PS4/Xbox One Review: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

This pain won’t stop hurting, you feel it too don’t you?

“Kept you waiting, huh?” After spending roughly 12 days, I have completed every main mission, side op, built up Mother Base to almost full capacity and listened to every cassette tape in the game. I have yet to S rank all the missions, which will be some task I tell you. This isn’t anywhere near as easy as Ground Zeroes was.
The Phantom Pain kicks off 9 years after the events of Ground Zeroes as Big Boss wakes from his coma in a hospital that comes under attack from Cipher’s forces and some faces that long term fans will recognise, eventually reuniting with Ocelot and sent to Afghanistan to rescue Miller in order to re-establish Mother Base, as a new company known as Diamond Dogs. This will probably be Hideo Kojima’s last Metal Gear after the much publicised fallout with Konami, so as brilliant as The Phantom Pain is, it will always leave you with a bittersweet end…making you cry out for more, only to realise that it will probably never happen.

Described as the Missing Link in the MGS saga, The Phantom Pain is full of truly powerful moments, although if you really want the full story then be prepared to listen to dozens of cassette tapes that lays out events both past and present. It’s a shame that Episode 51 never got finished which is only on the Collector’s Edition disc as a “Phantom Episode” film that shows what would have happened. As much as I loved the way they ended the game, that particular episode would have ended things perfectly. Who knows? Maybe it’ll arrive via DLC, we can only hope.
The gameplay is a combination of Ground Zeroes and Peace Walker as you fulton/capture soldiers for Mother Base while expanding the base and researching weapons and gadgets using the in-game currency GMP. Reflex mode kicks in when you are spotted and slows down the game so you can get a quick headshot before the alarm sounds, but this is optional as it was with GZ.

A new addition is the buddy system in which you can deploy a teammate into missions including D-Horse, D-Dog, D-Walker and when you unlock her, the female sniper known as Quiet. Each has their own uses, D-Dog will highlight enemies on your screen and even distract/kill/fulton them for you upon command, while Quiet will scout outposts, snipe specific targets or give you cover fire. You can also call for bombing strikes which can be lethal or non-lethal and you can even change the weather to clear, rain or even make a sandstorm occur.

The two areas you visit in great length are Afghanistan and Africa, while you can also visit Mother Base to see your squadmates, captured animals and try your hand at target practise. GMP isn’t the only resource you will need however, you will also need fuel supplies, precious metals, biological materials and even plants to keep your tranquillizer rounds in stock. Lucky enough though, you can dispatch troops on missions in order to obtain these items.
You only get 2 squads to deploy, but you can expand that to 4 if you build a Forward Operating Base (FOB) which is the game’s online addition in which you infiltrate an opponent’s FOB in order to steal staff and resources, but you can also be infiltrated too. You can budget defences for your FOB and even go back to base to find the opponent who is probably hiding on your base. There is another main online mode coming in October, the third Metal Gear Online, which of course I haven’t been able to play yet.

The PS4 version runs at 1080p and Xbox One version at 900p, but I couldn’t see that much of a difference between them visually. Load times are mixed and I have come across an odd glitch once or twice where an enemy is seen climbing an invisible ladder, but this is to be expected with open world games and it doesn’t impact the gameplay. In terms of visuals, MGS V is a marvel to watch. The locations are detailed beyond belief, full of wildlife and the real-time change from day to night, as well as the weather changes are superb. Voice-acting has always been brilliant in MGS and TPP is no different, even with the odd MGS one-liners that becomes a meme such as “A Dud?”, “Colonel, What’s a Russian Gunship Doing Here?” and more recently “They played us like a damn fiddle”, I’m not sure if any of TPP’s dialogue will become memes, but you never know. The music is also superb with Harry Gregson-Williams at the helm once more, Donna Burke does the brilliant “Sins of the Father” track that you get as a cassette tape, as well as appearing in at least one main mission. Quiet’s Theme is sang by Stefanie Joosten, the voice/motion capture actress for Quiet and even though not a professional singer has an amazing voice. I often have it playing during missions now.

There’s also a collection of 80s songs on tapes hidden around the two areas including songs like Maneater, The Man Who Sold The World, Friday I’m in Love and The Final Countdown to name a few, all of which are great to listen to during missions or be set as the helicopter’s theme song as it picks you up or drops you off.

Now for the bad news. There are 157 side ops missions, that sounds good…but a lot of these are the same thing over and over, often relying on the same areas just with modified enemies in them. These can vary from rescuing hostages, capturing high-ranked enemies or eliminating a tank unit. In the end, I felt that they were a chore with the exception of the ones that progress the story. There’s also a small issue with having to complete previous missions on different difficulties to get the last few missions, I’m not sure why that was and it does slow down the overall plot.

The Verdict

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the perfect send off for the series, even if it does leave me sad and wanting more. It ties things up in a way I wasn’t expecting and serves as a farewell to both Snake and Big Boss himself, Hideo Kojima. It pains me that this is probably the end of MGS, but at least it’s ended on a high note and fills in the blanks in the story. Now I just need to get those damn S Ranks!

Score: 9.5