So here it is. The last foray into the Metal Gear universe…. To be honest I’m quite glad. The Metal Gear games have been examples of greatness since the glory days of the PS1 when this came along and blew the world away. The problem is the whole plot line takes a series of no less than 5 youtube videos to start making ANY sense. Hideo Kojima, part genius, part full-on batshit crazy. But not wanting to dwell on the past we will talk solely about this, MGSV The Phantom Pain.
It all starts with a painfully long prologue, as we awake in hospital from a coma with absolutely no idea what is going on with some doctor wittering at you and making little sense. You then realise you have an arm missing and have a little paddy. After that somehow the baddies find out your alive and send an army to come finish you off (why this wasn’t done while you were all unconscious I’ll never know) yet somehow you manage to avoid this kill squad with the help from your bezzer with a bandaged head. After much Alien Isolation like gameplay you then meet up with floaty red-head with goggles and a straight jacket and some flaming bloke who has a passion for wildlife, using a flaming whale (actual whale made of fire!) to swallow a helicopter he then rides in on a flaming, winged unicorn. During this, what could only be described as an acid flashback, we bump into an old friend/enemy Mr Ocelot, although he goes by the moniker Shalashaska Ocelot in this outing. We then pick up Miller who has managed to end up with less limbs than you and we have ourselves a shiny new motherbase which is reminiscent of a pretty bog standard oil platform with the unique selling point that you can have multiples all connected yet about half a mile apart.
Once we get to this point we can then go out on our own with our nice robotic arm and horse and start doing some missions in the lovely backdrop that is Afghanistan. Now this is where the game starts to get good, we work though main and side missions stealing everything and everyone that we can with our super Fulton retrieval system. Before long anything from a sheep to a tank can be ballooned off back to our home. So as we start building up the staff we can start to afford to get picky and only send people back that have skills in certain areas in order to unlock things like new weapons, accessories and upgrades for us and our “buddies”. Now this starts getting quite addictive and you get genuine excitement when you spot someone with a yellow skill bar making then an expert in their field. The expanding of your base is also enjoyable as you build more platforms allowing more of the new staff you just ballooned in amongst other things.
Throughout the game you acquire several buddies, starting with D-Horse (although that felt too much like the Witcher 3 for me), my favourite being D-Dog, which sniffs out most of the enemies, this means you don’t have to be quite as careful on your entry/exit. Buddy number 3 (leaving un-named as to avoid spoilers) annoyed me quite a lot, they have a lot of skills that you are told about but I had to google how to actually get them to do any of these and even then I didn’t find it very effective. When I have to google how to do something, either I’m stupid (possible yet unlikely) or the game has not done a good enough job of explaining things.
Not long after your encounter with your first Metal Gear and several encounters with strange super-zombie type soldiers you can then move on to the second area which is set in Africa, here I expected a big change in pace and mission style. I was left disappointed. It was not long after this that I stopped playing, I was near 40 hours in and I had enjoyed that time, it just all seemed to get very samey very quickly with far too many repetitive missions, and the mission ranking system I found to make no sense, I could complete a mission like a ghost, hardly get spotted, in and out mission accomplished, boom – Rank B??? Go in guns blazing, kill/fulton everyone in the base then causally complete the mission objective – Rank S? Sorry but a stealth game should always give greater rewards for proper stealth.
I don’t do online gaming so I cannot comment on the online aspect. Now many of you reading this may think I’m giving the game a bit of a hard time. Well I am, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t like it or wouldn’t recommend you play it. Technically it is amazing, the visuals are top notch and the controls, I cannot stress how impressed I am with how natural I found them, every button did what I expected it to. I will go back and complete this one day but for now its going on the to-do list. If you like the franchise you will like this, although I find Hideo Kojimas writing to be bordering on dull disguised by his craziness. For my first 20 or so hours this was the greatest game I had ever played but the magic alas wore off.
I give it a rating of 7/10
Reviewed by Paul Ashton.
Buy the game