Thursday, 24 September 2015

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

I was excited about The Phantom Pain. It filled the void until Fallout 4’s release. Perhaps I’m about to put my foot in my mouth by saying that I’m not a die-hard Metal Gear fan. I played the first Metal Gear Solid, but that was at least ten years ago, and I know the story well enough to know that to trust an ally is folly, but I’m not well versed in the gameplay and style of Kojima’s masterpiece, and maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy The Phantom Pain, but I don’t think so.


Developed by Kojima Productions and out now on Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC comes Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Now when I say I didn’t enjoy it, I know many of you will be cracking your knuckles ready to unleash a torrent of abuse at your keyboards – but at least hear me out so I can get to a safe distance while you’re reading it. I won’t even attempt to explain where The Phantom Pain fits in with the other Metal Gear series, because I have a limited word count. It is set in 1984, you play as Venom Snake, and Kojima made it (though if you’ve played even five minutes of the game I’m sure you’re aware).


In the prologue, you are introduced to the controls, the stealth aspect, and what to expect in terms of story from the rest of the game. A burning man, a gigantic fire-whale, and Psycho Mantis are all thrown in for good measure. I loved this prologue. It was awesome. It was the perfect blend of intrigue, tutorial, plot-development, and combat. It was all geared (no pun intended) to a solid (perhaps a pun there) story filled with twists and turns. And then, after a couple of montages and cut-scenes, you fast-forward to the mother base building and “free-roam” sections – and that’s where it all fell down for me.

The Phantom Pain has one of the worst “free-roam”s ever. All it offers is a bland setting in which every road looks the same, save for maybe a couple of animals running around that you can airlift back to mother base, for, you know, science. Occasionally you’ll stumble across a guard post which offers up five minutes of fun, to be rewarded with an emblem and a bit of heroism which, I assume, helps you capture better soldiers for mother base. I say assume, because I haven’t come across any sort of explanation in-game, which was a big problem in general.

This is where the people really clued up on Metal Gear go up-in-arms and tell me I’m not playing the game correctly – so here goes. After the prologue, there is barely any story presented to me. After a few hours of playing I was confused, and decided to check if anyone else had the same problem – they did. The fix for the problem was that pretty much all of the story is tied into the cassette tapes you unlock after missions and around the world in stereos. 

…wait…what?

Is it just me that finds that almost insulting? I remember another game coming under heavy criticism for doing the same thing, hiding away the story in optional extradiegetic components, that game being Destiny. Why the hell are these huge plot points not being presented on-screen? Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m playing a game, I want the story to be a part of that game, not an option that you can discover if you have the time and patience. There are moments were the story rears its convoluted head, be it through a cut-scene or a mission that strays from the repetitive go-there-capture/kill-this, but they’re very rare. And even when they do appear, and they try to shock you or introduce a twist, they’re ruined by credits that appear before the mission. When Skull Face finally shows his ugly mug, I knew it was coming, because it told me before the mission even began! Having credits before every mission is ridiculous enough, but to actually spoil itself is just idiotic.


I have numerous issues with this game, and sturdy gameplay and tight stealth mechanics do not make up for it. Trust me, no one is more disappointed at my disliking of it than me, I so wanted to, I still do, but I cannot look past its issues like so many people can.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain gets a 2/5, failing to inspire a Metal Gear rookie.

★★☆☆☆

Jonny Naylor


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