For the uninitiated, Metal Gear Solid is an action stealth series created by gaming legend Hideo Kojima. The franchise has taken many twists and turns through the years, and not a single numbered entry takes place in chronological order. My experience with the game was just as scattered. I got a taste of MGS2 in the second grade through a demo disc, but when MGS3: Snake Eater was released sometime later, I got into it. But we’re not here for the greatest stealth game of all time but for a possible contender on that list.
Metal Gear Solid V is the fifth main, and as of now, the final release in the popular Metal Gear Solid series (I know Survive exists, but it feels like a fever dream in my memory; it’s unimportant here). Kojima and Konami’s split before the game’s official release dampened some aspects of the game. Still, it takes everything that makes Metal Gear Solid a fun series and sprinkles a little extra love and features on top. My brother and I got into this game with its 7th gen iteration, and since starting to write for PSLegends, I felt it was time to dive back into the role of Big Boss. While a great sendoff, I think it is not without flaws. The most glaring is the way the story is presented in the second half, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
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A Great Addition and Solid Casting
The story is amazing, and it’s what you’d expect from a Metal Gear story. For those that are veterans of the franchise, things will probably click pretty quickly. It’s obvious it takes place between the events of MGS: Peace Walker(or Ground Zeroes if you want to get technical) and Metal Gear Solid. Certain characters sort of return or make their first chronological appearance in one way or another. It’s a Kojima production and Metal Gear, so explaining the story would take more than a single review. It feels like a movie, and casting people like Kiefer Sutherland and Troy Baker really drives that feeling home. Kojima is a movie buff, and it always shows.
A Unique Rogue’s Gallery
There are plenty of moments that remind you this is Kojima’s world, and we’re just experiencing it. The villains in this game are off the wall, yet expected from an MGS game. Characters like a colonel we once knew now being engulfed in flames fill the roster. Then there are characters like a sniper who breathes through her skin and photosynthesizes instead of eating. Typical stuff coming from a guy who made characters like a soldier who controlled bees with pheromones. This game is badass, campy, fun, and at times goofy all at once, and in the best of ways. Still, there are some glaring problems, and Kojima isn’t really to blame there.
One of my biggest issues with the story is that the game’s story was not fully fleshed out due to Hideo and Konami parting ways. The second half of the game is a lot of repeating earlier missions with some twists to add to the difficulty. Even after the second half is introduced as chapter 2, it’s anything but, aside from some cutscenes. It’s honestly part of the reason I put off restarting the game after sinking probably 300 hours into the seventh-generation version. But I restarted it for this review, and I’m hooked all over again. The gameplay really helps make up for the second chapter problem.
Big Boss Simulator: The Gameplay
The gameplay is absolutely phenomenal for both new players and longtime fans. The gameplay loop of choosing gear and a buddy, deciding on camo, and then infiltrating enemy lines is heavily addicting. Every approach feels genuinely feasible. Whether you want to sit atop a cliff and pop shots from above or survey the area before sneaking in from the same location, you choose your actions and reactions. Go in all commando and guns blazing if you feel confident enough. Just keep in mind each choice will affect the next. My favorite example of this is what happened after I had tranquilized a VIP. The result prevented another important character from moving forward, and I had to improvise.
After watching him wait for his buddy for at least 5 minutes, I extracted him for interrogation. It didn’t take long for my team to give me info on where to find the hostage I had to rescue. I interrogated the guard I knocked out, located guards around the target, and snuck out as quickly as I’d arrived. I then had to slowly carry the rescued soldier for several hundred yards until I was in the clear. After boarding the helicopter, I called in, my mission was complete. These kinds of moments fill every mission and encounter, and for a stealth fan, it’s hard to put down. With that being said, it is no short experience. As of writing, I’m 21 main missions and about 25 hours in, and that’s from only playing the story.
Still, There’s More to It
That’s just the core gameplay loop and a sliver of it at that. There are so many layers to what determines your experience. Things like consistent headshots resulting in enemies wearing helmets. This can be counteracted by sending troops you’ve recruited to destroy supply depots. Bases have communication posts you can destroy, and a water gun becomes a viable tool. As intimidating as it may seem, this game eases you into every gear of its inner workings. Even off the battlefield, there is work to be done.
There’s a base/militia-building aspect to the game as well. Through your iDroid, you’ll find yourself arranging crew members, building extra platforms for your base, and sending your combat squad on missions of their own. For a good example of how deep this goes, I always point to the animal enclosure you can build and fill with captured animals. It gives you a nice break from the danger. Still, just as you’ve come to grips with everything, you’ll start to realize there’s even MORE to learn. It’s all addicting and fun and just falls into place. There’s a lot to do to regain Mother Base, but it’ll become second nature in no time.
Graphics, Sounds, Surprisingly Not Smells
The appearance of this game is one to wonder at. I was running it on PS5, and with it locked in at 60 fps, I marveled at what Kojima Productions had achieved. It was impressive to see on the PS3, and it’s still impressive now. The sound is just as impressive, and I’d expect no less. Ambient sounds of animals ease the tension, and rain covers your footsteps, making sneaking easier. However, bumping into a crate or wooden chair at the wrong moment can garner the attention of patrolling guards in the area. It encourages situational awareness and makes for a memorable stealth experience.
Probably in my top three Metal Gear entries, the Phantom Pain is an excellent experience. It stays true to its roots while trying new things, which it does well. Newcomers will feel welcome in this entry while returning fans will see it as a welcome challenge and a nice addition to the manic story that is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Though I’m a huge fan, I would recommend waiting for a sale to access the game at this point or finding a used physical copy. Luckily, it is featured in a lot of the monthly sales. The full price in the PlayStation store is only for the impatient.
Too Long; Didn’t Read
This is a love letter to 80s spy and action movies, and it shows in the best of ways if Big Boss’s cassette collection doesn’t give that away. It leans heavily into what it is and does it well. Each mission can be played however one sees fit, and that sense of real agency is refreshing. The game presents itself as a final piece in the Metal Gear Solid puzzle, even with its twist ending. It goes all in on all fronts and really succeeds with that move. Though Kojima wasn’t able to fully see his vision through, he made sure the experience was pretty fleshed out. I’d recommend it to any action/stealth fan, and it’s a must for MGS fans.
- Great action/stealth gameplay
- Graphically impressive
- A great entry to the MGS franchise
- Ending was rushed