“Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” by Kojima Productions is the long-awaited conclusion to a story 30 years in the making. However, players new to the franchise should not feel uneasy, as this game has legs of its own to stand on.
The abridged version of the game plot is legendary soldier, Snake, along with the help of some friends, have created their own militant nation that does dirty work for countries willing to pay. Snake’s old commander, Zero, is not happy with Snake, and he destroys their home, also known as Mother Base. The player assumes the role of Snake, who was last seen going down in a helicopter crash during the fall of Mother Base. “The Phantom Pain” opens to Snake awakening in 1984 and discovering that he has been in a coma for nine years due to the crash.
“Metal Gear” has always walked a fine line in their story between ridiculously campy and military drama. “The Phantom Pain” does keep some of that campiness, but this story has a much more serious and dark tone than any of its predecessors.
This is evident as soon as Snake awakens from his coma, and the doctor informs him that his body had become a pincushion for the bone and teeth fragments of his comrades during the crash.
He also has a chunk of shrapnel stuck in his forehead, which resembles a horn and would cause him to die if it were removed. If that weren’t enough, he also lost his left arm in the crash. Needless to say, Snake really wants revenge on Zero.
At its core, “The Phantom Pain” is an open-world, choose your own adventure action game. It drops you into its setting, Afghanistan at the start, and allows you to pick your own equipment and proceed how you see fit. You can infiltrate an enemy camp and pick each soldier off one by one with your tranquilizer gun, getting in and out without ever raising an eyebrow. Or you can run in using a machine gun and grenade launcher to set the camp ablaze.
“The Phantom Pain” controls fantastically and feels great. The controls don’t fight back, which has always been a stigma of “Metal Gear.” Snake does exactly what I want, which is essential in a game where one misstep can cost you so dearly.
In other open-world games that implement stealth, I always find myself sneaking around until I inevitably get caught, then the scene turns into a bloodbath. That is not the case here. If I get caught, I always feel the need to restart it and try again.
With the release of “Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots” in 2008, creator Hideo Kojima fell under fire from critics as the game had over eight hours of cut scenes, including one that was 80 minutes long.
Kojima must have taken those complaints to heart, because I’m currently 35 hours into “The Phantom Pain” and I have seen less than ten minutes of cut scenes total.
Instead of long cut scenes, most of the story is told through cassette tapes that play on Snake’s Walkman. I’m glad there aren’t that many cut scenes, but then again, “Metal Gear” is famous for its huge info-dump scenes.
The game is also littered with collectible hits from the ‘80s to listen to while you play. That’s when the “Metal Gear” charm really begins to set in. I caught myself listening to a Billy Idol cassette on Snake’s Walkman while using his iDroid to look at an augmented reality map of Afghanistan, so he can fight a giant robot that launches nukes and machine gun wielding spirits. This game is the best kind of absurd.
As I mentioned before, I’m currently 35 hours into “The Phantom Pain,” and yet I sit at an overall completion of 36%. There is so much to do in this game, and I haven’t begun to get tired of it yet. Kojima has always been obsessed with the idea of making video games into art, and in his swan song, it seems like his vision has finally been realized to its fullest potential.