Review: Metal Gear Solid V—The Phantom Pain (PS4)

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Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Konami
Genre: Third Person Stealth/Action
Rating: M
Price: $59.99
 

 

 

Ever since the cancellation of Silent Hills the world was exposed to damaged relationship between Komani and Hideo Kojima, a relationship so broken that Kojima was not even allowed to attend this year’s Video Game Awards. Though the production of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was known to be slower and more costly than the average game, Kojima  made the decision to hold off on its release until he was ultimately satisfied. Some say that his departure was not necessarily due creative differences, but because of  Konami’s decision to move away from the console market and focus on mobile gaming.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the last title Kojima and his team has developed for Konami and also happens to be the final game in the Metal Gear series (according to Kojima). Apparently, the game had grossed one hundred and seventy-nine million dollars on launch day, which is more than Jurassic World and Age of Ultron have done combined. The comparison to cinema is actually fitting—Kojima has said himself that is work is inspired by his love for films. Previous titles have been evidence to that statement, and in some cases, Metal Gear V does as well.

Story

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In 1984, Big Boss wakes up from a nine year coma which was a result of the events that took place in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. During that moment, he is caught in the crossfire between the Cipher organization and a psychic by the name of Tretij Rebenok (known as Psycho Mantis in the original Metal Gear Solid) who is being assisted by “The man on fire.” Big Boss is rescued by a mysterious man in bandages who eventually disappears after leading him to the exit. Outside of the hospital building Big Boss is met by none other than Revolver Ocelot who helps him finally escape from the chaos.
Ocelot tells Big Boss that a new organization called Diamond Dogs is being built by Kazuhira Miller as a replacement for the MSF (Militaires Sans Frontières) which was destroyed in 1975. With a new off shore “Mother Base,” it is up to Big Boss to lead and rebuild the organization with the help of Miller and Ocelot. In the process, they plan to learn more about those responsible for the destruction of their previous organization. Unfortunately, the answers can only be found in the heart of the Soviet-Afghan War and later on in Africa during the Angolan Civil War.

Content Guide

Sexual Content: One character’s attire is very revealing as she wears only a bikini and pantyhose. There is no nudity to be seen, but there are a few NSFW moments involving this character. Other characters do show cleavage as well.
A few scenes also depict extreme sexual themes. The previously mentioned character is nearly raped but the act is interrupted. Another situation depicts a woman being inappropriately searched for a bomb; though nothing is shown, everything is very implied.
Violence: Most of the Metal Gear titles are not known to be extremely violent, but things change in this area mostly during some disturbing cutscenes. In one scene, a character is showing reaching into a hole in her stomach to retrieve a bomb. Another character is seen being mildly tortured multiple times, and in one location, the player will find some victims, including a child who have also been tortured. The death of a character is shown where limbs are blown off due to a shotgun blast. As for gameplay, the most you will find here is blood on enemies if they are shot in certain areas or blood splatters when they are killed.
If some of those descriptions of cutscenes have not already turned people away, it is worth noting that you do not have to kill enemies if you choose not to, and in fact are greatly rewarded for the effort. The only exception is when the mission objective requires you to assassinate a target.
Language/Crude Humor: The F-word is used a few times. In addition are swear words such as “hell”, “a**”, “d*mn”, and ‘b****”.
Drug/Alcohol Use: Throughout the game, the main character smokes cigars that contain a medicinal substance. This most likely implies that the substance is marijuana. You have the option to make the character smoke one of these cigars which speeds up time.

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Gameplay

Unlike most Metal Gear titles, The Phantom Pain gives you a great sense of freedom, and that is what this game does best. The level design is open world and literally a sandbox set in Afghanistan and parts of Africa. You can now choose to tackle a mission from just about any direction and complete it in any way you see fit. Many stealth games tend to market these sorts of features, but none have been this successful. 
For example, in an early mission, I was tasked with destroying a few communication receivers preferably with C4. Prior to learning how to use the C4, earlier I accidentally wasted one, and the base was heavily guarded due to the panic I stirred up after blowing up the first receiver. From behind enemy lines, I chose to call in air support to fire on this location as a distraction. As the enemy was preoccupied, I sprinted past the final receiver and tossed a grenade right under it. Subsequently, I was able to escape the perimeter and give air support the signal to depart. That being said, the critical decision making I have experienced was not the only reason for my success.
Behind every awesome video game hero is usually a group or army of supporters, and in this game you directly influence all of that. The ultimate goal of this game is to rebuild a renowned military organization, and to do that you need people. During missions you can use a “fulton system” to extract enemies with what is like a compact hot air balloon so they can be taken back to Mother Base. Each soldier has a particular set of skills which can benefit certain areas of your team.

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There are different departments of your organization that these soldiers will be categorized in as well. Each can benefit you while out on the field in many ways. For example, the R&D team will develop different weapons and tools, and the intel team can give you general locations of enemies and even show you where resources are located on the map. I was even required to extract a soldier fluent in multiple languages before I could understand what the enemy soldiers were saying. Once I did that, subtitles became available and I could finally interrogate them.
Another feature that can be important on how you complete a mission is the buddy system. A few different companions are available to unlock in the game. D-Horse is the first and unlocked from the beginning. He can help you quickly travel long distances and he can even defecate on command to distract enemies. Another animal companion is D-Dog, he can be used to attack enemies and draw attention as well. The scantily clad female assassin by the name of Quiet can also be unlocked and used as long range support and will take out specific targets when given the command.
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Metal Gear Online is a component that was added to The Phantom Pain sometime after its release. I have mostly enjoyed my time in this mode by being able to fulton-extract other players after knocking them out. One neat little feature I found while playing is that you can select the background music before the match. What makes that so cool for any Metal Gear fan is that you can select music from any game in the series, including the original retro titles. The single issue that may not keep players coming back is the lack of match types—there are only about two or three plus the “rush” variations which only seem to be shorter length that the standard version.

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 Presentation

During my time with Metal Gear V I found the overall presentation to be very well done. The characters and environment surely rank among the best I have seen on the current generation of consoles so far. Even if he doesn’t say a whole lot, I believe Keifer Sutherland was a good choice to play Snake/Big Boss, and even though Troy Baker is in just about every major video game at this point, he was a great fit for a young Revolver Ocelot. The voice acting also ranks among the best I have heard on the current gen.
The story was the only aspect of the game that kind of blew past me like a gust of wind. There are a few major moments in the game, but they are very few and far between. It wasn’t until later that I discovered that most of the story is told through cassette tapes that you can listen to while in the helicopter or on a mission. These tapes did give me a little more understanding on a story that was confusing . The last game in the series I really spent the most time on was Sons of Liberty, but going into this one, I knew it was early in the timeline and that it took place after Peacewalker. If you are looking for this one to tie up some loose ends, it does not quite succeed in that area like it should. The story certainly takes a back seat here, and that is a bummer due to the fact this this game is the last in the series (according to Kojima).

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Conclusion

In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain the freedom that is achieved here can be addictive. After a session, I found that I spend around an hour just on one mission, most of that time was used simply on recon and deciding on how I was going to complete the mission. Another thirty to forty-five minutes would usually be spent on the development and upgrading of weapons and equipment. The story is definitely not what will keep you coming back, and that’s not a bad thing.
Kojima Productions have handled this game with great care, and it shows. The most enjoyment I have ever got out of a Metal Gear Solid game was found here, making it my favorite game in the series. Unfortunately, this was the last mission for both Kojima Productions. The good news is that Hideo Kojima has teamed up with Sony, and mostly likely, already have some ideas for a new project running through his mind. Until then, there is plenty of time to dive into The Phantom Pain if you haven’t already been doing so.

 

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The Bottom Line

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain requires some investment. This is not a game that is easy to pick up and play for just a few minutes. Players will find themselves sinking many hours into this game even though the story does fall short of what fans were expecting.

 

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L.J. Lowery

Born in southern California, but currently residing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Loves Hip Hop music, comics, and video games. Events/Media Coordinator, Podcast Producer, and Public Relations.

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