The Phantom Pain Analysis

40% through Metal Gear Solid V: Initial Impressions

So, I’ve played a LOT of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. 40% may not seem like that much, but there is about a good hour and a half of fultoning, infiltrating, and tape-listening behind each of those percentage points. I’ve made a conscious effort to do as much as I can in the time I’ve played, getting all of my buddies’ bond levels to the maximum and playing every single side op available. I’m going to take the time to give you all my impressions of the game so far, as I think it’s worth noting.

I will preface by saying that I’m so excited that this game is a critical success. Most people seem to love this game as a game itself. Maybe more so than any entry into the series to date, The Phantom Pain truly feels like a video game, for what it’s worth. I’ve been a huge fan of the Metal Gear Solid series for almost two decades now, and have fallen in love with Hideo Kojima’s sprawling, and sometimes joyously convoluted universe that deals with real issues we hear about every day. There are some people that definitely have their qualms with this latest entry, of course, and I respect that. The most prevalent of the complaints I’ve heard have been that there is a lack of story, and that it’s taken a backseat to other features of the game. I can tell you that I’m not even halfway through this game, and I disagree with that sentiment. I’ll even go so far to say that this may just be my favorite Metal Gear game I’ve ever played. I’ll continue to elaborate below. Beware, some spoilers may pop up here and there, so i’ll try to warn you ahead of time.

I’m not sure where the lack of story complaints really come from. The game is just paced in a different way than any other Metal Gear before it. Since you can kind of tackle most things when you feel like it, there’s no real way to tell when you’ll see what, but there’s an intriguing plot lying just beneath the surface of everything you do. Just in the first couple of hours alone, there has been way more plot development and story building than Destiny, a game which I completed the entire campaign without ever knowing what really was going on. The first hour of The Phantom Pain is AMAZING, and it helps paint a picture of what you can expect later in the game.

We all remember past Metal Gears fondly, and a lot of that had to do with really intense moments and unique boss fights. This game does have that. Snake’s showdown with his now buddy Quiet was as intense of a battle as any other Metal Gear boss before it, as you’re forced to use your wits and skill to take down this badass in the disheveled ruins of an old temple. Recently, I once again encountered the Man on Fire, and ran around in fear like a chicken with its head cut off trying to escape intact. I’ve even come face to face with a looming mech intent on vaporizing me into a red mist, as I used the stealth skills I’ve acquired to avoid its attention while I called in my chopper to help extract me the hell out of there.

I think people are just not used to the freedom this game allows you. I much prefer the pacing of The Phantom Pain compared to previous entries into the series. Don’t get me wrong, all of the previous MGS games have had epic and intriguing stories, but they often had the propensity for over-explanation. You’d sit for huge chunks of time hearing everything there is to know about a given topic without getting back into pure gameplay. They took monologuing to a brand new level, and it sometimes could drag on as far as pacing is concerned. The Phantom Pain throws most of that out the window, in lieu of a much more organic story experience, where you get out of it what you put into it. There’s a satisfying and intriguing plot here, you just have to dig a little deeper to find it.

That being said, this game is not without its detriments. My one major gripe with the game is that each separate mission is introduced with a little credit roll in the style of a TV show. This is a little unnecessary, and in many ways takes away from the organic feeling of the game that I was just praising them for. Many times, the credit roll can give away what you’re about to experience, which kind of takes you out of it. On the plus side, it does give you a bit of a warning, so you can change your loadout accordingly to match the situation. I’m also not really that invested in the F.O.B. (forward operating base) system, and sort of resent how they try and shove it in your face. After completing mission 22 (correct me if I’m wrong), they introduce you to this new online mode, where you have to protect the stuff you’ve acquired, while simultaneously going out to enemy players’ bases and take their hard-earned items and crew members. It just feels so…trolly. I worked hard to acquire the people and equipment I have. The idea of someone potentially better at the game than me stealing it is terrible. I know F.O.B. stuff is optional, but they kind of pull you out of the game to interact with it, and that kind of irked me. I had a good rhythm going, and its sudden appearance threw everything out of whack.

Aside from those complaints, the game is awesome. It’s open world is a little underwhelming, as there is really very little reason to explore outside the confines of the enemy bases, but the sprawling areas outside provide for some interesting ways of approaching every new situation. The terrain often gives you enough of an advantage where you can get the upper hand and take out everyone in the base before you ever step inside, but this isn’t how it necessarily has to be done. Snake is provided with a bevy tools at his disposal to handle pretty much every situation, with my personal favorites being the smoke grenade, and the C4. There’s many I haven’t even messed with yet, as it takes a considerable amount of time to unlock them. I’d also rather use my precious GMP (MGSV’s in-game currency) to enhance and buff the items I’m used to and know will do the job.

That’s one of the major draws to the game. The freedom to approach and customize the game the way you see fit is truly astonishing, and what’s at the heart of what makes The Phantom Pain so special. I will have played a certain side-op, and I know for a fact that somebody else went about it in a completely different way. Every player’s experience with the game is wholly unique, which helps to add personal investment into the story. I feel closer to my version of “Big Boss” because I experienced some real shit with him. I’ve planted C4 on unsuspecting soldier’s butts, fultoned tanks, and sabotaged enemy equipment. I’ve outrun the Skulls on horseback. I’ve used my indispensable buddies to help take over bases, and I’ve enjoyed every damn minute of it.

The buddy system is  new to this series in The Phantom Pain, and I can’t imagine playing the game without it. Each buddy offers something unique to the table, and serves to enhance the experience in interesting ways. There’s a lot to appreciate about each buddy, and they often make all of the difference when trying to meet certain objectives. I’ve had D-Walker unlocked for quite some time, and I think that the way you can customize it is certainly interesting – but that is by far my least used buddy of all four. The others just beam with character, and have extremely useful tactics that really enhance the experience. Quiet is great for support, providing cover fire when necessary, and possessing the ability to scout bases for important items. D-Horse is extremely helpful in getting you from point A to B, which is invaluable when it comes to some of the more hairy situations where you need to book it out of there quickly. My favorite has to be D-Dog, though. His scouting ability is so much more effective than Quiet’s, as he will sniff out every important item in a gigantic radius in real time, including distinguishing between and objective target as opposed to just a run-of-the-mill soldier. He’s also super adorable, and is a noble companion I can always count on. I understand that the buddy thing is a matter of preference, as each one is great in many scenarios. I just love D-Dog. So there.

I’ve played MGSV for a substantial amount of time, and I can’t stop thinking about it. The gameplay is just so engrossing and satisfying that I can’t stop wanting to hop back in. This game is a huge reason why you’ve likely noticed a lot less posts from me on this website. Say what you will about the game, but few can argue against it being legitimately fun to play.

People have also complained about Keifer Sutherland’s Big Boss, and announce frustration about him having very little lines. I don’t mind this new Big Boss. He is understated, and often says little in regards to situations. What he does say has impact, though. While I do miss the somewhat campy David Hayter, I think that using Sutherland has helped distinguish Solid Snake from his father, and separating them into their own compelling characters. I also have a running theory that this really isn’t the Big Boss we know at all, but that is a story for another time.

If you’re new to the series, that’s fine. Don’t overlook this one because of it. It is a special game on it’s own, and you are only losing hours upon hours of enjoyment by skipping out on it. Even if you’re a seasoned MGS veteran like me, there’s still plenty to be confused about, so we’ll be scratching our heads like the rest of you. So far, The Phantom Pain is my game of the year, and Fallout 4 has a lot to live up to if it’s going to sway me from this.

Thank you Hideo Kojima, for putting your all into this game. It has been your influence that has really put me on this path in life. Were it not for Metal Gear Solid, I may have found something else other than games to enjoy in life. The effects of Kojima’s legacy are still being felt today, and that is truly extraordinary. The Phantom Pain truly is his magnum opus. Do yourself a favor and give it a shot.

I’ll be sure to write up a more spoiler-ridden final review when I’ve finally finished the game. For now, I’ve got some side-ops to complete. Thanks for reading!

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