After knocking over a couple of games recently I was expecting jump into some new titles in my pile of shame but returned to Metal Gear Sold V: The Phantom Pain to fill in some time and before you know it I’m back into it again and fully addicted to it once more. It’s one of those games that can be awesome, then crazy, then frustrating then back to awesome in the space of minutes that it could border on being schizophrenic in its execution. But then I think back to my experience with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots which I lovingly describe as being “bat shit crazy” and realise I shouldn’t expect anything less. 😉
Warning – potential spoilers ahead! I’ll try not to be too specific but aspects of the game I describe might reveal more than you want to know.
The game has a LOT of quirks and does feel like the development team threw everything but the kitchen sink into the game – a lot of it works (Fultons for the win) but there are plenty of things that are just plain bizarre or unnecessary. Fans of the series would be familiar enough with the name Hideo Kojima – the creative force behind the games – but the degree in which the game likes to remind you of that is simply over the top. Each of the main story missions has opening and closing credits and as expected, Kojima appears almost every time and this game has a lot of missions to complete. It’s almost as if he wanted everyone to remember who was responsible for the game after he left Konami for new opportunities.
I’m still not understanding the need for the chapter 1 to 2 transition. The game could have finished where it did and there’s even a credits roll too but you soon find that there is a hell of a lot more game to go at that point. I don’t know if it were indented to be post game DLC that ended up being included or these parts were meant to be treated as their own “movies” but I wonder if what we are seeing is actually “Metal Gear Solid 5.5” with Konami pushing Kojima to get all his work out the door before he left. Whatever the case, though the missions themselves are mostly strong the narrative joining them all together felt a bit messy to me. Having a single focused threat that the player could work to defeat would at least be less confusing to players.
The missions are really, really great. One of the strengths of the game is certainly its locations and the how the many missions and side ops work with them. You do revisit many of these locations in both Afghanistan and Africa for the missions but the game does a good job of mixing up conditions to keep it fresh, such as changing the weather (sandstorms are the best) or having you enter a location from a direction you’ve not previously used. It can get a lot more challenging later too when you are forced to fight it out with soldiers sporting body armour and shotguns. I thought I’d get bored easily but there’s nothing stopping you from repeating missions to get better scores and complete additional objectives that might score you extra blueprints or specialists.
While stealth is still a totally viable mechanic to help you complete missions I think I’ve played too many shooters now to not want to take out soldiers with my impressively earned armoury and the gunplay is very solid (pun intended). If you’re not satisfied with your starting gear it’s easy enough to develop improved versions or try something new and take it out into the field to test. Soon you’ll settle on your favourites – I think I had a standard load out that I used for more than half the game. I do like that if you develop your non-lethal options you can even take out a command post and capture all of its soldiers without a single fatality. Have Quiet as your buddy with a non lethal sniper rifle and you can do it all from a distance too.
Your buddies are really something too. D-Horse and D-Walker are more transport options than anything else (though you can install some mighty weapons on D-Walker) but D-Dog and Quiet are incredibly useful in being able to scout an area and plan out your approach. I do wish though that Quiet could swap her primary weapon – if you go non-lethal she’s not very effective against armoured opponents.
One thing that I did not expect was just how well this game works as a shooter. Once you have a decent arsenal at your disposal the prospect of facing off against an army doesn’t seem so bad. You really have to work long and hard to build out your gear as nothing is cheap but if you’re willing to specialise you can end up with some neat toys.
For a game that tries to present a a serious narrative the silliness level of the game is quite high. If Snake gets a little too bloody and doesn’t shower, flies begin hovering around him. Sneaking up to lost soldiers in a cardboard box will immediately have them recognise you and make it easy to capture them. You can even collect animal noises for playback. And no matter how often you use it, the Fulton recovery system never gets old – if it weren’t for the limited supply you can carry at any one time, I’d be hoisting up whole countries worth of soldiers, animals and vehicles.
It’s got to be a sign of a good game that it can continue to surprise you long after you think you’ve seen it all but Metal Gear Solid V seems to be very adept at that. Even though I do know how the story ultimately plays out I’m still very keen to get through to the end. It is by no means perfect and often completely loony but I am still having a great time of it.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Played on Xbox One.