Have You Played… Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

Sam Fisher, Sam Fisher, where are you, Sam Fisher. Now that Hideo Kojima has left Konami and Konami appear uninterested in returning to the series outside multiplayer spin-offs and pachinko machines, Ubisoft’s absent neck-snapper seems the last best hope of getting a new open world stealth game like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain [official site].

The Phantom Pain was so matter-of-factly brilliant that it feels as if people have forgotten about it, in the way people forget how great clouds are. This was a game with stealth missions every bit as good as anything in any Splinter Cell game, which frequently rivals Hitman for missions design, but where those missions take place within the context of a larger world.

It’s a stealth playground. Struggling to pick your way through the military airport? Try approaching it from the cliffs at the rear. Try driving five miles away, stealing a rocket launcher, and completing your mission without entering the base. Try hijacking the jeep approaching from the east and entering in disguise. Try taking along a sidekick dog or sniper and waltzing through the front doors while they do all the work. Try taking a robot. Try taking a horse and having the horse poop on the road to create a car crash. Try taping a poster of an anime babe to the front of a cardboard box and distracting every enemy. Try tying balloons to every enemy and employing them back at your oilrig base. Try doing it at night. Try doing it without weapons. Try a different mission.

I say this as someone with only a passing interest in the Metal Gear Solid series. I played MGS on PSOne and nothing thereafter. I’ve already forgotten the difference between Solid Snake and Big Boss. It doesn’t matter, in the way it doesn’t matter that no one knows the names of different kinds of cloud.

We’ll probably never get another Metal Gear Solid game like it. Given its scale and his other design interests, it’s likely we’ll never get another Hideo Kojima game like it. So this is that rarest of thing: an instance where I actually wish Ubisoft would make another open world game.

43 Comments

  1. ResonanceCascade says:

    It’s an incredible game with all the bits of gaming that I really love: stealth, open approach gameplay, big simulated areas, great AI, etc. It’s like Kojima Productions were playing a bunch of Deus Ex while they made it or something.

    The story was kinda poo, but it didn’t matter. It was much more about what you do as the player than whatever Kojima wrote for it.

    • Seafoam says:

      I loved the story, maybe that’s because I had played all the MGS games prior and had a huge emotional connection to Peace Walker.
      The rushed ending was tragically caused by Konami’s fuck ups, its a huge shame really.

  2. Mmmslash says:

    As someone who is an MGS fan, the story in this game is Star Wars prequels levels of insulting. It’s one of the few examples of a work that makes a previous work lesser by now existing. It takes MGS3 from a Great Story to a ‘What did you even do to this?’. I hate it.

    That said, it’s very fun to play, as the article states. I’ve often said MGSV is the best Mercenaries game out there. Just what a miserable Metal Gear Solid game.

  3. wombat191 says:

    It was the first metal gear game I have played and frankly I would of been happier if the plot was dropped completely as it was nonsensical.

    The start.. damn that hospital scene was annoyingly long and frustrating.

    While I enjoyed it it got to the point where the sniper Quiet, basically clears out a base in 1/10th of the time it would take you to do it.

  4. Slinkusss says:

    Splinter cell is dead I’m afraid, ubisoft have long abandoned it I think. But Ghost recon wildlands is pretty much like metal gear V and splinter cell had a love child… At least playing that scratched the itch left by MGSV exhaustion and Splinter cell longing…

  5. TotallyUseless says:

    Who needs stealth when the game allows you to win a mission with a tank. Now this is how you make an open world game: Win on your own terms.

    • wombat191 says:

      I remember that exact moment in the game. I’m crouching outside an enemy base carefully watching guard patrol routes, trying to plot my way through and then I shrugged called in a tank and drove through the front gate haha

  6. Catachresis Rex says:

    Cumulus are fluffy, cirrus are thin and wispy, stratus are hazy and flat. And then there’s various combinations of those. You owe me a nephology.

    MGSV is a lot of fun, though I lost interest after a while. Siccing a knife-toting D-Dog on unsuspecting bad guys was a highlight.

    • Faldrath says:

      “You owe me a nephology”.

      Bravo, sir/madam/other. Bravo. I doubt this line will be beaten any time soon.

      • Aetylus says:

        Oh ho… its been beaten already… his/her/its name is Catachresis Rex. Isn’t that just the icing on the cake.

        Wins my vote for best RPS comment of 2017.

  7. draglikepull says:

    It’s one of the most obviously unfinished games I’ve ever played. It’s ostensibly divided into two acts, but the second act practically doesn’t exist, and based on things that have leaked we now know what the ending of the game was actually supposed to be (and it would have been much better).

    And yet! It’s an incredible game, easily one of my favourites of the past 5-10 years. There are so many clever little bits to the design, so many things no one other than Hideo Kojima would ever try (the mission called “Shining Lights, Even In Death” comes to mind as a particular highlight) that I can’t help but love it even though it’s incredibly annoying that it’s obviously missing a big chunk of the story.

    It also does something I wish other games (especially RPGs) would learn from. In games like Dragon Age: Inquisition you have to go out and gather resources manually yourself. But why is the Inquisitor, who controls an army, doing so much busy work? Well, in MGS5 once you start to build up your army, you can send your grunts off to do that kind of work for you. As the game piles more mechanics on you, it also adds more ways to dole out the work to your subordinates so you can focus on the parts of the game that are most interesting. That’s something other games should learn from.

    • LW says:

      It makes me super sad, because it could have been one of gaming’s great masterpieces, but it’s so obviously been crippled by the Kojima/Konami business. It being so amazing even in that unfinished state just makes it hurt even more.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    Love it to bits, and it’s perma-installed so I can jump in for some sandbox stealth whenever I want. I couldn’t give a toss about the story; it’s all about me and ma dawg.

    However… I think it would have been better if they restricted your options more often and didn’t have the RPG style gear system. I think Ground Zeroes perfected the gameplay, and they just needed to expand that. In some ways, Ground Zeroes is actually a better game!
    Instead, it was very easy to become overpowered with infinite silencers, unlimited Fultons so you didn’t have to worry about NPCs waking up, and a veritable arsenal of other, admittedly fun, but game-breaking toys.

    I also get the feeling Hideo probably wanted all the missions to be replayable in all modes instead of just one or two alternate versions.
    Hell, I would have been happy with Subsistence versions of all the missions for a proper hardcore mode.

  9. Giaddon says:

    “Ubisoft’s absent neck-snapper seems the last best hope of getting a new open world stealth game like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.”

    Have you played… Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands?

  10. Screaming_Meat says:

    Nimbus, cumulus, cumulonimbus, Dave – Dave the cloud, erm… stratus, various, stratavarious, oblong, cauliflower, flibbly… there.

  11. GallonOfAlan says:

    I just started it again in fact. It’s the only MGS game I’ve played so the story makes zero sense to me anyway, as I have no idea about who anyone is or their backstory.

    Great stealth mechanics. A few stupidly difficult boss battles. All round I loved it.

    Still can’t go past a shipping container without wanting to Fulton it.

  12. colw00t says:

    Metal Gear Solid V is the best stealth game ever made. If only they had been able to finish it and give me more of that Kojima crazy that I crave.

    • GallonOfAlan says:

      Thief II is the best stealth game ever made. But MGS is a fantastic action stealth game.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        I agree. It’s hard to imagine Thief II being topped for pure stealth, especially with the direction Eidos has taken the Thief series.

        The plus side is that MGSV is much more than just a great stealth game. It’s also a great kitchen sink action game.

      • skyturnedred says:

        Mark of the Ninja is the best stealth game ever made. But Thief II is a fantastic robbery simulator.

        • kincajou says:

          Invisible Inc. is the best stealth game ever made. But Mark of the ninja is a fantastic “being a shadow with a katana” simulator!

          On reflection Klei should get back to the genre and give us another stealth game…

          • draglikepull says:

            WWE2K18 is the best stealth game ever made. No matter how hard you try, you can never see John Cena.

      • KenTWOu says:

        Nah, Thief II doesn’t have sound meter, stealth focused co-op and multiplayer, that’s why Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is the best stealth game ever made.

  13. gpown says:

    An example of how any abundance of choice can be made pointless if it’s not balanced well enough.

    Once you get a tranquiliser sniper rifle, you don’t have to think about anything except who to shoot first. Then you fulton everyone. Then you cull the weak at Mother Base. Rinse, repeat, do some pointless metagame stuff so that you can grind more grind at a less grindy pace. Final mission of the first act was that + shoot some helicopter down using a conveniently placed AA battery.

    I never bothered playing the second act, and I wish it came first – by the time Subsistence rolls around you’re so coddled by the tranq&fulton combo that you realise you haven’t even learned all the other systems in the game and you cannot live without them, resulting in a double difficulty spike to what was intended. Plus, by then, you’re too tired having spent 80 hours playing an inferior game to the ‘real’ one that’s just dumped on you as an afterthought.

  14. vorador says:

    If by playing you consider doing the extremely long and weird first hour then quitting bored and left it alone until now, then i played it.

    Someday, i will come back to it when i’m in the mood. I know it gets better.

    • phuzz says:

      Agreed, the start is super weird, I assume it has some relevance later on? All I know is that Snake (or is it Big Boss? I’ve not been paying attention), seems to be growing a horn now, I’m not sure what that’s about.
      MGSV is a relatively straightforward (and good) stealthy action game which is suffering from fever dreams. It lulls you in with some straightforward man-shoots, occasionally diverting into utter crazyness.

  15. Gordon Shock says:

    Are you guys kidding me, I just started playing last night!!!

    Runs super smooth at 1440p Ultra setting and it is gorgeous. Why can’t more games be as perfectly optimized as this one.

  16. Veav says:

    Oddly enough I just started playing this a few days ago. Just never got around to it. I kind of wish it wasn’t dragged down by a slowly collapsing mountain of resource economies and microtransaction bait but the rest is nice.

    What I really want is a game on the scale of Arma that isn’t as clunky as Arma. I should just give up and play Arma…

  17. Spuzzell says:

    Yes I have.

    Up until the end of Act 1 the fantastic gameplay makes up for EVERYTHING ELSE THAT IS SO VERY WRONG.

    After Act 1 it’s just not worth playing.

    There’s an awful lot that’s terrible in this game. The weapon research tree is utterly stupid, the story is a fever dream of childish crap, character motivations only make sense if.. no, actually no matter how Stockholm Syndrom-ed you are on terrible Japanese anime they just don’t make any sense, and I don’t care how “meta” you want to pretend she is, Quiet is a fucking embarrassment.

    But up until the end of Act 1 the sublime sneaky shooty options-a-lutely completely make it worthwhile.

    Get it, is my advice. Ignore any of the online stuff and stop at the end of act 1, and it’s more than worth the painful cringes.

  18. thekelvingreen says:

    I have indeed played it. I played the first one on the PlayStation but despite liking some of the ideas, the gameplay frustrated me. It was a video here on RPS that convinced me to give MGSV a try; it was a pre-release thing that showed one early mission being completed a number of different ways. Stealthy, like the first game, all guns blazing, with a robot sidekick, or with a ROCKET PUNCH!

    I bought the game based on that video and I’m glad I did because I loved it, even with the truncated second half, and Dodgy Quiet.

  19. Mouse_of_Dunwall says:

    MGSV is one of the best stealth-action games ever.

    If Ubisoft does make another Splinter Cell, I’d like to see them use the Thief/Dishonored/Hitman mission structure. Big sandbox levels that you’re free to explore, but not a complete open world.

  20. Sin Vega says:

    For years I hoped, but never believed, that they’d make an MGS game with all of Kojima’s attention to detail, but make it into a Hitman-esque series of disconnected levels you can play around with as many times as you want. And hire 7 or 8 people full time to tase him whenever he tried to write or boot the player off every 3 minutes for another 12 moronic cut scenes.

    MGS 5 isn’t quite that game, but it’s pretty close, and consequently bloody great fun. You do have the interminable intro ssequence for about 90 minutes, but once that’s out of the way you can largely skip the execrable z-movie story shit (oh, and kill Quiet, obviously) and dick around to your heart’s content.

    I suspect it’s as good as the series will ever get, since now that he’s free of Konami he’ll probably double down on the terrible bullshit he ruined all his other games with.

    Basically the only MGS game (barring Metals Gears Solids Grounds Zeroes, which is sort of MGS5 in microcosm) I’d ever recommend to anyone.

  21. GunnerMcCaffrey says:

    No, and because of Quiet, I never will.

  22. woodman663 says:

    Former Splinter Cell Creative Director Clint Hocking is currently working on unannounced projects at Ubisoft Toronto, which is the part of Ubisoft that developed Blacklist. So…maybe?

    Source: link to linkedin.com

  23. Bobtree says:

    Yes, around 300 hours. MGSV is one magnificent mess of a game, and I loved it. I’ve been contemplating another playthrough recently. See also link to forum.rockpapershotgun.com

  24. Premium User Badge

    alison says:

    I bought it. I loved it for the cutscenes. The stealth/infiltration part is awful. Apparently i feel the opposite to everyone else here. I would have been much happier if the whole game was just the cutscenes, which are gorgeous and spectacularly silly. I have no idea what the story is and i don’t care because it’s just so trashily awesome. The game in between the cutscenes is a tremendous slog, primarily because you can’t save so you end up repeating the same things over and over and over. Games are supposed to be fun, not work.

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