Article by: James Kidd
With over seventy hours in on my Steam copy of “Metal Gear Solid V,” I feel conflicted. Never before have I put so much time into a game and genuinely enjoyed it, and yet still felt disappointed by it in the end. “Metal Gear Solid V” is an anomaly of AAA proportions: a fantastic and extremely accessible finale to the series, but one that’s also lacking and more troublingly, doesn’t REALLY end.
Even as a more recent fan of the “Metal Gear Solid” series who played through the series in the months leading up to “The Phantom Pain” and binged the summaries of the story, I still haven’t the slightest idea what has really happened throughout most of the series. Luckily, the fifth entry in the series is the lightest on story, with the main plot mostly only consisting of Big Boss, the protagonist of “Metal Gear Solid 3,” as he wakes up from a nine year coma and seeks vengeance against the mysterious Skull Face and his renegade army, finishing his transformation into the villain of the later “Metal Gear” games. Along the way, he meets up with frenemy Ocelot, partner Kaz, and a super powered –albeit scantily dressed for absurd reason—sniper by the name of Quiet.
Going into this game, I was honestly surprised at first with the lack of ten plus minute cutscenes, a favorite of the series creator, Hideo Kojima, and that Big Boss was, for the most part, a silent protagonist. Instead, most of the plot is told via cassette tapes that you can play during the game, which, while being an interesting decision, is still a bit of a disappointment and a waste of newcomer Kiefer Sutherland’s voice, as he does a much better job of handling the Boss’s voice than David Hayter, in my opinion. However, if you are a lover of the insane and borderline nonsensical plots that Kojima spins in each entry, don’t fear! You will still find more than enough incredibly picky parasites, giant robots, psychic children, and character duplicates to satisfy your inner B-list movie fan.
However, the actual gameplay is hands down where “The Phantom Pain” shines. The once clunky controls of the earlier series is thrown out in favor of a much more modern one that was already shown off in the games prologue, “Ground Zeroes.” It really does wonders too, as there were very few times that I could blame the controls for getting me caught in a stealth encounter, making the game much more accessible to newcomers and incredibly fun for all. The stealth gameplay is essentially perfected in here in part from that, and every mission felt expertly balanced, being a challenge, but still very fair.
Also, for the very first time, “Metal Gear Solid V” introduces an open world, and not only does it work, it is absolutely spectacular. I was a little cautious regarding this at first, since I didn’t want to be caught by a random guard that happened to be waltzing by when I was trying to fulton an enemy soldier back to Mother Base, but the introduction of “reflex mode” that puts the game in slow motion whenever you get noticed helps alleviate this greatly. You can tell that Kojima and his crew put an insane amount of effort into the world, as it is one of the best looking games around, as well as packing an absurd amount of detail, from random sandstorms to your horse going to the bathroom. The 80’s soundtrack that can be found throughout the game is also very much on point, as I never thought that I would enjoy blasting “Kids in America” while sneaking into a base under the cover of night.
However while there are a few quirks that I didn’t really like (the two main areas, while very detailed, are pretty much barren), there are two major aspects that caused me much disappointment, and prevented it from cementing it as one of my top games of all time: the rampant sexism. While “Metal Gear” games in the past have had their fair share of T&A ogling looking at you, “MGS4”), they were at least easily overlooked and not a main focus. “Phantom Pain,” on the other hand, immediately shoves the camera down the cleavage or butt of any female character when they walk into the room, most notably for Quiet. Already stuck in a bikini for the entirety of the game due to (ridiculous) plot reasons, every time you take her in the helicopter with you, the game camera focuses in on her jiggling breasts and butt, which is not only gross and pervy, but completely unnecessary. There is nothing wrong with sex appeal in a game, but for a game to be like this today is completely unacceptable.
Since this has come into much heated discussion as of late, I feel like I should also address the ending of the game (spoiler free, of course!). While I didn’t have much of an issue with the twist, as it totally makes sense in the series cannon, as well as adding an interesting wrinkle to it, the fact that the game just stops was very jarring to me, as well as serving as a very awkward conclusion. The massive budget for this game, as well as Kojima’s tendency to get a bit carried away, is most likely what contributed to the third chapter being scrapped, but that doesn’t make its absence any less unsatisfactory.
“Metal Gear Solid V,” without a doubt in my mind, is absolutely one of the biggest games this generation in scope. With the perfected controls and gameplay, incredibly detailed world, and pure entertainment, is an absolute must buy for any fans of the series, as well as anyone who was curious about jumping on board with everyone else. It’s just a shame that the story, development troubles, and gross handling of its sole female character held it back from perfection and being the true comeuppance that the long running series deserved.