Republished on Wednesday 27th September 2017: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of October's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Hideo Kojima's critically acclaimed Metal Gear franchise is known for its showy, fantastical, and often down-right ridiculous mythos – and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain doesn't handle things too differently. In the fifth entry in the series, you're put in the boots of Big Boss – a rather disgruntled war veteran who's just come out of a nine-year coma – as he leads the mercenary group Diamond Dogs into Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War. Unsurprisingly, there are enough campy bad guys and ludicrous confrontations distributed throughout this narrative to last a lifetime, though it should be noted that the namesake commits itself to a somewhat darker tone this time around.
For example, David Hayter's classic portrayal of Snake has been swapped out in favour of Kiefer Sutherland's more subtle, mundane tones, and while he gives a fantastic performance – one that's certainly fitting for the release's sombre setting – we couldn't help but feel that his voice goes a little underused. It's understandable that having a less talkative protagonist lends itself to a more immersive, self-indulgent experience as far as the player is concerned, but given the amount of time that you'll be spending exploring this Goliath of a game, a little more input from the iconic antihero would've been welcome.
For the most part, the story itself is fast-paced and intense, and this is no more evident than in the title's opening act. The segment sees a significantly weakened Big Boss hiding from attackers, taking cover from helicopter gunfire, and fleeing on horseback from a giant, er, flaming man in order to escape the hospital that he's just woken up in. That being said, there are a few instances where The Phantom Pain appears to lose momentum, and the events taking place start to become worn thin or anticlimactic – particularly later on. The same can be said for more than a few weakly resolved sub-plots, which pale in comparison to some of the grand conclusions that we've seen come out of Kojima's past ventures.
Furthermore, a lot of background information is relayed to you via mission briefings and audio logs, and to those that find showing preferable to telling, this may seem a tad lazy. Thankfully, the cast of non-playable characters on offer are all very likeable – both the familiar faces, and the new ones alike. Ocelot, Quiet, and Benedict 'Kaz' Miller all feel remarkably genuine, in no small thanks to the game's astoundingly good voice acting, and the influence that these personalities have is only strengthened by recent additions like the buddy system.
You can now take a 'buddy' with you to assist you in your escapades, and without spoiling too much – you can visit our guide for a more in-depth look at each companion over here – the feature effortlessly breathes new life into an otherwise lonesome formula. The same statement can be applied to almost every other aspect of the title: the gameplay as a whole feels like an evolution of older releases, and almost every staple gadget, weapon, and technique that you've ever had at your disposable is refined to perfection in this iteration.
The sheer scale of the assortment available to you is instantly compelling for those looking to get experimental with things, and selecting the right loadouts and upgrades for the job can greatly improve your chances of it being a successful one. Even the aforementioned buddies that you can take into the field with you can be freely personalised, and, like Big Boss himself, can be dressed up in numerous unlockable outfits and armours. Exploring these combinations only becomes more enjoyable with time, too, as you get access to more and more content.
It's this sort of diversity that the title prides itself on, and this pays off massively in its mission design. In what might qualify as the greatest use of stealth in a video game ever, each assignment can be approached from countless different ways, and it's incredibly refreshing to be able to go about accomplishing things in the way that you want to. Because of this, your escapades rarely come across as repetitive or uninteresting, despite the amount of them provided – and this is even truer when addressing the numerous side operations that there are for you to sate your appetite with.
However – again, more so in the later sections of the campaign – some missions can begin to feel forced or perhaps frustrating in their fidelity, making you backtrack to clear uninspired objectives again, or requiring certain difficulty modifiers to be enabled before you can fully check them off your list. Full Stealth, for example, makes it so that any detection by the enemy is an instant failure, and you'll likely have to start all over again thanks to the instalment's less-than-forgiving checkpoint system. Unfortunately, there's no manual save option for you to take advantage of either – which means that you'll be relying solely on autosaves to record your progress for you.
Nitpicking aside, let's return to the many ways in which the release enhances and builds upon its predecessors. For starters, there's the regenerative health mechanic. Whereas you'd previously have to eat a couple rations before you could patch yourself up and get back into the action, The Phantom Pain kindly restores your health for you over a short period of time, in the style of more recent first and third-person shooters. Your trusty iDroid grants you the ability to have ammo and equipment packages airdropped to your location, as well as the power to call in helicopter strikes and bomb attacks down from above – though dabbling in the latter will nullify your chances of scoring top marks in the ensuing mission report.
Gunplay is smooth and intuitive, and with the exception of the odd piece of cover or unresponsive ledge, manoeuvring around the environment feels exceptionally fluid. Enemies behave dynamically and realistically, making their movements less predictable than you may expect – but this only helps to make each tense situation just that more thrilling. Once accosted, they can also be put to good use – interrogated, knocked out, or killed, to name a few choices – and the constant weight surrounding your decision makes every one of these moments relevant and fruitful.
With all of that in mind, if the game had to be summed up with a single word, it'd be 'detailed'. That's what the title is: detailed – and there isn't a time that this is more evident than when you're exploring its gorgeous open world. Whether you're searching for hidden items of interest, gathering resources, or capturing outposts, you'll be accompanied by some rather stunning sights. Sure, there may be a muddy texture here or there, but the overall aesthetic of the game is quite beautiful. This is only improved upon further by the fact that the release manages to maintain an impressive 60 frames-per-second throughout its playtime.
Of course, the sound design has also been polished to such an extent that it too creates an uncanny sense of realism and submergence. Not only do trademark touches like the menu navigation blip make a return, but ambient effects such as far-off animal cries and bullets that whizz past your head blanket every second spent traversing the wilderness. What's more, the score that overlaps your exploits is ever-changing, shifting, and matching your on-screen actions. It's an absolute pleasure for the ears, and there are even collectible cassette tapes scattered about that contain some pretty goofy 80s tracks for you to make memories with. Ever feel like driving a SUV into a bear to Kids in America? Well, that's something that you can do in Metal Gear Solid V.
Mother Base serves as your central hub in preparing and relaxing between procedures – a huge, offshore platform that houses your main forces and research departments. As you may have anticipated, it's staggeringly customisable, down to the colour of its exterior walls. The responsibility of governing such a construct may seem daunting, but it actually makes for some addictive good fun. In just investigating the area, you'll come across multiple activities and curios for you to sink your teeth into – there's an on-site shooting gallery, to name one. The plant is also where you'll find all of your off-duty allies, who you can interact with as frequently as you'd like – yielding some pretty entertaining results.
Your headquarters can be developed further by obtaining equipment and troops, and you'll probably acquire most of these through the use of the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system – a balloon-like device that you attach to inanimate subjects, before watching them jolt upwards and float back to Mother Base. Assuming that they do make it back, of course; bad weather and your captive's current state could hinder your hopes of getting them there in one piece, though these aren't common enough problems that they'll pose that much of a threat.
All in all, it's a highly pleasing little feature that instantly rewards you for your efforts, and since officers that you've snared can then be transferred into roles of your choosing, it's also one worth playing around with. As mentioned earlier, Mother Base consists primarily of research stations that can be upgraded in order to raise their efficiency – eventually producing new weapons, intelligence, and the sort – and bringing in new materials from the field will help make this possible. Additionally, while you're going about your own business, you can deploy small recon units to gain bonus resources for you on the side.
Upon growing large enough, your base is liable to be invaded by other players, where they can steal personnel and GMP – the currency used to establish new technologies, among other useful assets. Luckily, you can raid other players, too – although it's hard to recommend doing this straight after you've been assaulted yourself, as your invulnerability period will immediately expire, and you'll be left open to invasion once again. The concept seems a little unappealing, but in reality, it's quite thought-provoking and it can make for some gripping combat opportunities. Indeed, for a multiplayer component in an almost exclusively single player title, it's fairly well-executed – but some may find the acquisition of extra strongholds via microtransactions to be somewhat discouraging.
If the idea doesn't seem like your cup of tea, then you can disable the game's online capabilities through the options menu. Doing so may be advisable anyway, given that faulty connections to the Konami servers have reportedly been causing crashes, lag, and generally bad performance, especially with the release's loading times.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a hallmark of excellence in tackling open world gameplay, with its creative approach being reflected organically through your own actions. The amount of detailed, quality content on offer is immense, and the title boasts such a diverse selection of gear and utilities that it rarely, if ever, becomes repetitive to play. Managing and supporting your forces is both addictive and compelling, though indulging in the game's online features may lead to some frustratingly unfortunate technical issues. In terms of its story, the fifth instalment in the series may leave some fans wanting more, but overall, the release proves to be a fitting, brutally brilliant finale to Hideo Kojima's beloved saga.
Fantastic review, Adam. Some of your late game criticisms concern me a touch, but I've thought about nothing but this title while away. I can't wait to get back to it.
Between this and Super Mario Maker I've been having a busy weekend. I haven't played a Metal Gear game since.... the NES version, and I have been really impressed with this game. However, I know zip about the previous stories, so am just taking this all in stride right now.
My favourite game this gen so far where my options seemingly are only limited by my own imagination. I for one like the checkpoint system, it helps to give consequence to your actions rather than today's notion of simply respawning in the very spot you failed to have another go. It's also nice to finally read a review where Quiets boobs aren't offensive to mankind (yet killing countless people is seemingly fine).
Glad to see this game is pretty good, as a certain Ocelot would say. I really haven't looked too much into this game since it dropped, because you know, spoilers. Hopefully I'll be able to get it soon, Being the MGS nut I am though, I'll probably end up getting GZ before this.
I LOVE TO RELOAD DURING A BATTLE!
THERE'S NOTHING LIKE THE FEELING OF SLAMMING A LONG SILVER BULLET INTO A WELL GREASED CHAMBER!
Wish I sounded like that.
@get2sammyb I think this is the only fault that this game has. Seems that they ran out of ideas in the end with tendious and repetitive missions and frastrating checkpoints to prolong the main game.
Apart from this the game is a masterpiece. The game expands the ideas introduced at peace walker in a vast open world and has a lot of small things to do.
Going to get this soon, it's just the whole fact that the game stretches out too long and falls apart really concerns me
I am constantly, constantly amazed by this game's tech. Huge open world, 1080p, 60fps and looks incredible, without taking into account how many systems are running under the hood to allow for such freedom in gameplay. The whole industry should really have a long hard look at this when games like Assassin's Creed can't even keep 30fps steady.
@DrClayman Agreed. Although sometimes it can look a little bland in Africa in particular, other times when the lighting is right it's mind blowing
@kyleforrester87 @DrClayman It's that 60fps in particular that other studios have to look at. Hitting that mark is clearly possible on PS4 with the right graphical balancing - let's see more of it!
Definitely my favorite game so far this gen. In terms of the MGS series, gameplay wise it's the best. On the whole? I'd still put 3 and 1 ahead of it just because I thought they had the best balance of great gameplay and great story. I hope they eventually release some DLC to close off the story in this. Though I really wish that could've been done prior to release even if meant the game had to hit shelves in November. It's MGS so I didn't think it would've been too overshadowed.
I have a backlog but I may have to sack it off. Just sounds stunning.
Still not interested.
SUCH A LUST FOR REVIEWS?
@AyeHaley your loss, mgs v is superb. There's some games I would recommend Diablo 3, Resogun, Last light. Highly recomend the last of us, Fez and GTA V. Then there's must play MGS V. Its excellent.
@Anchorsam_9 Don't let the games length put you off, it eats your time like all good games. I'm only 7% or 8% in and am saving it for when I'm off work. The gameplay is what all big games will aspire to be, ace. Even if it does drag on, its not like assasins creed or Lego games going through the motions, mgs v is constantly entertaining.
If you give the launch version of witcher 3 a 10, buggy frame drops etc. Then mgsv deserves 10 aswell
@carlos82 "It's also nice to finally read a review where Quiets boobs aren't offensive to mankind (yet killing countless people is seemingly fine)."
Kudos to you my friend. Finally someone speaks some sense!
Witcher 3 with obvious flaws and glaring performance issues is a 10, yet mgsv smooth as silk gets a 9 . Makes no sense.
@Davros79 If the reviews were purely about technical performance, yes MGSV would undoubtedly get a 10 - but that's never the case is it?
You can't directly compare games based on review scores. Scores are there as guidelines - if you're MGSV's biggest fan but you hate fantasy RPGs, you're never going to think The Witcher 3 is better.
The Witcher 3 got a 10 because it is - by far - the best RPG on PS4, and while I can't strictly speak for this review, clearly it's assumed that MGSV has specific flaws that keep it from being a 10.
With that in mind, MGSV getting a 9 makes perfect sense, especially when you consider both of the games in question were reviewed by different people.
Ok mgsv is hands down the best game on ps4 though.
MGS 10/10 easy Wild hunt 8/10 you can complete nearly all of WH on the hardest setting mode bashing just the square button. I've not enjoyed a SP game this much for year's, this game has totally given me faith that SP can be fun for longer than a week again. Didnt some indie game that was just little stick men running around a little stick world that looked like it was made on a ZX spectrum get 10/10 the other day. Still life would be boring if we all agreed.
Mgsv is a 10. Besides that a really great review .
@TheMightyPunram my point was more to try and point out how game's can't be compared just by the 9/10 or 7/10 spectrum it's kinda differn't for each game? If that make's sense lol, sorry I tend to overthink my post's and my point's are either lost in nonsense or totally missunderstood...and Super Time Force Ultra wasn't the game it was VVVVVV and it got 8/10 my bad lol
I dont agree that Witcher 3 is "by far the best RPG on ps4" either bloodborne aint bad!
Metal Gear Solid V
Super Mario Maker
The Witcher 3
Best games released all year by a landslide. I could game the rest of my life on those 4 alone. No joke.
sadly im not gonna get this anytime soon, probably for christmas
still have to finish so many other games before this
havent looked at many trailers to dont spoiler anything but I doubt that there is any major fault to this game - mgs is always amazing, thats reliable
@ShogunRok Speaking of subjective opinion - I'm a huge fan of MGS, usually hate fantasy RPGs, and think that Witcher 3 is better than MGSV. And I adored both.
So in a year where that opinion is possible despite all my biases, I think the best course is to stop comparing games and instead appreciate just how awesome 2015 has been and continues to be.
I would give MGSV 10/10 the gameplay is the best out of all of the MGS games, Story wise it's not the deepest but the story is still bloody good. To see the true ending you need to S-Rank every mission, and plus there is also hidden cutscenes which can be missed altogether and know one is sure if the story carry's on in Act 2. Its a massive game that I will be playing for months to come, and then there is MGO in October.
@ShogunRok Witcher 3 is medicore pc rpg. How can it be best? Bloodborne is much better.
Really Enjoying it. Just found the honeybee weapon and I'm at 7% completion. Couple of things I hate are the horse controls (it bumps into rocks n gets kinda stuck ALL THE Time, particularly annoying in chase sequences ), and the climbing is just awful. Sliding back down rocks that the game says you can climb is a terrible, infuriating, design flaw. Other than that it's all pretty great! Bit overwhelmed by Mother Base but slowly getting hang of it.
@fluggy That's one complaint I've heard a few times but I've found the horse to be flawless :S
Of course I don't aim it at rocks and I make sure I'm running around obstacles while chasing - are people expecting to just glide over everything as the crow flies? It turns on a dime and seems plenty agile to me. Odd :S
@RaymanFan2 Agreed - the day people start complaining about a 9/10 score is a dire day indeed.
@Gemuarto Don't do this!
Great review - Totally agree with the lack of Big Boss (I miss D. Hayter TBH).
I am still only about 8% through.
I am taking my time completing all the Side-ops before progressing the story; which is the reason I believe I am progressing slowly. It's okay but I do think it leads to pacing issues, because of my obsession with remaining upto date - I really just wan't to smash the missions!
That being said though, this game just keeps getting better, the base developments for example, never did I expect the level of depth on offer. I just had to restructure the motherbase & sacked about 20 trouble causers from my ranks for lowering morale! Other things like sliding down hills in boxes! Most games lay out whats on offer very early and I feel I have the game down almost immediatly - Not MGS V: PP, new depths / discoveries still!
phew... now I wan't to play.
Just briefly on the score 9/10 is a solid score. I think that is about the best you can get, I always snarl at 10/10 reviews, because no game is perfect and 10/10 implies that. This game is a masterpiece as most agree, but it isn't without fault and could be better - in the areas Adam highlighted, for example. Of course you could say that with only 8% progression I don't qualify to give a score.... & you are right... I don't
@Beaston61 I did what you were doing but started getting a bit fed up of sideops after 80 hours and have pushed on with the story. I'd advise you do a few story missions to break it up every now and then
wow! I had no idea there was so many! Thanks for the advice! The side-ops are ok but becoming a bit too repetative, however the story missions are epic!
@Beaston61 well there are about 150 side ops although a lot of my time was spent just looting resources and staff members. Do more story before you get bored, there's plenty of it to keep you entertained
As huge fan of the series, I feel that 9 is perfect. While I do really love this game, It's one of my LEAST favorite games in the series. The game-play is fantastic, but as a Metal Gear game, the story and cohesiveness of this game feels lacking. I play Metal Gear games for the long complicated stories with bits of solid game-play between. I feel like this game took the opposite approach and THAT really disappointed me.
It';s certainly a brilliant game and my favourite of this year so far.
@NathanUC I agree. But I've got to say, knowing that this will be the last MG by Kojima, it's kinda nice to have a game with as much length and replayablity. Sure I still go back to the originals from time to time, but I see me popping this in fairly often to clear up a few side ops and tackle missions in different ways for the next couple of years. Kind of makes up for knowing there won't be a MGS6 from Kojima.
But you're right, 9/10 is on the money. I see why elements of what made the older instalments great had to be cut to accommodate the new gameplay, but the impact that it has on the game as a result can't be ignored entirely.
I love phantom pain but I miss the story telling of the other games in the series. Metal gear has a huge story and it seems it took a back seat to this game. It seems a lot of repetition with the missions to me as well. Your also in one or two environments for too long.
To me phantom pain isn't even the top 3 metal gear games. My fav starts with snake eater has the perfect balance of story and gameplay. Followed by the first metal gear than guns of patriots.
MGS1 is the best for me
Mgs2,3,4 and 5 all seem about equal, in their own ways
Might as well change the rating scale... 9/10= average.
I'm bad at metal gear solid games in general but I'm having a good time with it, although the fight against quiet was a bit disappointing compared to the end or especially sniper wolf, wolf was so frustratingly fast I had to use nikitas behind a rock to win.
I really don't like the idea we have to play all in Afghanistan without change the enviroment like others MGS, this is kind of limitation for the game itself.
@jayclayx Theres 2 main areas, Afghanistan and Africa, with fairly varied terrain between them
Combined with Mother Base and the prologue you actually visit more places than any other main MG title, aside from 4.
I just want to say I highly respect the scoring policy and review copy links at the bottom of the page. As a lover-respecter of video games I really appreciate that.
@kyleforrester87 keep dreaming there identical its two maps and there both big empty boring spaces the other games were great and they felt lived in this game is a empty waste land . you can say there are 10 places but if they all look the same and are empty like these then i would rather have one good one thats actually filled with stuff not spending 20 mins driving through empty world to the next base or little vilage
@godslayer1975 Okay, sorry to hear you don't think there are enough locations
got the game last saturday - my impressions after somewhat 10 hrs or so (7% complete) - could easily turn to be the most polished and complete game that I have ever played
MGS5 is extremely complex and huge, and the more you play, the more it expands - its one of the best lookin games without any doubt, it plays very complex but extremely responsive and satisfying, and the amount of things to do and possibilities are just mind blowing.
I can somewhat understand all those people that are nitpicking because of the lack of ultra long cut scenes, and that mission objectives are mostly always the same - but those are minor flaws, compared to the overall greatness that is on offer here, besides its a Stealth/Espionage Action Game, not a movie, and the rescue/eliminate Missions are what can be expected of such a game, its all about that, infiltration, what else...
Personally, I enjoy this MGS the most, the cutscenes are stunningly well done as one could expect, the missions are as tense as can be, the game plays fluidly and is satisfying unlike any othe MGS game before
Sometimes I get the impression that many MGS fans just play those games because of the Story/Cutscenes and not for the gameplay itself
The mechanics and engine are fantastic, it's brilliant finding all the little things you can do or having so much choice to play the game in your style. I also feel they finally got the codec(radio)/cutscene/gameplay balance right this time so while it still feels like a MGS game, you get the radio chatter and cutscenes you had before, but it never feels intrusive or too long.
That having said, it DOES feel like something is missing. I spent the first chapter getting "S" rank on all missions, so imagine my surprise when Chapter 2 felt "Do it all again, plus a bit of new stuff". I think it just killed my momentum and enthusiasm, so I've put it on the shelf and picked up Witcher 3 to see what the fuss is about.
I have to say as a long term Metal Gear fan to the point of importing Snake Eater singles from Japan to get the bonus camoflagues, I can see why Witcher 3 is rated higher than Metal Gear.
Metal Gear is primarily about the mechanics, and main story, and after an amazing start and chapter 1, I felt the story just kind of fell flat, so it felt like a natural place to pause. I felt it lost a connection with me and no matter how fun controlling Snake is, I lost a bit of desire to play out the story. A better comparison to Metal Gear for me is Uncharted or Tomb Raider, where experiencing the story is just as important as the physics and polish.
Witcher 3's main story, having never played a Witcher before or have any understanding of the lore, isn't the main draw of the games, nor are the mechanics. It's the bit sized side quests that are compelling, and exploring Geralt's character through the "grey area" and ambiguous scenarios you are continually asked to resolve, naturally a better comparison to meis an Elder Scrolls game. I've never completed an Elder Scrolls game, because the main story is usually a macguffin or some reason to drag you around the world exploring and developing your character doing side quests. I've still immensely enjoyed every Elder Scrolls game and feel that I've lost nothing by not seeing the main story concluded. I do feel Witcher 3 does these things a bit better than Skyrim, and I constantly feel as if my choices are important or it's not just a case of picking "good answer or bad answer".
If you compare as an "open world game", Metal Gear's side ops just don't have the same pull or drag you in to a story except for the yellow "key" ones. A lot of them just feel like filler, standard "go there and get this, go there and eliminate that" and without the "rank" mechanism, they just feel like boxes to tick, rather than experiences you remember.
I think that's why it's a 9 for me, because it's not as good or compelling an open world game as Skyrim or Witcher, with the background stuff luring you in and keeping you busy, but equally by it's design it's neither a really great "story driven on rails" game like MGS1,3, or Uncharted, it just feels like it's a small notch below the best examples of on rails/open world and almost a little frustrating because with a fantastic engine and mechanics it's so close to perfection but falls a little short in my humble opinion.
Excited to try, how hard is it to jump in storywise with this entry?
I've been on the fence for months about this game. It sounds amazing, but I never played any Metal Gear title, and everywhere people said "You'll be lost if you don't play the others" or "At least read about or watch the previous games". Well, I wanna play games, not read or watch them, so I passed. For free, it seems to be a nice reason to try it out.
But, just out of curiosity, what does PSquare community thinks about this? Will a newbie to Metal Gear enjoy MGSV without any previous info?
Not my favorite Metal Gear, i really didn't like the story and the characters, except for Quiet. But still is a solid game, the gameplay is really good. But still is one of the biggest disappointments of this generation, imo.
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