Set after the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Hideo Kojima brings us Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which closes the Metal Gear Solid story by bringing it full circle and concluding the story of Big Boss (a.k.a Snake).
The game opens with Big Boss in hospital where he is told about his condition and the 9 years he has been in a coma since the events of Ground Zeroes. After being saved from death by a new friend who goes by the name Ishmael we are introduced to the basic controls and a few important characters as we make our escape from the hospital.
After some more introductory cut-scenes we get to set foot on Mother Base, where our good friend Ocelot (who long term MGS fans will know very well) shows us the basics so we can start expanding our base. The base expanding acts as it’s own game within a game, allowing players to manage how their equipment will be unlocked and the resources they want to collect. Kojima and his team did a great job with this feature as it gives players more freedom than ever in a MGS game when combined with the two open world areas (Afghanistan and Africa). There is also a multiplayer element to bases when you construct FOBs, but I will come back to that later.
Finally, after what is probably one of the longest and confusing tutorials that you will ever play is over you are thrown into the expansive Afghan desert. From this point on you are free to raid outposts for supplies and soldiers, find plants to use in your research back on Mother Base, catch animals for your conservation platforms on the base, find cassette tapes, secrets and even do side-ops which also help you gain GMP for your base. The side-ops in the game do get quite repetitive after a while though since there’s only around 10 different types which increase in difficulty with each one you do (for example: Eliminate Tank Unit 1 is easier than Eliminate Tank Unit 4). This is quite a shame considering the amount of time the game has had for development but maybe the lack of variety in Side-Ops was due to the fall out between Kojima and Konami?
The story however, is completely different. It has the brilliant cinematic cut-scenes we all know, awesome voice acting, and surprisingly none of the missions are really repetitive (besides a few challenge versions of previous missions with certain settings to make them harder). You have that familiar ‘what the hell is going on’ for quite a bit of the game although towards the end you kind have an idea of how everything will turn out, especially if you have played the previous games. My only problem with the story and a big one at that is that there was an entire chapter cut from the game that was supposed to happen after the current ending (also due to Kojima and Konami’s fall out?). While the ending is satisfactory and brings the games full circle it is a shame some of the big questions at the end of the game aren’t answered due to the cut content.
The gameplay is solid overall (pun intended), the controls are probably the best out of all of the Metal Gear games and the AI aren’t just fodder the game throws at you to slow you down. The main focus in The Phantom Pain was freedom and that is exactly what players get. Despite getting higher rankings in main story missions the more stealthy you are there are rewards for using other, louder methods. This comes in the form of codenames which unlock emblem parts for you to equip. Want to go in without any alerts or kills? Go ahead! Want to roll into a Soviet base with a tank? Do that also! Your options are limitless, assuming you have the right equipment available of course. The audio is also very nice, you have a very nice soundtrack which works well with the game as well as the classic “!” audio cue when you trigger an alert phase. There is also a selection of music which sets the 80’s feel for the game as well as music from previous games available. PC players also have the option available to import their own music into the game. So, if you don’t think ‘Take on Me’ is good enough to play while attacking an outpost you can add something you prefer. To do everything the single player has to offer you are looking at 150+ hours of gameplay for the average player.
And now to discuss the multiplayer I mentioned earlier… The Phantom Pain is split into two different types of multiplayer: FOB multiplayer and Metal Gear Online (3).
FOB multiplayer is directly linked to your single player experience in which you can attack other player’s bases and gain resources and staff for your own. The same goes for other players attacking you. If you don’t like the sound of this you can switch the game to offline mode and not deal with the FOBs, however I personally recommend using this feature as it is a good way to gain resources, especially when nukes start coming into play. Nukes can act as a deterrent to stop players below a certain level of heroism from invading your base so your FOBs can have a lower frequency of attacks. However, those that have enough heroism to attack your FOB can steal the nukes and dispose of them for huge amounts of resources. Nukes are worth hours of work so you have to think about if you really want to develop them and take the risk.
Secondly, you have MGO 3. MGO is the ‘true’ multiplayer for The Phantom Pain where everything is separate from single player and you and your friends can play together against other players. There are 3 classes to chose from which are centred around stealth, sniping and assault. As you progress you will unlock other character slots so you can use the other classes and upgrade them as you wish. There are also 3 game modes: Comms Control, Bounty Hunter and Cloak and Dagger. Bounty Hunter is your ‘Team Deathmatch,’ while Comms Control and Cloak and Dagger are your objective gametypes. Comms Control being ‘King of the Hill’ style while Cloak and Dagger is a stealthy variant of ‘Capture the Flag.’ There is quite a bit of customisation in terms of loadouts and character looks but as the game ages I can see a lot of the same gear becoming common so hopefully there is a lot more to be unlocked we don’t know about or some free expansions will be released. You do get extra unique characters (Snake and Ocelot) which appear on their respective teams but they have to be turned on in a setting (which a lot of people don’t use) so it is pretty uncommon that you get to see them and even less common to play as them since the player who uses them is randomly picked. I did get to play a game as Ocelot though and it was pretty damn fun. Overall the online elements will be a love/hate situation and you probably won’t bother with them until the end-game content.