REVIEW: MGSV: The Phantom Pain

Greetings Nerdopotamus community! My name is Will, one half of the YouTube/Twitch channel Dog and Wolf Gaming, and this is my first article here on Nerdo. Being a life long Metal Gear fan and given the recent release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom pain, it only felt natural for this to be my first.

NOTE: This review will have minor spoilers so proceed at your own risk. So with that said, let’s get started!

First off, as I intimated earlier, I am a huge Metal Gear fan. I have been heavily invested in the story since I finished Metal Gear Solid for the PS1 back in 1999. Every main series release since then has brought a more interesting narrative, new characters, and awesome game play. As this series continued to expand into what it is today, The Phantom Pain was a game that began to take shape in my mind as well as the minds of many other fans.

For starters, It was the game that would connect the stories of both series protagonists, Big Boss and Solid Snake. It would shed more light on the conflict between Major Zero and Big Boss. Most importantly, It would detail the metamorphosis of Big Boss from hero to villain

It was set up to be one of the most emotionally impactful games in the series, as we watched our favorite hero inevitably succumb to his darker side. But unfortunately, the reality is no match for the legend.

Now while I have my gripes with this game, and believe me I will get to them, I will say right off the bat that this is the most fun game in the entire series. The gameplay is superb. If you haven’t played it yet, then stop reading this article right now.

Go out and get yourself a copy and play it until it’s 6 in the morning and you’re struggling to keep your eyes open as you search for another 40 goats to Fulton back to Mother Base – because Hideo Kojima logic. Seriously, this game is a testament to great game design. After 80+ hours, I have completed the main story, tons of side ops, and have developed so many weapons and gadgets, that I don’t even know what to do with them.

Unlike the previous entries in the series, The Phantom Pain rewards you for playing the way you want to play. Past entires always encouraged total stealth and non-lethal playthroughs, as these were the only ways to get the best rankings and code names. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was a fantastic game, but it had a huge flaw in it’s design. It gave you tons of lethal weapons and gadgets to play with, but punished you for using them by making S ranks unattainable.

The Phantom Pain does the opposite. It gives you even more toys and rewards you for using them all. You can kill, get spotted, and even die in TPP and still obtain an S Rank, as long as missions don’t take super long to complete. This gives players who may not be good at head shotting a helicopter pilot with a freaking tranq gun the opportunity to get an S rank their own way. It’s a satisfying change.

Now let’s talk about all the toys you get. From the classic box, to the brand new decoys, this game has tons of gadgets and weapons for you to utilize in your missions. Decoys are probably my favorite new item. You toss a decoy into enemy territory and hit triangle to activate a blow up doll of Snake. This will get the enemies attention while you can either continue sneaking, or take them out while they’re distracted.

If you’re good enough with your placement, you can even knock enemies out using a decoy. Other new items include the Phantom Cigar, which lets time pass quicker in the open world. Sand storm obstructing your view? Hide behind a rock and have a smoke.

Cardboard boxes even have a new use. There are various posters you can find throughout the game that can be attached to your box. When standing with the box equipped, these posters will have humorous effects on enemies.

Weapon customization makes a return to the series in the way it was always meant to be. The more weapons you develop back at mother base, the more parts you get. Every new part is interchangeable with every other weapon. You can swap out different stocks, barrels, muzzles, and accessories between weapon types.

Try using a silenced trans sniper rifle and you will never leave home without it.

Another new addition is the buddy system. You can now recruit certain characters who you can bring into combat as a support buddy. The list includes D-Horse, D-Dog, Quiet, and D-Walker. All of them have their own strengths and they make the game much easier to handle. Quiet can take out an entire outpost if directed to, while D-Dog can mark enemies as you approach a base.

This might make the game too easy for some MGS veterans looking for a harder experience. The good news is you don’t have to use buddies at all. For an even harder experience, you can turn off enemy marking, reflex mode, and a bunch of other things all together.

And of course the Fulton recovery system returns from Peacewalker. This time though, you are able to Fulton recover nearly everything you come across on missions. You can Fulton soldiers, animals, materials, weapons, tanks, cars, and more. All of these come at a Fulton recovery cost but you can sell the resources you acquire to make more money.

All of the personnel you get can be used to bolster the ranks of Mother Base, allowing you to unlock more weapons and gadgets. It creates a very nice game loop of explore, collect, earn, repeat.

In terms of the characters, almost everyone is great. Kaz is back from Peacewalker, only he’s much angrier and impatient this time around. Revolver Ocelot returns and, for the first time in the series, is actually on your side – sort of. What’s funny is that it feels as if the two of these characters have swapped places. Kaz used to be an understanding and patient guy, while Ocelot has been known to torture people for pleasure.

It almost feels as if we’re meeting the real Ocelot for the first time. It’s nice but also sad knowing how his story eventually plays out.

And then of course, we have newcomers like Quiet, Code Talker, and Skullface. My personal favorite out of the bunch was Quiet and no it’s not because she’s basically naked the entire game. TPP has themes of camaraderie and loyalty and although it’s nice coming home to a base full of soldiers who still worship you after beating them senseless, it doesn’t really help to form a strong connection to your comrades.

That’s where Quiet comes in. Originally hired as an assassin to kill Big Boss, she eventually joins Diamond Dogs and can come out with you on missions. As a character, she represents something that I don’t want to lose. She’s strong, loyal, and always has my back. She keeps me company in my ACC and keeps me safe on missions. She proves her loyalty time and time again right up until the end of the game where it is unquestionable how much she truly cares.

Fantastic character.

Code Talker was a surprise for me. I didn’t think he would have as much screen time as he did. It turns out he has tons and tons of cassette tapes where he explains things like vocal chord parasites, salad bowls, and hamburgers. Good stuff.

Then we have Skullface. What a lame ass. I was hyping this guy up to be the coolest antagonist since Psycho Mantis. Alas, he was worse then Fat Man. His plan was cool but his motivations were slightly unclear to me. Mostly due to the fact that he spent the entirety of the game spouting mysterious nonsense and infecting people with bed bugs.

That is until the infamous jeep ride where he tells you his entire life story and evil plans while you sit there, yet again, in stupefied silence. There were some cool connections to previous games but overall this guy needed to be fleshed out way more then he was. I don’t know why he hated Zero, I really don’t know why he hated Big Boss, but the biggest unanswered question of all is… WHO!?!?

Now while the game has amazing gameplay and a great cast of characters, there are some things that are certainly lacking. The biggest (and pretty much only) disappointment in TPP is the story. This is a strange thing to hear about an MGS game, due to the fact that story has always been Kojima’s strong suit. I will say that the unfinished nature of the story is absolutely due to the fact that Kojima and Konami have not been on good terms.

When you finish the game, you get this overwhelming sense that the game was rushed to release. Konami was probably fed up with how much money had been spent on TPP (80 million apparently) and they said enough is enough. I guess it’s a good thing Kojimas name isn’t on the game case after all!

The story in TPP is not necessarily bad. All the concepts found in this game are certainly Kojima-like concepts, but they’re awkwardly presented at times and feel unfinished. For starters, there are certain character story lines that are just left hanging when the credits roll for the fourth time (don’t ask me why the credits roll four times).

Some of this was wrapped up in a special Blu ray disc that came with the collectors edition. It features footage and concept art from a final mission that wasn’t finished in time for release. Even after watching this cut content, the story still doesn’t feel right.

And then we have Big Boss or who I like to call, Silent Snake. There are too many scenes in the game where Kaz is giving a passionate speech or Ocelot is giving a very detailed history lesson and Snake is just standing there, listening like a mute idiot. He went from a character in previous games who always had a lot to contribute to the narrative, to now being somewhat of a silent protagonist. That was a huge let down for me.

Once you reach the true ending, the final plot twist (which comes out of nowhere) helps to put things into perspective. It certainly helps clarify Snake’s seemingly odd behavior, but it’s also Kojimas way of saying goodbye and thanking the player for helping shape the legend of Snake and Big Boss for all these years. It’s a great nod to the players, but it’s not what I wanted for the story.

Even though the final plot twist gives some clarity to other games in the series, it still feels as if it was put there just so Kojima could say “Gotcha!”

Then again, this could all be due to the rushed nature of this game.

There was clearly more that Kojima wanted to do for the story, but unfortunately, he got shut down.

WRAP-UP

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has masterfully crafted game play but the story is just not up to the standard of previous games. Will we get story DLC to give the game a proper conclusion? Considering that Kojima is on “vacation” and Konami is strongly dedicated to creating Pachinko sex games, the chances of that happening seem very low. But who knows! This is MGS and Kojima we’re talking about here. The master of manipulation. Maybe this has all been a carefully orchestrated troll. Only time will tell.

8/10

Check out Will’s other content at Dog and Wolf gaming.

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Nerdopotamus
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