Hideo Kojima and his amazing team at the now defunct Kojima Productions have once again brought us back to the world of Metal Gear Solid. This franchise has had an incredible effect not just on the gaming industry, but the fans as well. I can tell you with no hesitation nor reservation that I’ve been eagerly awaiting Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, having watched all the trailers since their first debut in 2012. There has been an enormous amount of hype surrounding this game, but I should warn you now – it is nowhere close to how enormous The Phantom Pain actually is.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain starts us off by having you take the role of Punished “Venom” Snake as he wakes up from a nine year coma after the helicopter crash at the end of Ground Zeroes. Suddenly, the situation escalates as an assault begins on the hospital by agents from the cloak and dagger organization known as Cipher and their rogue XOF unit. While the nurse and doctor attending you are killed, a mysterious man named Ishmael saves you from a silent assassin. Ishmael then proceeds to lead you out of the hospital, all while you’re being attacked by XOF forces and what appears to be Psycho Mantis as a child and a strange fiery apparition who looks very similar to Colonel Volgin from MGS3: Snake Eater. Eventually you escape and meet up with Revolver “Shalashaska” Ocelot. Ocelot fills you in on some of the happenings that have been going on while you spent nine years in a coma.

All of that is just the prologue. Your first official mission is to rescue Benedict “Kazuhira” Miller from rebels in Afghanistan. Upon successfully meeting him, the real game begins. Whenever you’re not on a mission, you’ll be managing your military force, the Diamond Dogs, from your helicopter (Aerial Command Center) or Mother Base. As you progress through the game, you’ll be able to expand Mother Base as well as develop new weapons, technology, and equipment, both for you and your companions.


Speaking of buddies, you’ll have the opportunity to become allies with some pretty neat characters that will help you in the field. The first buddy you’ll come across is D-Horse. He provides a convenient mode of transport for Venom Snake. Speed is not D-Horse’s only use. Venom Snake can also hide while riding D-Horse by sliding to the left or right on the saddle, preventing enemies from spotting you from the side. As Snake’s and D-Horse’s bond strengthens, you’ll also be able to order him to defecate, which might seem weird, but it has its uses. For example, if you do this on a road and a vehicle comes across it, they’ll stop to get out and investigate it. Another animal companion is Diamond Dog, a cute little puppy that grows into a fierce and loyal friend. He’ll help sniff out enemies, animals, and useful plants. That’s not all he can do though. You can tell D.D. to bark to attract the attention of guards or draw them away from important areas. When you’re in trouble or need a distraction, you can also tell him to attack enemies. If you equip him with some gear, he can even kill or stun guards.

Quiet is your somewhat silent sniper companion. She’s got serious skills and acts as both an infiltrator and overwatch. Once you order her to scout an outpost or base, she’ll spring into action and update your map and HUD with information on enemy placement, ammo drops and anything of note. Once finished with that, or on your order, she’ll set up at certain points to cover you when you decide to infiltrate the base yourself. If you’re spotted, she can take down the target with either a killing shot or a tranquilizer bullet. As your bond with her increases, more of her abilities and equipment will be unlocked.

Last but not least is D-Walker, a small mecha designed by an old friend, Huey Emmerich and based on Metal Gear Sahelanthropus. This mecha is heavily customizable, as you can develop and equip it with pistols (silenced and tranq versions as well), Gatling guns, and support modules. D-Walker can also be used as a fast means of transport, just like D-Horse. Whether you’re stealthily infiltrating or assaulting a base, D-Walker can be of immense aid.


Between sneaking around, using close quarters combat, tranquilizing your enemies, calling in a variety of support via helicopter, managing your own army, and developing Mother Base, The Phantom Pain is nothing short of awesome. Changing stances and moving works very similarly to Ground Zeroes, making sneaking very smooth. Aiming can take some getting used to, but the game does offer some aim assist if you’re still having trouble. Weapons all function differently but also allow for a large degree of freedom in how you approach missions.

The Phantom Pain is also a pretty darn good challenge and checkpoints function nicely without saving every other minute. Did you rush in guns blazing and get wrecked? Cool, we’ll start you from the last major thing you did so you have a chance to reevaluate your strategy. The game also grades your main mission progress, assigning different grades and codenames to you depending on your performance. Achieving the highest possirank will unlock additional rewards like emblems.

These emblems, alongside weapons, buddies, Mother Base structures, your helicopter, etc. are all part of the game’s vast customization options. You can change everything to match your own style and differentiate yourself from friends and rivals. Online features aren’t complete yet, but the Forward Operating Base ops and functions are available, allowing you to infiltrate a rival’s Mother Base and steal their soldiers and materials. You can also support other people’s FOBs and help defend them from other infiltrators. The full online experience is called Metal Gear Online 3 and is currently scheduled to be available to everyone October 9.

Replayability is also a great strength in The Phantom Pain. While somewhat repetitive when it comes to side-ops, which a solid chunk of the game is dedicated to, the sheer number of options you have in accomplishing your objectives more than makes up for it. Want to kill your assassination target? You have a million ways to do it. Want to completely and totally sneak your way through a heavily fortified base? Then test out your scouting and sneaking skills with a variety of weapons and equipment. There’s always a new way to do something and I’ve found myself spending hours experimenting with different techniques.


Sadly, one of the largest flaws in this game is the story. After MGS 4, many fans complained not just about the length and amount of cutscenes, but also about the obvious plot holes. With The Phantom Pain, Kojima seems to have done a complete one-eighty. Most cutscenes occur during main missions or after certain ops or points are reached. These scenes are fairly short and while most of the story is very interesting, it always leaves me wanting more or feeling like I missed something. The Phantom Pain, like its predecessor Peace Walker, has a good chunk of story in their cassette tape system. I like this approach, but sometimes I believe these conversations should’ve been in a mission or cutscene. You need to make sure that you listen to the tapes, otherwise you might miss some important details that tie the story together. The other function of the cassettes is the ability to collect and play music on them at any time. It’s a neat feature that shows a somewhat lighter side of Kojima and his humor.

On top of that, music and sound in this game are fantastic. As you play through the game, the music changes dynamically with the situation. For example, when you move from one area to another, if guards are nearby, the music will change to a more ominous tone. Vice versa, when caught or in the middle of a heated battle, the music will shift accordingly into more fast paced action themes. Character theme songs are also prevalent, and the execution of how an when they play definitely stirred the heart.

All in all, this game is pretty incredible. I truly enjoyed being able to explore the open worlds of Afghanistan and Africa while accomplishing my objectives. Whiling away hours at customizing and managing my base always got my brain running at full speed. While somewhat weak at some points, the story is still one hell of a ride and Kojima once again leaves me pondering the implications of not just the ending, but the story as a whole. As I play and write about this game, I wish a fond farewell to Kojima’s genius in the Metal Gear series, and appreciate the hard work that he and his team put in. If you haven’t already acquired a copy of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I urge you to pick it up and enjoy the last masterpiece in this storied franchise.

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