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Over the years I’ve played a number of legendary video game series, but above all my absolute favorite has been the Metal Gear Solid series. When I played the original Metal Gear Solid on the first PlayStation, I was positively blown away, and each subsequent console installment has lived up to my lofty personal expectations. While the story has grown more convoluted at years (explaining the backstory to my partner-in-crime as I replayed Guns of the Patriots last year made me come to grips with this fact)my love for the world of Snake has only grown over the years. Knowing The Phantom Pain could possibly be the final entry in my beloved series, I’ve devoted numerous hours recently to immersing myself in Big Boss’ world and I’m here to hit you with the TruBros quick review (short and sweet: you need to check this game out)!
Metal Gear Solid has always been a series which combines the cinematic aspects of storytelling with an intriguing blend of “Tactical Stealth Espionage” gameplay. The series has always attempted to tell complex, overarching stories throughout each of its iterations, and the trend continues in The Phantom Pain. I won’t spoil any of the plot details for, but the story is just as engaging and interesting (and non-playable cinematics are not nearly as long as they were in Guns of the Patriots) as fans of the series have come to expect from a title bearing the Metal Gear moniker. Additionally, considering this entry takes place chronologically after Snake Eater (although I’ll confess I did not play either of the series’ PSP entries) the story is much easier to follow. The game also does a good job of catching players up on Big Boss’ backstory during the opening sequence-which meant I didn’t have to explain too much to my partner-in-crime while I played through it!
The most noticeable change in The Phantom Pain is that of Big Boss himself-the familiar growl of David Hayter, who voiced Snake in all previous console entries, has been replaced by Keifer Sutherland. When I first caught wind of this change I was turned off as many supporters of Metal Gear were, but after just a few minutes the gravitas Sutherland brings to the role is immediately apparent. Big Boss is not as talkative as Solid Snake (due to the elimination of long-winded Codec conversations as the primary narrative device) and when he does speak, players are able to feel the respect emanating from both his allies and adversaries. Every time Boss speaks, those around-the player included-want to know what he has to say.
The other significant change from previous entries is the addition of Mother Base as a place you can both upgrade and visit. When in the field players are able to capture enemy soldiers and gear via the airborne Fulton recovery system, and whatever is recovered contributes to the strength of Big Boss’ Diamond Dogs strength. Metal Gear Solid has always been about exploring secrets and acquiring the best gear, and the addition of a resource/GMP (currency) based economy raises a balancing act between not only what Boss takes with him when undertaking missions, but also where to invest your limited resources. Fortunately there are a wealth of missions and side-missions available to you at all times, meaning there’s ample opportunity to acquire resources of all types.
That being said, the mission structure-while freeing, especially when juxtaposed to previous entries in the Metal Gear series-is not without its limitations. Narrative-centric missions are clearly differentiated from your side-missions in your screen; however side-missions must be completed for a multitude of reasons-chiefly, acquiring materials to upgrade your arsenal. Once a handful of side-missions have been completed, they remain available for completion to gather additional resources…however you’ll essentially be replaying the same missions, with the same goal, in the same area quite frequently. Although I have yet to go through the entire main story (the desire to secure additional resources for my gear and Mother Base is too alluring), considering the relatively small number of types of side-missions available, and I can certainly see these getting repetitive rather quickly.
Big Boss essentially explores one giant area of Afghanistan while riding a horse (it’s Metal Gear-it doesn’t always make sense) but at any time you’re able to return to your helicopter and get dropped off at a different area of the map, making exploration-while at times tedious-not difficult. Additionally, there are a large number of weapons available (and multiple options if you enjoy playing non-lethally such as myself) which provide numerous possibilities for completing missions. Even if you’ve replayed the same side mission multiple times, approaching from different angles, utilizing a different load-out and deciding to recover every resource available means you’re never short on options.
The gameplay is as tight as previous Metal Gears, however the shooting feels even more precise than before. The sneaking (while at times frustrating-typically when you’re spotted out of nowhere) is made easier by the addition of a “bullet-time” like mechanism whenever you’re spotted, allowing you to quickly dispatch guards before they alert their comrades. The gameplay is tight without the issues which plagued previous iterations, and thus far this is easily one of the best games I’ve played in 2015.
Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain looks to be an ending worthy of the Metal Gear Solid namesake, and while I’ve yet to complete it I’ve no doubt the narrative will continue to keep me glued to my controller. Even if you’ve never played any of the previous titles, I’d recommend picking this game up if you’re a fan of third-person action, as the narrative does a solid job of keeping players up to date. Until next time, Bros!
*All pictures stolen from Gameinformer