Final verdict: C
Final playtime: 180 hours
Aright, guess it’s about time I reviewed this piece a shit game. Nah, just kidding, it’s okay. Phantom Pain is somewhat interesting because I started out liking it a lot, then as it went on I liked it a little less, and by the end the plot ended up being so GOD AWFUL that I liked it a lot less. I had heard that Phantom Pain was polarizing; there were people who loved it, and people who really hated it. Early on I just couldn’t understand how people could hate it. But after fully playing the game I completely understand. That’s why you can’t review a game after only a few hours with it. Of course professionals just want to get their fraudulent review out the door as early as possible and get paid, but I ain’t getting paid jack shit, so you can trust me completely. Ain’t nothing but real talk here nigga.
Let me start off by saying that there are a lot of good things in this game. Mostly in the area of the general stealth gameplay, I would say that this is the best Metal Gear yet (we had already confirmed as much by playing Ground Zeroes, so it’s no surprise). The engine, controls, enemy behaviors and interactions are all extremely polished and good. There are a lot of cool things and details here. The way enemies’ line of sight isn’t simply their body but their actual head, i.e. if they have their head turned to the right they will not see you coming from the left, but if they have it turned to the left, they will. The way their vision is significantly better during the daytime than at night. How weather affects things, for example, when it’s raining you can low stance sneak at full speed behind enemies and they won’t hear a thing, but when it’s clear they will and you have to move slower to prevent being heard (though in Phantom Pain this has become largely irrelevant due to one of the sneaking suits that eliminates the sound of your footsteps). The way they will sometimes walk up to each other and begin conversations. How their vision and awareness improves when they’re alerted compared to when they’re in lax mode. The degree of accuracy of their line of sight relative to how you hide yourself, i.e. if it seems like their line of sight should be blocked by what you’re hiding behind, they won’t be able to see you, and vice versa. Anyway, there’s a lot more things like the things they do when they’re calling by radio, how they react to various things that you do and etc, but you get the picture. These are the areas where I would say MGSV excels.
It’s no secret that this game has now gone Open World. That’s a bad thing, but overall it’s not too terrible for a few reasons. Firstly because the game is divided into missions, just like Ground Zeroes, you pick a mission to play from the menu and your helicopter immediately drops you off where you need to be, so you can mostly ignore the open world. Secondly, there are only two areas and they aren’t quite as big as what we’re used to from these types of worlds. Thirdly, there are none of the usually hundreds of stupid “points of interest” that developers love to scatter about these worlds and make you have to travel to them to see what they are. Fourth, by and large there is absolutely nothing of particular value throughout the wilderness, which makes it so that you don’t feel compelled to waste time exploring these vast areas. Everything of value and worth exploring in order to find is contained within the various outposts and camps which are of a reasonable size. So, although I wouldn’t say that Phantom Pain “does open world right” (because there is no such thing), I will say that it’s one of the least offensive variations.
Phantom Pain feels somewhat different from previous MGS games. For one thing, while traditionally these games have been relatively short, Phantom Pain is huge and has a shit ton of things to do. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, as I’ll explain later. The long cutscenes that we’ve come to expect are mostly absent. There’s a lot more playing than watching now. I’ve never minded long cutscenes but apparently a lot of people hate ’em. The game also feels more serious overall. There seems to be less humorous/silly/fourth wall breaking scenes and dialogue. Ground Zeroes did have it but Phantom Pain doesn’t really. It doesn’t help that they’ve removed codec conversations from the game, which is a direction I don’t like. I always loved listening to the codec conversations in MGS games and especially finding the hidden context sensitive conversations. There were a lot of cool things like how if you called people while smoking they’d give you shit, or how if you called Mei Ling while in the women’s bathroom she’d flip out on you. Or how you could call people about their opinions on bosses or get conversations about the different animals you captured in Snake Eater. Phantom Pain doesn’t have as much of that. You can call on your radio to get a quick couple of lines (usually telling you what you’re supposed to do), or point your binoculars at certain things and call to ask about them, but it’s not the same. A big reason for this is that for some reason Snake RARELY ever talks in this game. It’s almost as if they wanted you to feel more as if you’re the protagonist, but that kind of thing feels strange for this game, especially given the series’ history. The other explanation, of course, would simply be that Kiefer Sutherland is too expensive per word so they had to cut down on how much they used him. Which would be funny considering that he’s not even that great. I mean, he does a fine job, but nothing amazing. Certainly nothing worth paying a lot more money and trashing David Hayter. In general the rest of the voice acting is good too. Skull Face is my favorite.
As I said, this game is extremely big and has a lot more things to do than previous ones. You have your own base which acts as your nexus that you can go back to in between missions, and there’s so much shit to do there. You can spend your money and resources that you’ve found and earned to build and expand facilities, you can recruit any soldier out in the field for your army and they all have their own stats and skills and you assign them to a unit based on what they’re good at. The combat unit which you can dispatch on missions (that aren’t important enough for Snake to do personally), the R&D unit which develops and upgrades weapons (the more people you put in there and the higher the level, the better weapons you can create), base development unit which mines and processes raw materials, support team which is in charge of your helicopter and bringing back prisoners or soldiers you recruit out in the field, the intel team which gives you enemy/weather/item reports, the medical team… all of this is cool. Money and resources are handled very well: there’s a shitload of stuff to buy and it’s all really expensive so you never run out of things to buy throughout the whole game. While there is a maximum money cap (which is very easy to reach), you easily burn through it just by buying a few things. In addition, you are constantly spending money for every little thing. Even calling in your own chopper to pick you up costs like fuckin’ 50k. Every weapon, equipment, and item that you choose to deploy with has a cost, so even just deploying yourself to a mission can cost you 100k if you’re bringing a lot of shit with you. Then there’s also capturing animals to fill out your encyclopedia, which has shades of Snake Eater (but you can’t eat them). Point is, there’s a whole lot in this game if you’re trying to be completionist.
But that’s not the main thing. There are three main things that comprise the majority of the gameplay in Phantom Pain. Those are: missions (and the S ranking thereof), tasks, and side-ops. Missions are the meat of the game. Just like in Ground Zeroes you pick missions to play from a menu and you can replay them as many times as you want, which I like. The implied goal here is to complete them with the highest rank, S. At the end of a mission you’re given points based on a variety of factors: speed, not getting spotted, not killing people, tactical takedowns, accuracy, etc.
While S ranking missions can be fun, the problem is that generally it feels a little too easy to get it. The game has too high a degree of leniency in what it’ll accept as an S rank run. Furthermore, I’m not a fan of the entirely points-based system. The game will not look at individual criteria to decide if you get an S, it will only look at the total amount of points you got. This can create dumb situations where you can go full ham on a mission, running and getting spotted and raising a ruckus, but still get the S rank anyway because you make up the points you may have lost from not using stealth from how fast you did it. This feels wrong. It’s supposed to be a stealth game, god dammit! Perfect stealth, no kills should be the PRIMARY criteria, not time. If you get spotted you should be automatically disqualified from getting an S rank, simple as that. With the exception, of course, of boss fights in which you’re forced to fight.
Next, each mission has a series of “tasks” that you’re supposed to complete within them. These tasks can be pretty much anything, ranging from stuff like saving some prisoners, finding a blueprint, stealing a vehicle, extracting a certain animal or person to stuff like simply listening in on certain conversations, or beating enemies in certain ways (such as without firearms) or extracting someone through a hole in the roof. Completing the tasks is actually more difficult than getting S ranks. Not because it requires any skill, mind you, but more because of lack of information. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out just what in the fuck you’re supposed to do. The truth is that tasks are very hit or miss in how fun they are to do. Some of them can be, but it feels like just as often they can be a pain in the ass, and a few can end up being a real nightmare. Usually these are the ones where you have to find something in a huge area but there are no clues of where it could be. The ones where you have to eavesdrop on conversations can be big offenders a lot of the time too because for some reason they are the most likely ones to bug out on you. Surprisingly, Phantom Pain has almost no bugs and glitches, but these conversations tasks in particular are where they can really come out. There was one that took me hours upon hours of retrying because it kept glitching on me and the dude I was supposed to eavesdrop on was either not appearing, or he kept sequence breaking and not walking to where the conversation was supposed to take place. Huge pain in the dick, lemme tell you. It would at least feel better if the tasks gave some good rewards or something, but nope. All they give are emblems you can use to customize your army’s logo. That’s worthless.
Finally, the side-ops are basically what they sound like. Just small side quests you can do on the side. Sadly, side-ops are equally problematic. There are over a hundred of them to do but frankly there’s just too much repetition with them. There’s a huge amount of “rescue the prisoner” or “eliminate x enemies” or “clear the mines” which end up being largely the same thing over and over and over again, just in different areas. It’s fine a few times, but it gets old and tedious after a while. It gets too formulaic and feels too much like filler to stay fun.
And speaking of filler, even the main missions eventually fall victim to the filler curse! After mission 30 they just start throwing old missions that you’ve already done at you, complete with all of the exact same tasks to do again! Oh, oh, but they have a TWIST this time, you guys. ‘cept no, it’s pretty much exactly the same. The “twist” depends on the mission, but for example a typical one is just the same mission but in “total stealth” mode. What that means is that you can’t get spotted and if you do it’s instant game over. In other words, absolutely no difference because only BITCHES weren’t already restarting every time they get spotted. Come on nigga, how you gonna forego that perfect stealth no kills bonus? Fuck outta here. Anyway, another one which is rare (only 2 missions) but actually pretty different is a “subsistence” mode where you start the mission with no weapons or equipment and you have to get everything OSP (on site procurement. This is a top secret black op). This one is pretty interesting because it forces you to be more creative about how you do things. Then the most typical one is an “extreme” mode which is just that enemies are a lot stronger. This makes no difference most of the time because you’re not supposed to be fighting anyway, but in the few missions where there’s a boss fight it’s actually a huge difference because enemies can kill you a lot more easily (sometimes in 1 shot) and they can take a gazillion more bullets.
So these are the main problems with this game and why even though I liked it a lot early on, I liked it less as time went on. Now I know what some of you out there might be saying. “Well, these things are OPTIONAL. You don’t HAVE to do them.” You know what else is optional? Playing the game at all. Is it acceptable for a game to be shitty because you don’t HAVE to play it? No. Is it acceptable for a game to be good halfway through and then shitty the other half because you can choose to stop playing it halfway through? No. Same deal. Is it acceptable for a game to have shitty filler because you don’t have to do it? No. If there is something in your game that isn’t fun, you either A) change it, or B) remove it.
And then we get to the end. My god. The story has always been an important part of the MGS series. Sure, it’s always had its problems, it might be kinda fucked up, but it was cool. After Phantom Pain though I’m convinced that Kojima is a fucking moron and a fraud. This game’s ending (if it can even be called that) is SUCH GARBAGE that I didn’t even want to finish up the last few missions and side-ops I had left (but I did anyway because there were so few left and if I’d already done that much I may as well go all the way). First of all there isn’t even a real ending. The unanswered questions and unresolved plot points are staggering. Is it to sell DLC? Supplementary material? It is, isn’t it? Fuck you. But most of all, the ending plot twist is so idiotic, so fraudulent, such a slap in the face. It manages to cheapen EVERYTHING that has happened so far. Actions, conversations, scenes, everything. Not just in this whole game, but it even extends out to cheapen much of the series in general. It’s so unbelievably stupid and nonsensical. It ruins everything. Plot-wise it would’ve been MUCH better if this game never existed. In fact, nothing of any value ever happens in this game so we may as well just act like it’s some bad fan fiction. It’s obvious that Kojima was like “Hmmm… there’s no story left for me to tell in this series…but I needa make another game! Let’s make up some TOTAL HORSE SHIT that’s simultaneously COMPLETELY POINTLESS and shits on everyone and everything!” Stupid fucking Kojima. Fuck him and fuck his stupid retcons and his horrible writing. I’m done.
Anyway, so that’s Phantom Pain. A game with a lot of promise that is marred by a terrible story and a lot of filler content that loses its appeal. I have a hard time recommending it. It’s not that bad, but… meh. I S ranked all the missions and completed all the tasks and all the side-ops, but in retrospect this game wasn’t worthy of all the time I spent on it.
Final Verdict: C
Final Playtime: 180 hours