WHAT UP INTERNET?!
Now that I’ve spent a fair amount of time immersed in the world of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (secret to all my Bros: Still haven’t knocked out the main story) I’m here to hit y’all with the TruBros 1ups and Buzzkills of it! As I indicated in my quick review of the title, I’m a big fan of the series overall and especially everything this title brings to the table. That being said, there are a number of things which could’ve been better with this title. Despite my love and adoration for Big Boss and his Diamond Dogs, a Bro has got to tell like it is-so let’s get to it!
The Metal Gear Solid series is fabled (or notorious, depending upon your perspective) for the complex-and at times, convoluted-narrative it weaves with each iteration. The first few hours of The Phantom Pain are extremely straightforward in terms of Big Boss’ purpose, and once you’re out on your own you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Although the primary narrative device (cassette tapes) are buried underneath a menu, being able to play them while you explore the land and gather resources is a welcome change from the non-playable cinematic portions which seemed to constitute all of Guns of the Patriots. These tapes and the non-playable cinematics help make the story of Big Boss easy to understand, even for newcomers to the series.
- Varied approach to missions
Traditionally, Metal Gear Solid has always contained a fairly linear mission structure-get from point A to point B however you see fit. With Phantom Pain, players are given the choice between tackling story missions or side missions, and they’re clearly differentiated from one another in your mission list. This approach ensures players don’t lose their bearings after putting the game down for a couple days, and makes sure you’re always able to jump in and play Metal Gear, which is a welcome change of pace for the series as a whole. Before you were only able to do the story, and the addition of side missions means 15-30 minute play sessions are now a viable option for players who don’t have time for constant marathon sessions.
- Detail in taking down a base
Taking down enemy bases is an integral part of The Phantom Pain. You can tackle an enemy base as a part of side or story mission, or simply be riding on your house, see a small outpost and decide to take it on. Feel like dropping in hot via your helicopter? That’s an option. Want to get dropped off miles away and sneak up? Can do. Prefer to neutralize all the guards before proceeding? Lethal or non-lethal, you’ve got options. Want to kill the lights to make sneaking easier? Hop to. Feel like going through the tunnels and avoiding conflict all together? More power to you. Don’t want your enemies to call for back up? Knock out their communications via the central control pad or each of the small satellites. Wasn’t able to drop in close due to their anti-air radar? Take it out and you can next time. The variety of methods for taking down bases ensures this task doesn’t grow old too quickly, and savvy players are able to approach their targets in a multitude of ways.
Everything you do in The Phantom Pain nets you resources and cost you-which is an unexpected (but welcome) addition to the series. Going out on a mission? Are you going to go bare-bones with just one primary weapon and a sidearm, and spend around 2000 GMP (the game’s currency) or are you going to go full-on with your best weapons, armor and tools? If so, be prepared to spend 5x that amount whether you use it or not. Considering GMP is used for acquiring and upgrading your weapons, improving your base and just going out on missions, this forces you to plan ahead and be mindful of your load-out. This small facet of the game puts players squarely in the legendary boots of Big Boss, as even the most legendary soldier of all time has to play the delicate balancing act of spending limited resources-the mark of a true leader, indeed!
- Building your army
Big Boss is a legendary leader in Metal Gear lore-even if you’re new to the series; this is reiterated to you after playing the opening sequence. Big Boss is a big deal, and people tend to follow big deals around. In order to staff his base, Big Boss reinforces his own mythos by stealing from his enemy-soldiers, resources, tanks, you name it-and co-opting them for himself and his cause. When you’re on a mission, you’re cognizant of the fact that everything you see, everything from a flower in the field to an enemy truck, can be used by the Diamond Dogs. The addition of this resource gathering is one of the most addictive aspects of The Phantom Pain. Every time you return to your Mother Base, you can see a new platform you built via resources you acquired on a particular grueling mission, or you’ll ride a truck you stole from one side of the base to the other. This ensures the work players are putting in while out in the field is tangible, and the desire to constantly improve your base is always present.
- Mother Base
Although players’ efforts are realized by the presence of captured items at Mother Base, once you’re physically there you can’t really do anything. After a few hours the base grows humongous in scope, and traveling from one side to the other via helicopter or truck takes a while. Once you go from one platform to the other you can participate in a shooting-gallery style side mission, search for hidden resources and…that’s about it. The addition of various rooms you can enter (there’s only a couple on the entire base) or activities could’ve made Mother Base a true destination-as it stands now apart from a couple side missions, there’s little reason to return there.
- Weapon customization
There are a large number of weapons you’re able to research and procure throughout the course of The Phantom Pain, however there’s little you can do in the way of customization. I for one gladly would’ve taken a reduced number of each weapon type (say, two shotguns, two rifles etc…and always a non-lethal type) with heavy customization options. The ability to add multiple types of scopes, barrels, stocks, skin or suppressors in order to change the usefulness of a weapon to cater to a distinct play-style-any and all of these would’ve allowed players to customize their armory to their heart’s desire, and it’s a peculiar omission from the title.
- Resource gathering (Plants, Metal, etc)
The balance of choosing what to spend your limited resources on-be it weapon upgrades for Big Boss, expanding your tools and gadget offerings, improving Mother Base-is one of the most intriguing aspects of The Phantom Pain. That being said, despite hours invested in this game I always find myself unable to research whatever next big upgrade I’m after due to a lack of materials. Apart from finding materials in the wild, some small side missions you can dispatch an automated team to complete and what you produce at Mother Base, you’re unable to gather additional materials. A handful of times I’ve reached maximum GMP, only to have a paltry amount of a certain material. Additional avenues for acquiring necessary materials could’ve eliminated a needless grind.
- Repetitive Missions
While there is an endless array of methods for tackling particular side missions (as story missions are almost always unique), there are only a few side missions you can do. Due to needing a certain material, or additional recruits for your base or perhaps because you’re low on GMP, you’re going to play a large number of side missions. Granted there are an endless number of ways for you to free that prisoner, eventually you’re going to free the same prisoner you’ve rescued multiple times from the same outpost-and rarely is repetitive ever fun.
- Traversing the map
I vehemently believe that regardless of how big you make your world, eventually players will complain it’s too small-chalk it up to the countless hours we’re going to spend in the product of your countless hours of labor. Traveling that world should seldom feel like a chore, and unfortunately this is a frequent occurrence during The Phantom Pain. Side missions are often spread far apart from one another and with your buddies as your only methods of ground transportation, more often than not you’ll find yourself simply returning to your helicopter and starting the next mission from there so you can be dropped off close to it. I’m glad the world is as large as it is, but there’s always got to be a way to fast travel (side note: There is a fast travel system between outposts, but it’s not explained well in game).
Despite my list of Buzzkills I’m here to tell you thus far The Phantom Pain is my game of the year, although I suspect Fallout 4 will give it a run for its money when it drops in November. Until then you know where I’ll be spending my time-riding my horse across Afghanistan and Africa as Big Boss. Until next time, Bros!
*All pictures stolen from Gameinformer