By Andrew Street
“Metal Gear” has always been the James Bond of video games — you play as an international spy committing espionage, fighting terrorists and fooling with unsuspecting enemies. “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” is no different. In fact, it may be the best “Metal Gear” game yet. While the narrative may fall short in comparison to previous iterations of the franchise, series creator Hideo Kojima has once again delivered an unforgettable experience that old and new fans alike will enjoy.
“Metal Gear” has usually focused its gameplay on stealth. While controlling Snake, the game’s protagonist, you are typically encouraged to infiltrate enemy outposts as quietly as possible. That still holds true, but you now have more options when attempting missions.
Each situation can be tackled the way you feel would work best. You can opt to rush into an enemy base blowing up everything you see, or scout and infiltrate without the enemy ever knowing you were there. These choices will lead to different experiences — the game world will be influenced by your repeated tactics and will learn to adapt to combat them.
For example, if you have a habit of infiltrating after dark, enemies will become aware of this and begin wearing night vision. The numerous options blend nicely with new and improved mechanics. Sneaking, shooting and committing espionage has never felt this fluid.
Whether I was stealthing my way into an outpost or riding through the desert on horseback, controlling Snake was a treat. Gone are the days of “Metal Gears” overly complex controls and awkward camera angles. Instead, everything has been tightened up to deliver one of the best game experiences this year.
Anyone familiar with “Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker” will immediately recognize the base-building mechanics introduced in “The Phantom Pain.” As the player, you have the responsibility of amassing an army and building out your Mother Base. To do this you will be taking elite scientists, natural resources and weaponry from the enemy to improve your operations.
If you want better guns, you have to get higher skilled people for your research and development team. If you would like a bigger base, then your base development team has to be expanded. Managing the operations of Mother Base can be complex and overwhelming, but once you begin to learn how it operates you become addicted. I find myself constantly chasing new team members or wanting to build a new weapon for my arsenal. While I do love managing Mother Base, I wish there was more to do while there. Outside of some minor shooting challenges and Easter eggs, there isn’t much else that can be accomplished on the base. It would have been nice to see more of the base open to exploration.
The story within “Metal Gear Solid V” falls a bit short when compared to previous titles. One has come to expect long winded cutscenes, and overly complex plot lines from Hideo Kojima. However, this time around he seems to have opted for a shorter, more concise story.
My biggest gripe is with Snake himself. Typically, Snake talks, comments on situations and is occasionally witty. This time around, he’s quiet, almost too quiet. While his silence may be trying to convey a bigger message, it was upsetting nonetheless. The narrative isn’t bad by any means, it’s actually great in its own right. Part of me just wished there was a bit more of it. With this possibly being the last “Metal Gear” title, there are some plot threads left open-ended to me.
Whether you have been playing “Metal Gear” since the beginning of the Nintendo Entertainment System era or want to jump on board now, “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” is a perfect place to start. In terms of gameplay, it is the most fun I’ve had all year. There are layers upon layers of depth to the mechanics, and building out your own personal base is beyond addictive. The story also manages to remain concise and thought provoking.
While I was left wanting more from the narrative, it’s more straightforward approach allows newcomers an entrance point. Either way, “Metal Gear Solid V” has solidified itself in my heart. It’s hard to imagine many games coming close to this in the foreseeable future.