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Review: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

With each and every time you play The Phantom Pain, I guarantee you’ll find something new. This is a game of epic proportions, one that will leave you speechless for years to come.

The events of Ground Zeroes are done, nine years have passed and Big Boss finally awakens from a lengthy coma. Instead of a warm welcoming back to reality, the now codenamed “Punished ‘Venom’ Snake” becomes the victim of an attempted assassination – however, a mysterious man in bandages quickly comes to the rescue. Obviously there’s much more than that, but that would be spoiling things, wouldn’t it? Either way, you team up with a recognisable character in order to put an end to a lot of unanswered questions. This is how final instalments should be done.

After the initial opening gameplay, you are put straight into the action, giving you the option to do whatever you want, more or less. This isn’t like previous Metal Gear Solid (MGS) games – you can now freely roam around the deserts of Afghanistan and such, fulfilling missions along the way. Even the very beginning of the game leaves you in complete awe, letting you know this is going to be something truly amazing.

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Beautiful vast landscapes will leave you in complete awe.

Gone is the rugged voice acting of David Hayter, now Snake is brought to life by Keifer Sutherland (best known for 24), who does a great job of not disappointing fans of the series. Hayter was a massive part of the MGS games, but if anyone could step up to the plate, it certainly would be Sutherland.

The Phantom Pain is by far one of the best looking games this gen has to offer, if not the best. Right from the get-go, I couldn’t help but just stop and admire the graphics, whether it be the vast wildernesses or the sheer amount of detail put into character models and buildings – really impressive stuff that is certain to leave an impression in some way or another.

Aside from all the visual admiration, there is absolutely tons of gameplay to get through in The Phantom Pain. With 50 main missions and 157 “side ops” to complete, you’ll never be left with nothing to do. Side ops are completely optional and often lack the challenge of the main missions; however they should be completed as you can gain great rewards upon completion, helping you out in future missions.

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Just one of the many occasions Snake bumps into his new best friend, Skull Face. Spoilers: they are not friends.

Most missions compromise of flying into the open world via helicopter, dropping you off, and the game leaving it up to you to figure the rest out, so to speak. There are waypoints to the destination, however a lot of the time you will need to get more information as to where your exact target or destination is. This is often done through the use of interrogation – sneaking behind an enemy and squeezing information out of them.

Enemy soldiers play a huge part in The Phantom Pain, and not just for getting information from. See, there’s this new toy called the Fulton, a balloon-like device that enables you to physically extract soldiers from the battlefield, in turn making them your own as part of Diamond Dogs. Eventually, you’ll be able to extract vehicles, weapon placements, and large containers. All of this goes directly to Mother Base, but more on that later.

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The look of sheer terror as an enemy realises he’s going to get shot in the face.

As always in MGS, it is a good idea to scope out the surrounding area, giving you a better idea of what lies ahead. The Phantom Pain allows you to mark enemies, wildlife, equipment, and vehicles, giving you a great deal of knowledge of the obstacles that could very well get in your way. Once an enemy is marked, you will be able to watch their exact movements, in turn allowing you to plan out your next move carefully.

Of course, you could be stealthy and sneaky – knocking enemies out with a tranquiliser gun, then hiding their bodies…or you could go in guns blazing, killing everyone and everything in sight. The game doesn’t penalise you for whatever route you wish to take, although some missions require stealth tactics in order to get an S rank. With that said, I did get an S rank more than a few times when simply blasting through every enemy with a semi-automatic and rocket launcher.

The arsenal is absolutely huge and is by far the biggest in all of the MGS series. There are so many variations of each weapon type, whether it be pistols, explosives, snipers, grenades, missile launchers, and so forth. However, you can’t simply access all of these at a moments notice, but as you play the game more and more, you’ll have a generous amount of weapons and equipment to choose from. Play more and reap the rewards.

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Soldiers guarding a machine that’s more than likely going to make Snake’s life a little difficult.

Your arm is a weapon now more than ever, what with it now being a prosthetic, able to knock out enemies through the use of CQC. You can also use its metallic material to make a loud noise against walls and such in order to distract enemies. When you’re having a little downtime from the main game, go ahead and use your new arm to knock out sheep. You know you want to.

Cardboard boxes are back, and with a vengeance – there are many variations of the box, suited to match a particular environment, whether it be sand, forest, or city. Nothing is more satisfying than making your way through an enemy occupied outpost, completely unnoticed, in a cardboard box. Other useful items include the Phantom Cigar, which can literally make time go faster – this is especially useful if daylight is making a mission difficult for you. Fast forward to night time through the use of this questionable cigar, and use the darkness to your advantage.

Back to Mother Base – this is a large structure designed to home new recruits of Diamond Dogs as well as training them along the way. Mother Base is used to develop new weapons, items, tools, all whilst putting research into new upgrades. Eventually, you can branch out into other fields such as medicine, intel, combat, base development, and support.

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It’s advised to seek out vantage points and analyse the surrounding areas before heading into enemy territory.

All of this requires materials, which can be found throughout the game, mainly in enemy bases and outposts. Whenever you see a plant or a box of materials, and other items, pick them up straight away as they will help upgrade Mother Base and its different units, respectively. Eventually, you can start work on expanding the base with multiple platforms, making for something truly impressive once it’s fully done.

Gross Military Product (GMP) is the currency used for practically everything in The Phantom Pain, whether it be calling in a supply drop of ammo, performing a fulton extract, or investing in new equipment. GMP can be earned through various methods, most commonly completing missions and finding rough diamonds.

With every MGS game comes defining music, and The Phantom Pain is no different. Yes, there are the usual “epic” songs that sort of give you goose bumps, but the real highlights are the cassette tapes that can be found scattered around the game. Stumbling across a tape of “Take on Me” or “Kids in America” is certainly bizarre in a game such as this, but reminds you that the events taking place are set in the ’80s, so it actually makes a lot of sense.

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Snake certainly meets some more than interesting characters throughout the game.

I feel there aren’t as many cutscenes as in previous MGS games, or at least they’re a lot shorter this time. Either way, each cutscene is done beautifully, bringing each and every character to life in their own way. It’s difficult to speak about the development of the storyline without spoiling anything, but many times you will be left speechless. It is thanks to Hideo Kojima and his incredible storytelling that makes The Phantom Pain a story like no other.

If you want to truly complete this game and do everything it has to offer, be prepared to spend a good 150 hours doing so. Smashing through the main game will take around 30-35 hours, so no matter how you play the game, expect to be in it for the long haul. I can say this is one of the greatest games of all time, and you’d be crazy not to pick it up.

Available On: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows PC

Rating: 9/10




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