PS4 Game ReviewsMetal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review

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Graphics:

 

9.5

Gameplay:

 

9.1

Sound:

 

9.3

Control:

 

9.0

Replay Value:

 

9.5

Overall Rating:       9.4

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

Konami

Developer:

Kojima Productions, Moby Dick Studio

Number Of Players:

1-16

Genre:

Action/Adventure

Release Date:

September 1, 2015

Welcome to the new generation of video games.

In my mind, there are only two games thus far this generation that would fit my personal definition of “next-gen.” The first is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt but I was disappointed by its stunning lack of stability and I couldn’t ignore it. While the inherent concepts and scope registered as innovative and progressive, the implementation and execution left a lot to be desired. It’s fixed now (for the most part) but that doesn’t erase the first few months of the game’s existence. The biggest difference between that title and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain? One just works beautifully, all the while awing us with its size, flexibility and raw power.

The Fox Engine somehow manages to capture Hideo Kojima’s massive vision without skipping a beat. This is one of those games that will fool you into thinking a sequence is a non-interactive cut-scene when in fact, it’s in-game action. Given the sheer size and everything that’s happening in such a large area, I’m endlessly impressed when playing: There are no frame rate hitches, the load times aren’t intrusive at all, and everything, from the immaculate and inspired character depiction to the unbelievable environmental detail, shines. It’s a visual tour de force, a masterful combination of ambitious design, painstakingly crafted lines and shadows, and rock solid technical prowess. Just amazing.

The sound is almost as incredible and trust me when I say, a decent set of headphones is mandatory if you wish to enjoy the full MGSV experience. Every little sound washes over you with realistic and engaging clarity; from the bullets that just miss tearing into your skin to the ambient background noises that bring this world to life. And while I’m well aware of the community’s outcry when they learned David Hayter wouldn’t be reprising his role as the iconic Snake, Kiefer Sutherland is no slouch. First, he’s an extremely accomplished actor in his own right and second, well…as much as I’ve always loved Hayter, Sutherland’s voice really is a perfect fit. I think his performance has a bit more authenticity and dimension as well. And of course, the score is sweeping, majestic and flawlessly produced.

You’ll be hooked from the outset. The game starts with Big Boss waking up from a nine-year coma and not a second too soon, because an elite infantry unit is closing on his location. They want him bad and they don’t care who they take out en route to reaching the Boss. This sets the tone for the game, which is must faster and more dynamic than it has ever been in the franchise’s history. Series fans will recall the days of tedious talking between two portraits via codec; that admittedly plodding system has been replaced with a narration that keeps the action moving at all costs. It is, of course, partially due to an attention-addled civilization but at the same time, this method breathes fire throughout the adventure and keeps us riveted. I’ll get back to the story in a bit.

Anyway, this adventure takes place in 1984, eleven years before the very first MSX Metal Gear. The setting is a war-torn Afghanistan and basically, no matter where you go, you’re in the midst of hell. Your first task is to rescue a comrade and start building up the all-important Mother Base. The “Diamond Dogs” are going to throw down against Skull Face (perhaps the lamest villain name in video game history, but whatever) and his army. This will be no easy mission and you’ll have to use every ounce of the Boss’ prodigious skill set and arsenal to survive and thrive. Yes, it’s very much a stealth game at its core, despite the bombastic set pieces and action sequences, so fans should feel right at home.

As is the case with just about every aspect of the gameplay, you do have an option. You can indeed go for the gun’s-blazing approach but it’s not easy and very often, it’s an extraordinarily bad idea. This goes double for the first part of the game, where you’re still in the process of building up your Mother Base. Even so, if you really want to knock that door down and take on the hordes of baddies, you’re welcome to do so. You can support your chosen play style by researching different weapons and tools at Mother Base, and how the Boss hits the playing field is entirely up to you. There are seemingly countless loadout variations and you never know what – or who – you might encounter during a mission that will ultimately help your cause.

This level of customization is just wacky. If you try to ingest and process every option and decision all at once, your head might explode. Hence, the game encourages you to take things slow, examine the wildly diverse situations, and experiment. One of the most critical decisions you’ll make is which “buddy” to take with you; those who have been following MGSV already know about the wolf and the horse, but there are others, too. There are the obligatory aesthetic alterations as well, along with a myriad of tool, weapon and buddy combinations. Perhaps the most intriguing and useful element, in my eyes, is the Fulton system that can be executed in the field. Doing this lets you acquire new members of the Diamond Dog team and these guys can prove super helpful.

There are even distinct differences in how each member of the crew comes into play as you build the Mother Base. In order to be optimally prepared for your challenging missions, you really have to pay attention to how your team functions, from top to bottom: The Intel team can warn you about enemy patrols and inclement weather, the R&D group will try to create new tools and weapons for use in the field, and there are various NPCs that have even more to offer. Micromanagement fans will adore all of this and even those who lack patience will find it interesting and highly useful. The key is that Kojima and Co. made this portion of the game interesting and better yet, you can see the fruits of your labor almost immediately.

Freedom is a pervading force throughout. It’s not simply available in spades in regards to preparation; it’s also evident the minute you set foot on the battlefield. If you want to sneak around and abuse the tranquilizer darts, desperately avoiding enemy eyes, feel free. If you’d rather rely on a heavy arsenal and lots of things that go boom, have at it. But nothing here is a cakewalk because the AI is excellent and they’re not going to go easy on you. Guards will keep chasing well after they’ve lost track of you and on top of which, if they sound an alert, they’re checking just about everything. They’re looking for any sign of suspicious activity and if they find it, they will redouble their efforts to locate you and end your quest. Additionally, there’s the standard assortment of boss battles and colorful characters, so the game always retains that classic MGS feel.

Speaking of the boss battles, I won’t give anything away, but they’re not quite as memorable as boss encounters in previous series installments. That’s just the simple, unvarnished truth. I mean, these confrontations have their moments but considering the wildly unique and diverse boss battles we’ve had in the past, these bosses are a bit of a letdown. Well, they’re a letdown if you do a direct compare-and-contrast and by the way, the same can be said for the storyline. But before I level some criticism at Kojima’s latest work, let me say this: This is still a great plot for video games. It really is. You won’t easily find another game that exceeds MGSV’s story in terms of pacing, intrigue, twists, performances, choreography and writing.

The downside is, as I’ve said many times before, just a byproduct of the open-world structure. As we are continually exploring and experimenting and strategizing (more so than ever in this particular entry), the story inevitably takes a back seat. Almost no matter how compelling the characters are, regardless of how interesting the plot may be, we’re constantly taken away from it. In lieu of a continuing narrative that keeps us involved in a well-written story, we have more freedom. And I’m sorry, but you can’t have both. You just can’t. Stories don’t work that way. This is the only reason why MGSV’s narrative won’t be viewed as one of the best in the franchise’s history, as other critics have already concluded.

However, that being said, I think Kojima’s often tangled web of prose and pacing is actually the best it has ever been in MGSV. It’s almost as if he was forced to scale back on the too-long dialogue sequences and the endlessly looping plot lines, simply because he knew gameplay would end up ruling the experience. Another plus is that due to the game’s size, it will take you a good 35-40 hours to complete, which is a damn sight longer than any previous series entry. That’s the trade-off, I believe: More gameplay and more freedom but less story; or rather, less story that you’ll remember for years and years. I don’t see people easily recalling this plot five years from now but I doubt many will forget the stellar, next-level gameplay.

Even so, I can’t in good conscience deduct a lot of points for the story, just because I think it falls short of previous entries and adheres to the modern style of gaming. Critics are supposed to compare new products with other new products and make those comparisons; as such, there is no game that’s as good as MGSV right now. There isn’t one that can compete on every conceivable level, from artistry to technical proficiency to intensity and freedom of gameplay. Yes, I think there’s a minor flaw with how some of the missions are structured, in that there are some less-than-inspired tasks and backtracking that I could do without. But aside from that, it’s hard to envision a better-developed, better-executed interactive adventure that has almost everything one could possibly desire.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the masterpiece we all hoped it’d be. It’s undoubtedly the best game of 2015 and the generation so far and further solidifies Hideo Kojima as a master of the genre. It’s no wonder he calls this his magnum opus, the game he’s always wanted to make since the inception of the franchise. That’s because the latest – and sadly, last? – installment represents the logical and wonderful progression of a series that first captured our hearts 18 years ago. It’s a monumental achievement that will undoubtedly go down in history as one of this industry’s best. The only caveat is that long-time followers are going to have to reconcile this new structure in their heads; if they can do that, they’ll quickly see the genius and unrivaled playability shining through.

The Good: Impeccable graphical presentation with amazing effects and unbelievable detail. Great voice acting, spectacular score, involving sound effects. Runs beautifully, with nary a stutter or hitch. Excellent, responsive control. Unparalleled freedom, options and strategy. Mother Base is exceedingly well-structured and implemented. Great story and characters. The ultimate love note from Kojima to fans.

The Bad: Story might fall shy of die-hard fan expectations. Some boring, menial tasks in certain missions.

The Ugly: “MGS and ‘ugly’ are mutually exclusive.”

9/3/2015 Ben Dutka

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New Comment System


Legacy Comment System (30 posts)


Breadlover
Thursday, September 03, 2015 @ 10:00:19 PM
Reply

*nods head in agreement*, simply legendary.

Ben, just curious, did you try out the companion app for this? I haven't played it myself, so I haven't had the chance to try out the companion app, even the one for Ground Zeroes (it's crushing me that I'm not able to for at least another week, and here I am reading such a fantastic review of this game *sob*).

I'm wondering if the app makes it more enjoyable. *shrug*

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, September 03, 2015 @ 10:11:48 PM

No, I haven't. Sorry.

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berserk
Thursday, September 03, 2015 @ 11:01:57 PM
Reply

Better barely do anything else then the story missions if anyone want to finish it in 35-40 hours .

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Solid Fantasy
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 7:20:22 AM

Good to know, I've been taking my time even on the simple blue print side opps. There great and fun, but I so very much want to see the story unfold to.

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matt99
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 12:28:04 AM
Reply

I'm loving this game, and as the story goes on I'm finding it more and more interesting. The gameplay is so varied, and the AI is probably the best I've ever seen in a game. If you favour night time ops and tranquilizing the enemy with darts to the head, well the enemy learns and they get flashlights, night vision goggles, and helmets. If you shoot primarily at the chest, they get body armour. It really forces you to vary your playing styles and be creative. I could go on for hours listing everything this game does right.

The only sort of negative I have is that I just keep thinking of what this game could be if it wasn't cross-gen...I mean could you IMAGINE? Oh well, time to go fulton some sheep.

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Jawknee
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 12:54:19 AM

I love how you can redo missions and keep the outcomes of both. Like if you eliminate a target, just replay the mission and extract him the second time.

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matt99
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 1:15:51 PM

Really? I didn't know that, this game just keeps getting better.

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Solaire
Saturday, September 05, 2015 @ 10:35:36 AM

Hahaha damn straight. The AI is scary in this game.

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Jawknee
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 12:49:23 AM
Reply

Unbelievable game. So good.

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Godslim
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 6:38:36 AM
Reply

OK big mgs fan here since playing metal gear solid on ps1. I am tbh kinda dissapointed with the game (know im probably gonna get alot of thumbs down) while I felt the intro was great as well as the gameplay I find the story to be lacking big time for an mgs game it just seems to barely be there at all. The game seems to just be repeating the same type of missions over and over again and in my view falls into a state of repetitiveness. Even the "boss fights" seem to be lacking in comparison to previous mgs games.
Now please dont get me wrong to me every "main" game in the series is fantastic experience but for me this game just doesnt feel like an metal gear experience. After reading so many reviews loving the game I cant help but feel let down as a fan.
There are the good things like the great stealth/action gameplay but for me the cool infilitraiton of a random outpost isnt enough. For me the previous mgs games had a greater sence of story and development.

Last edited by Godslim on 9/4/2015 6:46:22 AM

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surfer
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 6:47:06 AM

This...I like the more traditional story based linear games like MGS as well. I will pass on this for now and will try it later. I loved the MGS series boss fights and I was worried about the boss fights in MGS 5.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 10:46:52 AM

I'm with you, which is why MGSV isn't my favorite game of the year (and certainly not in the series).

But I can only judge the game for what it is, not what I wished it'd be. ;)

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Jawknee
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 11:59:03 AM

I think they could have remedied this problem had they just added more story telling cutscenes and events like in Peace Walker. I have to disagree with Ben's point that this is due to the more open world nature of the game. This game is basically Peace Walker on steroids (as Komino put it to me last night) just without the fancy graphic novelesque interactive cutscenes. I think this has more to do with Kojima trying to satisfy the complaints about his games being to cutscenes heavy.

Last edited by Jawknee on 9/4/2015 11:59:13 AM

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Solid Fantasy
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 7:26:11 AM
Reply

As a long running die hard fan of the franchise, long story short, I agree.

But the pros out weigh the minimal cons so much this is safely this is the pinnacle part of one of the best years in gaming since 98 imo.

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Solid Fantasy
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 7:27:41 AM
Reply

Please tell me I'm no the only one who used the replica arm to give himself and others the middle finger.

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MRSUCCESS
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 8:50:27 AM

If you read the first review on Amazon for the collector's edition you'll see someone did the same thing with a picture pointing the middle finger at Konami lol

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MRSUCCESS
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 8:52:36 AM
Reply

I wholeheartedly agree with this review. Thank you for putting the time into this.

While reading the review is there any chance that you or other contributors will do video reviews? Just asking this out of pure curiosity.

Again, great stuff.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 10:47:20 AM

I did a few in the past; it's just too time-consuming for a one-man crew.

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matt99
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 1:17:30 PM

Plus it requires a surprising amount of technical know-how to do a professional one (Not saying that Ben doesn't know how, but that it adds another level of complexity)

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Gamer46
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 9:03:15 AM
Reply

Not sure it'll top MGS 1 or 3 or but what I've played so far, it's definitely my favorite game of this generation of consoles and will be a tough one to top. I was worried when I heard it was lighter on story but I still enjoy what's there. Doesn't have those long drawn out cutscenes but you get story from the cassette tapes and the gameplay in this is just so freaking good it's a tradeoff that doesn't bother me. I don't pay $60 to watch 75% of the time and only play 25%.

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burnedknight
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 11:06:08 AM
Reply

I'm really enjoying this game so far although I'm not super far in enough to comment on story or boss fights I'll wait til I beat it to judge . I'm a little disappointed to hear reviews mention those areas lacking especially as a mgs fan but it's still a great game

Last edited by burnedknight on 9/4/2015 11:10:01 AM

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SoulController
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 11:51:32 AM
Reply

My GOTY so far!

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Jawknee
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 11:55:37 AM
Reply

Man this game is massive. I bought the collectors edition strategy guide, I haven't seen one this thick in years.

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MRSUCCESS
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 2:27:54 PM

Man, I wish I could play more throughout the week. I get home too tired to play. Best believe I'll be playing this labor day weekend.

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Oxvial
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 6:55:04 PM
Reply

There's a ugly in this game imo, that horn that the game gives you on Snake head it's so awful looking, whats the point on having so much weapons to kill when the game punish you with the horn for doing that.

Fortunately I prefer to not kill but still why not let people do what they want instead of punish them for trying to play the game in other way?

Last edited by Oxvial on 9/4/2015 6:59:26 PM

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bigrailer19
Friday, September 04, 2015 @ 9:01:04 PM

I havnt played the game yet. However, my worry kind of relates to what you are saying. Which is that this is a more open game especially in regards to past installments. But how much freedom and plyer choice will there really be?

If anyone wants to elaborate please do so.

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Solaire
Saturday, September 05, 2015 @ 10:40:39 AM

Yes there's truth in what you guys are saying. For me personally, I don't think you can really go for the 'Rambo' playstyle, simply because it's too difficult, just like Ben said. There is freedom to opt for, but it feels like the game isn't made that way. It's feels like you're forcing your way into it.

And then there's the ranks and scores. You'll always get a better score if you don't kill, if they don't spot you, etc... The usual stuff, just like you can find in Hitman or any other stealth game. So yeah there is freedom, but sometimes it feels a little limited.

I don't care though, I like to reload the checkpoint when I get spotted, most of the time anyways.

Last edited by Solaire on 9/5/2015 10:41:37 AM

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Jawknee
Saturday, September 05, 2015 @ 1:28:19 PM

Metal Gear has never been about going Rambo. You're a rewarded based on how well you sneak. That's always been the case with metal gear. The variety of guns are there for those moments you can sneak no longer.

Besides, I wouldn't say you're "punished" for killing. I've been doing about an even amount of sneaking and blasting and so far I've made out like a bandit when it comes to your GMP.

Solaire, I'm pretty sure you're docked points when you reload a check point. That's how it worked in Ground Zeroes anyway.

Last edited by Jawknee on 9/5/2015 1:29:29 PM

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Oxvial
Saturday, September 05, 2015 @ 8:17:18 PM

@bigrailer19 If you played Peace Walker, well this it's pretty similar but with steroids in all aspects, the game also as a hidden karma system, if you kill people or develop nuclear weapons you get punished with a weird Horn on Snake head that can grow more if you still play ala Rambo ( Kojima craziness -__- ), but like I said that's only a ''ugly'' Ben scored this game really good, a must have.

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Beamboom
Wednesday, September 09, 2015 @ 8:07:12 AM
Reply

Wait a second... that "PSX Extreme" quote in the trailer, is that THIS site?! That's quite an honor if so!!!

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