Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain received widespread acclaim from consumers and critics alike upon release, and as much as I like to think reviews don’t sway my decision in buying games, I’ll admit that I was swept up in Metal Gear mania.
I’ve never been a diehard of the series, either. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed, purchased, and beaten some of them. I’m just not the type to obsesses over them, repeatedly attempting each mission for that no-kill, all-stealth, S-rank. To this day, I’ve still never played MGS4. However, with each near perfect score, each hilarious highlight video posted to YouTube, and anecdote on Twitter, I caved on release day and picked up the Day One edition on Xbox One.
Why did I wait until now to play a Game of the Year contender? A mix of busy college work and finishing up a game I started 7 weeks ago. Woops. But now that I’m in the loop and sitting at the cool kids table in the cafeteria, let’s talk shop.
What I’m enjoying so far:
- The Fulton.
Early in the game you receive a device that essentially lets you strap a giant balloon on to things and watch as they launch to the sky back to Mother Base. At least that’s the intention, but you can do all sorts of neat stuff with it. I’ve strapped it to vehicles as a distraction. I’ve died repeatedly to a grizzly bear that I just had to Fulton. I still chuckle each time I hop in a rescue chopper and see D-Horse Fulton’ed back to camp. The terrified scream of soldiers has yet to get old.
- Mother Base.
Also early on in the game you acquire your own base in the middle of the ocean. All of the soldiers and animals you Fulton end up there and you put their assigned talents to different departments, like support or R&D. Soldiers are assigned a grade from A++ to E in different categories and you can assign them jobs based on those skills, but if your preference is to craft bigger and badder weapons you can just toss them all in to R&D instead. It’s a really neat and in-depth concept that makes using the Fulton and gathering materials worth every minute.
- Personalized gameplay.
I like stealth games, I really do, but I’ve always sucked at Metal Gear (even on the NES). I’m not sure if it’s the camera angle or what, but I can blow through any Assassin’s Creed or the old Tenchu games virtually unnoticed… yet in Metal Gear Solid I regularly see that dreaded exclamation point more times than I care to admit. Thankfully The Phantom Pain allows me to play the game how I want, so I can use Mother Base to R&D some heavy weapons and go in guns-a-blazin’. Stealth is still my top priority, but I’m no longer living in fear should I give away my position. It’s just an excuse to whip out a grenade launcher.
- Intense missions.
Missions in MGSV:TPP have a variety of objectives, from infiltrating bases to extract important figures (complete with carrying said figure out of the base through enemy territory), assassinating base camp leaders, and destroying comms equipment to interrogating soldiers in order to single out Elite members of their ranks in order to Fulton them back to Mother Base for personal use. It’s rad. I’ve had a blast with every single mission and side-op, but I wish I could just do them without dealing with the open world. I’ll get in to that a little later.
- D-Dog and D-Horse.
I’m an animal lover, and any chance I get to have an animal companion in games I take it. You’re given D-Horse immediately after the prologue, and you’ll need him to traverse the dull sands of Afghanistan. You can even use the R&D department at Mother Base to craft armor for him, making D-Horse even more of a badass. I’m invested in D-Horse. We’re friends. I managed to find the pup version of D-Dog in my first side-op mission. He’s a cute little fella with one eye that barks and runs up to me whenever I arrive back at Mother Base. I wish I could pick him up and play fetch or something, but I rest easy knowing he’ll eventually grow in to a buddy that I can take out with me on missions. If D-Dog walks up to a soldier and demands their attention, I make sure to CQC them for disobeying my second in command.
- The soundtrack
MGSV:TPP has an awesome soundtrack. The Cure, Billy Idol, and David Bowie, to name a few. You can even use your R&D department to install loudspeakers on your chopper to have your favorite track blare as it swoops in to pick you up. There’s also a way to use your iDroid gadget to listen to music while you’re out doing your thing. Nothing like sniping a dude or Fulton’ing a sheep to Maneater or Europe’s The Final Countdown, right?
What I’m not enjoying:
- The open world.
As more gameplay was shown for MGSV:TPP prior to release, one thing I never really found interesting–no matter how much it was on display–was the inclusion of an open world. 7 hours in to the game and I still feel the exact same way. Metal Gear Solid doesn’t need an open world. It’s no secret I enjoy open world games, and I would probably have a better time if Afghanistan was more fun, but it isn’t. You pick a landing zone, check your iDroid for the assigned location, and hop on D-Horse to make your way there. The only problem is that you’re frequently stumbling upon enemy base camps and checkpoints that I’ve yet to have a few minutes to just explore and do my own thing. It’s just not entertaining (yet) and I don’t look forward to stopping every 20-30 seconds to scan a base with binoculars to tag people, etc. Right now I just want to do the missions (the fun part). Here’s hoping it gets better.
- The glitches.
As I said above, I’m playing the game on Xbox One. I’m not sure if this issue is happening elsewhere, but at seemingly random intervals the audio crackles and I lose control of Snake for 2 or 3 seconds while he walks forward in a straight line. It happens roughly once every 45 minutes or so, but it always seems to be during dialogue segments. I know The Witcher 3 had similar issues on the Xbox One version, causing audio to crackle during dialogue, but it was never, ever during gameplay. There’s nothing worse than sneaking up behind a guard and losing control of Snake, watching him bump in to the guy’s back before promptly getting knocked to the ground by the butt of their rifle. It’s really, really annoying.
- The story.
Kojima lost me toward the end of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and I was even more confused going in to Snake Eater. I’ve always just played the series for the ridiculous ways you can accomplish goals and the iconic boss battles. The Phantom Pain seems to be light on story elements, despite a lengthy one-hour prologue, and I’m actually okay with that. I’ve seen my fair share of dialogue between the newly anointed Punished “Venom” Snake and Ocelot or Miller, but it’s not going anywhere. 7 hours later and all I’ve gathered is “dude, we have a new base–Mother Base–and we gave you a horse. Oh, and we have a new name, Diamond Dogs. Check out this sweet patch!” That’s.. really it. There’s some futuristic army called The Skulls that can teleport and have this herky-jerky movement animation like something you’d see in The Ring, but I know nothing about them. The prologue introduced me to some bizarre masked red-head that can move objects with their mind (I assume they’re related to Psycho Mantis), along with a bulky fellow made of fire who can absorb bullets and shoot them back out of his body. What?
It’s safe to say that I’m enjoying the game far more than I’m not. It took a few hours to get my feet wet, since the prologue and the open world are drastically different experiences. Now that I’ve got my Fulton, expanded Mother Base, armored up D-Horse, and found a new friend in D-Dog, I’m definitely sucked in to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. I’m just hoping the open world becomes a little more diverse or enjoyable.
Are you or have you played MGSV:TPP yet? What are your thoughts? Do we share any similar complaints?