The word excellence is defined as “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good” and has become synonymous with Metal Gear. Metal Gear has been one of the most successful franchises in gaming history. First making its debut on the MSX 2, players have followed the story of Big Boss, a legendary solider who has survived the greatest conflicts and adversaries of all time. With its intuitive controls, gameplay mechanics, and strong narrative, Metal Gear has continued to entertain and immerse players in its shadowy world of government conspiracies and tyrannical foes hell bent on world domination. Now we enter a new generation of gaming and a new foe will test the resolve of our legendary hero. With its open world formula and new story, can Kojima and company bring the brilliance of past titles while incorporating new ideas to the drawing board?
Following the events of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, we join our hero, Snake and his band of Diamond Dogs, as they seek vengeance against XOF and their frightful leader, Skull Face. In order to accomplish his mission of retribution, Snake will have to travel through the arid landscape of Afghanistan and muddy terrain of Central Africa collecting resources and developing his base of operations to stand any chance against XOF. Afghanistan and Central Africa are vast in scope with extremely different climates, offering various types of strategies and tactics to your disposal. Sandstorms of Afghanistan hinder visibility of enemy patrols and guard towers, while the torrential rains of Central Africa masks the sound of Snake’s footsteps, creating windows of opportunity to attack unsuspecting patrols. Cliffs and hills offer superb vantage points, giving the player opportunities to survey encampments or possible convoy routes in order to plan the most effective method of attack. Vehicles and weapon placements are bountiful, capable of being extracted and returned to Mother Base. Wildlife roam the wilderness, sometimes providing immediate threats to mission success. A visually stunning day and night cycle effectively change the atmosphere, altering your enemies vision.
Yet, as vast and ambitious MGS V sets out to be, the lands of Afghanistan and Central Africa feel somewhat empty, providing similar landscapes and enemy outposts. This becomes somewhat mundane but fortunately, MGS V rectifies the repetition of similar settings with the amount of freedom and choice it allots the player. From your weapon load out to your entry point on a heavily fortified base, players are given a multitude of options for tackling objectives. The weapon load out screen is extensive in its choices. Suppressed weapons, explosives, and companions can all be selected to accommodate your play style. Different buddies offer various types of support. D-Horse and D-Walker allow for mobility on the vast terrain while Quiet and D-Dog scout for enemy threats. Customization goes even as far as to the construction of your Mother Base. Global Monetary Profit, or GMP, can be collected and used to create medical, intel, and security platforms. These platform upgrades are then translated into enhancements towards items and weapons. After selecting and upgrading my load out, I often found my attempts of stealth thwarted by some patrol I did not mark on my initial reconnaissance, turning my initial approach useless and resorting to more extreme measures. Enemy AI was adaptive to my combat tactics. Every outpost changed. Some used minimal counter measures to deter my attacks while others used more advanced strategies. From the deployment of decoy soldiers to the acquisition of heavy body armor, my tactics had to alter at a moments notice in order to successfully complete the mission objective. These moments were in fact the most exhilarating. These unscripted events lead to genuine tension and panic that no cutscene could induce naturally. And what is beautiful about these moments is that they are unique and rare to every player. My play through will greatly vary from that of my peers and essentially creating my own very experience that cannot be replicated.
MGS V’s narrative is a bit different from previous installments. Instead of lengthy cutscenes littered throughout the gameplay experience, MGS settles for a bit more subtle approach, by scattering information through various cassette recordings which can be accessed through Snake’s IDroid. These cassettes offer substantial background information on current events surrounding Snake and Diamond Dogs. This effectively allows the player to constantly be in control and its marvelous. It gives the player the opportunity to listen to these cassettes at their discretion, never forcing the player to sit through an extensive, exhausting cutscene. Unfortunately, MGS V does expect the player to have some familiarity with key characters and story elements from prior installments. Players who have never played a Metal Gear game may not appreciate the gravity of a guest appearance than someone who has had some history with the franchise.
Aside from the 31 main story missions, there are a number of side operations to be completed. Each mission has specific objectives that will grant you certain bonuses, such as weapon blueprints. Rescue missions will allow you to add rescued prisoners to your Mother Base personnel, further boosting staff capabilities. Once your staff is assigned according to their skill level, new tiers are unlocked for development, therefore making it essential for players to complete side operations.
As I write this review, MGS’s online component has not been accessible. From playing the main campaign, I have only been given a glimpse of what the online component entails. Throughout story and side ops missions, players are encouraged to fortify their base by extracting enemy personnel, vehicles, and artillery. Players can then be invaded by other online players, creating an attack and defend scenario. Hopefully, I will be able to experience this in the coming weeks.
MGS V is a true testament of what an open world gaming experience really is. Allowing players to choose strategies and apply them on the battlefield. Creating a natural flow of events, without compromising key gameplay mechanics. Programming enemy AI that learns and communicates, creating a far more realistic situation. Giving players the ability to customize and approach combat however he or she sees fit. This is the true player experience. It does not hold your hand but it gives you the tools and information necessary to become the legend that is Big Boss. If you are going to purchase any game this Fall season, make sure the Phantom Pain is on your list.
- Graphics and sound design are superb
- Multiple options on mission approach
- Expects players to have some familiarity with the franchise. Not friendly to new players
- Game setting feels empty