Six Things MGSV: The Phantom Pain Could Do Better

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain [official site] may be the best stealth-action game ever made, but it’s not flawless. The game’s massive scope, and the surprising amount of detail in each interaction within that massive playpen, is impressive – however, that scope is precisely why certain aspects feel like they have something missing. Consider the following, then, as an exploration of The Phantom Pain’s own phantom pains – without plot spoilers.

Not much is happening between outposts

There is a particular Side Op in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes that begins with Snake in the back of an enemy’s flatbed truck, incognito. As the truck drives through Camp Omega, you can choose when to disembark and begin your usual sneaking, or see where the truck takes you.

I never once did something similar in The Phantom Pain, because enemy encounters on the open roads were so rare. Sure, I saw the occasional truck or four-wheel drive, but I never felt that they would provide opportunities that were otherwise unavailable to me. Part of this comes down to the design of each outpost: they feel like silos planted down on entirely separate areas of the map, often with so many points of ingress that the effort to get in the back of a truck undetected isn’t worth it.

This lack of open world activity also limits the frequency with which a situation that has gone to hell can snowball into something worse. With enemies found mainly within their own outposts, it’s too easy to flee and remain confident that you won’t run headfirst into another threat as you hot-foot it out of there. It’s a far cry (ahem) from certain other open world games that frequently see machine-gun-toting technicals revving their engines to pursue you along their own open roads.

Enemy threats don’t escalate significantly enough

In an attempt to prevent you from employing the same tactics in every mission, enemies will equip themselves with gear to counter your play style. Land enough headshots, and they’ll wear bullet-proof helmets. Repeatedly call in air support, and they’ll start wielding missile launchers. It’s a fantastic idea, but the time it takes to see these effects on enemies is often so long that you’ll have likely developed new tools to cushion the new threat.

This delay also falls out of lockstep with the plot’s developments. Without spoiling anything, one subplot concerns a particular piece of equipment proliferating throughout the private forces’ outposts in the area. However, we never actually see this happen, which is disappointing as that equipment would present exciting new challenges. To reiterate the previous point, seeing more activity between outposts in the open world which also utilised such equipment would make the world seem not only more alive, but also more dangerous.

Combat Deployments turn interesting tasks into countdown timers

Once you’ve established the Combat Unit on Mother Base, you can send your recruits on Combat Deployments. These are missions which your soldiers complete off-screen, and they reward you with resources.

However, some of these Combat Deployments have specific effects. If enemies in the open world have begun to equip bullet-proof helmets, you can send your soldiers, via a Combat Deployment, to destroy the warehouse where those helmets are being stored. This prevents the enemies from using that equipment for a few missions after the Combat Deployment succeeds.

The significance of such an effect feels at odds with the abstract, hands-off nature by which it is accomplished. This is the kind of thing I’d like to do myself. It would give me more reason to explore the open world, pushing me into potentially dangerous encounters. There are similar systems which act this way already, such as destroying anti-air radar emplacements to open up new landing zones. That’s much more interesting than watching a countdown timer.

It’s far too easy to escape the open world

Speaking of landing zones: there are so many of them, and they’re all so easily accessible, that it rarely feels like calling in a chopper to depart the mission area will entail much risk. With landing zones mostly located in the dead space outside of outposts, and with few enemies patrolling the open world to potentially encounter, the chances that you’ll experience a thrilling escape by the skin of your teeth aren’t as high as they could be.

The constant deployment and extraction loop feels necessary due to The Phantom Pain’s mission-based structure, but it undersells the hostility of the open world and the effort it takes to survive within it. This only comes across in the later, optional “Subsistence” missions – which force you to drop into the world with no equipment and make use of what you come across. But it’s disappointing that all the systems exist for such an experience to be had without forcing an arbitrary mission parameter upon you.

I wish it was harder to escape Afghanistan, and that I had more experiences where supplies were running low and I had to start thinking more creatively. If I were completely out of ammo, taking the time to hide in the back of a truck as it drives me to safety would make perfect sense.

Faction conflict would make the open world more exciting

You are the only force that opposes all enemies in the open world. Because of this, every time you roll up to an outpost, the state it will be in won’t ever change. If enemies had another force to deal with, such as an opposing faction, you would see even more opportunities for creative solutions present themselves.

Imagine slipping through an outpost while a gunfight rages, or picking off the stragglers left injured by a faction encounter. The unpredictable outcomes of such conflicts would encourage reactive play, balancing out the more intentional side of tagging everyone in an outpost and planning a route through.

Far Cry 4’s best addition to the series was its own faction system, and it’s one that provided for chaotic and dynamic moments that spilled over from outposts into the rest of the open world. It would be right at home in The Phantom Pain, and the narrative already establishes cause for such conflict.

Some of the best challenges are restricted to multiplayer

The Phantom Pain’s Forward Operating Bases are a proving ground for your stealth skills, because it’s where the most difficult challenges present themselves. Not only do to you have to contend with the intelligence and unpredictability of a live human’s decisions, but there are items and obstacles you’ll never see anywhere in the open world, such as laser trip wires and unmanned drones.

On top of this, many of the items you develop can be equipped by the security team you assign to guard your FOB. When you invade a base, you’re going up against troops that have items which previously only you had access to.

You need to completely change the way you think about approaching the situation, because you’ll never see anything this difficult in the open world. It’s disappointing, because those not interested in multiplayer are missing out on some of The Phantom Pain’s best challenges. The open world could have done with a few high difficulty outposts that utilised a number of security gadgets from the FOB mode – providing that challenge for everyone, and giving you the chance to practice against these systems in a less-intense environment.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is our Game of the Month for September, and that link will let you read all this month’s coverage.

83 Comments

  1. SMGreer says:

    All very good points.

    Also: The story. The whole thing. It’s awful.

    • Thurgret says:

      Yes. And it cripples the game completely after a point. I was really enjoying it up until the thing that forces you to rush through to a mission that fixes a certain problem, at which point I was less keen on it. Then around mission 30 and 31 it all just turned completely rubbish, with a painfully long cutscene in which, bizarrely, Kiefer Sutherland is mute, then the worst boss fight ever – in fact, all the boss fights were rubbish, and never actually difficult, just tedious.

      After that, they just start repeating earlier missions, with an ‘extreme’ or ‘subsistence’ tag, because apparently they weren’t too bothered about the second half of the game, and while those missions can be skipped, the remaining real missions fee lacklustre compared to what came before.

      All, to my mind, because of the rubbish story. It seems to me to be the thing that brings out the worst parts of the game.

      • SMGreer says:

        Yep, pretty much. And the ending frames the whole thing in a way that’s almost “It was all a dream!” thus making the entire game seem a little futile.

        Ugh. There’s a great game in MGSV, I just wish it was a great game all the time.

        • Awesomeclaw says:

          The link below is to a pretty good write-up of the implications of what actually happens in the context of the wider story (mostly based on observation but with some speculation), with reference to both the events of MGS3 and Peace Walker and to the original Metal Gear games. MEGASPOILERS, obviously.

          link to giantbomb.com

      • Awesomeclaw says:

        It feels (and apparently there’s some evidence that this is in fact the case) that there’s a decent portion of the game actually missing. I’m not completely against replaying missions with the modifiers (in particular I think the Subsistence one is kind of interesting) but it’s possible that a lot of these would originally have been new missions.

        • Vartarok says:

          Exactly. I won’t deny the overwhelming quantity of problems the game suffers, but I do think that for the most part are problems born from the fact the game has been released unfinished. I don’t know if you know the case of the classic jRPG, Xenogears, but I feel like this is the exact same case. I know this is a daft statement, but after thinking about this a lot, if I’d have to guess, I would say the game is around 45% completion of what Kojima originally envisioned. Proving this would require looooooong discussion, but let me say this: I feel it’s pretty clear that mission featuring in the Nuclear trailer original’s place was around Mission 28, and was moved and substituted with the weird kikongo infection bit, just for the sake of giving some kind of credible motivation to the ending of Huey and Quiet arcs in chapter 2.

          For that reason I think being flexible and compassionate with the game is what works better with it. Of course is an unfinished game, and for that reason a worse game than it should be; maybe even just a bad game, but this approach in the very end just makes more enjoyable the game, and that’s why I prefer thinking that way.

    • Premium User Badge

      Oakreef says:

      Well surely the fact that the title had Metal Gear Solid in it should have tipped you off to that.

  2. golem09 says:

    I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that people like this game at all. It’s like all the worst gameplay elements in videogames combined into one game with a bad story and cringeworthy writing.

    • Dale Winton says:

      It’s the best stealth game I’ve ever played and I’ve played a lot of stealth games.

      • cannedpeaches says:

        I’ll remain staunchly in the middle here. On the whole I’ve played better stealth games, but this is the finest stealth sim I remember. I liked Dishonored better, and Chaos Theory, and Thief: TDP, and even Deus Ex: HR.

        But this is the deepest stealth I’ve played, and perhaps the tensest, because your cover is blown SO easily. MGSV just has no interest to provide you with easy places to hide and convenient opportunities to backstab. You’re in the open and you’re pretty easy to kill.

        But god. Oh my god. That story is so awful it threatens to ruin the whole game. I’m not sure how somebody hasn’t confiscated all of Hideo Kojima’s pens and most of his keyboard and forced him to communicate with his team via semaphore.

        And it’s not without bad design decisions, to be fair: I don’t think the six pointed out here are the worst I’ve encountered. But it’s not flawless. It’s just pretty damn good stealth and well thought out systems, in a horrible story-wrapper, with some bad decisions along the way.

        • Sin Vega says:

          . I’m not sure how somebody hasn’t confiscated all of Hideo Kojima’s pens and most of his keyboard and forced him to communicate with his team via semaphore.

          I feel almost certain this is pretty much what happened, and it’s the only reason you can actually play MGS5 for more than 5 minutes at a time without moronic cutscenes interrupting you. And yet such is the extremity of his godawfulness, they still couldn’t completely excise the game of Kojima’s literally-the-worst-in-the-industry writing.

          I also suspect this was a factor in his leaving, which leaves me conflicted, because while Konami are arseholes and I don’t genuinely wish ill treatment on Kojima despite loathing his work, it suggests that without someone reigning him in he’ll only go back to overindulged garbage in his next game.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            “I don’t genuinely wish ill treatment on Kojima despite loathing his work…”

            How charitable of you.

          • Geebs says:

            Not to disrupt the hyperbole, but I feel I should remind you that David Cage is a person who exists.

          • jhk655 says:

            If you think Kojima’s writing is the worst in the industry, then you obviously haven’t played many videogames. Compared to great literature, yeah its pretty terrible, but in the realm of other viedeogames, its not nearly the worst.

      • yan spaceman says:

        “It’s the best stealth game I’ve ever played and I’ve played a lot of stealth games.”

        This is my opinion too.

    • Janichsan says:

      That’s exactly what I’m thinking about games like LoL or Dota (minus the story and the writing), and yet hundred thousands people are playing them.

      Isn’t it weird how personal preferences work?

    • king0zymandias says:

      Yeah, I have realized that gamers and game critics have very low expectations of the medium, the standards are just a little too low. It’s a little disappointing. It seems Kojima is the auteur we deserve but not the auteur we need.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Ah yes, you are in a special club of people who see through the veneer of brilliance everyone else is caught up…no wait, you just can’t the beautiful sculpture through the veneer of poo-colored cloth hanging in front of their eyes.

        Or you’re just being a shitface because the game a lot of people like doesn’t fall into your particular tastes.

        MGSV is a good game. To say you don’t like it is cool. I don’t like a lot of great games other people like, at all. To say it’s a bad games and our tastes suck and bring the industry as a whole down for liking it just makes you a bigot.

        • king0zymandias says:

          Fair enough, after all I am known as a shitfaced bigot in certain circles. But that’s neither here or there.

          For me it’s a game where the gameplay is incredibly easy, unchallenging and repetitive. And the less said of the juvenile writing and character development the better. But as you so eloquently pointed out yourself, that’s just my subjective opinion. And since that’s just how I personally perceive the game it’s not much of a surprise that I disagree with the people who are labeling it as the best thing ever, is it now?

          I mean yes, it’s true that I think mainstream AAA titles are quite silly, and that game criticism, on the whole tends to be very forgiving and lenient compared to other mediums. But once again that’s just my personal opinion. I appreciate that you are a fan of the things I so vehemently dislike, so my condemnation hurts you on a personal level. But what is the solution to that? Me not voicing my opinion and criticism? Or was it the tone of my comment that made me come off as a shitfaced bigot?

          • thebigJ_A says:

            As someone who thinks this game is just sort of ok, I might be the right one to answer that.

            It’s your tone. You came across more or less as described, though I wouldn’t have used “shit”, myself.

          • king0zymandias says:

            Ah, absolutely. With you all the way on that assessment. I mean surely nothing makes you come across as a something-faced bigot faster than questioning Kojima’s greatness as a genius auteur and criticizing the willingness of the game industry’s acceptance and adulation of mediocrity.

          • Kitsunin says:

            Look, that opinion hinges on MGSV being mediocre — if it isn’t, then you do sound like a…dingus…for saying we have low standards and are harming the industry by loving it.

            Regarding its mediocrity, I can see its flaws, but aside from the less-than-great story, they don’t apply to most people. It’s not easy to me, but then I’ve never been good at real time stealth; I’m just not very patient I guess, which oddly seems to make MGSV more enjoyable. It’s not repetitive to me; because I don’t try to methodically and nonlethally eliminate every enemy one-by-one, a lot of interesting game-states result. I find the experience feels very different with each type of loadout and buddy, too.

            I found it was incredibly tedious to try and be stealthy in Dishonored (being lethal would have it scold you like a bad puppy and was too easy, yet being nonlethal was boring). While everything related to its story was great, Human Revolution’s gameplay was merely fine in my eyes.

            So if MGSV stands above anything else in the industry, why wouldn’t we praise it? Why wouldn’t our standards be set realistically? Should we have thought MGSV was terrible because it was only a more enjoyable stealth game than anything else out there (to many of us, subjectively)?

        • Sinjun says:

          Gamers taste does suck in regards to writing and story. Time and time again they’ve made their voice heard that they either don’t care about it, or they prefer it to be silly and stupid like MGS is. If the gaming community had good taste they’d all be on their knees at the altar of The Last of Us, one of the only AAA games ever made to come close to character work only seen in literature or great films. Instead, gamers dismiss it or find reasons to complain, and gladly gobble up shit like Destiny and Call of Duty. There’s a good reason why the public still looks down on mainstream video games.

          • aleander says:

            Gamers taste does suck in regards to writing and story.

            Gamer’s? Have you seen the dregs in the cinemas? TV shows do slightly better, but there’s so many stories that get artificially inflated to fit multiple seasons, it’s not brilliant either — and the pinnacle of high-budget is stuff like Breaking Bad, or, heavens help me, Game of Thrones. Books are pretty much all indie market by now, so that’s cheating and doesn’t count.

            While there are better stories in all of these, if you look closely enough, it’s hardly representative of the mass market taste. It’s not even that most people have such poor taste (I kinda resent the idea of saying most people have no taste) — it’s that as you go high budget, you kinda have to (or at least it seems presumed by the producers that you have to) turn the entire idea into a mush to appeal to as many audiences at once as possible.

      • dorobo says:

        I have to agree with shitfaced dude here. Maybe that’s a problem with us older players. But as time goes by games get prettier but rarely better in it’s essence. And air time that these triple A’s get is not fair.

  3. Nacery says:

    “Faction conflict would make the open world more exciting”
    Absoultely, the game always states that we are supposed to be in a warzone but there’s nothing happening in the field. I actually loved the fanction mechanics in Metal Gear Solid 4 with the constant airstrikes changing the enviroment.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      Agreed. I think changing that would’ve made the biggest difference, compared to the other complaints most people have with the game, which in my opinion, tend to sit in one of two extremes: minor and nitpicky, or wildly unrealistic.

      But as you point out, this was already a feature in MSG4, so why leave it out of the open world? It makes little sense.

      • thetruegentleman says:

        If I had to guess, it’s because more players would have been angry at AI soldiers killing valuable enemies and randomly raising the alarm then glad that such a feature existed.

        It’s also implied pretty early that any meaningful resistance has been wiped out by Cipher, and the part of Afghanistan Big Boss operates in is also a Russian stronghold, so guerrillas would avoid it if at all possible.

    • BooleanBob says:

      I read that as ‘fanfiction mechanics’ and it may perfect sense to my brain, in a ‘well how else are they going to out-Kojima Kojima’ sort of a way.

  4. Shadow says:

    All valid points.

    There will always be something to criticise. But MGSV concerns itself with so many sensible things other games ignore completely, it’s almost unfair to keep asking for more. Feels like the father whom you show an A, and he asks why not an A+.

    But it seems Kojima is like this with himself, which is why he doesn’t play his games after release, I’ve read. He’ll keep spotting things to improve, but can’t do anything about it past that point.

    • gunny1993 says:

      lol that sounds really noble about Kojima …. but if he never plays his own game after release doesn’t that just mean he’ll make the same mistake when he makes the next one?

  5. ffordesoon says:

    Valid points, even if I disagree with most of them.

  6. Flappybat says:

    The difficulty is a downer. It starts off feeling quite tough but once you get used to the AI’s detection range, behaviours and a bit of the tech tree under your belt it becomes amazingly easy.

    Quiet and D Dog’s spotting remove nearly all danger with only snipers or people hidden from LOS remaining a surprise. In addition to that Quiet can clear an outpost on her own even without a silencer. Poor D Dog, they should give him all his abilities at the same time.

    The enemy has really bad detection for open world. I assume it’s designed for missions where the areas are a lot more contained but unless they are on full combat alert you can crouch walk around in full daylight 30M from them. It’s also very easy to lose them even in a combat alert, which could have still worked if they searched for you better but they do a poor job of that too. Where’s the reinforcements and search parties? Why aren’t you cowering in terror in a bush as gunships roam the area and APCs patrol the bushes? The biggest difficulty increase I’ve had is snipers. There’s so few guards defending bases in the first place, look at how much is defending the Afghan base when you rescue Huey. In the open world there’s about fourteen guards dotted around it. They never use armored vehicles, helicopters or heavy infantry outside of side missions and they would have all made things more complicated. They barely even get to use the defense emplacements or towers because they point outwards.

    • jonahcutter says:

      I haven’t played this yet, but I did notice the same thing about detection ranges from watching gameplay videos. The detection range of the enemy AI seems almost laughably short. To the point where you’re in plain view of the entire base on a big white horse, but “stealthing” because you’re outside the 25-30m myopic eyesight of the guards.

      I know I know… video games. But it does raise the question of “good” stealth. I’ve been playing a bit of ArmA 3 SP scenarios and mods (Incognito mod is neat, it allows you to don other uniforms and go somewhat undercover, Hitman style), and I’ve got used to the AI ranges in that. You have to be aware of your surroundings for hundreds of yards in every direction. Moving through the countryside and towns is an exercise in observation and plotting approaches. You hide by being completely out of sightline. And there are no magic, push-button, get-out-of-jail-free abilities. It’s demanding and when things go south, they can really go south. By those metrics, ArmA 3 is arguably the best stealth game I’ve ever played.

      • terrylava says:

        Arma 3 is a military sim. I don’t know if that goes on the same scale as metal gear. That’s like comparing gran turismo to mario kart. Though there are those of us who love realism, most people consider the frustration of being killed in one shot, or driving into walls massively boring. I agree that the amount of challenge in Arma is far greater and rewarding for success, i wouldn’t particularly call it better or a more fun game.

      • Deuzen says:

        The problem is the fact that the detection range is tied to the soldiers’ skills. The higher their Intel skill the more aware they are, and since pretty much all the soldiers have E or D skills in the beginning they literally can’t see s**t.
        But towards the end-game (when their skills start averaging around A-level) I actually found myself being spotted from over a hundred meters if I happened to move around carelessly.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      I’m hoping some kind of AI mod or patch is eventually released. Just bumping up the range at which they detect movement would go a long way toward giving a more satisfying difficulty. The replay value is a little on the low side, as it is.

      On the other hand, I’d miss being able to Fulton things so freely.

      • horsemedic says:

        See, and I’m finding the Fultoning to be another game ruiner. Once you learn the (very few) circumstances in which doing so will alert other guards, the ballons make it laughably easy to permanently remove every guard from the map with no consequences (except good consequences for the meta game).

        I mean, you have all these potentially great systems that could complicate missions, like guards waking up or stumbling across bodies or investigating suspicious radio silence. And it’s totally irrelevant because [hold Y, win]

        • Flappybat says:

          What is a shame is they already have a good selection of AI response and behaviours. Radioing in suspicious activity which increases patrolling, guards checking in pairs, heavy attacks make them bunker down, snipers relocate when under fire, flares and mortars for locating and flushing you out but none of them mean very much when you can chain tranq a string of suspicious guards or easily go full rambo with a basic assault rifle.

    • OmNomNom says:

      Yeah this is the problem. As soon as you have a few decent guns even a full silent mission is a breeze and of course going in hot is so easy it is depressing. You can go full melee too if you like but it just isn’t much fun to gather weapons and tech and then walk around not using any of them

  7. Premium User Badge

    Thulsa Hex says:

    I’m less than half way through the story missions but think these are all valid points. The main one I feel myself genuinely wishing for, however, is the increased sense of danger — both with enemy activity between outposts and with how easy it is to re-supply in the field. Ground Zeroes was better at this for me, as the more contained area meant no running off into the sunset when stuff goes FUBAR. GZ also forced you to make slightly risky moves, like breaking into armories, if you need a resupply — else you just had to manage with what you had on you.

    In TPP, I think the air-drop resupply mechanic is cool, but it’s unbalanced. It should either be way more expensive to re-up on ammo and Fulton balloons (I find the cost absolutely negligible) or it should carry much more of a risk (if enemy soldiers can be alerted by the parachuting box, I’ve yet to experience it). Knowing I can max out my gear at any point in a mission causes me to be far more free with my suppressed tranq. weapons, which significantly lowers the difficulty of enemy encounters. It also undermines what can potentially be the most fun aspect of the game: trying to figure out how to get to/fulfill your objective with a limited tool-set, now that you’ve exhausted your best toys getting out of a sticky situation you caused for yourself. What’s the point in having a limited-capacity suppressor when you can call one out of the sky at any point? I found that in the early game I occasionally resorted to lethal violence if it meant containing a situation before it broke out, but felt crappier afterward. This mentality requires a certain amount of role-play, I guess, but it made for some real tense on-the-fly decision-making.

    Also totally agree that some bases should be much harder to infiltrate. Using a decoy to cause truck drivers to stop so that you could sneak into the back while they investigate is totally possible but never necessary.

    Lastly, Fultons are fantastic! They really are. But I wish there were more missions where you had to extract people through conventional means. Extracting certain prisoners in GZ was a tense experience, and required some planning if you wanted to convey them to the LZ unseen. Imagine having to load-up a 4WD with a pair of prisoners in the back and an valuable unconscious officer in the passenger seat, and then making a ridiculous escape through the base in an attempt to get them all to your chopper unharmed. It’s something you can do if you really wanted, but Fulton balloons mean I’ve yet to find myself in a situation that requires such dramatic tactics.

    Basically, things are rarely desperate enough to force you to think further outside of the box than normal or deviate too much from your tried and true tactics, which is a shame as the tools are definitely there.

    • aleander says:

      Geez, I wish the modders figure out this game. My silly wishlist:
      * radars get replaced over time,
      * fultons, supply drops and other helicopter operations over areas with coverage carry a large risk of helicopter loss,
      * helicopter loss is super-expensive,
      * even areas *with* coverage carry a small loss of risk — make it wandering patrols with RPGs for additional interactivity (but that’s probably much harder to inject into the code),
      * oh, and give fultons an innate 5% failure rate that’s impossible to get rid of (maybe with a few exceptions so that missions aren’t too annoying).

      • aleander says:

        Oh, and, if a guard looks in the direction of Fulton from less that 200 meters, the guard spots it. From less than 50, the guard *hears* it.

  8. shagen454 says:

    I like the game – but to be honest it encouraged me to replay Witcher 3 a second time, this time spending more time exploring, cutting out fast travel and just taking more time to go through it. I cannot believe that some outlets gave MGSV a 10/10, A+ – did they even play through the whole game? Or like most reviews seem to be this day, did they only review the first 15 hours of their experience (ie first impressions marketed as reviews)?

    • trn says:

      Some went to review ‘boot camps’ (see the Jimquisition from a few weeks ago). Others will be aware that criticism of certain AAA games will be met with hostility from readers and nobody wants the thing they’ve written to be attacked, even if it’s by ravenous pre-teens.

      The reviews I have read don’t sell the game to me. Fantastic stealth (though a bit repetitive), barren open world, disjointed and unfinished plot that is mostly told through optional collectibles, great graphics, fun, microtransactions in a full price game, thong-shots for days, treatment of Kojima and commentators and community by Konami. 10/10?

      But hey, it’s Kojima and I know I would give a free pass and a 10 to Tim Cain or Julian Gollop.

    • aleander says:

      But, if playing the first third can easily give you dozens of hours of good fun, then claiming it’s a poor game because eventually it stops being fun would be unfair. My answer to “finishing it is a slog” is not “it’s a bad game” but “don’t finish it, duh.” It would be an even better game if it held up better in the long run, but frankly, first 15 hours are enough to call it great. Unless you have a guy with a gun forcing you to finish it. I’d propose picking up a different game for that situation.

  9. anthonyp452 says:

    My biggest issue with the game is the design choice to only reveal the side objectives after the mission has been completed. I really don’t understand the reason for this. Trying to do all of the side objectives and the main objective in the same round would be really fun imo, since it would really heighten the stakes since there’s a higher chance you’re gonna get spotted. They could still keep the same system where you can go back to the mission a 2nd time to do the side objectives. I just don’t understand the thinking behind only revealing the side objectives after the mission.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Many of the side objectives are mutually exclusive. You can’t Fulton a general’s jeep on the way to a meeting AND listen in on the conversation he has when he gets there.
      They’re meant to be replayed, essentially, and the side objectives are bonuses. I prefer not knowing the first time. When I bump into one on my own it’s the game acknowledging my good or inventive play.

  10. drygear says:

    I really wish this game was as moddable as the Elder Scrolls games. I’d love a mod where you have to go from one end of the map to another with just the beginner gear you bring in and what you find along the way, with no supply drops. Also having to hunt for food like MGS3.

  11. Cross says:

    I’ve got two problems with the game, aside from the above ones being minor quibbles to me, and both tie into the sheer size of the open world.
    Firstly, landing zones are really bloody uneven. Sometimes there are four on top of each other, other times, there’s a mile and a half between your landing zone and your objective. That sort of sucks, mostly because of the abovementioned emptiness of the open world. Second quibble is that Side Ops have no save point associated with them, meaning you could gallop the aforementioned one and a half miles, get killed for some dumb reason, curse loudly, and quit.

    Those aside, lovely game!

  12. MattMk1 says:

    You know, I really wish I could see this “best stealth game ever” that so many people do. Honestly, not being sarcastic.

    Not just because it’d make me feel better about deciding to take a risk on it and spend the $60, but because I think I can see glimpses of it when I play, only to have it ruined by a lot of the stuff that it does that ranges from awful to just kind of “meh.”

    The plot obviously would be near the top of the list – I knew it would be bad, from trying to read up on MGS lore, watching friends play the original Playstation MGS back in college, and my own abortive try to play MGS2 on the PC – but I was still unprepared for what passes for story and dialogue in this game. Characters open their mouths and say shit that sounds like it was written by a college freshman who just discovered there is injustice in the world and is really excited about the stuff he’s read in his introductory poly-sci and philosophy courses.

    Anyway… I could deal with that stuff if the gameplay grabbed me more, but I just don’t see all that much to get excited about, there.

    The missions are sometimes fun but more often repetitive, most of the optional objectives are incredibly obscure and clearly a way to encourage replays, the world doesn’t feel especially open because (at least so far) it’s made up of small to mid-size hubs connected by constricted passages, and worst of all, it’s very empty aside from the enemies.

    The enemy AI is quite clever, sure… but it almost seems to me like the game actually punishes you for trying to have some fun with it, because the moment you stop playing a very specific stealth-based approach, the alarms go off and everything goes to hell. And while the action/shooty bits are nowhere near as sluggish and obviously punishing as (for example) the old Splinter Cell games, they’re a far cry (har, har) from the smoothness and responsiveness of more action-oriented titles. And the cover mechanics really kind of suck, for a 2015 title.

    Considering how wildly goofy so much of the game is, I don’t see why so much of the gameplay was made to serve the purpose of a “realistic” sneaking system. Which has its own glaring inconsistencies – tag someone with binoculars, and you can see them even if there is a mountain between you, but at close range, the game makes almost no effort to help you make sense of its often dark, usually drab visuals. (Yes, I’m actually one of those people who think HUD “radars” showing nearby enemies in LOS are a common sense way to compensate for how blind you are in most video games as a result of not having peripheral vision and of camera movement limitations.)

    I mean, it’s far from being the hardest stealth-based game I’ve played – that’s not the issue – but I do think it probably has the worst ratio of work-to-reward of any such game I can readily think of, especially since it uses a checkpoint system.

    Bah. Serves me right for picking it up despite some serious, evidence-based misgivings, I guess. Although I do feel a bit like I want to blame the reviewers on this one… the almost-universal acclaim, including here at RPS (until this bit, anyway) probably pushed me over the edge.

    • Stupoider says:

      I’m going to be a bit more cautious about what RPS and other sites call ‘the best’ from now on.

    • noodlecake says:

      Nothing about it is realistic, which is probably one of the reasons it’s the game that uses stealth as a mechanic that I have ever played in my entire life.

      It has it’s own interlocking systems that are completely different to any other game series ever. It’s like the game was made in a vacuum without anybody else’s ideas polluting it. Most games, like Deus Ex: HR, the other weird victorian looking one where you can blink around, and Theif all feel like they were cut from the same mould but with a few tweaks to make them a bit different from one another. MGS:PP has the edge just because it provides something so fresh and different and it all works so well.

      • turth says:

        TPP’s detection system is extremely similar to the detection system found in Splinter Cell: Conviction (2010) and Splinter Cell: Blacklist (2013). This detection system is also found in Far Cry 3 (2012) and Far Cry 4 (2014).

  13. HigoChumbo says:

    7. Character design.

    • aleander says:

      The article is about what MGS could do better. It’s questionable whether Kojima could do that better.

  14. Cinek says:

    Release a cutscene-less edition? Or better yet: Cutscene&introduction-less edition?

  15. sdfv says:

    I agree with all these points, but still think it is the best game I have played in quite a while. Its many flaws are compensated for by the fact that it is incredibly fun to play, for quite a long time. The second half being much lower quality is very disappointing, but even just the first half is longer than most other full games anyway. Most of the other complaints that the people who think it is overrated seem to have about it(other than the valid ones about the story being anime garbage) boil down to “It’s too easy” or “It’s too hard.”

    Both of these can be easily fixed quite either by either handicapping yourself by not using things like Fultoning everyone or companions(No one is forcing you to!), or making it even easier by doing things like wearing the chicken hat and just running away when you get caught if you are bad at the shooting. Yes, you shouldn’t have to, but just try it. You’ll have more fun.

    That being said, a few more difficulty options would have definitely improved the game and widened the appeal.

    If you just can’t get past how stupid the story is, I take it you have never played another video game. Go back to reading literature, it’s better for you anyway. If your favorite game also has a really stupid story(which it almost certainly does,) think about what actually annoyed you so much that you started to look for other flaws.

  16. Crowleyz says:

    Only thing I really took from this is that you want the game to be more like Far Cry 4. Thank god it isn’t is my opinion.

  17. draglikepull says:

    I’m glad the combat deployments work the way they do for two reasons:

    1. The game is already arguably too full of things to do. I’m glad they didn’t try to add yet *another* mission type.

    But more importantly:

    2. One of the things I most hated about Dragon Age: Inquisition was that no matter how powerful your kingdom/army got, you still had to do an absurd amount of micro-tasks yourself. Why doesn’t the hero send off other people to collect minerals or build armour or whatever other fiddly little task? Well in MGS5, the more you grow your base, the more of that stuff you can offload to underlings. I love the way the game recognises that it would be absurd for Snake to do all those things himself, and that as a player they can often feel grindy.

  18. Dicehuge says:

    I’m surprised at how much of a let-off the boss fights have been given, particularly the fights against the Skull guys, which seem completely at odds with the way the rest of the game is played. Episode 29 was an absolute shocker, as bad as any of Human Revolution’s boss fights. Suddenly the game went from clever, logical stealth-action to “fight these bullet-proof wizards”. Since I’d only really used silent weapons up to that point, I had to develop loads of new stuff and just sit and wait for them to be completed.

  19. LennyLeonardo says:

    These are all really good points, and these flaws would hobble any other game. Phantom Pain, on the other hand, is all the more charming for its missteps (well, not that one). That puts it among the Stalkers and Soulses and Mounts and Blades in my mind.

  20. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    I, on the other hand, would not want these things, because they sound like a total pain in the ass. The game’s both pretty tough, and involves a lot of busywork as it is.
    Don’t listen to him, Kojima-san!

  21. Sertorius777 says:

    I am really baffled as to the amount of hate you guys muster against Kojima’s writing.

    The writing in all of the MGS series is quite hectic and incoherent from any point of view. But to say it’s god awful, that Kojima should be restricted from ever touching a pen again and whatever is just a display of unbridled ignorance against something that just doesn’t appeal to your sense of storytelling.

    I play MGS games for their story, and let me tell you why: they tackle issues most games never even think about considering. They don’t do it in the most subtle or coherent way, but it’s mostly because the plot and its characters are driven by ideas and themes, and not the other way around.

    The MGS series was what flared up my interest for geopolitics, warfare and a ton of other global issues – because the attention to detail when Kojima tackles one subject beats that of 90 per cent of other video games. Take for example Afghanistan: did the game really need to inform us that it’s not really a nation, but more of a tribal confederacy strewn together by 20th century borders? Or that the Soviets brought in european soldiers because they would make easier Asian-killing machines than those east of the Urals?

    Kojima’s writing is weird. It goes from overly philosophical to straight up puerile and stereotypical, it throws in a lot of information irrelevant to the plot, and the way he handles character interactions is anything but remotely realistic. But fuck me if the ideas brought under discussion – the necessity/absurdity of war,the very notion of what a nation is, social engineering, genetics, unregulated advancement of technology, the real role of the soldier in conflicts, and these are just to name a few – are more interesting than most of the coherent, conventional plotlines we champion as the spearheads of games as art, most of which don’t bring anything new to the table.

    Of course, diving into MGS V directly is just plain confusing because of one simple reason: it’s so weird, and so rooted in series’ weirdness, that it’s almost impossible to get used to on the run. And the fact is, it’s not for everyone – i don’t mean that from the “i see the genius in the plot you plebs cannot even begin to fathom” standpoint, but it’s just that some might get offended by its severe inconsistencies in tone, its unbelievable/unexplainable plot devices and puerile moments.

    In the end though, i think the only way to measure if some type of writing is great or awful is the degree to which it gets its reader/recipient to think further about its ideas and themes. And the series did get a cult following, which it would have never gotten if the plot was as awful as painted by most RPS commenters over here – it used to be quite in your face with those hour-long cutscenes to be able to ignore it – so i’m thinking there are other people of the mindset like me.

    I’m not telling you to go and play the entire series to be able to appreciate its ideas/themes, hell, i’m not even telling you guys to like it, since it’s all about your preferences, anyway. But i am asking you to stop spewing shit on a guy who tries to bring up topics you rarely see in video games or other forms of entertainment, just because he does it in a weird way that doesn’t appeal to your sense of storytelling, and direct it to all the generic writers who rehash the same old ideas and themes over and over again, with which the industry is so saturated nowadays. It only adds to the legendary unfounded PC elitism, which drags us down and drags the video game industry down as a whole. (And no, i’m not going to start the whole “this is a console thing you don’t get” argument. Games are games regardless of platform.)

    • Kitsunin says:

      I totally agree. Earlier I called its story less than great because that feels objectively true. Yet for some reason I’ve always been very fond of the MGS series’ storytelling, odd as it is. I just haven’t bothered to think about why.

    • ineatprophet says:

      I also am in agreement. The story, and the way it is told is fascinating. Sometimes I find it groan-inducingly bad, other times thought-provoking. The world is richer for Kojima’s creations, and MGS wouldn’t exist without his oddball narrative.

    • Dicehuge says:

      I see what you mean but I felt the Kojima storytelling style hasn’t aged well. I think the criticism is warranted in the sense that, at least for me, the weird quasi-philosophical style worked far better in the preceding MGS games. I only played the first 3 prior to Phantom Pain but enjoyed the very stylized, often baffling way the story was told. For the last hour of MGS2 I had no idea what the hell was going on but it just worked.
      But I think Phantom Pain is a different beast, it leans far more toward incoherent than enigmatic, and the character writing is just terrible. Despite the weird, muddled nature of the previous games’ stories, they still managed to create interesting characters but I didn’t get that with Phantom Pain at all.

    • Sinjun says:

      His ideas are college freshman level interesting, and everything about the way in which he expresses his ideas are utterly terrible. He has a strong knack for visuals and cinematic moments, but his skills as a storyteller and writer… good lord, I don’t know how he ever became as prominent as he is. He can’t write dialogue, and he relies on bad exposition and contrivance all the time. His characters are occasionally pretty cool and his plots can be gleefully insane, but that’s not the case with MGSV. MGSV is an abomination of writing and barely has anything the series is regarded highly for. The character work is at an all time low, the only people who have anything resembling an arc are Huey and Miller. There’s nothing totally crazy aside from the beginning and the very end, and it’s all just unfinished to it’s core. Chapter 2 isn’t even paced properly and it ends where the third act should begin – the whole game is buildup for a payoff we never get. I could go on and on but it’s been discussed in detail elsewhere. The game is fun but hollow and desperately needed a Chapter 3.

      • aleander says:

        He has a strong knack for visuals and cinematic moments, but his skills as a storyteller and writer…

        This! Gosh, beyond a few scenes in MGSV, just looking up some of the scenes from, say, Peace Walker — like the “false” ending — but just scenes, not entire cutscenes — some of the stuff is truly brilliant. You can almost get genuine sorrow from the thing disjointed from any context…

        … and then its dragged out way past the point it was still viable, and mixed with some annoying stuff inserted for more epicness. HK doesn’t seem to really do great story, but makes some great moments. Sometimes it’s sad giant robot (:[), sometimes it’s a giant flaming whale and a flaming dude on a flaming unicorn pegasus.

      • Geebs says:

        Meh. I think your line of reasoning is part of the reason why the new, socially conscious world of gaming is getting blander and safer rather than bolder and riskier.

        Show no social consciousness at all, and you get a pass. Show some evidence of social consciousness and you get a bunch of armchair directors talking about how you did it wrong.

        For all its flaws, Ground Zeroes wasn’t afraid to be really unsettling or even downright horrid when talking about human rights abuses. Who else has had the guts to do that in recent memory?

        • Sinjun says:

          Ground Zeroes was fantastic and if taken on it’s own maybe the best thing Kojima has ever done, but I see it as a complete cocktease for the disappointment that was MGSV. None of the bite or maturity teased in GZ was evident here.

        • Assirra says:

          Human rights abuse?
          I advice you to play the witcher. Human rights don’t exist for half of the people in that universe.

    • MattMk1 says:

      But the way he brings up “important” issues is exactly why some people slam him for writing pseudo-philosophical dribble.

      He calls these things out, sure – but then has virtually nothing meaningful or interesting to say. I mean, just as an example, the monologue Miller delivers after you rescue him – war is hell, plus some incoherent nonsense about lost limbs and lost comrades and pain – actually made me laugh.

      Not because I’m indifferent, but because I have read many first-hand accounts of people who survived war, and there’s nothing in Kojima’s writing that rings true. And because of how incredibly clumsily he makes his point.

      Why not actually let the game tell the story? Let us talk to one of those soldiers we blithely kidnap, find out why he’s reluctant to go back in again. Have us run into some Soviets in the open world that we can have a more complex interaction with besides just hooking them up to a balloon. Or at least, if you just want to throw exposition at us, don’t make it a three-minute monologue. String it out across a couple of conversations, as we visit Miller in the hospital, or something. And cut out the purple prose, for God’s sake.

      People mostly slam his approach to characters like Quite as juvenile, but really, just about everything else he writes also reveals the lack of any kind of mature insight.

    • Josh W says:

      Maybe one way you could look at it, is that he makes a very bad patriot computer:

      He’s trying to build this narrative, but he show any discipline in controlling information, people have picked out news stories that he got certain characters’ origins from, historical themes or moments that he is playing off. The story might be fractured and bizarre, but he’s obviously done a bit of reading before he started, and that comes through.

      I suppose if you like Kojima’s writing, part of it might be that you can look through it to see an enthusiasm for the history of warfare as a weird and compromised thing, full of admirable personal qualities leading to terrible ends. War as a really detailed and convoluted non-linear tragedy.

  22. Sinjun says:

    The story. Should have been the number 1 pick, but gamers don’t give a fuck about writing so I’m not surprised. It was abominable, even for MGS standards.

    The difficulty is definitely a good pick, though. It’s a tiny bit difficult at first as you figure out the mechanics and get through the learning curve, but after that it’s almost trivially easy as other people have already pointed out.

  23. Spuzzell says:

    Six things it could do better:

    – Womens trousers

    – Womens tops

    – Women

    – Not having a story written by a cartoon addicted 8 year old boy off his face on Sunny D with a list of “issues” to include he doesn’t understand and has nothing to say about

    – Not having characters written by a cartoon addicted 9 year old boy off his face on Sunny D with a list of “issues” to include he doesn’t understand and has nothing to say about

    – the perve camera angles. Holy shit. Just no.

    And a jet-pack. Because, jet-pack.

  24. badmothergamer says:

    Not to be a negative nancy, but for whatever reason this just wasn’t a good game for me. I love stealth games, but after watching several people play it on Twitch couldn’t really figure out the appeal. When I finally got to play it for an hour the other night I found the controls clunky (was using m+kb) and never could get a good grip on what I was doing. I do have to admit I have zero knowledge of the MGS series so there wasn’t any nostalgic appeal, just the promise of the best stealth game ever. After an hour I was ready for something else and don’t have any desire to give it another try.

  25. Bobtree says:

    I have plenty of mixed feelings about MGSV:TPP. I’m also still avidly playing it after 130 hours.

  26. Pier says:

    I’ve been playing MG games since the MSX times and after 30 hours in I can say I’m very polarized about TPP. In many aspects the quality is very high, but in others it’s complete crap. The first 10 hours I thought the game was amazing, but it gets old pretty fast. I would be furious if I had payed full price, but luckily I got the game for free after buying a graphics card.

    The stealth mechanics, mocap animations, and environments are very polished. The music and sound are great, and overall the production values are very high.

    OTOH, the game suffers from some very big flaws such as the lack of plot and ultra repetitive gameplay. The checkpoint system is super annoying IMO. Also the controls while laying on the ground, and the camera while indoors are some of the worst I’ve seen in years. And Quiet, oh my gosh… is this a game targeted at 14 years old?

    I wish Konami would release older MG games for PC.

  27. shaoku101 says:

    I mean Im no coding expert or modding expert, but it seems to me some of these issues could be fixed with mods? Most of the issues people have with the game could be reworked into. For example, I was playing the other day and there was an apc just chilling in a base. Couldnt someone just easily increase the amount of ai in the world or change their behavior towards eachother and reskin them. Add in patrolling helicopters, apcs, trucks, increase the search parties or modify the AIs behavior in such a way that they will go farther to find you. The drop off points could be erased or decreased forcing you to have to try and escape by the skin of your teeth. Maybe even increase it so the AI searches for you longer disallowing you to phantom cigar after they give up quickly. I mean like I said I dont know a thing about modding, but a lot of the issues I had with Witcher 3 I found mods to fix them.

  28. jamiecos868 says:

    I never realized there was so much hate for metal gear out there.

    About the writing and story, its completely absurd, corny and over the top, but its not actually bad. Everything about metal gear is permeated by this weird blend of seriousness and ridiculousness that makes the games surreal, and i wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I think the main difference between people who like this series and people who don’t is that the former agree with me while the latter don’t like this kind of experience.