Earlier this month, I partially reviewed Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain due to the game being so big, that a week would never have been enough to cover the massive world created by Hideo Kojima. A week on, have any of the issues been stamped on? Read on to find out.
In terms of gameplay, I found that the further you progress into MGSV, the more fun it becomes, at least when you get imaginative. It’s a shame that by the time you’ve upgraded Mother Base’s R&D unit to maximum grade, that you’ll have fought and Fultoned your way through most of the more interesting levels.
Unlocking and creating some really fun toys to play with in the field is an absolute game changer. Talking decoys that will more or less let you drag a small group of sentries into a sleeping grenade trap and setting up gas mines at the bottom of lookout tower ladders are just some of the more interesting ways to up your stealth rating and keep Snake’s natty duds blood free for at least a while.
The amount of weapon upgrades are also staggering, from pistols and shotguns to extremely long-range sniper rifles and rocket launchers that fire clusters of missiles to do tremendous damage to even the most hardy bosses and each with multiple customisation options gives gun nuts an armory to rival those survivalist families you see on TV stocking up for a zombie outbreak… No one will be nicking cans of baked beans from Mother Base, I’ll tell you.
So with so many ways to play, does this improve the entire experience of my time with MGSV? The answer was a definite no. The problem is, that this late in the game (almost 200 hours in), if you’re a completionist or hate missing side missions, then you’ll have been grinding more than an ex-Mickey Mouse Club presenter trying to get a record deal.
Yes, grinding… It’s become a normal term for most open world games in this day and age and while games like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry make you collect the shit out of everything on the map to keep the money rolling in, at least they don’t make you play the same area over and over again. The Phantom Pain will leave you a bit exhausted from travelling from camp to outpost to airport to sodding Wialo Village again and again to rescue or exterminate and not much else in order to rack up some GMP to add a bit of extra damage to your Killer Bee.
Even worse, when you hit the credits of the first chapter, you get a montage cut-scene of chapter two’s coming excitement… Only to be told to check your iDroid for new missions. New, now that’s a bit of a laugh, considering you get yet another extraction mission and the game begins to push you into completing earlier levels, Skulls and all, with new, difficult parameters.
Yep, you’ll be doing C2W, amongst others, all over again, only this time you won’t have the advantage of being able to use any of your obsessively created storage of guns and gadgets. You’ll have to find them on the battlefield yourself, making the difficulty ramp up considerably. Either that or the mission will now be at Extreme difficulty, instead of pushing the story forward by giving you something new to do.
It’s almost as if the game didn’t have enough time and money to finish it properly…
Speaking of unfinished, there’s really no point in having MGSV connected to the internet unless you’re at a point where you get to build your Forward Operating Base. It’s a gimmicky online element that so far, hasn’t lived up to much, as the connection to the servers is bloody awful at the best of times. Maybe best to wait until Metal Gear Online is introduced to begin your infiltrations to pilfer friends’ loot.
The second part of the game is more of a push on the special Side Ops, opening up character arcs and giving some screen time to your Diamond Dog companions that have been shuffling around Mother Base, doing little else but recording their own conversations and complaining about anyone more useful and interesting that Big Boss has brought on board.
Kaz and Ocelot are a bit like those bureaucrat workers you find in the office, where no one seems to know their exact purpose other than to make other people’s lives miserable and their work harder. Maybe they feel that their positions are at risk and that’s why they hate the more resourceful members of the team?
Whatever the issue, the lack of personality in most characters and the story is blatant and it’s a huge problem for a fan of the previous games. Character development was always better structured in older MGS titles but here, it feels broken due to the terrible pacing and scattered plot lines that rarely seem to go anywhere. Maybe it’s just due to long intervals of doing grindy side-ops, but it’s definitely one of the major issues that cause progression to slow down so much that Diamond Dogs should maybe change their name to Silver Snails.
There are more cut scenes and interaction in the second act, I’ll give it that, but not nearly enough to make up for the repetitive hours ploughed into the first chapter and not least because you’ll be having deja vu moments at this part of the game too…
The other problem with pacing is the travel methods. Yes, you can roam around either of the massive levels on D-Horse, doing side-ops and missions as you go, but you’ll probably find that you need to either go to Mother Base to sort out morale problems or have a shower after a few. It might be that the mission you were going to next is at the other side of the map and you can’t be bothered to hoof it all the way or steal a jeep and chance your luck at driving through a heavily armed outpost or five in the hope you’ll get there in one piece.
It’s as if you’re being pushed into returning to the ACC and back to base too frequently and the loading and set up times of calling a ride in, waiting for it to leave the extraction point, watch a loading screen, let the chopper fly to your destination and then mucking about with your iDroid to listen to new tapes, send your troops out on dispatches, see how long your new gadget will take to complete, making sure your soldiers are in line then heading back to the helipad to do it all again, gets a bit grating and I eventually found myself trying to stay away from leaving the field entirely after a certain point.
This, in my opinion is what kills the enjoyment of Metal Gear Solid V. It’s the constant waiting and micro-managing. The repetitiveness of your actions, the playing field and the task set before you. I felt that a forty hour game has been caught in and endless trap of monotonous extraction missions to string out play time and it has truly failed me as the end to the series as Kojima knows it.
What’s more disheartening is that when it all ends, it’s still very patchy. Some of the plots taper out, leaving unexplained holes. That’s even with the slightly more palatable ‘True Ending’, that has to be fought for and requires a checklist of things you have done before you can enjoy it.
Considering there’s a missing mission which Kojima never managed to get into the final product, that is unless it’s ultra hard to unlock, then we know that MGSV has been delivered as a lot of games have these days… Unfinished.
Despite another thousand plus words of complaint, The Phantom Pain is playable. It’s even fun when you get into the swing of creativeness and find some new way of blasting rival troops into bits via some ingenious A-Team/MacGuyver style genius.
You can play it for a huge amount of enjoyable hours, but it seems that the game is only as much fun as you make it. Like most open world games, MGSV suffers for repetitive strain. There’s little in the way of collecting hidden packages or climbing towers for days on the trot for feathers or some other pointless task for a crappy achievement. It’s more that you might burn yourself out trying to claw your way to the end without missing anything.
I know most gamers have already shelled out their money for the final chapter in Metal Gear Solid as we know it and I can’t say that you won’t enjoy it more than I have. What I will say is that it’s a generally good game if you have the time, imagination and patience. If you have little of either of these, then you might find yourself slamming it with frustration back on its shelf and wondering why it’s been tagged game of the year already. Otherwise, if you can handle the grind and figure yourself an artiste of violence, it’s mostly good fun.
It just isn’t game of the year in my opinion for many reasons, one of them being the much more capable and refined The Witcher III which points out everything glaringly wrong with the differences in progression in both series. Where The Witcher has more diversity and style and opened out more naturally over its IP’s lifespan, Metal Gear feels more like it’s tried to do something different and not quite managed to get over that hurdle.
I still can’t say it’s a truly bad game though and many who pick it up will be pleasantly surprised if they can grin and bear the pains of mass extraction. It’s merely an average game with a good story that’s been spread too thin and gameplay that, despite being the most inventive of the year, doesn’t save the ploddy adventures of Snake in a bland, slightly open world.
For fans, it’s an absolute must as it’s the last we’ll see of the Snake lineage, at least in this form and worth it if you can piece the story together among all the interfering side ops. To anyone else, it’s a lesson in why war is hell… It’s long, painful, dragged out and sometimes, there’s not really a good reason for it other than to make money.
This review was based on a PS4 copy of Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain provided by Konami UK.