METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN REVIEW

After spending fourteen days straight with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I can safely say it’s Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus. It’s quite simply the best game he’s ever done, plus the amount of freedom given to you throughout its entirety is absurd. If you’re a die hard fan of Metal Gear and are up to date with its timeline, Phantom Pain takes place during 1984 after the events of Metal Gear Solid V:Ground Zeroes (1975) and before the first Metal Gear (1995) on MSX. It has been 9 years since the tragic events in Ground Zeroes and Snake is a little worse for wear, having just woken up from his coma that nearly spanned a decade.

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After a prologue that sets up the rest of the game Snake is rescued by his comrade and friend, Revolver Ocelot, before continuing his war path for vengeance and freeing his former partner Kazuhira Miller from the clutches of Soviet forces in Afghanistan. I’m not going to spoil the story or talk about the plot points (I agree with Kojima Productions’ wish to keep it a surprise), but I will say that there are twists and turns, and it ranks as one of the best tales in the series yet.

There’s no doubt that this is the largest and most accessible Metal Gear to date, full to the brim with content. But it’s not just a case of quantity over quality, every inch of the game is meticulously detailed, and has a vast amount of replay ability. It’s also incredibly fun, which always helps! The tone is vastly different to any other MGS game, as there are no more overly-long cut scenes and most of the detailed narration is dealt through cassette tapes, which you can listen to at your own pleasure. If you’ve played Ground Zeroes and think you know what to expect, I suggest you put that taster behind you and get ready to embark on a journey with no half-measures.

Unlike the confined spaces found during other entries in the series, MGS V consists of two enormous maps, Afghanistan and Africa, each of which house a plethora of side-ops and main missions; enabling you to explore and complete objectives in a dynamic and natural way. Each mission is structured like an episode from a TV show, operating in bite-sized chunks like if you were watching hit TV shows such as Breaking Bad and Sons Of Anarchy. Even if you’re in the middle of a mission that leads into the next with a tense cut scene, a small “to be continued” caption will appear, sending you back to your base of operations to prepare. It was a bit awkward for me, because 5 seconds later I’d simply continue, but if people need a break and want to gear up/upgrade sufficiently, it’s actually a very smart move.

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Characters that will appear in this game:

Big Boss/Punished “Venom” Snake

Kazuhira Miller

Ocelot

Quiet

Skullface

Eli

Tretij Rebenok

Code Talker

Huey Emmerich

“Man on Fire”

There are more Characters and Groups that are in the game but I will not spoil the rest.

The variety of missions at hand will see you take out specific targets, gather Intel and garner more help. Funnily enough there isn’t a difficulty mode present, despite other titles encompassing tons of different options. Though I did find the gameplay pretty tough at certain points, it only made me want to upgrade further and try a different approach. Some people might get tired of a handful of repetitive missions, but I always had fun replaying them with a different tactic in mind. Being able to choose whether I operated during the night or day gave me a lot of flexibility, since enemy locations would alter depending on the time I chose.

Before setting off to fight it’s vital that you prep accordingly. Your Air Command Centre (ACC), gives you full control over all your upgrades and missions, tasking you to select which one you’d like to conduct first. As previously seen in Peace Walker, managing your Mother Base remains an integral part in Phantom Pain, allowing you to recruit staff and utilize resources for upgrades.

Acquiring items from the battlefield such as biological material and fuel canisters is incredibly important. These will allow you to develop extra platforms designed to boost your stats, including combat, R&D, support and medical. If you choose to focus on leveling up your R&D level and get the best Fulton, for example, you’ll then be able to extract entire containers of resources at a much earlier stage; reaping rewards much quicker and progressing more comfortably. You’ll also be able to extract vehicles as well, such as tanks or cars to take on missions.

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Staff management is also key, and you can automatically or manually assign your comrades to the best departments. Despite being able to systematically place staff in their most skilled department, I decided to fully focus on R&D first, which let me take advantage of more advanced upgrades a lot sooner. It’s not always the best option, but just like any part of MGS V, it’s up to you to decide on how to proceed. Furthermore, you can send staff on their own missions to obtain more resources or extra recruits. Whilst I did get into the habit of sourcing soldiers with higher skill ratings (via upgrading my scope), I often attempted to extract anyone and everyone, in order to beef up my units and unlock upgrades at a quicker pace.

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No matter what you try and accomplish, having the support of your army is always the heart of your experience. For instance, buddies can join you and aid your quest for vengeance in a multitude of ways. Bringing in a horse or bi-pedal Walker will allow you to traverse the environment more quickly – along with the other vehicles you’ve acquired as well. A dog can help distract your enemies or make you aware of their presence, and your comrade Quiet (who you can choose to kill or recruit) will aid you in combat, scout out maps and coordinate while dispatching enemies. Each aspect of a buddy’s armor and equipment can also be upgraded, such as changing Quiet’s cleavage with a little gold or silver paint. Lovely.

Your ACC can be used for mission briefs or organizing your army, but it also provides some vital support. As well as taking you in and out of missions, once on the ground you can also strategically place air strikes or smoke for cover, which can often be the life line you need in the midst of a firefight. There’s simply so much available to the player, no one will have the same experience. I constantly tested different ways to enter a mission, often resorting to complete stealth and learning from my many mistakes along the way.

After initially hearing about the absence of the veteran voice actor David Hayter in this game, it took me a while to move past the change in vocal chords. However, much like the constant change of actors playing Bond, I embraced the change and am now more than happy with Kiefer Sutherland’s portrayal. I have been an fan of him since the 24 TV show so I am used to hearing his voice and delivery of dialog. In fact, I believe Sutherland sounded more like an soldier than Hayter ever did. Exploring the beautiful vistas of Afghanistan is amazing, and the added jungle as you progress to Africa enhances the experience. The persistent image of a dusty wasteland is sometimes hard to muster. Having said that, the rest of the game’s extremely high quality means it doesn’t bother me. Now, where’s that remake of MGS 1 in Fox Engine?

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With Kojima Productions’ impressive Fox Engine powering the entire experience, everything looks suitably crisp and clean, packaging in a tone of detail. Despite this being released on older hardware as well, I’m impressed with the core experience and I don’t think it has been hindered on more powerful consoles as a result. Then again, the fact that its design and graphical fidelity has had to cater to equipment with less power, it does make me wonder what could have been should Phantom Pain have released exclusively to PS4 and Xbox One, and not their older siblings.

To me, Robin Atkin Downes as Kaz Miller was more enjoyable in this game than he was in Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes. His anger really shows during the cut scenes. I would be mad at the world if I lost my leg and arm so I understand why. Troy Baker as Ocelot to me, was his best voice acting in any video game since Snow from Final Fantasy XIII. And James Horan as Skullface  not only delivered an great and believable performance as an villain, but also made the player wanted to take him down for good. I can call him the Joker of the Metal Gear series since his and Big Boss’ upbringings kind of parallel each other.

Conclusion

Phantom Pain presents the most flexible gameplay in the series to date, and fills in unseen moments from the Metal Gear saga with style. I strongly suggest you pick this up and experiment with your own strategies, as you’re presented with endless possibilities. Grab your cardboard box, the world needs saving!

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Metal Gear Timeline Part 2 (MGS: Peace Walker, MGS5: Ground Zeroes, MGS5: The Phantom Pain)

Please note that the information from Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain is based off the trailers, the website and information that I already know. The games are currently unreleased as they will come out in 2014.

METAL GEAR SOLID: PEACE WALKER

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(1974)-PEACE WALKER INCIDENT: Big Boss and Kaz are given an old offshore oil rig to act as the base of MSF (Militaires Sans Frontieres). After Big Boss went through a training routine with his soldiers, they are contacted by Vladimir Zadornov and Paz to find out what the CIA is doing in Costa Rica. During this time, Big Boss saves Chico and Amanda from the AI sentinels. Later, they discover an AI weapons project that was being sanctioned by Hot Coldman. Then Big Boss headed to Huey Emmerich and he explained to Big Boss about the four AI Weapons and the Peace Walker Machine. The four AI weapons are Pupa, Chrysalis, Cocoon and the Peace Walker itself. Big Boss destroys the first 3 weapons, but he is then captured by a woman who idolized The Boss, Dr. Strangelove. She interrogated Big Boss about the reason for his involvement resulting in The Boss’ death 10 years ago. Eventually, Big Boss escapes from the prison and go to battle Peace Walker. Peace Walker was completely incapable of launching a nuclear weapon by itself, only launching out of self-defense, as part of the theory of deterrence. However, it could be tricked into launching a nuclear weapon into a country if supplied with false data, which could depict an imaginary Soviet nuclear attack on the U.S. It could also transmit this false data to third parties, such as NORAD. This was the result of it possessing covert channels to NORAD’s early warning system made of DSP satellite-mounted infrared sensors and an array of surveillance radar stations across America, meant for human decision making, due to Peace Walker being required to act autonomously. After the battle was finished, Big Boss, Kaz and Emmerich come up with an idea to build their own Metal Gear for MSF. They did this by using parts of the AI weapons that was destroyed. Strangely, Zadornov leaves MSF 7 times and when Big Boss found him the 7th time, he killed Zadornov in self-defense. This was an diversion for Paz to hijack Metal Gear ZEKE and to launch a missile to the United States for only MSF to get blamed for the attack. Also, Paz revealed to Big Boss that she was a double agent for Cipher (codename for Zero and The Patriots). She orders Big Boss to rejoin or else not only she will launch the attack for MSF to get blamed, but to reveal to the world that Big Boss is holding weapons of mass destruction. Big Boss defeats her but she fell out of Metal Gear into the ocean, to which Big Boss assumes that she is alive. In the end, MSF and Cipher are now searching for her.

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METAL GEAR SOLID 5: GROUND ZEROES

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(1975)- OPERATION TROJAN HORSE: XOF commander and Cipher agent, Skull Face, captures Paz after she was found by a fisherman, who saw her drifting in the Caribbean. Skull Face also captured Chico after he went looking for her and they are both being held in Camp Omega. Paz is being interrogated about the location of MSF. Meanwhile, the UN has picked up on the rumor that MSF is holding weapons of mass destruction so there is going to be an inspection that will take place over there to see if the rumors are true. The mission for Big Boss is for him to rescue Paz and Chico in Camp Omega before she tells Skull Face about MSF. When Big Boss arrived, he saved Chico and Paz but had to preform emergency surgery to remove a bomb that has been placed inside her stomach. When Big Boss returns to MSF, their base was attacked and destroyed by the XOF unit. Some time later, Big Boss falls into a coma.

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POST METAL GEAR SOLID 5: GROUND ZEROES

  • (1976)- The Les Effants Terribles’ project is aborted
  • (1977)- Kaz Miller and MSF discovered an abandoned underground nuclear facility owned by the South African government, This Facility later becomes the fortress of Outer Heaven
  • (1979)- Ocelot participates in the invasion of Afghanistan while working as a GRU Spetsnaz Operative. During this war, he learned interrogation and torture techniques. Rebels who feared him gave him the name “Shalashaska”
  • (1980)- Hal Emmerich is born
  • (1983)- Jack (Raiden) is born

METAL GEAR SOLID 5: THE PHANTOM PAIN

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(1984)- THE HOSPITAL ESCAPE: Big Boss awakens from the hospital with his left arm missing and replaced with a hook and some debris on his head. The doctor informed him that he has been in a coma for 9 years. Some time later, the hospital is attacked by either the XOF unit or a new group called ” Those Who Don’t Exist.” Ishmael, who claimed that he has watched over Big Boss for 9 years, aided Big Boss for the escape. During the escape, many hospital patients were killed. Big Boss also sees hallucinations of Volgin and a flaming whale. Also to note out, a young Psycho Mantis appears as well.

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RESCUE MISSON: Moments after the escape, Big Boss meets up with Ocelot so they can leave the area. Some time later, Big Boss’ hook on his left arm was replaced with a prosthetic arm that was similar to Zadornov’s. The next mission for him is to go to Afghanistan to rescue Kaz Miller, who has been captured. After the rescue, a new unit called Diamond Dogs has been created. Kaz Miller and Ocelot proceeded to torture a female sniper named Quiet, and Huey Emmerich. Ocelot and Big Boss found out about a plan from Cipher. Their plan is to build a weapon system that has the power to surpass Metal Gear.

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