You can watch my video review below:
So Metal Gear Solid goes open world. To this point, the series has been defined by its detailed, in depth, and some might say long-winded storyline elements. I’ve been a fan of this series all the way back to the days of Metal Gear Solid for the original Playstation. So how does the series cope with the drastically different format of open world storytelling? There have been complaints that the story for this game is weaker and less developed, and certainly there is a lot less storyline enforced on the player than the hours upon hours of cut scenes and FMVs that, in a way, dominated the previous games. But is that really a bad thing? If you can convey something in ten minutes instead of an hour, is that really a failing or is it a strength?
In my opinion, the storyline of the Phantom Pain is not weak but condensed. If you crave more than the skeleton of the story provided by the core missions, then all you need to do is check the cassettes that the game adds to your collection on a regular basis. Want to know about the political situation in Afghanistan or Africa, or how that new buddy you picked up is coping back in Mother Base? Then check your tapes and all will be gradually revealed. It is also worth returning to Mother Base regularly between missions for other cut scenes and additional content.
The Phantom Pain, for me, is a game in which the player is given control of the storyline rather than just being relentlessly pushed along by it in a fixed direction. You can choose between embarking on a core mission, one that will advance the story, taking on a side mission for money or resources to expand your base or just free roaming across Africa or Afghanistan and taking whatever challenges present themselves.
There is an expansive crafting system used to develop new weapons, armour and resources, which allows the player to specialise their gear load out to better fit their style of game play. If you like to hide on a hilltop and snipe the enemies before entering a strong hold then there is a whole line of increasingly powerful sniper rifles just waiting to be developed. If you prefer to use non lethal weapons then stun/tranquillising versions can be developed of pretty much every weapon in the game from machine guns to grenades. If you prefer just destroying everything that moves then you can create grenade launchers, rocket launchers and even a guided missile system for your helicopter, if you prefer getting someone else to the dirty work for you.
The possibilities are endless in this game and the real beauty of it is that the missions can be completed in as many different ways as there are players. There is no one set route that has to be taken. You can charge in through the front gates, guns blazing or sneak quietly through the back taking out guards and security cameras as you go. You can set a distraction and send all the guarding running to the other side of the base leaving you to walk calmly across to your target and extract/exterminate them while the guards are busy examining the barrel you just exploded. Variety is really key in this game. You can play the same mission a dozen times and it will never play out in the same way, as the game adapts to your tactics. You might find routes you previously took cut off, cameras will start popping up, guards might start wearing helmets or riot gear.
The more you favour one style of game play, the more your enemies will adapt to defend against it, either forcing you to up your game or try out other forms of infiltration. On more than one occasion, when I found my self frustrated by enemies all wearing steel helmets, I called in my support helicopter and had it bomb the target area while screaming out “Ha! Let’s see how your helmets guard against this!” Perhaps a slightly disproportionate reaction to the addition of a few helmets but the satisfaction of seeing the base engulfed by a wall of flame was priceless. Of course, you could just send out a team from your base on a combat mission to destroy the enemy’s storage sheds and halt the distribution of said helmets, but for immediate gratification there’s nothing like a grand explosion.
The Phantom Pain is an expansive game both in terms of game play and world size. The graphics are stunning. The screenshots taken are not even from the highest graphical setting due to the fact that my rig is actually near the bottom end of the system requirements spectrum. However, despite that the game is so well optimised that I can still play with the graphic settings on high with a decent frame rate throughout. I can only put that down to some impressive wizardry on Konami’s part. The game is so well polished that it positively gleams which is a welcome change from a lot of other AAA titles released lately which crash every five minutes and are so poorly optimised that even on the higher rigs, you feel like you’re watching the game through a zoetrope. This game has renewed my faith in big budget games and demonstrates that they can be released as an actual finished product and not just an expensive beta test experience.
So this is all good so far, where then is the bad stuff? Well, here it is. It’s the online elements. Now I would start by saying that the online element of the game is on the whole well thought out. You get a second base like your first which operates online collecting materials even when you are offline or not playing. Other players can invade your base and you can design and upgrade your security to prevent any invasions being successful by assigning a security team, setting up security cameras, mines, drones, etc. If the invader manages to slip through that security and makes it to the top of your platform then they can steal some of your high-ranking staff members, taken at random from your single player base.
If you are online and playing at the time the infiltration happens then you will be alerted and be given the chance to defend your base. If you are offline, eating, sleeping or, god forbid, working for a living, then you get penalised for that by being unable to defend your base and possibly having a number of your best staff stolen should your security team be unable to handle the situation. When you next log on those staff will vanish from your base. This, for me, is the only thorn in an otherwise excellent game, and I do not think it should put people off playing. But as you are forced to make this online base as part of the main mission chain, it is important to understand the dangers of not securing it properly.
This is a really well made game and I highly recommend it. Even if you haven’t played the rest of the series, it is still easy to pick up, being accessible to new players both in terms of game play elements, the basics of which are introduced in the starting tutorials, and the storyline which isn’t dependant on knowing the full MGS saga, which is a lucky thing because it has grown extremely complex. Just trying to follow the timeline will make you dizzy.
And this is my final round up:
Good Range of Game Play Elements
150 + Side Quests
An Excellent Crafting System
A Well Written if Condensed Storyline
The Online Element is Slightly Unfair to Casual Gamers
Katie lives in London; she loves playing games, is a published author, a digital artist and an astronaut. Okay, so one of those is a lie. Her blog can be found at http://kmalford.blogspot.co.uk/ and her twitch channel at http://www.twitch.tv/tailyna . You can also find her on steam as Tailyna.