By: Adam O’Brien
Ever since its birth in the 80’s, Metal Gear Solid has been one of the few game titles to keep its personality through the test of time. Over the years, the series has given us great stealth and even crazier stories. And The Phantom Pain is no exception.
At one point, I had to blow up 3 tanks and a truck. I snuck ahead of the convoy and planted explosives on the road. Waiting in a watchtower I waited until the convoy was over the explosives and detonated. I missed. Only one tank blew up. I ran for the truck to try and hijack it but accidentally I jumped in the back.
The enemy tank saw me and started firing shells at me, spooking the truck driver and resulting in a high-speed chase. Shooting missile shells at a tank as we sped through Afghanistan was nerve wrecking but eventually, he exploded, meaning I could turn around and shoot the driver with a tranq dart and take him back to my base where his expertise would be put to better use.
What makes a truly great game is a player having fun in events that aren’t scripted. The previous mission was filled with this. I never once felt that any other player would have their demolition mission go quite like this. Any other player could have better gear or worse gear or approach from a different angle.
The mission structure varies but usually, it starts with players outside a base or facility they have to infiltrate. This is where your binoculars come in handy. By looking at an enemy, they are tagged and suddenly your character can see them behind walls. This gives you awareness as you can now plan your movements as you sneak into the compound as fluidly as Big Boss would.
When you’re not in the field you’re in your ACC helicopter or Mother Base. Both evolve as you play. For example in the helicopter pictures of important events in the story are hung on the walls. The level of customisation here is truly astounding for both the base and helicopter.A highlight includes setting A-Ha’s Take On Me to blare from your helicopter as you get extracted.
The Buddy system adds much more depth to the missions as well. You can pick the horse to cover ground faster, you can pick Quiet the sniper if you want to have a sniper cover your escape, you can pick Diamond Dog if you want him to sniff(and subsequently mark) enemies or you can pick D-Walker, a bipedal mech that oddly enough was created for stealth.
The story is on the less convoluted side of Metal Gear’s history. Snake was in an incident at the end of Ground Zeros and has to rebuild his army and seek revenge. One thing that actually feels odd is that now Snake is now essentially a silent protagonist. At first, I thought series creator Hideo Kojima was using his silence as a way of telling us that since the accident Snake has changed but if you listen to cassette tapes you hear long conversations between Snake and other characters. Snake is only really a vessel for us to hear conversations between other characters for.
The story is genuinely fantastic and has Kojima’s mark all over it. The way the story is told is much more stripped back and minimal which is actually the opposite of what other Metal Gear games are, but for this playground of creativity gameplay to exist they had to go. A lot of longtime fans of the series will be furious, but I for one am happy that risks were taken to make a better game.
The Mother Base management returns from Peace Walker and is expanded upon. You develop new weapons, upgrades and even send workers out on strike missions. A great touch is being able to actually visit the place but when you do there is very little to-do bar the token target practice missions. The only real purpose it served was I really got a sense of scale for the expansions I was making when I had a giant visual representation to them.
The controls are very similar to Ground Zeroes but feel even more fluid and smooth. There were only a few times where I was caught due to controls and this was as a result of some contextual button presses. The microtransactions were never pushed on me but to expand your base you need to wait in real time for them to be completed so they could be an option for players pushed for time.
Speaking of which another point that needs to be stated is that the game is a long one. While the game is suited to short bursts of playthroughs if you want to see the finish you will be playing for quite a few hours at least.
The term swansong has been used to describe the game and only when you play it will you realise that it is perfect to describe it. Kojima Productions have crafted a world that not only encourages experimentation but rewards it immensely. No approach is correct and no mission feels the same. This game not only deserves a place on your shelf but in history as the best stealth game ever made.