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Old 10-05-2015   #1
Don Chipotle
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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Note: Reviewed with a PS4 copy because fuck you if you play it on a non Sony console

Hideo Kojima is a fucking liar.

This isn't anything new, he's practically made a career out of being a liar. One of the best games of the PS2 era was marketed as one giant lie and was made by Kojima; and how many times has he said that the newest Metal Gear Solid is the last one he'll make. I remember hearing it after Snake Eater and then again after Guns of the Patriots and now here we are, after Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes, with what is probably the actual legitimate final Metal Gear Solid game ever made: The Phantom Pain. Considering the state of Konami, mainly that Pro Evolution is the only video game that'll bear their logo from here on out, MGS V: TPP might very well be considered the swan song of the entire company, let alone the MGS series as a whole. And considering it was marketed as the final link in the saga it's hard to picture a more apropos release from Konami.

Because like the common reaction upon learning that Konami was focusing on mobile and gambling, Metal Gear Solid V is horseshit.

Hideo Kojima is a fucking liar.

Metal Gear Solid V should have been something amazing, something truly spectacular. Say what you will about the series as a whole but the franchise has been memorable. Psycho Mantis is an iconic boss fight. Raiden is still one of the greatest rug pulls in video game history because it's a twist that ONLY works in the context of a video game sequel. The ending of Snake Eater has made idiots think that that game is great when it's actually only good. Even MGS 4 had the memorable final boss fight to serve as the coda to a game full of nonsense and underutilized mechanics. Love them or hate them, Metal Gear is not a series that players forget.

MGS V, to its credit, does open strongly. While not as out there as the opening to 4, Phantom Pain's opening moments offer an almost genre-bending experience that both serves as an introduction to the plot and a tutorial of basic mechanics. And that sense of awe continues into the first real aspect of the game. After the intro you're plopped into an area, given a few basic weapons and items, an objective, and that's all. Unlike the other games, Phantom Pain presents itself as an open world and that's both true and false. Yes, there is an open map to run around in but once missions start you're locked into specific areas and often funneled towards a certain destination.

The open world is both the most impressive and the least interesting aspect of the game. While the Ubisoft or Rockstar games can often be bogged down with having too much shit to do in their open worlds, MGS V has the OPPOSITE problem. It has nothing to do in its open world. When you're not doing a mission you can run around its two (yes, TWO) areas all you like but you'll soon come to realize that there's really no point in doing this.

Say, for example, you're out in the Afghanistan (ONE of the TWO WHOLE AREAS!) desert and you come across a guard post because this game is actually fucking Far Cry 2. Say you're feeling gleeful and you decide to just fucking blow it up. Guard tower, lights, comms system, the guards taken out of the picture, and the paltry collectible resources gathered. As soon as you return to that guard post the only thing that ISN'T back exactly as it was are the resources.

Nothing you do in the open world amounts to anything at all except that if you shoot guys in the head a bunch some of them might wear helmets because that's Kojima's idea of EMERGENT GAMEPLAY! This might not seem like a big deal to some but here's the ringer. With the way this game is structured (as in, FUCKING POORLY) you'll be coming back through the exact same areas over and over again and if you've found one way to get through an area flawlessly, that same tactic will work over and over and over again. The A.I. will follow the same routines, the guard layout will be exactly the same, and the only random part is whether or not it will rain or kick up a sandstorm.

The structure of the game is probably its biggest problem. No longer shackled to the tagline of 'tactical espionage action', Phantom Pain calls itself 'tactical espionage operations' which is a fancy way of saying 'a bunch of non related missions with vaguely similar objectives'. The very first mission of the game is rescuing a prisoner from an enemy base. The next handful of missions are rescuing prisoners from an enemy base.

There are two tiers of missions, Story and Side Ops. Side Ops are generally quick affairs where you go in and have a single objective and boom, done. These objectives number in about the fives. You save a prisoner, extract a skilled soldier, extract a container of resources, extract soldiers that are wearing body armor, rescue prisonerS that sometimes are from your pool of recruited guys or aren't. Oh, and mine clearing. And these side ops never have any difference. There's 150-some odd side ops made up of the same exact type and structure being carried out in the same exact areas you've been through before with the same exact guard patterns and rotations.

Story Missions don't often fare much better, just that since they are in controlled areas they can give the illusion of difference. The story missions are largely uninteresting and have nothing to do with the plot of the game. After you rescue the first prisoner the next mission in the story mission tab is destroying comm equipment...that magically gets undestroyed anyway. The argument could be made that it's a tutorial, but it's an ineffective one and what's the argument that the next four missions are all the same exact mission type? You only need one tutorial for 'you can capture soldiers with a balloon' and yet most of the missions consist of some variety of 'go to place, discover target is at different place, go to new place, take care of target'. That target can be a person, people, or a thing.

The game doesn't start bothering having meaningful missions until you've tired yourself of doing the same exact stuff, and then it tricks you into thinking that the missions to go to a place and find a thing are different than the twenty other missions just because this one has a tenuous connection to the narrative.

And by tenuous connection I mean "the mission ends and you get a literal Call of Duty thing where a faceless voice tells you that what you did means this while still images of in game assets bleep bloop past'.

Were I a betting man I would put money on Hideo Kojima wanting to make some kind of big budget episodic game. Every single story mission has opening credits (STARRING PUNISHED "VENOM" SNAKE, KAZUHIRA "BENEDICT" MILLER, REVOLVER "SHALAFUCKYOI" OCELOT") and ending credits for no reason whatsoever other than to flat out spoil you as the what the mission will include. Gee, thanks for telling me in the OPENING CREDITS that this mission will have an appearance by the SKULLS, Kojima, now I know the mission will suck ass instead of just guessing.

And it isn't just the fact that every mission has credits that I think Kojima wanted to do episodic shit, it's the fact that the game ends and then keeps going under the guise of it being a new episode. There's a Prologue then it segues into Episode One where you spend the majority of your time, and after a mission there's actual legitimate end credits and a resolution to an arc; then after the credits it's a 'NEXT TIME ON METAL GEAR Z' teaser. Just like an episodic game. But episodic games don't cost sixty fucking dollars.

They also don't release unfinished.

What MGS V does well is the part where you're on the ground. This is far and away the best playing MGS game because it plays like an actual fucking video game. Taking cues from modern Splinter Cell and shooters like Far Cry 3, MGS V allows players to legit approach things from how they want. MGS 4 sorta kinda teased this but it was still better and faster to use non lethal tactics. MGS V gives you way more options to just go fucking crazy and shooty. Every main mission has a rating attached and speed is by far the quickest route to S ranks, so if you run in and kill everything and know the route you can get an S rank just the same as if you go slow and get no alerts or kills. Pick your poison.

It's sublime stealth and I mean that. I personally rolled through the game with a silenced tranq sniper rifle and had little trouble and got my fair share of S ranks on a first go. There are tons of options at your disposal in the field and it's the first time there's true freedom in a game like this.

Which is why it's a shame that it's wasted on a game that is so utterly repetitive and dull as this one. The most fun I had was having my character infiltrate bases while doing side ops and blasting the song 'Gloria' (found on an in game cassette tape) on loop and pretending that my character was in some kind of Tarantino film wherein that song played over a shoot out.

With the gameplay being as refined as it is and the structure being what it is this game feels like the game for people who thought the problem with Metal Gear Solid was that the cutscenes got in the way. The series wasn't the best controlling until 4 came along but they weren't terrible; some of the CQC funnies in 3 were awkward but once you got the control layout down it was fine.

MGS V presents itself as gameplay first and to some that's probably enough to overlook how dull the mission-to-mission and general structure of the game truly is. But the focus on the gameplay means that the other part of MGS is gutted.

There's a plot in MGS V. I think. But it's presented terribly, told even worse, and is far and away the worst thing Kojima has written. And the motherfucker wrote MGS 4. Look, the stories in MGS have never been amazing, but they were nothing if not unique (except for 3 which is a bad Bond movie saved by the last half hour and 1 which is Metal Gear 2 with a budget) and at least tricked idiots into thinking there was depth beyond "NUCLEAR WAR AND WAR IS BAD" because characters would sit around talking about genes and memes and shit. MGS 2 is the only one I'd consider to have substance behind what's there on the surface and that's just one of the reasons why it's the best game in the series.

MGS V presents itself as the story of how after a nine year coma Big Boss wakes up and rebuilds his private army from Peace Walker because the ultimate end result of Big Boss is that Outer Heaven and Zanzibarland happen. There's some stuff about Cipher (Proto-Patriots) and the antagonist Skull Face (who sucks as a character) and a new Metal Gear (that is somehow the most impressive in the entire franchise despite being in the 80s) because of course there's a fucking robot.

Not to get into spoiler territory but the story is fucking garbage and it's not just because there's so little of it or that it ends halfway through or that it's literally fucking unfinished, it's just a shitty story even by MGS standards. The characters, if you want to call them that, are all flat and one dimensional and...boring. Ocelot, perhaps one of the more outlandish and yet interesting characters in the series, doesn't even remotely act like Ocelot; he's just kind of...there, doing nothing and sounding like Troy Baker doing his Last of Us voice. Kazuhira Miller is angry and that's all. Big Boss says little and all of what he says is pointless and adds nothing. Skull Face was more interesting back in Ground Zeroes when he actually did shit. Otacon's Dad is Otacon, But Worse. The mysterious supernatural antagonist that shoots fire is the fucking stupidest thing. Eli has no point in the story other than being a shit with a plot thread that goes nowhere because it's an unfinished game.

The only sort of redeeming figure in the story is Quiet, the silent sniper, and that's because she's the only one that has an arc. She stands out because fucking no one else does.

The game presents itself as the missing link in the saga and that's not exactly true. I'm not sure people realize that Big Boss' heel turn happened in Peace Walker so there's really nothing left. And hey, guess what, there's only fucking one thing that happens in this game that fills in any missing link between Big Boss-era MGS and Solid Snake-era MGA. AND IT'S NOT EVEN ANYTHING THAT NEEDED TO BE FILLED IN. They could at least explain why Ocelot is known as Revolver Ocelot even though Revolver Ocelot was his FOXHOUND title and FOXHOUND isn't a thing in this game but nope. Motherfucker's name is Adamska, motherfucker introduced himself to fucking Big Boss. He's not Revolver Ocelot yet and he's not Ocelot just because he was part of the Ocelot Unit fucking twenty goddamn years ago fucking call him Adam god damn you. He fucking joined FOXHOUND in fucking 1999 god damn you.

Think of things that define MGS as a franchise and they're pretty much nowhere to be found in V. Codec? Replaced by cassette tapes so instead of seeing a face talking to us we get just voices that get drowned out by outside audio anyway (something that DIDN'T happen in Ground Zeroes) thus making them silly. Boss fights? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahhhaha hahahahahaahhaahahahahahah, there's one. Okay. Two. But one of them is a rehash of a better fight from a better game. Cutscenes? Fuck right off if you expect those. Moments of absurd Japanese bullshit in the face of serious shit? Well there's a tape of someone pooping and there are posters of models and that's about it.

I've said little about the other part of the game, Mother Base. It's largely pointless. You extract dudes, numbers go up, you find one hidden thing on one platform and realize nothing special exists on any other and sigh in disappointment because this big hyped feature is fucking nothing. Oh and then taking cues from fucking free to play phone games you have to wait hours for the base to expand or for weapons to be made; but fucking free to play phone games have the decency to count time even when not playing. In MGS V if something takes four hours to finish that's four hours of play time, not four hours of 'turn the clock ahead to finish' or 'turn the system off overnight to finish'. At most you're going to have to leave the game running for hours while sitting in the helicopter. Fucking Dragon Age 3 did this shit better.

Mother Base is poor.

MGS V feels like Peace Walker but in larger form and like Peace Walker, MGS V is a bad game. Okay, let me clarify.

If MGS V were made by Ubisoft or was the first in a hopefully new IP, it'd be a begrudging three out of five. But since this has Metal Gear Solid on the box, suddenly it's this amazing thing even though it's a game where the only thing it has going for it is that it plays like a game made in 2015 should play. MGS 4 had more interesting mechanics with its opposing factions thing in the first two chapters than anything MGS V brings to the table.

MGS V is an okay game. But MGS V is a shit awful Metal Gear Solid game.

So I give it a 2 out of 5.

And if this is the grand finale of the franchise then Konami was right to cut ties with Hideo Kojima.

Because Hideo Kojima is a fucking liar.

How dreamlike to see my x-sisters, outside the context of a Papa Song dome. They sang Papa Song’s Psalm, over and over; background hydraulics underbassed that sickening melody. But how jubilant they sounded! Their Investment was paid off. The voyage to Hawaii was under way, and their new life on Xultation would shortly begin... Watching them from the hangway, I envied their certainty about the future.
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