What do you get when you cross the best elements out of a Grand Theft Auto game, the Metal Gear series, stealth games like Splinter Cell, and for grins an almost MMO lite online mode for a bonus? You get Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain which is easily in contention for Game of the Year even up against stiff competition like Witcher 3.
Stunning. Simply stunning. It’s becoming a cliche which is a good thing that games like this or Witcher 3 come out that push the envelope and game reviewers far and wide like myself are reduced to throwing around adjectives and superlatives all over the place to try to describe it. High resolution, high texture, diverse game world glory is yours to be had in some incredibly realized Afghanistan and Africa locations as well as your own high-tech and ever-growing base headquarters. The attention to detail in the game world is something to behold and I could attempt to write a small phone book about it and it would not do it justice. PC gamers in particular will be very impressed with this game with the eye candy maxed out just like Witcher 3. Two completely different games with unbelievably high quality. Some of the game world looks photo realistic outright. PC gamers will be satisfied to see all the comprehensive options they like to see in graphics options menus.
The attention to detail and sound design are award-winning. The best Hollywood action blockbuster is almost put to shame here with this game. Everything from various NPC’s dialog to various wildlife sounds to the weather to all the weapons and technology sound like real life. Everything sounds real. The music offers the correct ambiance and action cues as needed. There are stand out tracks here that merit a listen apart from the game.
The voice acting is largely excellent throughout although I do chuckle at Kiefer Sutherland doing Snake’s voice because it’s a harder Jack Bauer. Don’t get me wrong: He does a great job but let’s get real here: It’s an edgier and grizzlier sounding Jack Bauer and that’s okay. It works great for this game although I can sympathize with Metal Gear purists who wanted David Hayter to return as the voice of Snake.
Between this game and Witcher 3, I am really blown away at how incredible the sound design is getting in video games. Gamers need to not cheap skate their audio for playing these games. Please get a quality pair of headphones at least so you can take in all that goes with this critical component.
Metal Gear purists may take umbrage with me on this but let’s face it: The storyline in this series isn’t exactly the most easy to follow and coherent narrative to ever come out. In past games some true absurdities in terms of characters and soap opera emo drama have occurred in a jarring fashion to otherwise slick and engaging techno thriller situations. You can tell I’m not a big fan of some of the story and narrative devices in previous installments of the series and I’m very pleased that those aspects are largely diminished this time around.
The story in this game still has some logic holes and long time Metal Gear players will have an advantage on certain backdrop items but thanks to a clever conceit involving cassette tapes… the game takes place in the 80s… players can get as much backdrop as they want at their leisure. I recommend a refresh on YouTube even for the long time players to grasp what is going on here with some of this craziness because that’s what some of this is.
This particular game is a more straight forward techno thriller with a lot more even-handed presentation of narrative for the most part and I was very happy about that. Metal Gear purists might have mixed feelings about it but pragmatically they would have to concede that this game is going to bring many new people into the fold.
A shorthand summary of this game would be Splinter Cell meets Grand Theft Auto meets Metal Gear. That’s a sloppy shorthand that does this game no justice.
A lot of people will be happy to know you can play in first or third person and switch on the fly which is always a welcome development in these kinds of games per player preferences and scenarios in-game. The solid and tight gameplay is consistent in either mode.
Some Metal Gear purists may be put off by the full-fledged open world and some of the other liberties that have been taken but by and large the game as a whole is so good and does so many things right that the dissenters are few and far between. While not perfect, this game brings about full realization of a lot of potential that has always been teased in previous entries in this series.
There are so many options and so many different ways to accomplish things in this game. What I give huge kudos to, unlike a lot of other games, is that the player is rewarded and encouraged to play the way they want to and are not punished if they don’t play a certain way. It’s frustrating to be in some game situations and given a nice box of goodies and then you find out that unless you play it a certain specific way you are going to be punished. I’m looking at you Hitman Absolution.
This game has a RPG setup wherein Snake’s abilities improve as you play along and capacity to improve everything Mother Base HQ to spin offs to troops you recruit and can even use in Snake’s place if you want to assure a lengthy game time amount. This RPG aspect makes the game incredibly addictive and satisfying. As a frame of reference: As of this writing I am at 70 percent total game completion with 90 hours of gameplay to show for it and this is all single player only.
In this game you can play any way you want and change on the fly and as long as you are playing well, broadly speaking, and accomplishing feats you can expect handsome rewards as it should be. Want to be a silent wraith? You can do it. Want to never kill anyone? You can do it. Want to be the Terminator? You can do it and everything in between.
You unlock and develop an insane variety of weapons and tools are given this huge game world to cut loose to your heart’s content. What’s not to like?
The controls are tight and intuitive although again I would recommend trying out both KBM and controller and see which you prefer for this one. PC gaming purists should not be surprised or disappointed if they favor a controller for this. Snake roams on foot and also uses several different varieties of land vehicles ranging from jeeps to assault vehicles to full-fledged tanks and even walker droids. Snake even earns his own walker droid as a “buddy” that can be tricked out and used by the player.
Buddies: Each has their own strengths and weaknesses to aid Snake in the game world. I favored D-dog because his natural radar is second to none but each of them have their moments and scenarios where they shine. It’s pretty hard to argue with Quiet covering you with a high-powered lethal or nonlethal sniper rifle. I won’t ruin her back story.
Despite that be assured that there are no “consolitis” issues to be had here. These are just little stray details that were overlooked and as of this writing have not been addressed. It’s forgivable when you see how much attention to detail has been lavished on every other aspect of this game. Everything from natural animal behaviors on up through to high-end technology has been given a new standard establishing tender loving care’s worth of attention.
The online component is a nifty bonus experiment that I have dim hopes for despite some intriguing concepts. The developers attempted to seamlessly marry some of your single player world and progress into an MMO lite situation where you build an adjunct secondary base (or several) call FOBs and players can attempt to invade these to secure loot, troops, and other booty just like you do in the game world normally. The reason I have dim hopes for it is because it’s glitchy and it has some bizarre personality quirks that simply aren’t intuitive or fun to play. It’s a superfluous bonus and unfortunately give the Konami/Kojima controversy and parting of ways as well as Konami’s announcement of abandoning game development shy of mobile phones it doesn’t bode well for its prospects.
The good news is: Overall the game is very well polished as is but I don’t expect the game to change much from its present status.
I would absolutely pay another $25 or so if Konami shocked us all and put out a Witcher 3 Hearts of Stone caliber expansion for this. If they want to make more money, plenty of us will pony up for more of this!
All indicators are that this likely the last Metal Gear game and if that’s the case I’m fine with it. I have no idea where this convoluted story could go at this point to be honest about it.
Imitation is the best form of flattery and I really am hoping other game developers are inspired by this game and we get more games like these soon because I can’t get enough of it. I don’t care if they are “Metal Gear” games or something else entirely. As impressive as this game is there is still yet even more potential teased here and the sky is the limit if it’s handled deftly by other developing talents out there.
I am a huge fan of first person shooters, third person shooters, action stealth games like Splinter Cells and all the rest of those types of games. This game has spoiled me because it has raised the bar on those respective games and genres. Whenever the next Splinter Cell game ever shows up I’m going to be comparing the certain relevant aspects to this game.
I don’t know what will happen with Mr. Kojima and I wish him well and thank him for his career and the great games he made for us. I hope Konami reconsiders their decision to abandon game development except for mobile phones because no one could make the argument that video games on both PC and console aren’t insanely profitable and lucrative and as someone who has gamed for 30 years Konami is responsible for some of the best games I’ve played in that time period including this game.
This is a game that I will be revisiting for a long time to come and a game I will always remember. It’s a great year for gaming when a person can come to a place where they have to split and cheat Game of the Year votes on at least two games: This and Witcher 3 and possibly even Fallout 4. That’s a nice problem to have. That ought to tell you how good these games are. Don’t miss out on this is you have even a casual interest in the stealth, action, and/or shooter genres. For people who have actively disliked this series or missed out on it: Give this one a try. You won’t regret it.
COMPLAINT: There is a Mission 51 but Konami has decided to hold it for a cash grab DLC in Spring of 2016. The game in its present form has a very abrupt conclusion with no real ending. The controversy is well-known all over the Internet ranging from “real endings” to “missing endings” on through. This is a classless move on Konami and I join the chorus of people who hope they release the content for free instead of slapping us in the face on their way out and marring an otherwise stellar game.