Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
- Developer: Kojima Productions
- Launch: September 2015
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Android
Review Platform: PC
There are some games that grab your attention the moment you hit play and this is most definitely one of them. The Metal Gear series began in 1987 with Metal Gear Solid and although I knew of the subsequent games over the years, I never played them because they were largely released on consoles such as the PlayStation, which I have never owned. It was only when Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain was released for PC in 2015 and I saw the trailers that I took any notice and I’m very glad I did. This game has been designed with passion, humour and skill, and for many, it’s the best stealth game ever made. I’ve played numerous stealth games since the late 90s, including Project IGI, No One Lives Forever, Splinter Cell:Pandora Tomorrow, Deus Ex and more recently Alien Isolation and the various Sniper series. The attraction of stealth is the rush you get from getting away with it– sneaking past guards, distracting them by throwing a stone or saving a hostage right from under the enemy’s nose.
My first introduction to the series was MGSV: Ground Zeroes, which I picked up in a Steam sale for $5. It’s a short campaign introduction to the main game involving the rescue of hostages from an American black site in Cuba and I was instantly hooked. I also learned very early on that tearing into a well defended camp Rambo-style was never going to cut it and the use of line of sight, shadows and obstacles would be the only way to achieve the objective. From there, it was a no-brainer to buy MGSV: TPP, as it is now generally known and you can read the entire Phantom Pain story here, since it’s very long and detailed. Suffice to say that in the main single-player campaign, our eye-patched hero Snake, aka Big Boss leads a mercenary outfit known as Diamond Dogs whose mother base is an offshore rig near the Seychelles. It’s from that mother base that Snake carries out his missions of rescue, assassination and covert operations into Afghanistan and the Angola-Zaire border region of Africa.
An Elaborate Ecosystem Of Development, Challenges And Rewards
Once the game kicks off after a very long cut-scene, your default equipment is sparse, consisting of a pistol that fires tranquilisers, an assault rifle, Snake’s bionic arm and a few hand grenades. Using your iDroid you can check the map, send development instructions to the mother base, request helicopter support and supply drops, as well as plan missions and side operations.
MGSV Buddy System
Initially, you’re mounted on a sturdy horse, just one of four buddies you choose from to accompany you on missions. Each buddy has their own advantages for any given combat situation. For example, if it’s speed you’re after, you’ll need to use D-Horse, a faithful nag who’ll gallop all day without stopping for hay or even water. He can also be used as a shield, so that when you’re escaping in a heated battle you can ride cowboy style hanging off one his flanks or sneak into enemy territory this way and they’ll think it’s just a riderless horse wandering aimlessly around.
D-Dog is a faithful wolf-like hound that Snake raises from a puppy and can be deployed as a vicious distraction whilst you sneak past guards to reach your objective. Like D-Horse, he can be summoned to rush to your side just by whistling and the more missions you do together, the closer your bond becomes, enabling further skills and customisation for you and your chosen buddy.
D-Walker is a bi-pedal mechanised droid that Snake climbs into, offering him armoured plating, some particularly nasty weapons and is mainly used as support when entering assault scenarios. He/it can also move extremely quickly and is best deployed when you want to go all noisy as opposed to stealthily.
Quiet on the other hand is the joker in the pack; a wildcard if you will and quite what was running through Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima’s head when he delicately placed her semi-naked persona into the game is best left to his imagination. You are first introduced to Quiet whilst passing through temple ruins in Afghanistan and, following a cat and mouse shoot out, if you’re successful in defeating her, you can decide to kill her or spare her life. That’s when you notice that, not only is she a highly skilled sniper, but she’s also dressed in what’s left of a bikini top and some fashionably ripped Lycra leggings– clearly the optimal attire for sniping in enemy territory then. Although we’re told that the real reason she wears a minimal amount of clothing at all times is because she can only drink or breathe through her skin following parasite-treatment, which sounds a bit yucky. Or, according to Hideo Kojima, “I created her character as an antithesis to the women characters appeared (sic) in the past fighting game who are excessively exposed.” Oh right, yes.
Aside from being a very useful sharp-shooter who will cover Snake on command, Quiet doesn’t speak at all but she does manage to hum a repetitive riff when on sniper patrol, presumably because she’s in her element. Also, like all non-mechanical buddies, the more you deploy her on missions, the greater your bond becomes, thus increasing the skills and the interaction she’ll have with Snake in terms of suggestive gestures and a particular Easter egg, where she let’s Snake watch her take a shower – mysteriously still wearing her battle attire.
Stealth Is The Key
Still, if Lara Croft can trek through the Himalayas in hot pants and a tank top, then anything is possible. Strategically though, Quiet is particularly useful when scouting an objective equipped with a sniper rifle loaded with tranquiliser darts, since killing all the enemies isn’t the prime objective in MGSV. The Fulton Device is the most useful tool in the game and once deployed on a tranquilised enemy, he will be ballooned out of the area up into the sky, hooked by a passing friendly aircraft and deposited at mother base for recruitment. This is a particularly satisfying aspect of the game and means that you have to use more stealth than brute force.
As your development skills and awards increase you can up the payload for your Fulton Device, allowing you to airlift trucks, heavy weapons, tanks, shipping containers and practically anything else that may be of value, back to your mother base. Heck, you can even Fulton out sheep, dogs, wolves and other wild animals, presumably for the mother base kitchen or for later training where appropriate. Hiding in crates, showers and dumpsters is also a sneaky means of evading detection, but my personal favourite is to deploy a cardboard box depicting a scantily clad pin-up girl and wait for the Russian soldier’s attention to be piqued, before grabbing him around the neck.
You’ll also come across medicinal herbs, crates of useful raw materials, rough diamonds and blueprints, which can be snagged and stashed away for later use.
But in the end, stealth is the crucial element of this remarkable game and with 50 main missions and around 160 side operations, you’ll be kept entertained for weeks. Or in my case, nearly a year, since there are so many ways to play the game to achieve the objectives. For example, I’ve been playing MGSV since last April and I’m only at 20% overall completion, perhaps because the game allows you to play at your own pace and let’s face it, stealth is not a business which should be rushed.
Manage Your Mother Base
Other important aspects of the game are product development and staff management and if you can capture skilled pros during a mission and/or Fulton out enemies with special skills, they can be assigned and used in Intel, Medical, R&D or any other team of your choice. For example, if you need to develop a sniper rifle with tranquiliser darts or a heavy Fulton Device, you’ll need specialist teams with the right levels of skills for R&D, to then develop the product and have it air dropped to your location in the mission. That is of course dependent on having earned enough GMP (Gross Military Product), a currency earned for the successful completion of missions.
How Does The Game Perform?
In a word, flawlessly. I’m playing on an AMD FX8320 octacore, 16Gb RAM and a Radeon RX580 8Gb, and the performance at maximum graphical settings is a rock solid 60 FPS, with the PC barely breaking a sweat. Game load-times are very fast with little to no waiting around for useless optimisation popups and with less than a minute or so, you’re dropped into the game sneaking around and creeping up on unsuspecting enemies. The game looks gorgeous too and it’s a testament to the Fox Engine, not to mention the life’s work of its creator Hideo Kojima, with a level of detail that’s mouth watering.
The weapons are meticulously reproduced along with the landscapes and the characters, which are rich, detailed and probably the best console port I’ve ever seen. But clearly I’ve only scratched the surface in terms of the many aspects of MGSV and all in all, this is a superbly crafted game that’s now considered to be the definitive stealth game of a generation. Highly recommended.