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Review: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

There’s a lot going on between Kojima and Konami, we don’t actually know a lot of details but Konami didn’t play nice and removed the Kojima name from the Metal Gear Solid V box. A shame really because Kojima delivered the best stealth game in years. Metal Gear Solid is back and it’s bigger than ever before. Ignore the internal conflicts between Konami and Kojima for a moment; the Phantom Pain might be the best game you play this year.

Welcome back

The Phantom Pain kicks off straight after the events of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. You wake up out of your coma in the hospital. Big Boss lost everything in the prologue (Ground Zeroes) and was thought to be dead. In the opening of the Phantom Pain, we wake up in the hospital and witness the most realistic cut scene ever. It really looks like we’ve just woke up from a coma. It’s clear from the start, you don’t control Big Boss in this Metal Gear, you are Big Boss!

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This awakening is one of the best prologues we’ve ever played and saw in a game. The prologue is filled with action, mysterious characters and intense combat. The cut senses aren’t as long as in Metal Gear Solid IV but offer a short but intense Hollywood experience instead. The camera moves from character to character as if it’s a human being itself. Without spoiling the great story too much, you manage to escape the hospital and head to Afghanistan to save your former partner.

Intense story

The story of Metal Gear Solid V is very intense and filled with heavy but yet realistic themes. Of course, a Metal Gear Solid game wouldn’t be a Metal Gear Solid game without some supernatural enemies or heavy mechanic weaponry. The game manages to combine ‘normal’ looking places as Afghanistan and Africa with high tech gear and locations. The story is a true feast for those who are familiar with the franchise, it’s filled with hidden messages and returning characters. Those unfamiliar with the franchise will miss a lot and won’t really understand what’s going on. That’s a shame to be honest since this Phantom Pain could have been a great starting point to start playing the franchise.

 

A classic is born

 

That being said, the story is built up to a surprising climax that will be marked in your memories for years. The goal of the game is the rebuilt your Mother Base and recruit new troops for your private army. A simple objective that’s filled with intrigues, plot twists and other unexpected events. We won’t spoil the story since it’s one of the best parts of the game. Expect a fascinating story told by impressive but shorter cut scenes.

Handle it as you want

The best part of the game is the amount of freedom it gives you. The locations in Afghanistan and Africa are huge and offer a lot of freedom. There’s a lot to see and do in The Phantom Pain, the main story alone will take you several hours to complete since there’s a total of fifty missions. Aside of the main missions, you’re free to do what you want. You can discover the gorgeous land; take over guard posts and a lot more. The world of Metal Gear is filled with interesting stuff to do so you’ll never get bored. The most fun are the main missions of course.

These are set in different impressive locations but all feature one common rule, you’re free to handle it as you want. Metal Gear still is a stealth game so running straight into a camp isn’t a good idea. You’ll have to recon first and mark enemies in order to get to your objective. The way you take out your enemies is entirely up to you. The game has traditional infiltration missions but also has some more supernatural action missions. Every mission plays differently and demands another and new approach. It’s impressive to see this amount of freedom and it results in an unpredictable game. Everybody who plays it will have a different approach and different experience.

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Don’t worry that there’s too much freedom on the other hand. Although the maps are huge, they get limited during missions so you won’t get lost. Thanks to the radio communication you’ll always know what to do and receive hints on how best to do it. Are you forced to follow these hints? Of course not, you’re the Big Boss!

Clever enemies

As said before, the game is very unpredictable and that’s also thanks to clever enemies. The enemies aren’t walking around on the same locations all the time but learn how to react to the smallest sound or movement. Getting to your location without being noticed is the biggest challenge in the game. The enemies react as real human beings and call in for help or talk to their superior when they hear of see something strange. Taking down the enemies after they’ve detected you is hard since they always use different tactics. Some enemies will try to flank you while others will try to take you down as a group.

The best part of it all is that enemies learn from their mistakes. If you take down a lot of enemies with headshots, you’ll see the enemies wearing helmets in the other camps more often. This goes really far, if you take down enemies one by one, you’ll see the enemies patrolling in little groups later on. The way you play the game affects the way enemies behave. It’s really cool to see your impact on the behavior of the enemies. Metal Gear Solid V is by far the most realistic stealth game to date.

You’re not alone buddy

Since you’re the Big Boss, you’re set on most dangerous missions alone. The reason? Everybody claimed you’re dead so appearing on the battlefield will shock most enemies and breath hope in the hearts of the rebellions. Since the missions get more and more difficult it’s good to know that you’re not entirely on your own. During the game, you’re able to recruit certain buddies, varying from horses and dogs to hot girls in bikinis. Your buddy can really help you out and can distract or even take down certain enemies to help you out. Quiet is by far our personal favorite and that’s not only thanks to her looks but also thanks to her skills. She is the perfect partner to infiltrate dangerous bases packed with enemies. Unlocking these buddies demand certain actions so you won’t get them just for nothing. Without spoiling too much, it’s really fun to acquire your new buddy.

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The Mother Base

The last mechanism worth mentioning is your Mother Base. This base was destroyed earlier but is being rebuilt in this game. If you chose to spare the lives of your enemies, you’re able to send them to your Mother Base and recruit them as one of your Diamond Dogs thanks to a futuristic brainwashing technique. The more soldiers you recruit, the better the upgrades are. Your Mother Base sends over interesting upgrades and new gear to Snake. Based on the amount of recruited soldiers, you’ll unlock new gear. This unlocking goes fast enough without a lot of frustrations. Recruiting enemies quickly became one of our favorite things to do.

For the first time ever you’re also able to visit the Mother Base. This sounds interesting but is a little disappointing in reality. There isn’t really something to do on the Mother Base and the bigger it gets, the more confusing it gets to walk around.

You can also created Forward Operating Bases for the online segment of the game. Others will also create these and infiltrating these will result in some nice little bonuses. The only downside about it is the fact that you’ll need coins to buy these. You can unlock these coins in the main game but if you want a lot of FOBs, you’ll need to buy them with real money. These microtransactions aren’t necessary at all and take away all of the fun in our opinion. This is without a doubt the only big flaw of The Phantom Pain.

The FOX engine

All this greatness is achieved with a new in-house engine called the FOX engine. This engine is very impressive since it’s able to deliver very realistic characters and environments. Afghanistan and Africa look incredibly good, the drawing distance isn’t that big but that really doesn’t matter. The sand and buildings all look realistic and it’s fun to mess in such a realistic world.

Aside of the looks, the game really nails the controls. Other Metal Gear Solid games often suffered from rather hard controls but the Phantom Pain controls very fluently. You’re in full control of the Big Boss and you’re able to control every inch of his body for deadly precision.

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Conclusion:

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the perfect stealth game and one of the best games of this year. If you’re into stealth you should definitely give this one a go, even if you haven’t played a Metal Gear game before. If you’ve played the previous games however, be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster filled with carton boxes, famous characters and a lot of Easter eggs. Kojima showed the world what he’s capable of and we’re glad to say that this Phantom Pain is a masterpiece for sure.

9.5/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.