Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain amazes on all fronts and although it’s a shame this is the end because it seems more like a beginning.

By Grayshadow, Posted 11 Sep 2015

The Metal Gear franchise has always delivered complicated plots and long cutscenes. While some of the elements still exist in The Phantom Pain, this being the last installment developed by Kojima The Phantom Pain takes many risks that stray from the traditional norm and succeeds on all fronts. Despite being an ending to the franchise, with many important people like creator Hideo Kojima no longer working on the series, it feels more like a beginning of something wondrous. The open world tests your creativity, a plot so dark and intelligently acted that it requires nothing less but your full dedication and a myriad of missions that constantly reward players with new equipment that tailors to any playstyle. It’s is an extremely ambitious project that attempts to rewrite everything you know about the franchise and while other games have attempted to do the same only to fall to hubris The Phantom Pain succeeds in everything it sets to accomplish.

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The Phantom Pain starts nine years after the events of Ground Zeroes. Big Boss and his organization, Diamond Dogs, are seeking revenge against the man who betrayed them. The dialogue does little to incorporate newcomers to the franchise, expecting players to know the Metal Gear lore before entering Phantom Pain, so first-time Metal Gear players can expect a massive things said to sound foreign. The story is full with impressive voice-acting, but it’s what the characters do, instead of what they say, that stands out. The dialogue takes a backseat with players having to read the body language and tones in each characters voice to fully grasp what they actually mean instead of what they’re saying.

Don’t expect heavy expositions found in other Metal Gear games. A lot of the story is left for interpretation and told through found, and given, cassette tapes. Surprisingly, the most significant information in The Phantom Pain is on these tapes. At first it seems strange. The Metal Gear franchise has been known for having long cutscenes to explain each situation and motive. Phantom Pain does away with this concept for a more fluid experience, allowing the player full control of whether they want to learn everything or get right into the action.

Ignoring them, however, is unwise. Eventually it comes together like a beautiful mosaic painting and leaving out these tapes will leave massive gaps. Even after listening to every tape and finishing the main campaign, I kept running the plot through my head. Regardless of how convoluted the plot was, it kept me hooked, constantly wondering how it fit into The Phantom Pain and the series. 

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Never has a Metal Gear game given us so much freedom. Mother Base, the Diamond Dogs base of operations, can develop many items to help Boss surpass any challenge. Before you start building, you have to staff your army using the Fulton Recovery Device. This balloon device can extract soldiers, as well as other valuable resources such as supply crates and even tanks when upgraded, on the field straight to Mother Base. Each soldier has specific skills that vary including combat, intelligence, security, research and development, gathering, and so on. You must assign them to certain departments that suit their strengths to ensure efficiently. This adds another problem while on missions: do you risk getting caught to extract promising allies or large bulks of resources? 

Boss won’t be alone on most missions, allowing him access to one of four buddies each with specific support talents. D-Horse can travel faster than any other buddy and cause vehicles to spin out-of-control if they get caught in his poop. D-Dog can locate enemies, resources, animals and mines. Quiet is useful in scouting, and shooting, enemies from far away, and D-Walker gives Boss additional fire power.

Each buddy tailors to a specific playstyle, and choosing one means sacrificing another. D-Horse can travel on any terrain quickly. Yet every time I choose D-Horse I would miss Quiet’s ability to eliminate targets before they can alert others. Buddies can gain new skills the longer you spend time with them, increasing their bond with Snake and opening new options.

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The varied ways to tackle missions become more apparent as you unlock new tools. For example in one mission required me to destroy a Gunship and a couple of tanks. Instead of stockpiling heavy weaponry I extracted the tanks, using the upgraded Fulton Recovery Device, and took out the Gunship with a well-shot missile. While expensive to upgrade it allowed me to easily extract key objectives, and useful resources, whereas without it my missions would’ve been incredible difficult. That’s what makes The Phantom Pain incredible: options aren’t given to you. Instead you must choose the best way to succeed in each mission with the tools at hand.

Despite all the tools and buddies at Boss’s disposal, expect formidable enemy resistance. The enemy AI is extremely sophisticated, constantly patrolling, investigating, and communicating with one another. If they’re alerted the consequences are dire. Guards won’t give up the search easily, scouring your last position, calling in support from other outposts and remaining on high alert after returning to the shadows.

Like Boss, enemies will gain access to new equipment and use it to adapt to your tactics overtime. Relying on suppressed weapons will cause more guards to wear helmets. Constantly performing your missions at night, guards will now sport night-vision goggles and man more spotlights. Don’t fret – there is always a way to counteract these measures. As the one of the leaders of Diamond Dogs, you can send troops to missions all over the world, and one of these missions including disrupting supply lines. Too many guards wearing helmets, then send a squad to eliminate the factory. 

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Even without special equipment enemies are not limited to one cone-of-vision. Depending on the time of day, and light source, the vision of enemies vary. Without proper scouting , players can expect sudden unexpected surprises. The Phantom Pain resolves this issue by offering players a chance to take control of the situation. When caught, time slows down, allowing Boss a chance take the enemy down before alerting his comrades. These split-second decisions can be the difference between failure and success. Even after 30 hours of playing these intense, and enticing, moments continued to sprout up encouraging me to continue playing smart regardless of how much I upgraded. And since Snake is limited to four weapons – two primary heavy guns and two smaller arms – each mission requires shifting tools. If something isn’t to your liking you can always call-in a supply drop, but be prepared to wait until it arrives.

The boss fights are a true test of how much you’ve learned. Taking elements from the diverse mechanics from the previous missions these moments require you to think creatively about how you want to tackle each fight. 

As a Diamond Dog, staying in one place isn’t much of an option when you gain enough resources players can access the Forward Operating Base. This allows the Diamond Dogs to expand Mother Base outside from the initial build, but must allocate manpower, resources, and regularly fix defenses to protect from online invaders. You can do the same and infiltrate other bases to obtain resources, high-level recruits and even enemy nukes. It is an optional mode and not required but those seeking thrilling battles against human-controlled players for valuable items will find more reasons to return after the credits.

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is an ending to a massively popular series, and it’s excellent. It takes chances that have never existed in the Metal Gear franchise without compromising any of the qualities that are beloved by many. Even after completing the main story I was compelled to go back and consider everything in the story. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain amazes on all fronts and although it’s a shame this is the end because it seems more like a beginning.

Adam Siddiqui, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, PC, Vita
Publisher(s): Konami
Developer(s): Kojima Productions
Genres: open world action-adventure stealth
Themes: Metal Gear Solid
Release Date: 2015-09-11

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