When I first picked up my controller to play the latest Metal Gear Solid game; I had some reservations, and for anyone experiencing the same ambivalence, I am here to settle your concerns. I had been drastically disappointed after playing Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes for multiple reasons, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that playing MGSV: The Phantom Pain is an engrossing and gratifying experience which takes the idea of open world gameplay to new heights.
The Phantom Pain is an open world action-adventure stealth game. Set in 1984, the player is thrust into the aftermath of the events of Ground Zeroes as Big Boss, now adopting a code name of Punished Venom Snake, after the destruction of Militaires Sans Frontiéres (MSF). He must lead a new mercenary group called the Diamond Dogs (who doesn’t love a good David Bowie reference?) to battle the rival group Cipher led by Skullface. The journey you take to rebuild your mercenary group will push you to the edge of your seat; The Phantom Pain is similar to a book that you can’t put down, you just have to play on.
The stealth aspect is fantastic because it is more forgiving than in other games. Within the game you have Reflex Time in which the game automatically slows time down when you get spotted, allowing for snap decision making, which can lead to some visually impressive movie-like moments. As with other games in the chronology, the gameplay encourages the player to use non-lethal methods and entice mercenaries to join the Diamond Dogs. Like Peace Walker, The Phantom Pain provides a place for your mercenary group to grow, research and develop -this is called Mother Base, thus, the downside of trigger-happy killing leads to lost opportunities to build a successful group at Mother Base, a refreshing addition to the series.
The best part of this latest instalment is its size: the map is massive and it’s open world in the truest sense of the word. The game’s various mechanics and connected systems allow for a large degree of player freedom, which at first is almost overwhelming. However, this is always great for adventurous gamers and newcomers alike who seek a challenge that they themselves can orchestrate without being forced into a set path of missions. In comparison with the relatively straightforward of the previous Metal Gear games, the non-linear feel of The Phantom Pain equates to more player power, which makes for a dramatic and dynamic playing experience.
My only qualms with the game would have to be the lack of a character development - there is a strange absence of dialogue in comparison with past Metal Gear games; one of the only female characters, aptly named “Quiet”, spends most of her time sighing or humming. For die-hard Metal Gear Solid fans this may be disappointing, thinking of the past in which candid conversations and memorable boss battles provided more character depth. Nevertheless, these exclusions do not detract from the game’s enjoyment: the cinematography, gameplay, graphics (look out for the life-like weather) and style are simply breathtaking and will satisfy every type of gamer.