It seems an age since Snake’s long-running career as a well-rounded soldier of stealth and honour began, but virtually every guy gamer in the world of virtual adventures can recall the startling sound of alerting the guards for the very first time when arriving at the dock back in 1998. Still going strong in 2015 however, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a stark contrast from the original release on the Sony PlayStation. It offers its players a staggeringly vast open world with a myriad of potential strategies for progression, yet maintains an accessible approach so that newcomers won’t be overwhelmed by the game’s scope. Combine that with a soundtrack to die for, and we’ve got a game well worth reviewing here.
If you've come to this series for the first time expecting Metal Gear Solid V to gently introduce you to the action, you’ll be quite overwhelmed. Much has taken place between the original and this fifth fully-fledged main-series iteration. You don’t need to know a great deal to enjoy the game, but in order to avoid confusion you should know that the game’s reality is set between 2010’s Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and the old-school 1987 Metal Gear.
The Phantom Pain really doesn’t give you much of a catch-up, but suffice it to say that you’re essentially on a mission of revenge following multiple betrayals. All you really need to know for the gameplay, however, is that your goal as Big Boss (Solid Snake) is to essentially make through the game in a stealthy manner. The philosophically-rich storyline is really just a bonus to this if you’re coming into the game with no knowledge at all.
As has always been the case in the Metal Gear Solid games, the gameplay is all about dispatching enemies in a variety of stealthy ways, with hand-to-hand/run-and-gun combat being the absolute last resort. This is reflected in the stealth mechanics, which include the ability to run, walk, sneak, climb, crawl, and generally utilise your surrounding environment to provide cover and vantage points from which to attack or immobilise your enemy.
There are simply too many weapons at your disposal to list here, but it should suffice to say that you can expect to handle everything from pistols to SMGs, Assault Rifles, Shotguns, Machineguns, Sniper Rifles, and Grenade Launchers. The equipment available for your use is mind-boggling. It ranges from binoculars (used to scout the battlefield, putting all enemies spotted on Big Boss’ clairvoyant mind’s eye and allowing you to track the movements of your enemies from afar. There’ also the unbelievably entertaining surface-to-air recovery system that facilitates the capture and conversion of enemies into tools for your Diamond Dogs army. Here’s a full list of weapons in The Phantom Pain so that you can see just how extensive it really is.
The close-quarters combat is also some of the best you will ever experience in any stealth game. You’ve got a combat knife, which can be used to either kill your enemies or perform interrogations on them. The Dynamic CQC (close-quarters combat) in the game also allows for some incredible satisfying encounters with the enemy. You can choose to immobilise them with a few blows, or have a bit of fun by using your own weapon mid-combat. You can even swipe an enemy’s weapon from them half way through your encounter, so it’s safe to say that this plays into the stealth gameplay extremely well.
Best Metal Yet
It’s quite a bold statement to say that this is the best game in the Metal Gear Solid series, but one’s hand is forced by the greatness of the game as a whole. Not only do you get to tinker with a ridiculous variety of weapons and equipment and get to test your stealth-game skills to their upper limits, but the game’s storyline is also rich with philosophical considerations. The title itself is a reference to the kind of pain felt by amputees even though the offending limb is no longer present – this echoes through Solid Snakes past betrayals and his goal in The Phantom Pain.
Veterans of the series are bound to have a lump in their throat when finishing this game too, as it’s Hideo Kojima’s final outing for the Metal Gear Solid series, wrapping up everything we’ve come to know and love about Solid Snake’s adventures. This is a guy’s game. In fact, it’s a guy’s guy kind of game, with graphics that will make you appreciate the fact that you have a sense of sight in the first place.