The Ninjabot

Metal Gear Solid V The Phantom Pain Review: The Silent Snake

Posted on September 21, 2015 at 12:53 am by Victor Chaves


Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is great; if you wanted to make your horse drop poop to make a jeep skid to a stop and capture the jeep with a balloon, you can do that. You can have a wolf/dog bark at a soldier so you can sneak past and hop on a mini-mech to wreck absolute havoc. You can spend an hour running around your fortress performing CQC on fellow soldiers (who thank you for slamming their nose into a wall). All of this doesn’t describe even half of what you can do in The Phantom Pain, however the context and story behind it all is not up to the level of what other games Kojima has done, and in the end left me feeling underwhelmed.


Legendary Soldiers Get Legendary Gameplay

Sticking with the gameplay, the fast-paced action or calculated sneaking is a bedrock of solid fun. Slamming enemies down in succession and calling helicopters that chew through hostile forces offers a lot of variety including but not just running and gunning, punching and choking; hell you can even drop tanks on enemies for a laugh. The goons react as well, whereas if you pull off too many headshots, enemies will start wearing helmets; sneak in at night, they wear night vision; crawl in the grass, expect some placed explosives to knock you down and wake everyone up.

What I love particularly is that Phantom Pain goes out of its way to make stealth not only viable, but fun as well. When most people think of stealth, they think of hiding in one place for ten minutes at a time, making a small mistake and running back to the same hiding place for another ten minutes. The difference is that now you have several options to keep your stealth as action packed as possible. You can tranquilize enemies, throw empty magazines to distract, and straight-up cold cock a soldier with your robot arm. Even scouting has been made easier by auto-marking enemies by your own efforts or with Diamond Dog or Quiet.


Each buddy is also nicely customizable with different abilities like Diamond Horse pooping on the road, Diamond Dog whipping out a knife and gutting a punk, Quiet providing cover fire, and Diamond Walker (a mini-mech of sorts) for all the firepower you need. Each buddy requires different situations, such as the horse is perfect for long distance travel, the dog is an amazing scout, Quiet acts as a perfect distraction, and Diamond Walker can act as a multi-tool. Using your wide-range of abilities, buddies, and weapons is what makes fighting in The Phantom Pain that much more satisfying to play, and dropping a supply box on an unsuspecting guard always makes a good laugh.

Not The Best MGS Story

I won’t spoil the game here (later there will be a spoiler section), but there are several story issues I have with Phantom Pain. First and foremost is that Snake rarely talks, and as a result seems extremely removed from the story. With all this hype about Kiefer Sutherland taking over as the voice of Snake, you barely hear Snake say more than three words in cut-scenes that are over a minute long. At points, it feels like I’m in a Zelda game where everyone says the story to me and Link just nods with a grim face. If you’ve never played a Metal Gear Solid title before then this won’t be an issue, but if you’ve played others then you would know that Snake (in all forms) actually can chat quite a bit. Each game contextually enriches each Snake, and for the first time Phantom Pain doesn’t make Snake’s motivations all that clear.

Besides Snake being in the worst form I have ever seen, the rest of the story is fair at best. Skull Face is a boring villain that is an attempt to put a face to the overarching villain Zero, but compared to other Metal Gear Solid villains Skull Face is the most boring one. Ocelot has his crazy gunmanship, Volgin punches with lightening, Liquid Snake fights with helicopters and Metal Gear Rex, and Skull Face is just a human with a really burned face. However I will say Skullface has a really interesting backstory, and serves really well in his initial characterization and motivations, but in the end his story and efforts do not connect well with Snake as the game doesn’t build enough of a rivalry between Snake and Skullface.


Quiet Is Great, But Too Naked

If there is a genuine bright spot in the story, I would point that to Quiet. For being a silent character, you can’t help but notice that you care about her as the game goes on, due to the fact that she is one of the most useful people that you can bring into the field of battle. In regards to the story, Quiet easily becomes the linchpin to it as nearly everything that occurs in the game can be connected to her. At first she seems like a random sniper with almost no clothing that you can recruit, turns out she is kind of everything good in the story because of spoilers (she still doesn’t put on any clothes though).

There are other things about Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, specifically the FOB features of the game. FOB (Forward Operating Bases) offer options to expand your base that you build and increase your capacity for soldiers and thereby increase your abilities and research capabilities. The downside is that other players can invade your base and take your supplies and soldiers as well (as well as you being able to invade in retaliation). If you wish to build another FOB though, you have to pay for MB coins with real world money in microtransactions. You don’t need an additional FOB since the main base and the free FOB you get is sufficient, but at the same time it feels like Konami is asking for money in order to accelerate your progress, which is essentially pay-to-win.


Spoilers Section

The giant problem I have with the story is that (LAST CHANCE GET OUT SPOILERS) you are not Big Boss, at least the real Big Boss. I suspected this from the beginning when “Ishmael” in a very distinct Kiefer Sutherland voice but with bandages on his face says “You’re talking to yourself.” Additionally Big Boss refers to you as “Ahab” which (beyond being one of the many references to Moby Dick) was the name of the helicopter pilot in Ground Zeroes. So suspecting that I wasn’t Big Boss but in fact Ahab, I wondered then, what does Ahab think of all this? What happens is that Ahab doesn’t care. He’s quiet though most scenes and has no opinion on anything because he’s not the one with the context from Snake Eater and Peace Walker. Big Boss has that context, and yet here we are with a character that I know nothing about.

What I mean by knowing nothing about, I mean that this is worse than when Raiden took over in Sons of Liberty. Whereas Raiden actually had a personality and opinions and reacted to things, Ahab is as interesting a bar of soap. The man is downright inert. There are times that Ahab says something like telling Emmerich to leave or keeping Sahelanthropus, but when that happens it’s incredibly uncharacteristic of the ever-silent Ahab. Furthermore, in the end when the real Big Boss comes to light and is building up his own base, there is some text that just reads that Ahab loses his base and Big Boss takes over again. As a player who just experienced losing his base from Peace Walker, and then realizes that his work ends up being destroyed again in The Phantom Pain as well as the fact that I’m not the real Big Boss makes the entire story seem 100% absolutely worthless. This Metal Gear Solid title ends up being the least relevant in the entire Metal Gear Solid series, and I do not feel any satisfaction from the ending.

Spoilers Section End


Final Thoughts

This review ended up being a real white whale for me, for as excellent as the gameplay and open-world and environment ends up being, the story ends up being one of the worst in the series. And here I once thought that Peace Walker was the worst story in the series, I wish that was true. For now, I’ll just run around in the dozens of sideops wrecking soldiers and tanks. That’s really fun.

Presentation: 7

Gameplay: 10

Replay: 10


Geek Legacy’s review scores are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest possible score.

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