The Silent Snake

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review Screenshot

HIGH Infiltrating a heavily guarded enemy prison for the sole purpose of retrieving a copy of A-ha's 'Take on Me'.

LOW A lack of story motivation coupled with an overload of open-world repetition.

WTF Huey's role in the game.

It's been nine years since the end of Ground Zeroes, and Big Boss has been taking it easy ever since—not that he's really had much choice in the matter given that he's been comatose the entire time after getting blown out of the sky. Alas, all good things must come to an end, so after waking up at a particularly fortuitous moment he decides that it's probably a good idea to rebuild his private military and seek revenge on the people who wiped it off the face of the earth in the first place.

Oh, and he's missing an arm now. Bummer.

It's a pretty cool set up, but The Phantom Pain almost immediately jettisons all attempts at weaving a compelling storyline. Earlier games in the series have faced criticism over their lengthy cut-scenes, but The Phantom Pain proves that heading too far in the other direction is even worse—and Snake's sudden lack of interest in speaking to anyone doesn't help much either. He's practically a silent protagonist now. For a large part of the midgame, there seems to be little personal motivation to get anything done in this new, open world entry beyond satisfying Snake's bizarre kleptomaniacal leanings.

See, to rebuild Mother Base and get his PMC back on track Snake has to procure equipment and personnel in the field—usually by implementing a Fulton device, which is essentially hooking balloons to them and watching them shoot into the sky where they'll be picked up and reprocessed for his own use. Nothing quite like staffing a base full of previously hostile combatants as far as efficiency goes, right? Anything's fair game, from enemy soldiers and gun emplacements to random goats and donkeys just wandering around the warzone. It all proves beneficial in the end.

Snake doesn't have to go it alone this time out either. There's a new buddy system in place where friends he picks up along the way can help him out in the field including an absurdly cute dog, a magnificent stallion, a bipedal manned robot thing and a mute sniper there for the befriending, and they all spend the rest of the game trying their level best to out-silence one another.

As for how it plays… well, it's generally okay. The open world is strangely and disappointingly lifeless. One outpost feels much the same as any other in their approach with few unique twists to enliven any of them. My basic approach from beginning to end rarely had to evolve beyond surveying the area with binoculars, tranquilizing everyone in sight and Fultoning out staff as required. Gone are the days when each area felt like a uniquely crafted puzzle to overcome—the open world and patrol patterns makes enemy placement feel almost haphazard by comparison.

The truth is that there were far too many times where I felt irritated or bored rather than excited and enthralled whilst playing The Phantom Pain. Guard behaviour is often bizarre—they can spot Snake running while he's a veritable pinprick in the distance, but will have to walk to within arm's length to locate him if he's squatting in the middle of a brightly lit airfield. They'll immediately call in a report if they spot that local resources are gone, but will jerk around like befuddled imbeciles if members of their group start dropping like flies around them with tranquilizer darts sticking out of their foreheads.

Checkpointing can also be completely dire, and getting spotted because Snake judders up against a pebble and stands up rather than crawling smoothly over it is thoroughly aggravating. It's not like it happens every five minutes, but in a game where stealth is stressed so heavily these moments stand out like a dead guard nailed to a door. Losing in excess of twenty minutes of playtime as a result of accidentally sliding down a ledge that looked like it should provide stable footing isn't a great deal of fun.

The game as a whole also seems significantly less focused on victimless stealth than most previous entries in the series. The non-lethal approach essentially doesn't work in several areas, so getting Snake's hands bloody is a necessity. This led to wasting time waiting for decent weapons to develop in the latter half of the game, because there's now a real-time mobile inspired waiting mechanic where ordering equipment might take Snake's R&D teams an hour and a half to research and craft a new shotgun. It's a pointless addition and a complete waste of time.

It's not all bad, mind. The FOB missions are great, enticing players to invade the Mother Base of other gamers in a bid to steal their personnel and resources—and possibly facing off against one another as they do so. It also does the job of providing an open world sandbox to faff around in reasonably well, it generally looks really nice and has an excellent soundtrack to stealth along to, but I found each individual moment paling in comparison to what had been achieved previously. None of the enemy outposts were as interestingly or intricately designed as the Helipad on Shadow Moses. None of the boss fights came remotely close to reaching the highs of Revolver Ocelot, The Boss, Gray Fox, The Fear or Metal Gear ZEKE. The moments on offer here are, on the whole, comparatively tame.

In a lot of ways The Phantom Pain feels unfinished, which is admittedly one hell of a trick for a game that took around sixty hours to play through. Story threads are few and far between, often petering out limply just as they have the opportunity to become interesting, and the less said about the bizarre, awkward 'conversation' held in the back of a jeep during a critical story moment, the better. Furthermore, Skull Face is absolutely wasted after his impressive debut in Ground Zeroes.

It's kind of insane that the spiritual follow up to Peace Walker and easily the most ambitious Metal Gear title to date somehow winds up as arguably the least interesting entry overall, but there it is. Rating: 6 out of 10


Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the Playstation 4. Approximately 70 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 time) and 5 hours of play in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood and gore, intense violence, strong language and suggestive themes. It's not for kids, but it's also not exactly what I'd call excessively brutal. The easily offended may also take umbrage at Quiet walking about in a bikini and fishnets. The nerve of that woman!

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: There's a lot of visual information and subtitles to help players out, but being unable able to hear environmental clues, alarms and the like will undoubtedly put those hard of hearing at a disadvantage.

Darren Forman

Darren Forman

Spawned in the wilds of Scotland like some random MMORPG enemy whose sole purpose is to be hunted down and slaughtered for loot, young Darren spent the first fifty years of life eating bark and bears alike in a desperate bid to survive the elements.

The chance discovery of a muddy, burnt out copy of '50 Shades of Grey' in a hunting pit gave him an appreciation for complex plots, characters and overarching narrative, and the unexpected gift of a Spectrum 48k allowed him to indulge in these newfound sensibilities with intelligent, highbrow games such as 'flee from the badly animated spinning turquoise dolphins' or 'avoid the deadly glowing bricks of doom'.

The fusion of both these interests finally culminated with Darren teaching himself how to write by basically guessing at what words might look like when jotted down on paper as opposed to being howled inarticulately at the skies.

Now others occasionally get to read his scribblings. Lucky them.
Darren Forman

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18 Comments on "Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review"

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Ahrfry
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I’m 100% with you. I got S Rank in all missions. Went deep into the game, but still find this the worst metal gear I have played. I simply had no sympathy for the characters. Ocelot became a costumer service attendant. Crawling down small ledges… jesus.. wont even go into that.

The outposts were all the same to me. I would either speed-run it, punch everyone or just sleep-fulton them.

No part of the game were even close to climax moments such as fighting Liquid, shirtless, on top of a metal gear.

Your review is great!

Anonymous
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Oh yes, you can’t merely disagree with people, you must also declare your intellectual superiority for having the opinion you do.

Anew
Guest

Thank You! Some people are not just intelligent enough, haha no creativity so they repeat them selves and blame the guy who left it out for people do decide how to play the damn game!
It’s ok dude average people, avarage IQ, maybe even Below avarage…

Anonymous
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Same here. I felt the users that gave this a 10/10 only played a few hours. That or they felt so robbed of their money that they’re in phantom denial. They go into zero detail about the game, except that this game is amazing and it’s the best thing ever. Almost like they were paid..

Valtiel
Guest
I couldn’t disagree more. The game is masterfully done, with only the rushed ending counting against it. The gameplay is best in class, and every single outpost is well designed and allows for multiple strategies. The AI is tuned to provide a challenge while still being fair, and the way they adapt to your tactics (such as wearing helmets if you rely on headshots) keeps you on your toes. The game is also massive, with well over a hundred hours worth of content. I would suggest playing the game with Reflex turned off, however. It makes the game far too… Read more »
Li
Guest
Just finished MGS5 last night, after about 60 hours of play. While I thoroughly enjoyed Part 1 of the game, it really started falling apart in Part 2. Irritation was what I felt quite often in Part 2, which undid all the good work the first part did. And then the final reveal. I don’t want to sound smug, but: figured it out way ahead of time 😉 I just recently played Snake Eater, and while the gameplay of Snake Eater is a pile of horse dung on a carpet made from rotten eggs, the overall story was compelling and… Read more »
Chris Caskie
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This is the best, most honest evaluation of MGSV that I’ve read so far, and it mimics my impressions of the game to a “T”. It’s a great game that’s certainly worth playing, but it has huge flaws that the mainstream critical press seems either hesitant to discuss or lacks the critical skills to be able to identify. I’m still playing it because it’s a fun stealth sandbox (literally) made more interesting by Kojima’s irreverent approach, and it’s great to fiddle with all the tools & toys, but this ain’t no Metal Gear (it feels more like Splinter Cell or… Read more »
Anonymous
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This reviewer gets it right

Anonymous
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“First honest review of the dozens i’ve read”

So you think all the people who claimed to enjoy the game were lying?

Or do you mean this is the first review that you personally agree with?

Darren Forman
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Hey Upselo, thanks for commenting! The guard behaviour was lightly touched upon in the review when I mentioned how they’ll radio in about missing supplies and react to their friends spontaneously collapsing on the spot in a peculiarly blase manner. Also, their equipment is easily reset by sending out a few combat deployments to smash up their equipment sheds, so their upgrades and countermeasures didn’t really strike me as too important as there’s a very simple workaround. Even then, armored dudes often just got choked out in my game until those combat missions succeeded and their equipment was reset back… Read more »
upselo
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I’m a bit disapppointed the review doesn’t reflect the array of options at the player’s disposal when tackling an outpost. Summing it up by marking everyone with binoculars, tranquilizing everyone and fultoning them seems a broad shortcut, given the tension I felt, and the various behaviours exhibited by the guards (radioing with HQ, teaming up to investigate noises, getting better gear as the game progressed). Sure, it’s not perfect and the length of the game induces a lot of repetition by the time the credits rolled, but the most overpowered items (silenced tranq sniper namely) are not readily available without… Read more »
Anonymous
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okay then, bring on the 2nd opinion please. And third…

Han Solo
Guest

There’s always that one freakin guy… this guy should be banned from getting on metacritic….

Anonymous
Guest

First honest review of the dozens i’ve read. Could have went a lot further;
– poor buddy AI
– no sound options
– no interior complexes
– very small maps/series of roads(afghanistan), barren map(africa)
– no worthwhile compounds, those that are there are tiny
– almost no manual/explanation of mechanics
– waste of ocelot’s character
– the over-focus on Miller
– awful voice performances
– unsuitable gimmick that is the fulton system
– base building is good fun, just takes drowns out what characterised Metal Gear Solid – weapon OSP, isolation, story.
– and of courses THAT revelation, that makes the entire game redundant.

An awful, awful game. 6/10 was generous.

Kostchtchie
Guest
you done good review, keep it real because all them big sites are faKe there is so much wrong with MGSv open empty paste and copy bases/outposts story starts strong but gets weaker halfway through it, till it all but disapears at the end chapter 2? what happen to it, there was nothing there side opts rinse and repeat again and again not enough extreme/stealth replay missions they talked so much about motherbase that in the end it was pointless and usless, i had all motherbase/fob complete before i hit the multiplayer, then it was pointless dojng it less u… Read more »
Mel23Goku
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So far this is the best game I ever hoped for. I was asking the sales person before I bought the game hoping that it was more than 4 to 6 hours of game play so I’d get the max value of the game & it did. Not only that I play the missions but there’s side missions as well. Thank you Hideo Kojima & Konami! I got rid of he Kabam’s Marvel contest of champions just in time for this game & I’m glad that I will never play their poor gaming system & rewards! Thanks to this game… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

What a Clickbait-Review. =/

Anonymous
Guest

I couldn’t agree more with your masterful review. Everything you stated is absolutely accurate and you are on point with your well deserved comments. I was totally bored with this game after about 4 hours, and I really love all stealth games!

Thank you so much for the excellent and honest review!!

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