Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain
Hideo Kojima’s long awaited opus; the fifth and final installment of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, comes roaring on to the stage, boisterously elbowing all other contenders for 2015’s Game of the Year award roughly out of the way. And why not? This is Kojima-san’s swan song; his last hurrah in a legendary series replete with a global fan base which knows no bounds.
First off, longtime fans of the series who are knowledgeable of Metal Gear’s steeped lore know of Mr. Kojima’s appreciation and respect for Special Operations Forces (SOF). Being ex-military myself, I’ve always in turn appreciated his appreciation (okay, no more A words) for the silent warriors, the unseen hand of the battlefield.
Metal Gear links all the way back to the 1960s, and on up into the 2000s quite comfortably, and barring some of the whacky gadgetry that the series has been known for in the past, much of the equipment, weapons, and field gear, is accurately portrayed. Seeing the game’s main protagonist, Big Boss, tooling around in a Vietnam-era CJ-5 Jeep (which I’ve also driven by the way), sipping from older model metal canteens, and donning web gear from that same old era was a sign of his reverence (see, I didn’t use that A word again) for a bygone era in military history which still continues today, although in different forms.
Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain, along with its critically panned prequel, Ground Zeros, are the sequels to Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, which came out for the PSP. In this regard, people who played that game will notice a few familiar faces in The Phantom Pain. Even so, even MGS veterans may become a little confused with some of the story’s murkier plot threads and more obscure character references. This can be a motivator to either brush up on your Metal Gear lore, or in the case of newbies to the series, go back and learn about it from square one.
This can be a lengthy task, but I believe that it forces people to engage their curiosities and research skills, instead of expecting everything to be spoon-fed to them, which seems to be dreadfully common in an age of miniscule attention spans. For those who have grumbled that some of the missions being “too difficult” I say to them: “This is a great challenge!” And I’ve also heard a bunch of carping and complaining about there being nothing to do while traveling over vast distances between objectives—to which I would simply remark that for me, that’s more time to check out the beautiful and meticulously designed scenery.
With regards to the nuts and bolts of the game, the main currency in the game, called GMP, is earned by completing various side-ops, which in turn gives you access to allies, as well as access to more difficult missions. By obtaining valuable blueprints and other intel spread through the game’s expansive regions, you can develop more effective strategies that translate to giving you more of an advantage on the battlefield. The absurd and sometimes dopey cut scenes that the series is known for have been trimmed back slightly, but many of them still contain generous dollops of sappy schmaltz here and there.
Kiefer Sutherland does a great job of voice acting for Big Boss, even though the battle-hardened warrior isn’t given much to say, most of the time. I appreciated this aspect of his character, a return to the classic stoic warrior, when men didn’t talk much, they would just take action. Men sounded like men instead of whiny little valley girls. Politically correct is what this game is not (thankfully!).
One of the exceptionally brilliant aspects of The Phantom Pain is the game’s mechanics; there are so many different ways for a player to plan out and then execute a mission that it’s a joy to play through each one using divergent strategies, again and again. Want to sneak in and tranquillize some guards? Try it. If that doesn’t work, then maybe setting up demo charges and distracting them while you sneak in from a different angle may work out for you better. Or maybe just going in guns blazing—the various ways that you can try to tackle a mission are limited only by the player’s imagination. Other games have attempted this but none have come as close to succeeding as they have here.
Visually, The Phantom Pain swaggers instead of skips; it forces you to appreciate its graphical splendor at every turn. The game has purportedly been seven years in the making, and this is evidenced by my jaw nearly falling through the floor after beholding how well the characters models, along with their clothing and hair, are rendered. Environments are also a high point; detailed and at the same time incredibly vast (isn’t that impossible?), and weather effects such as lighting and rainfall look likewise terrific. The sound engineering only enhances the deep narrative, and coming across old 80s cassette tapes made me guffaw several times throughout my many hours of gameplay. 4k gaming aficionados in particular will have to take a double take and blink their eyes a few times in order to make sure that they’re playing a game and not a blockbuster Hollywood film.
Although The Phantom Pain has a few minor flaws, its unabashed politically incorrect subject matter and chance taking more than makes up for it. In an era where censorship is at an all-time high and big gaming companies are by-and-large afraid to upset advertisers and social justice/special interest groups, Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain rolls the dice and laughs in the face of those with less intestinal fortitude, and it comes up with anything but snake eyes.
Yes, The Phantom Pain is one of the most visually alluring games that you’ll witness for some time to come. Yes, you may want to invest in a beefier rig in order to enjoy them. Yes, there are some great options over at Cyberpower PC for you to consider. Yes, I’m going back into my man cave in order to play some more Phantom Pain in spite of my eyes looking like I’ve been awake for days—need I say more?
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