HBM Reviews: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

"Kaz... I'm already a demon."
The Metal Gear series has been going strong for nearly 30 years. The original games on the MSX2 and NES were moderate hits, but the series didn't really take off until Metal Gear Solid on the PS1. Ever since then, the series has been major hit after major hit, but ever since Metal Gear Solid 3 or so, the man behind it all, Hideo Kojima, has been wanting to retire from the series and work on other things. This year, he got his wish, when Konami broke off relations with Kojima Productions, taking the rights to the Metal Gear series with them. And that's when Konami went full asshole.

As soon as this was announced, Konami began removing Kojima's name from all the MGSV promotional material, including the box art. When people complained, they apologized and put Kojima's name back on the game... only to remove it again a month later, permanently. So be sure to remember that the Metal Gear series, up to this point, was created by Hideo Kojima, an absolutely amazing man.

Anyway, Metal Gear Solid V is the most recent entry into this amazing series. The prologue, Ground Zeroes, was released last year, and while it had the great gameplay of this main portion, it was so short and had so little content that people were greatly upset. However, considering how much bigger this game is compared to Ground Zeroes, Phantom Pain has to be much better, and more pleasing to the fans, right? Well, let's find out.

As usual, I'll be assuming you're familiar with the games I'm reviewing, and the ones that came before. This is your only warning: there are spoilers in this review for Peace Walker, Ground Zeroes, and Phantom Pain. Of course, I won't let that stop you from reading on.
So, at the end of Ground Zeroes, Mother Base (Snake's base of operations from Peace Walker) was destroyed by a fake nuclear inspection team, resulting in the deaths of most of Snake's men, and Snake himself entering a 9-year long coma. As soon as he awakes from his coma, he finds out he's missing his left arm, and a strike team attacks the hospital he's staying at, murdering everyone they can. Snake escapes with the help of one of the patients, who calls himself Ishmael, and eventually is found by Ocelot.

Through Ocelot, Snake learns about recent events, including the kidnapping of Miller, Snake's 2nd-in-command. When Snake rescues Miller, they begin rebuilding Mother Base, and building a new army, Diamond Dogs, to get back at the organization that led the strike on the old MB, Cipher, supposedly led by Snake's old officer, Zero. However, it turns out that the leader of Cipher's strike team, XOF, a man known as Skull Face, is the true mastermind behind the whole plot, and is developing some kind of master scheme to take down Snake, and the rest of the world.

As is standard for the Metal Gear series at this point, there's plenty of twists and turns, and quite a few things aren't as they seem. However, I'll get to that further in the review. Just know that this is the kind of game that has a mute, scantily-clad sniper chick, an eyepatch wearing wolf-dog that can sense landmines, and a 100+-year-old Native American scientist who loves hamburgers the same way I love video games. Yeah, it gets pretty weird.

All that's missing is the flag waving in the background with some kind of anthem blaring.
If you played Ground Zeroes, you've played a slightly watered-down Phantom Pain. The controls are pretty much identical, just there's more stuff you can do. You can bring a horse, dog, sniper, or mech with you on missions, the Fulton Recovery System returns from Peace Walker, but possibly better (with the right upgrades, you can extract animals, weapon emplacements, and tanks), and you can manage your Mother Base, another feature from Peace Walker.

The game is open-world, so you can go just about anywhere, and do just about anything, You can do the missions straight through, or you can wander around, looking for soldiers, blueprints, and cassettes*. There are even Side-Ops you can stumble onto by complete accident, just from walking around the world map. As for the locations, you can wander around huge sections of Afghanistan and Africa, as well as your Mother Base, which is absolutely gigantic.

The environments look astounding, possibly the most realistic graphics I've seen in a video game to date. Occasionally, some of the textures look a little blurry, but otherwise, Phantom Pain looks amazing. The lighting effects, and especially the use of few camera cuts during cutscenes, give the game a more cinematic, realistic feel than the previous games. I honestly hope these kinds of techniques are used in more games in the future.

Big Boss: The only man who doesn't stare right at Quiet's cleavage.
While this is a great game, there are a few minor flaws. Ocelot and Miller tend to repeat the same lines for the same situations, which gets old pretty quickly. The AI for the buddies can be kinda derpy at times, making practically suicidal decisions. There's not much boss battles, and the few that are there are brutally difficult. But none of that compares to the cut content. Now, this is gonna be delving into spoiler territory, so skip this next paragraph if you don't wanna spoil it.

So, you know how Eli (aka Liquid) and Tretij Rebenok (aka Psycho Mantis) end up stealing the rebuilt Sahelanthropus and escape with it, then are never heard from again? Well, it was discovered soon after the game came out that there was going to be a true Final Mission, where you would follow them, and fight Eli's child soldiers, as well as Eli piloting Sahelanthropus. That's not all, there was also a 3rd act of the game planned, though not much has been said about it other then The Boss having a significant role. Hopefully, these cut missions can be added back in via patched or DLC.

Ignoring those issues, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is an excellent game. The gameplay, graphics, and story are all top-notch, and a great send-off for Hideo Kojima. I'd say Phantom Pain is one of, if not the, best games of the series, and definitely the best game of the year.

Also, the game's online component, Metal Gear Online, will be coming in a couple weeks. I'll be back to talk about that soon after it comes out. For now, here's Snake taking a selfie while choke-holding Ocelot.

HBM, signing out!
*I wonder how confused younger players are gonna be about the Walkman and cassette tapes. Just thinking about them trying to wrap their minds around this decades-old technology is hilarious.

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