best Metal Gear story ever told.
          Raiden goes to work, remembers his life is a miserable lie and his ideals are pure hipocrisy, goes berserk , becomes Byronic vampire superhero.

  2. Sp4rkR4t says:

    This game has stolen almost all my gaming time and I can’t see that stopping any time soon, I haven’t even unlock the FOB missions yet.

    • Barchester says:

      Same here, and it’s making me feel guilty about not making progress in The Witcher 3, which I haven’t even scratched the surface of yet. :(

  3. GallonOfAlan says:

    “This is a game where you can defeat a boss by ordering a supply crate to drop on their head. ”

    TAKE MY DAMN MONEY

  4. Cross says:

    It seems like you could’ve written a review twice the size of what we have here, Daniel, there’s so much to talk about!

  5. Banks says:

    I thinks It’s just fine. It’s fun for a while but the stealth is too easy and there is no tension or excitement to be had at all. It’s well designed and all but way too busy for my taste. Too much busywork, too many mechanics on top of mechanics that do practically nothing and an stealth core that has too many casual concessions.

    And Quiet is disgusting.

    • OmNomNom says:

      Yeah, pretty much this. It has been MASSIVELY overhyped for what it is.
      I do enjoy it but its on par with Far Cry 4 for me really. Fun while it lasts but forgettable.

      Quiet apparently just wears a bikini and stockings with holes in because… well she’s a woman and you obviously need to see her tits as much as possible bouncing around in the cutscenes while the camera focuses on them.

      FYI:
      You can unlock the FPS by editing the graphics config file (in steam userdata) and setting the value to Variable instead of Auto.

      You can also edit the files packaged in the games .dat file to disable FXAA that is on whenever you use any level of postprocessing and then you can inject SMAA using an old 0.10 version of ReShade (with SweetFX).

      Also people have edited the packaged graphics settings file to improve the graphical quality a little (obviously no amount of tweaking will fix the nasty textures) – link to neogaf.com

      • OmNomNom says:

        Oh and you should force enable AF 16x and HBAO+ in nvidia control panel for better visuals also.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Sure you can unlock the framerate past 60… then the physics starts to do weird stuff, as it’s tied to that 60 and not meant to be higher.
        Still technical witchcraft what they’ve managed to achieve though from what I’ve seen, looking so good and smooth. Especially on consoles, where even massive firefights don’t dip it.

        • OmNomNom says:

          Hmm havent noticed any physics issues yet, maybe because I am playing with vsync on in cp.

      • lordcooper says:

        “Quiet apparently just wears a bikini and stockings with holes in because… well she’s a woman and you obviously need to see her tits as much as possible bouncing around in the cutscenes while the camera focuses on them.”

        That right there is an obvious sign of someone who hasn’t progressed very far through the game. Towards the end of chapter 1 and throughout chapter 2 you’ll be learning a lot more about Quiet and why she is the way she is. I haven’t quite finished yet, but I’d argue at this point that her role is more important to the plot than your own character, and she has better character development to boot.

        • Sin Vega says:

          Yes, because she’s a fucking plant. The molecule thin excuse he came up with was even more pathetic.

          • lordcooper says:

            Again, that’s far from the whole picture. I thought it was silly until a few revelations pretty damn far into the game.

            She’s not a bloody plant, although I congratulate you on your ability to internalise memes. Zero would be proud.

          • Sin Vega says:

            It’s nothing to do with memes. I’ve read her story and applied the obvious comic hyperbole. Point remains, she’s a transparent wank fantasy that someone’s spent ages scrabbling desperately to justify, and it’s pathetic.

          • Shadow says:

            Even though Quiet is pure fanservice, as a player you have the option of cladding Snake in form-fitting sneaking suits or having him run around bare-chested, upping the manservice side.

            While not completely egalitarian, that’s more than many games do, forcing sensible/badass outfits on men and skimpy clothes on women, with no choice whatsoever.

          • SoundOfHerWings says:

            Nice “female form is disgusting” meme friend!

          • Press X to Gary Busey says:

            link to youtube.com
            Yeah, That is a thing in the game.
            I’m a bit conflicted. On one hand it’s tacky and pervy and the game probably wouldn’t be less if Quiet was done differently. On the other I’m a dinosaur and like tits so I’m not really complaining either…

          • pickledparsleyparty says:

            The excuse isn’t so thin. She’s photosynthetic and breathes through her skin, sure. But, that’s the case because whoever made the Skulls wanted to make the perfect sniper out of her and others like her. Photosynthesis means she never has to eat, which means she can lie in wait for a target for as long as she needs to. Breathing through her skin means it’s hard to identify her with the usual tells–hints of body parts in motion.

            No matter if she were male or female, naked would be ideal. She’s what you get when you run the thought experiment “What would the perfect sniper be like?” to its logical conclusion.

          • Sin Vega says:

            “What would the perfect sniepr be like?”

            “Well, a robot, obviously.”
            “A robot.”
            “Some sort of machine.”
            “Robot.”
            “A white girl with her tits hanging out because of magic.”

            “Tits, you say?”

  6. Themadcow says:

    One thing I struggle to get my IMMERSHUN on with is how you trigger an alert, gun / stab down about 15 guys, but then hide about 5 metres around the corner… and the guards call off the search after about 2 minutes. They always seem remarkably happy to go back about their regular patrols after seeing half their friends dead in front of them.

    Still, permanent alert mode would suck.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      That’s one of the concessions that every stealth game has to make to being a fun game as opposed to some harrowing special forces training simulator, isn’t it?

      • aleander says:

        Frankly, I’m not sure if that (“concession that every stealth game has to make”) is true. Even this game doesn’t actually always do that — after sniping a few soldiers in a village the enemy started a fairly extended search of the are I was (hehe) in, including firing flares out of mortars and such (first time that happened was kinda scary). And they actually keep alert (though not very smart) for a fair while (alertness seams to mean they’re more likely to talk on the radio instead of just poking around the bushes, for example).

        I’d really like the soldiers to be smarter, though (or maybe I’m just not deep enough in the game?) — doing radio spot-checks on random soldiers, holing up inside a building would be great. Snipers spot-checking nearby hills was a very nice change of pace for me.

        • aleander says:

          Oh $deity. “area I used to be in”, “alertness seems”. :[ edit btn plz?

      • Themadcow says:

        To be fair, that example was from Ground Zeroes than Phantom Pain so if guards get smarter about these things later in TPP then fair enough. It just struck me as the most unrealistic thing in the world at the time.

        • aleander says:

          Hm, I only played the main mission in GZ, but now that I think of it, it was more forgiving. Makes sense, though, in FP you can either hole up in a toilet and smoke a cigar (well, that classifies for some serious hate from the soldiers) or go bother some other base on the other side of the map. Possibly with a machinegun.

          As for realism, if I were a random grunt in a world where SPOILER ALERT! LIKE REALLY THIS IS ONE OF THE SILLIER PARTS OF THE AFGHANISTAN CAMPAIGN! fifteen-story mecha can drop on the top of your head without any prior warning, I’d be careful about poking around in the bushes as well.

    • Severion says:

      I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but there are a few different levels of modes for the guards.

      Shoot someone in perfect view of another guard and you’ll go into combat mode and alert mode… Escape and hide and the guards will go into search mode, they will send guards to search your last known location… that lasts a few minutes then after that they will drop search mode but remain in alert mode. Use the cigar and speed up time then they’ll drop the alert mode and return to normal but if they discover a body or a missing prisoner or resource it’ll reset their alert mode status.

      I like how it all comes together and it kind of rewards your earlier efforts at stealth, even if messed up and got caught. If you covered your tracks well you can get back to normality quicker.

  7. Mr_Blastman says:

    I have never cared for stealth games. I get bored. I’m more a fan of Doom-style run n’ gun on complicated, non-linear maps. The last Metal Gear I played was the second one on the PS 2 so I guess I’ll pass if this one is stealth, too.

    • welverin says:

      That’s what Metal has always been, not sure why you’d expect otherwise. Of course you could run and gun if you chose, not sure how well that would work in the long run though.

      The only exception is Revengeance, and that’s a spin off (hence why it is Metal Gear Rising).

    • David Bliff says:

      Thanks for the heads up

    • dahools says:

      You can run and gun this one.

      Kept trying to sneak into a barracks to rescue some prisoners and kept getting spotted and killed, after a 3rd checkpoint reload I got spotted before I even got there, by a random patrol on the road so I thought fuck it and went in through the front doors with smoke slotted everything that moved with an assault rifle and C4’d a tank at the entry gate to the complex walked out with the 3 prisoners and may as well have had my cigar in my mouth whilst doing it. It was a scene out of the Expendibles almost. That’s the only mission I got an ‘S’ rank for so far out of the 10 i have played. Think it was the number of head shots that boosted my score over 50. . .

    • horsemedic says:

      I have never really cared for Doom. I’m more a fan of modern opera on outdoor stages, preferably with free admission. Unless you’re talking about an opera called Doom I think I’ll give it a pass.

  8. Lachlan1 says:

    A couple of good things for a pro writer to know:

    1. The difference between “amount” and “number”.

    2. The difference between “that” and “which”.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Assuming you’re talking about “and the number of plot threads” I think you can make the argument that it’s a countable noun and therefore “number” is appropriate.

      • TheOneFlow says:

        In that case it’s actually the only correct answer. You should only use “amount” for nouns that refer to masses instead of entities. So you’d use amount of heat, but number of flames. Plot threads, or more specifically threads, are countable.

  9. mr.black says:

    Very well written! Wouldn’t complain at all if we see/read more of Daniel’s work here on RPS.

  10. drygear says:

    So is it intentional that the last words of this are the first words of the Snake Eater theme? link to youtube.com

  11. Preciousgollum says:

    “Best Game Ever”: until you realise the flaws…

    In the end, the narrative was so slow, I ended up reading spoilers in order to propel my interest. Suffice it to say, this is the only Metal Gear story I can remember so far that I really don’t think holds up – It’s a mixture of Die Another Day (James Bond) & Resident Evil levels of increasing nonsense, that will probably necessitate some sort of eventual franchise reboot, much like James Bond did with Casino Royale, and the same will probably happen after RE6.

    The Trailer makers did a really good job in telling a better story than the game itself.

    This seems very much like a game that invented its mechanics/style first, then came up with contrivances for how they worked. I think I have already come up with a better plot device, using the available themes, with the hindsight of basic editing.

    I don’t think it’s mere co-incidence influencing Japanese developers such as Konami or Capcom in their portrayal of African, Russian etc, much in the same way that Western developers have a certain cookie-cutter way of depicting the Middle-East.

    While I won’t spoil the plot for people, the things that have been deemed controversial are less offensive, and more… embarrassing (like a lovable yet sleazy uncle).

    SPOILERS ***

    My revised version of that stupid plot:

    Skull Face wants to unleash a disease that causes infertility between people of a similar Ethnicity (reminiscent of Pandas, or the Krogan from ME3). His vision would then be that of a militantly ethnically diverse world, backed up by the sale of Metal Gears. Alternating competition and uneasy peace would be seen between states that would be relying upon each other & ‘conditioned’ relationships/marriages etc to continue the species – This would put a spanner in the works for Zero’s plans to try and unify the world through information control & passing on memes, because societies would be ever-changing, therefore unable to homogenize long enough to do so.

    I would love it if the villain was a proper champion of Ethnic Diversity, because that would be so subversive.

    END SPOILERS ***

    Stupid plot solved (the real one is worse than the one above).

    • welverin says:

      “Suffice it to say, this is the only Metal Gear story I can remember so far that I really don’t think holds up”

      You think the plot of MGS2 holds up? What about MGS4?

      Admittedly it has been so long since i played them I can’t remember them that well, but I don’t recall them being overly sensical.

      • Ringwraith says:

        2’s a special case from what little I know of it.
        Whereas 4’s a circular loop resembling fanfiction central attempting to tie everything up. Which is probably why no-one I know who has played it really recommends it unless you’re a fan of the weirder rabbit holes of the series.

      • Preciousgollum says:

        Admittedly, I haven’t played MGS4 yet; I know the basics of how it ends. Recently finished 3 & Peace Walker, although I played MGS games years ago, and had been sans-Playstation consoles since 2004.

        I played Metal Gear Solid 2,when it first came out years ago, and will end up replaying it again soon. Obviously, lots of people really hated that you didn’t play as Snake, but it didn’t bother me too much, because it was an excellent game.

        MGS2 story was an evolution of the ‘Information Paranoia’ & trust issues theme running through the end of the first game, juxtaposed with a new character, who was both immune to paranoia, because he wasn’t world weary, and also a victim of information control.

        Plot twist & player subversion: it did what Bioshock is fondly remembered for, before Bioshock did it.

        I have heard people speak about the stories of the previous games with fond enthusiasm, because, while anything after the first one was somewhat bizarre to a Western audience, they had story beats in them that emotionally resonated with people.

        MGS5 has some of the worst storytelling cliches of Resident Evil, and some of the worst ideas of Die Another Day (James Bond), rolled into one game – those were both franchises that ‘Jumped the Shark’.

        It’s a good game, just ridiculously over-hyped, with its story being almost irrelevant (and a bizarre cluster of stylistic moments).

        Metal Gear Solid 5 is in itself a type of Franchise Reboot.

      • Universal Quitter says:

        I’m with you. Every MGS game I’ve ever played has had the plot quality and character development of a 90s Star Wars novel.

        I wonder if I’m the only one that enjoys this series as schlock, instead of in spite of schlockiness.

        • MrUnimport says:

          I would feel uncomfortable categorizing MGS as shlock or in-spite-of-schlock. I think there’s a very intentional campiness going on in the series (remember The Pain’s tokusatsu-style acrobatics?) which both lowers the audience’s guard, leaving them vulnerable to big emotional sucker-punches, and allows Kojima to take the story in directions that simply wouldn’t be possible in a more serious game. Do I think he’s capable of telling a more ‘mature’ story? No, not without mishandling it and introducing a bunch of Quiet-style headscratchers. But what he DOES do, I find quite enjoyable; there’s nothing else in games that’s quite like it. Nothing else blends that Tom Clancy/Ian Fleming western military focus with that Japanese sensibility.

  12. Wowbagger says:

    My magical teleporting horse has gotten me in trouble a few times when I accidentally called it instead of knocking on walls. A large horse popping in to existence and shunting me into the open must be eye boggling for the Russians.

    • welverin says:

      It would seem Big Boss is a 3e D&D paladin.

      Oh, and I’ve done that a couple of times myself.

  13. warkwark says:

    Daniel, this is a very well-written article. Thanks.

    In the context of RPS reviews, there are a couple things here I think are worth emulating.

    First, everything that can be said about Snake’s tastelessly clad sniper companion has already been said, pre-release, and this review doesn’t feel the need to flog that particular dead prostitute. Well done. Not that it would have been out of order to briefly mention it here, but that leads to my (much) bigger point.

    So many recent RPS reviews have essentially said “I like this game, I recommend this game, it is a good game. But…” and then go on to pick away at the game for the bulk of the review. It’s very odd to read a review that’s explicitly positive, but which contains about 80% negative critique.

    Worse, the placement of that negative critique (recently) has often been loaded in the last 2/3 of the review. In other words, the review gives a positive recommendation, but then that recommendation gets buried under an avalanche of negatives. It is a strange and confusing way to write a review. It’s not that negatives should not be pointed out; it’s more a matter of giving a little consideration to tone and proportion. This review gets it right: it puts the main negative right up front, discusses that problem as much as necessary, and then goes on to laud a great game with great systems, which will give many players 60+ hours of great fun.

    To end with a positive, Richard Cobbett’s review of The Witcher was also excellent, for mostly the same reasons cited here. So thanks to you too, Richard. I like reading reviews of great games which feel like reviews of great games.

    • Phrumptious Bandersnatch says:

      Couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. Reviews are normally well written here at Castle RPS, but tone and placement of content can seem to be almost misleading at times, if not purposefully.

  14. Farsearcher says:

    I suspect Snake doesn’t speak much more for production reasons than thematic. Good voice actors are expensive but Hollywood talent much more so. I think Kiefer probably recorded most of his lines early on in production and then was too busy or too costly to bring back for re-recordings later. His performance is good but there really needed to be a lot more of it.

    My only other gripe is Quiet’s lack of clothing. It annoys me even more as Kojima has written strong properly dressed female characters before. Meryl and the Boss both had entirely appropriate outfits (in MGS 4 and 3 respectively) even if Naomi Hunter was all cleavage. Eva I was more ok with as she was playing that sort of 60’s bond girl which fitted MGS 3 so I didn’t find that irritating.

    Those two points aside it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played. Mechanically I think this is what Kojima always wanted to make. You can really feel the difference between a game put out the door in 2 years and something that’s been worked on for 4 or 5 with love.

    I just wish they’d end the series here and do something new but I’ve read Konami started recruiting for a new Metal Gear project a while ago. It won’t be the same without Kojima but on the other hand if he leaves Konami as looks likely I can’t wait to see what he does next.

    • GWOP says:

      “I’ve read Konami started recruiting for a new Metal Gear project a while ago.”

      Can’t wait for the new Metal Gear Pachinko machine!

      • Monggerel says:

        Revengeance was a non-Koji project as well and probably the best in the series next to TPP. I think. It was lovelymachines, son.

    • dahools says:

      I haven’t got to ‘Quiet’ in the game yet but surely you must have seen the opening scene in your bed where the nurse leans over with no bra on and there are just nipples bursting through her sightly see through uniform. No one mentions that?

      That clearly indicates how things are headed after that.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    Not done yet, but I too have been taken aback by the bizarre choice to make the protagonist (essentially) a silent character – it’s very much Not Metal Gear. It seems like Kojima & Company just couldn’t figure out a way to mesh the narrative-heavy series with the open-world gameplay; or perhaps they thought they could somehow strip the reliance on cutscenes and still create a rich narrative tapestry. Somebody could have, but they couldn’t.

    But you know what? That’s okay. MGSV is the wholly unnecessary sequel. It doesn’t *need* to bring things “full circle;” MGS4 soundly concluded the series’ main plotline, and there’s nothing wrong with MGS3 being a largely self-contained historical adventure. There’s also nothing really wrong with trying to bridge the timelines with Peace Walker/Ground Zeroes/Phantom Pain, but it by definition can’t add anything to the series’ conclusion.

    • Farsearcher says:

      As I noted in my comment above I’m convinced the silent protagonist thing wasn’t a choice on the part of the devs. I think Kiefer was too costly and/or too busy to record more. I think they probably had the main story events figured out early and got him to record for those. The less important cut scenes and connecting stuff were probably created later when he wasn’t available.

  16. Universal Quitter says:

    Maybe it’s Stockholm or something, but I like the nonsensical story you get from an MGS title.

    Reading the wiki to figure out the significance of a character I’d completely forgotten about often leads to hilarity. I wouldn’t want to change that.

    And the *big twist* in this game doesn’t just jump the shark, it jumps the flaming psychic whale. I love it.

  17. Marclev says:

    No mention about the price? Am I the only one that thinks £45 for a _standard edition_ of a PC game is ludicrous? And that’s the cheapest I could find (Steam), Amazon don’t even seem to let you buy anything other than the £60 special edition (£20 more expensive than the PS4 version on the same site). The publisher’s are taking the proverbial!

    Never thought I’d be one of the guys that says this, but I’m waiting for the Game of the Year edition and steam sale with this one. Short of it making your toast for you, it can’t be worth that amount of money.

    • dahools says:

      I bought it for steam here, link to cdkeys.com came though in under 30secs

    • Vandelay says:

      Yep, this is the only reason I still haven’t picked this up. It also seems to be selling in very few places, with isthereanydeal listing only about 3 or 4 different places (excluding multiple regions of the same store,) with Steam being the only one I had heard of. No Green Man Gaming, no GamerGate, not even Nuuvem.

      Makes you wonder if there has been some kind of exclusivity deal with Steam.

      • Shadow says:

        What? I bought it on Nuuvem for 44 dollars.

      • malkav11 says:

        It’s for sale on every single one of those sites. This strikes me as an “isthereanydeal.com” problem, not an exclusivity deal. (Though since it’s using Steamworks it has to register on Steam wherever you buy it.)

        On a slightly related note, while I’ve seen it cheaper than $60, the fact that even dodgy CD key sites only go as low as $50 is pretty ludicrous, it’s true.

      • Vandelay says:

        Strange. Sure I checked those sites specifically the other day and it wasn’t listed on any of them. Might have been before it was actually out and they weren’t selling pre-orders.

    • Farsearcher says:

      I think it’s the way things are going sadly. Console prices have been like this for years I don’t think we’re going to get it cheaper on PC much longer – at least when they’re new anyway.

      However in MGS 5’s case I checked my steam Stats. I am about 40 hours into the game. I believe I’m about half way through the story. There are still countless weapons, pieces of equipment and upgrades to research, side missions complete and I haven’t even touched the Forward operating base multiplayer yet (though I’m not sure if that’s active currently, maybe I just haven’t unlocked it yet).

      It’s a huge game so I don’t resent paying this much for something that’s going to entertain me for as long as it will.

  18. racccoon says:

    I’m waiting on seeing just how this game plays out rather than jumping in a screaming why the hell did I buy this. it seems so far its a fair game but time keeps ticking by & I still haven’t hit the button..

  19. AyeBraine says:

    Dammit, you need to kill Russian soldiers here AND persuade them to kill their buddies? I mean I get that it’s MGS, but have to admit it makes me pause.

    I guess I know too much about their actual daily lives and sacrifices in that war. Please mind that there’s no (extant) politics here, I’m just expressing my actual emotions, nothing else.

    • CallMeIshmael says:

      Well, not quite. The game never once forces you to kill anyone, save for helicopter pilots on rare occasions, and you most certainly do not force anyone to kill their former comrades unless you yourself, the player, make such a decision to do so. Every mission can be played comfortably as Snake. I should also specify that choosing the non-lethal route, in my opinion, doesn’t count as being “punished for playing lethally,” not in the same way Dishonored does.

      It’s also worth mentioning that the game does not villainize Soviet soldiers, or really anyone for that matter, outside of its big names and faces (like Skull Face). That’s a driving theme of the Metal Gear series – there is no such thing as an absolute enemy, and soldiers are almost always used as tools, forced to sacrifice themselves for causes that they might not believe in and might not be just. You and your Diamond Dogs are merely another cog in the endless global war machine.

  20. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Oh boo to that!! Can’t say haven’t expected it though.
    Unlike you, I thought the stories in a couple previous MGS titles we already kind of garbage, but hey, at least they had hours of David Hayter being David Hayter.

  21. CallMeIshmael says:

    I largely agree with the review, save for one crucial point – the criticism of story. It seems to me like the criticism being presented here is more a misrepresentation; the issue with the game’s plotline isn’t the writing, it’s the structure. To be honest, at least so far as I’m concerned, Phantom Pain isn’t even in my top 3 when it comes to “worst Metal Gear stories.”

    For the curious, my top 3 are:
    1) Portable Ops: This game might as well be non-canon with how little the story matters, and how little sense it makes in terms of continuity. I didn’t like young Campbell, felt no real emotional attachment to any of the antagonists, and Gene, the primary antagonist, was fairly forgettable and cribbed heavily off of Volgin design-wise. At this point, I don’t even consider it canon.

    2) Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
    Where to begin? I’ve played the game through several times and STILL have difficulty piecing together exactly what the hell Coldman’s plan was (also, the main villain’s name is Hot Coldman. Seriously. Come on). The AI weapons were ludicrous, David Hayter’s performance was bizarrely subpar (which I believe contributed to the recast for Phantom Pain), and the game makes it abundantly clear that Big Boss not only misinterpreted The Boss’s will, but was perhaps willfully ignorant of it.

    3) Metal Gear Solid 4
    I feel really bad for whoever had to work with Kojima on writing MGS4 simply because they had to justify all the baffling nonsense that Kojima threw into MGS2 for the surreality of it (like Vamp’s immortality). The game’s plot doesn’t work all that well on any level, save for certain character arcs, and its entire appeal hinges on nostalgia throwbacks and setpiece encounters. Don’t get me wrong, I adore MGS4, but my god its story does NOT hold up.

    I’m also shocked, quite frankly, at how little people have been discussing the absolutely brilliant interplay between game mechanics and plot that Phantom Pain weaves in, starting around the end of Chapter 1. The utilization of tangible game mechanics to back up several key points of emotional drama make it significantly harder for the player to dissociate; one moment in particular actually brought me to tears, which is a first for video gaming so far.
    Yeah, sure, Phantom Pain’s story jumps lots of sharks and is completely insane, but that’s honestly part of why I like it so much. Just remember – there are no such things as facts, only interpretation. The game itself will tell you this. Take it to heart, recall how much of Big Boss’s legacy was outright lies, and enjoy the spectacle you’ve been provided while extracting whatever meaning from it you find works for you.

    • CallMeIshmael says:

      Oh, and a sidenote just so I’m not written off as a fanboy – my name preceded MGS5’s release. I’ve just got a fondness for Moby Dick is all.

    • Neptonic says:

      I will disagree with you on the MGS4 point, I feel like they did an okay job wrapping up loose ends. However the shoehorned Big Boss at the end ruined it especially when Kojima’s original ending was so much better. The original ending was for Snake and Otacon to be captured and tried for their criminal activities and for both to be executed by the US government, but the employees at KojiPro threw a fit about that, so Kojima changed it.

  22. Preciousgollum says:

    Funnily enough, I actually understood the basic idea behind Peace Walker & Hot Coldman (which, I have no immediate issue with the names). Peace Walker was about testing the theory behind MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) to its limits, by creating AIs that would be prepared to launch Nukes with absolute certainty, whereas people might falter & cave into pressure/weakness. Coldman was convinced that a solitary demonstration of this destructive AI Tech would bring about a Stalemate of Peace (which is a riff on Hiroshima/Nagasaki Bombings i.e the ‘first & last’, and only use of War-time Nukes in world history, which bought about peace).

    SPOILERS*** – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!
    From my gathering of spoiler material, MGSV is apparently about Parasites that have been bred to hate the English Language (I learned just today from a bulletin at College that all International Pilots of the world claim English as a language – sucks to be a pilot in The Phantom Pain…).
    So, when the trailers were talking about Language Parasites, this was an actual literal meaning… (weird).

    END SPOILERS*** – SAFE_______

    Peace Walker, which I played recently, was that Chocolate & Peanutbutter type game, where it did a lot for such as simple premise of a PSP game, and the Comic-book type cut-scenes were quite cool. Of course, it wasn’t perfect – David Hayter’s performance felt too much sometimes like a form of self-parody (compared to MGS1 where he is excellent).

    MGSV story seems a bit like Wasabi on a Sushi Platter – you have to either eat the Wasabi, eat around it, or ignore it entirely; not many people would truly savor it.

    Maybe MGSV was just too much more Fulton-ing for my funny-fuse to handle…

  23. Ham Solo says:

    Horrible AI for a stealth game. Terrible plot, lifeless maps. And high price for a standard edition. Those the the negative points. I understand that alot of people still like the game alot and you can have alot of fun in it, but the 9/10 and 10/10 reviews some other websites dish out are just nonsensical fanboyism or paid for. Can’t explain it any other way. Either way, still not a bad game imo.