Metal Gear Solid V - The Phantom Pain Background and Review

There are spoilers here for the previous games in the series, however there will be nothing spoiled for The Phantom Pain.

Firstly, the Metal Gear Solid series is one of the greatest series that I have played to date, however they have been a little bit all over the place with where the games sit and how the story progresses. To help understand where Metal Gear Solid V - The Phantom Pain sits in the scheme of things I will offer these bits of advice. Ignoring the original Metal Gear Solid game from the PSOne, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots will remove the story line of the different character Solid Snake. Solid Snake is not the Snake that you play as in the other games. Solid Snake is the son of Big Boss, or Snake from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Portable Ops, Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes.

So the back story of The Phantom Pain starts off with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and goes like this. Set in 1964 during the Cold War, Snake worked for Fox and was deployed into the Soviet Jungle under the code name Naked Snake. Snakes mission was to rescue a weapons designer by the name of Sokolov. This mission was deemed a failure as Snake was attacked and injured by his former mentor and ally known as The Boss. The Boss was a legendary US female soldier who has not apparently defected to the Soviet and joined the GRU officer Volgin. Volgin launches a US made nuke on Russian soil and frames the US. Snake is redeployed to return and kill his mentor, The Boss. This mission was known as "Operation Snake Eater". After completing this and saving the day, Snake is given the name Big Boss after defeating The Boss. Big Boss later learns that his mentor The Boss was actually a double agent who infiltrated the Soviets and died for the very nation that everyone believes that she betrayed. This angered Big Boss and he turned his back on the US.

The next game in line is Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and being a PSP original title, this game is much smaller and doesn't add too much to the storyline. The year is 1970 and Big Boss is being held prisoner his former unit "Fox". Fox has now gone rogue and Big Boss has been blamed for this regardless of the fact that he had absolutely nothing to do with it. Big Boss forms the Special Forces Group "Fox Hound" with the intent to bring Fox down.

The next game in the series is Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. The year is 1974 and Big Boss has met a new friend Kazuhira "Kaz" Miller. Together they form their own military unit known as the "Militaires Sans Frontieres" or the MSF which means "Soldiers without Borders". It is within this story that Big Boss also meets Paz, who shows Big Boss a recording containing the voice of The Boss which appears to have been recently recorded. It is later learnt that the voice on the tape is actually an advanced AI used in a bi-pedal Metal Gear Peace Walker weapon that is based on The Boss. The Soviets attempt to hijack Metal Gear and is stopped in their tracks by Big Boss when he destroys the Peace Walker. Big Boss now learns that Paz, who was originally thought to be his friend, has actually double crossed him and hijacked Big Boss's own Metal Gear nuclear weapon known as Metal Gear Zeke. Paz offers Big Boss an ultimatum requesting that Big Boss surrender the MSF to the enemy or she will use Zeke to fire a nuke at the US, once again framing Big Boss and his unit. Big Boss obviously refuses this offer and attacks Zeke. In the process of destroying Zeke, Paz is thrown into the water and presumed dead. After these events, Snake gives his good friend Kaz the go ahead to kick off Mother Base or "Outer Heaven" and start expanding their operation. This brings us to the end of Peace Walker.

The next game in the series is Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes which is a prologue to The Phantom Pain. At the start of Ground Zeroes, the UN requests an inspection of the MSF and Mother Base due to a suspicion that they possess a nuclear weapon. MSF do have a Metal Gear unit and in preparation for the inspection, they attempt to hide it under the ocean. In the midst of organising this, the MSF receive Intel that Paz survived and is being held captive at Camp Omega. Chico, a child operative of the MSF attempts to rescue Paz on his own because of his unrequited love for her and gets captured himself. Paz and Chico are believed to be a risk to the MSF due to the information they possess, so Big Boss is sent on a mission to rescue them and upon arrival we see a new unit known as the XOF as they are just leaving. Big Boss successfully locates and rescues Chico and Paz, however on the way back to Mother Base Big Boss discovers that Paz, who is out cold, has had a bomb surgically inserted into her body. Big Boss and an on hand medic remove the bomb which is successful. Upon arrival to Mother Base, Big Boss sees that it is under attack from the XOF unit. It is now that Big Boss learns that the nuke inspection was actually a cover used by the XOF so that they could form the attack. Big Boss lands on Mother Base with enough time to rescue Kaz and get off Mother Base. Shortly after the chopper takes off Paz comes to and informs Big Boss of a second bomb within her body. In an attempt to save everyone on board, Paz makes the ultimate sacrifice and leaps from the chopper. The second bomb within Paz goes off and the blast sends the chopper spiralling into a crash. Big Boss survives but is put into a coma which he finally wakes from 9 years later. This is where The Phantom Pain kicks off.

Okay, this is the end of the spoiler section of this review. I will not be discussing any of the story from this point on, only my thoughts of the game.

Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain is a true display of what the current generation of consoles can deliver if given the right time and team to develop a game. I played this on the Playstation 4 and never before have I seen an open world with such photorealistic environments. Hideo Kojima always manages to push his games further with each iteration and this one is absolutely no exception. You start off the main portion of the start of the game in Afghanistan which is a vast open desert land which shows off beautiful rock formations and large sand dunes. I have spent a good portion of time just looking around at the high resolution 1080p graphics that have been rendered out in this game. It all looks fantastic and is easily my choice for the best looking game of the year and possibly of all time. Also packed in with the stunning visuals is a true 60 fps. This means that accompanying the stunning visuals, you are also treated to some absolutely smooth animations that just move like real life. From running, crouching and riding a horse, it all presents itself like a well-oiled machine with no frame rate drops or skips. I haven't played a game this smooth on the current generation of consoles yet.

The game play is the rich part of this game, with the controls being ever so tight you can really get into it and pretend that you're the covert expert who is infiltrating camps all over Afghanistan. I changed the control settings to the "shooter" type as opposed to the default. This makes the controls a little more like other games that I am used to. For example, it makes the circle button the crouch toggle, rather than the X button. It just makes for less adjustment when going from game to game.

The inventive way that the Metal Gear Solid games of the past have allowed you to interact with enemies is more advanced than any other game I have played is this is no different. You have the ability to sneak up behind an enemy and hold them at gun point without touching them. Pull your gun out and Big Boss will automatically say "Freeze" causing the enemy to place their gun onto the ground, leaving you free to kill them, knock them out or interrogate them. Interrogation will give you Intel on enemy and item location which is integral to your survival. Another neat part of the game early on is that Big Boss doesn't speak Russian, so you will need to extract a Russian translator to join your team so that you can understand them. Otherwise you won't get any Intel from them.

Using your binoculars you can take some high ground and scout out your mission and sight locations of enemy soldiers and ways in which you want to try and infiltrate the camps throughout the massive areas. Another amazing feature to the game is the Fulton Recovery System. This is a system which attaches a balloon to an item, animal, enemy, weapon or prisoner and launches them into the sky to be retrieved by a ship flying above. This is used to recruit enemies onto your team, or to send items away to Mother Base before you head back their after your missions. This system will ensure a good laugh from most that play.

Also along that same line is the air drop system. Sometimes you will spend a lot of time on the battlefield and you will need to replenish your items. You can call for an air drop to have ammo or different weapons sent to you while you're on the ground. This works perfectly as a container is parachuted down to a location of your choice.

Big Boss also has a horse at his disposal known as D-Horse (part of the Buddy program) and the single most impressive thing with the riding mechanic for me was the fact that while you are running away from gunfire, if you call Buddy, he will run up beside you and match your pace so you don't have to stop running to mount him. This works every single time too.

There are a lot of features that I won't have a chance to mention that you will find out on your own. Metal Gear Solid V is massive and packed with so many different game play areas that will keep you very busy without noticing the time go by.

The story is satisfying for the Metal Gear Solid fan that I am and is pacing along nicely. Like I said, I won't touch the story specifics because this is a spoiler free review but I will say that it should impress most fans and also those coming in for the first time.

That's all for now. Thanks for checking out this review.

Lucas (LewkOne)

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