Review: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4)

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Title: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (27 GB)
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Kojima Productions
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was purchased by the reviewer.
PS Nation Review Policy

Golden Minecart Award Winner 2015
– Best Action/Adventure (PS3)
– Game of the Year (PS3)
– Best Action/Adventure (PS4)
– Game of the Year (PS4)

I have been long time fan of the Metal Gear Solid franchise. For some reason it always resonated with me, be it my military background or my love of the sci-fi aspect, it just hit me the right way.

With that said I was not looking forward to The Phantom Pain at all. It had been too much time since MGS4 and there was a lot of controversy surrounding this game. Then on a whim I preordered it and I am glad I did.

This will be an entirely spoiler free review. As a side note, I would suggest you play Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeros first since it serves as a prequel to MGSV.

METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN_20150918115853

Gameplay:
In MGSV gameplay is king and this time the story plays second fiddle. The game is now set in a large sandbox where you can do almost anything your heart desires, but we will get into more of that shortly. For the most part, the missions are designed as standalone stories and each mission comes with its own title cards at the beginning and end. One of my major gripes comes with these title cards – they can spoil surprises in the mission if you’re not careful.

The open sandbox gameplay and large amount of options at your disposal highlight the gameplay. Once you accept the mission or side op, you are taken to a equipment screen. When you arrive on the mission proper, how you complete it is up to you. Be it guns blazing, sneaking around, or a combination of both, you can get it done anyway you like.

It is often possible to go straight to your objective and complete the mission in mere minutes. It’s also possible to take hours grabbing supplies, soldiers, and equipment for Mother Base. After each of the main missions you are assigned a rank and you can also replay them to complete additional objectives that open up after the initial playthrough.

… use each buddy as much as possible …
The Buddy System in MSGV is ingenious and works remarkably well. When you make your way through the story you will unlock several “buddies” to aid you in your quest. Most of these take time and grow organically through the main story.

It will serve you well to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each buddy, since some work better than others on different missions. It is also a good idea to use each buddy as much as possible since each buddy has a sync rating that improves their skill on the battlefield. I frequently enjoyed the rewards when I deployed my buddy correctly and thoughtfully.

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Mother Base plays a large part in MGSV. This works into the buddy system and it’s where you grow and expand your unit, The Diamond Dogs. When out on missions you will be able to “procure” soldiers, vehicles, and equipment you come across.

This allows Mother Base to grow, and as that happens new research opens up and allows you to upgrade your equipment. This once again opens up how you play the game – either you want to gun everyone down or put them to sleep.

… attacked by other players online …
Also you can unlock every gadget or piece of equipment the Metal Gear Solid series is known for. Procuring soldiers, vehicles, and equipment also plays a part in an online aspect of the game, forward operating bases or FOBs.

FOBs allow you to grow Mother Base even larger, but can be attacked by other players online. It is quite fun when you find your espionage rating has gone up but disheartening when you find you failed and personnel and equipment has been taken. It is not possible to skip this online portion once you reach it though. So if you are online, your FOB may be attacked. To skip this you will have to disconnect from the internet.

Side Ops play a large part of the gameplay. You can think of them as mini-missions. These are smaller missions that vary in size and take anywhere from five to thirty minutes. At the time of this writing I have played over sixty side missions and am not sure how many there are.

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The story, as with the gameplay, has been overhauled as well. You no longer have a couple dozen cutscenes telling the story. The visual storytelling has been pared down and most of the background comes from audio cassettes.

I found that I prefer this much more compared to MGS4’s visual storytelling. I used the cassettes while on missions where there was a lot of travel, so instead of just hearing running audio I heard actual story elements which broke up the monotony.

The overall story of MGSV follows Big Boss after the events of Metal Gear 3: Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. It’s typical fare for a Metal Gear Solid game, enjoyable but not the best told in the series.

… really push the hardware of the PS4 …
Visuals:
MGSV uses the Fox Engine and at times the game can be stunningly beautiful, with rendered landscapes, great art design, and high texture counts but it’s not without its issues.

As in many games this size, there are some hiccups like pop-in and some flat textures. The lighting, while usually really good, does have its moments. I sometimes found the shadows to move very fast like there was a hurricane moving in.

One excellent thing is the look of the weather effects. They are nicely done and really elevate the gameplay in some cases. As with most Metal Gear Solid games, the art design is fantastic, from great looking characters to excellent mech designs. I found the game to really push the hardware of the PS4 and can’t wait to see what the Fox engine can do with other games.

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Audio:
Along with everything else in MGSV, the audio portion of the game is huge. On the whole, the voice acting is pretty good and spot on, though I had the most trouble with Master Miller. Most of his lines seemed to be a bit “off” which caused me to lose some of that immersion. I will say that I thought Kiefer Sutherland as Big Boss was not as big of a change as I believed it would be.

The music and sound effects are excellent as well. With appropriate music at all times and with enough variety, it did not get repetitive. Throughout the game you will find audio cassettes that allow you to play not only your favorite tracks from MGSV, but classic tracks from other Metal Gear Solid games as well.

The audio cassettes also take over the function of CODEC conversations from classic games, they are no longer there. You will receive tapes after certain missions that fill in story detail. They also play a major part of the storytelling as most of the story takes place with these cassettes. The sound effects also take place with the typical crackling and humming found in the cassette medium.

… the quality of the maps is good …
Online/Multiplayer:
Metal Gear Online was launched a month after the initial release of MGSV to give Konami time to focus on the main game. It includes four modes and takes full advantage of the different gameplay styles the main game has to offer.

You start of in a free zone where you can customize your character, change your loadouts and see your stats. There is also a leveling structure that opens up different loadouts, weapons, and items to customize your character. Everything is done by the iDroid interface, which is a neat way to tie into the MGSV mythos.

The maps are different from the areas you explored in the game, but seem to put together different aspects of areas you have visited. These are organized into an Island with two to three main areas to explore. Overall the quality of the maps is good and can give a good gameplay experience.

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Bounty Hunter:
The basic premise to this mode is to reduce the opposing team’s tickets down to zero. The matches take place in the Jade Forest map which is a good size portion of the island you are on.

The map is a good choice for this objective, as there are choke points and open spaces you can use for the advantage. A fun twist is that you can use the Fulton system to grab a ticket. In one match I was about to be “Fultoned” off and a team member shot the balloon, so even though this mode can turn into a free for all, teamwork is still key.

… I was the first one to die …
Cloak and Dagger:
The opposing team, using only non-lethal weapons and camouflage, must infiltrate the enemy’s area and steal their data discs. The defending team is allowed to use lethal means to stop them.

This mode is essentially the stealth mode for multiplayer. Since I am not very good at stealth, this was fairly tough for me. I was on a team that essentially vanished in fifteen seconds and not surprisingly I was the first one to die on the team.

It did get easier as I got to know the map with each match I played, but was still the first victim in each of those matches.

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Comm Control
This mode is your classic control mode. You must capture or defend points on the map. This is another one where teamwork is key, but a stealthy approach by yourself can also assure victory.

I found the stealth approach to this mode to be better than guns blazing. This takes place in more of a military base which allows for the more experienced players to flourish.

There is also a random setting that chooses one of the three modes for you, so if you’re feeling lucky or want to be surprised, this is the mode for you.

… one of the best in the series …
Conclusion:
It was very hard to write a non spoiler review for MGSV. There are so many cool little nods and ideas that are surprises that I want to share and tell you all about them. However, they are better left for you to discover, and that is a major part of this game.

The gameplay itself is my favorite for the series, while the story, although well told and interesting, definitely takes a back seat to other games in the series. And while there are some technical glitches, I took the game size and just how many things you could do into consideration. For me they do not detract from the overall game.

The package only gets stronger with the addition of Metal Gear Solid Online. While not as comprehensive as some multiplayer modes, it is still a nice addition to an already great package. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain should be considered as one of the best in the series and a strong contender for game of the year.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Shawn Hiers

Shawn Hiers

Disabled gamer. Married Father of 3, and playing since the Atari days. I have a passion for all things Lego and an avid Toy Collector. I am also an huge Doctor Who Fan and can talk all things Who for hours 🙂

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