Your pace, your choice
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is Hideo Kojima’s final entry of the critically acclaimed Metal Gear Solid Series. A final entry that became bittersweet for all of us Kojima fans as the man himself parted from Konami earlier this year sending shockwaves through the gaming world. Despite the famous yet missing text, “A Hideo Kojima Game” on the box art of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, we will always know that this entry to the series is possibly Kojima’s finest.
The Phantom Pain opens with Big Boss waking from a nine-year coma after the events of Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeros. During the first hour of the game the story unfolds alongside Ishmael, a heavily bandaged ally who guides us through the hospital and away from shots of Cipher Soldiers. It is here that we learn the basic mechanics of the game, namely, crouching, crawling, firing and reloading a weapon. I was surprised at how fast paced and fraught with the action the first hour of The Phantom Pain felt. I was expecting a need for a more stealthy approach. On reflection, I realised something very important. Metal Gear Solid V is one of the most versatile games I’ve played in a while and because of this; it can be approached in numerous ways. Had I not have been so eager to play perhaps my first hour would’ve been a completely different experience? The cut scenes and explosive action will always be the same but we are the Snake in the grass, which means we can glide through undetected.
Stealth aside, Metal Gear Solid V offers some explosive, fast paced action. During the huge open world exploration the pace can change very quickly of spotted by the enemy, which triggers a Domino effect of enemies lining up to take you out. This is where I found The Phantom Pain to be a pain in the arse! Enemies appeared to spring up out of nowhere and when you thought you picked the last one off, along came three more. I questioned whether the game was truly meant to be played through without being detected at all? (I’m sure a lot of you will achieve). Me? I wasn’t that good. The waterfall of enemies in Phantom Pain, at times, led to the gameplay feeling a little raw and monotonous. Back tracking and repeating is something that you should be prepared for. Rest assure though, I found a winning remedy to the monotony by varying loadouts, balancing stealth and brute force and having a crap ton of fun with the Fulton.
To crawl or crouch?
I’ve always been a huge fan of sniping. No, not in real life! In video games and I had a ton of fun with this class of weapon in The Phantom Pain. Manoeuvrability with weapons is always a crucial element to success in any Metal Gear Solid game because it only takes one error to screw up an entire mission. This couldn’t be truer than when trying to take cover in Metal Gear Solid V. I found the easiest objects to take cover behind were walls. Simply bobbing in and out of wall cover felt smooth and satisfying. I can’t say the same for small objects such as walls, boxes or foliage. The mechanics felt a little blocky to me but perhaps you had a different experience? Nonetheless, this is a really small gripe that should not interfere with just how well Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain feels in every other aspect. NPC’s move freely and seem incredibly realistic in their actions. It’s easy to observe enemies through the binoculars going about their terrorist business in the middle of Afghanistan! Metal Gear Solid V felt alive, it felt deep and it always felt like there was more on offer. I believe that Kojima Productions always had a knack for developing the Metal Gear Solid World as a living and breathing, fully functioning atrium. After the first hour of The Phantom Pain it was clear that Kojima Productions had injected the same level of life in to Metal Gear Solid V. The desert sounds were on par, the wildlife responded to our presence and the transition from night to day added a welcome layer of dynamics to the atmosphere. There is so much more than I am yet to explore in this world.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is set in 1984 which puts Snake in his 40s. Some aspects of the gaming world questioned why Kiefer Sutherland was cast to voice Snake in The Phantom Pain? Hideo Kojima wanted an actor to fit Snake’s age bracket, hence Mr Sutherland being cast. What does this, if anything, add to Metal Gear Solid V? There was a lot of Skepticism in the build up to the games release. It was a bold move by Kojima Productions but I personally feel that it was a good move. This is because I’ve probably only ever seen Kiefer Sutherland in Stand by Me and Lost Boys (both of which I’ve not seen for a while) so he is not type cast on me. If you’re a huge fan of the show, 24 then you may feel very different. What are your thoughts? Should David Hayter have returned?
Mother Base is real
This is where the magic happens? Literally! Rather than seeing those scrolling lists in the menus, Mother Base is an old oil-rig that has a tangible presence in Metal Gear Solid V. Weapons, mods and other feats of technology are created here and travelling to the base itself provides a welcome break from the harshness of the Afghan desert. It is here where we picked up the Fulton surface to air recovery system. A quirky device that enables us to transport enemies, objects and animals safely back to base. Money is also generated after finding diamonds and other rare items in the game, which are used to upgrade Mother Base how we choose to. Companions are also met here on Mother Base with my personal favourite being D-Dog. D-Dog responds to commands given in a mission to act as an effective distraction and keen ally.
So my first four hours with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain have been incredibly rewarding and with the exception of some small mechanical errors (cover issues in particular) I believe we’ve got a very strong contender for Game of the Year 2015. Shares your experiences of playing MGS V in the comments.
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