Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the last hurrah for creator, writer, and director Hideo Kojima. While certainly more stories might be told in the Metal Gear universe, Hideo Kojima will not be a part of it, following his departure from Konami. It’s a story that fills the missing chapter to Big Boss’ rise to villainy. But The Phantom Pain also serves another purpose, to deliver a different kind of Metal Gear game that is set in an open world, which has been unheard of in a game of this nature. It will no doubt be divisive among fans of the series for years to come, but one thing is for certain: it is unquestionably the best playing Metal Gear game in the series. It is also one of the best games of this year.
The Metal Gear series in its gameplay, is known to be a stealth game, or “Tactical Espionage Action”. Here it is referred to “Tactical Espionage Operations”. It’s hard to talk about anything regarding spoilers and Metal Gear Solid V, as they are so mutually exclusive. The gist here is that Big Boss aka Snake, goes into a coma after the attack on Mother Base at the end of Ground Zeroes, a prequel standalone title that released last year. He ultimately loses his left arm from the elbow down. After an explosive, elongated, and terrifically tense opening, you’re off doing missions to help rebuild Mother Base and create an army that would rival that of any nation. The reasons for doing this are apparent to those who’ve played previous entries, but doesn’t do much to tell you why that’s important.
Story aside, the game on its own may seem repetitive or dull. You may think you have seen everything the game has to offer with the first dozen missions. While there are some big popcorn moments, it is more about taking Big Boss, deploying him with various gear loadouts and accomplishing the task any way you see fit. No longer are there confined spaces to do your wet work. I found The Phantom Pain to be a great example of emergent gameplay. Avoiding spoilers, Mission 10 was so that when I first played, the informant I was going to save, was sent to another facility, at the next outpost. After learning this, it seemed to be more difficult to let him leave, so instead I engaged the enemy right away. I started by killing the guard escorts that take the informant to the other base. It was at this point I had alerted everyone, and was hardly stealthy. Regardless, this prevented the prisoner from moving. But now, the LAV that was nearby was now shooting at me. Once I had picked off most of the guards with my sniper rifle, I snuck all the way around in a wide arc, out of sight of the LAV and any remaining guards. This allowed me to get completely behind it and plant C4 on the LAV and destroy it. Doing so allowed for the helicopter extraction to land right where I was and take away the person I was sent in to save. This not only saved me time, but it was a more efficient mission, and one where I felt in control of the moments. The game also reacted to me making a decision sooner than later, and I loved that.
All the missions in The Phantom Pain are delivered in the form of Episodes, and there are a number of episodes in a Chapter. Each mission ends with you being graded on performance. There are objectives you won’t know about, until the mission is completed. And it’s great to accidentally complete one just based on how you play. Replaying missions allow you to tick those check-boxes of the objectives you might have missed. The episodes are even delivered in a standalone format, complete with credits at the beginning and end of each mission. This TV-style experience feels bite-sized, and allows you to step away at any moment for whatever it is that you want to do. Want to return to Mother Base and shower? Want to re-allocate personnel to different areas of your base? Want to go on FOB missions and infiltrate other players’ bases? Want to customize your personal emblem for an obscene amount of time? Want to go on a Side Op? All of these things are available to you between every mission, and adds to the freedom you see within missions.
Side Ops are more standard, less varied, and even some objectives repeat. Though, don’t be mistaken, it is all in how you do it is what makes it work. There’s also no grading system, so you’re more inclined to let loose to take on any mission as you see fit. Though, the more equipment you bring with you on any mission type is going to cost you more money to deploy, which is also a factor in the main missions. Side Ops are a way to connect with your horse, known as D-Horse, or any of your buddies that come with you. It’s also a great way to mess with opponents, like marking them and dropping a supply crate on their head to knock them out but to also replenish your ammunition. It’s hilarious and tactical all in the same. Again, generated by what you create out of these missions more than how they were crafted for you.
Mother Base version 2 is your new place of operations. Since the last one got destroyed, you must now rebuild from scratch. From using the resources and GMP (money) gained from missions, you can invest in building new platforms, researching upgrades for weapons, and gear for your buddies. It is here where you will find familiar faces like the ones you’ve knocked out and fultoned from the field. In the E3 demos of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, there was the showing off of the “fulton” system, where you could extract enemies to your base, and even extract containers and vehicles. While it’s understandably practical now, it was hard to understand why you would want to do that, other than for comedic value before. The tactical reason, is that it will clean up knocked out guards from being discovered, and then also recruit the enemies to fight for your side. While on a mission, it is important to grab briefcases containing resources, and also picking wild flowers. These all add to your resources that get used for day-to-day operations.
Konami has been putting out PC versions of their games for years now, but it’s been a long time since a Metal Gear game has been on PC. And for the most part, Konami has done a great job with this port. It’s certainly not perfect, most of the control options show controller prompts even when a controller isn’t even plugged in. Want to see what the keyboard controls are? Good luck, because you’re just gonna look at a gamepad picture instead. Performance-wise, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is at a consistent and locked 60fps, with no performance dips at any point, even when the action gets busy. NVIDIA has put out a comprehensive guide to get the most out of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain on PC.
It’d be unfair to say that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the definitive version, as both the console version of the game run at 60fps. Save for some clarity concerns in the visuals, the games are very much on par with one another. The PC version edges out the console versions, but ever so slightly. As a whole, this is the best way to see Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain in action, it just delivers on visual clarity and details that the console versions are missing, even if it is a bit sloppy with the control presentation in the menus. And if that’s the biggest complaint I can make, you know Konami has done right by this PC version.
My PC Specs:
– Microsoft Windows 10 Pro
– Intel Core i7 3770k @ 3.9Ghz (Turbo)
– 8GB (2x4GB) Kingston HyperX blu DDR3 RAM
– NVIDIA GTX 780 Classified
Editor’s Note: For a more fully-featured review, be sure to read Abdul Hamad’s review of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain on PS4.
Hideo Kojima’s swan song for the Metal Gear series is bittersweet. It is at a time when the gameplay and visuals are at the level Kojima Productions has been striving for, but is also when now Konami and Hideo Kojima are no longer working together. If nothing else, The Phantom Pain is an incredible game that can be played however you want – whether it be loud or playing it like it is a sneaking mission. The Phantom Pain is unlike any other stealth game you’ve played before, and Konami and Kojima Productions have a lot to be proud of.
A Steam code was provided by the GamesRepublic for review purposes