Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain – Chapter One is done!

It’s been hours, pushing 40 hours at the time of writing.  Hours of non-stop stealth-action, Metal Gears, Quiet, D Dog, D-Horse, Mother Base, Ocelot, Kaz and Child Soldiers.

I’ve gone from being a casual admirer of the game to a full-blown fan. 

Honestly, I love this game.  So much scope to just approach everything how I want, so many items to develop, new weapons and gear to try.  It’s just an excellent sandbox for stealth and/or chaos.

The amount of time I’ve put into this one has been a surprise. I expected maybe 20 hours to blast through the story, which is no doubt easily possible.  I just didn’t expect to get so engrossed in every single mission.

Detail and fun

Everything in Metal Gear Solid 5 is so well considered.  The attention to detail is ridiculous.  Afghanistan and Africa are barren and lush, respectively.  With so much open space to approach any mission area, you’re never stuck for a way in, and you can re-do things completely differently if you need to.

Enemy AI is pretty clever, keeping you on your toes if they catch you on the periphery of their vision, or at the end of their scope.

Taking out small checkpoints silently, putting all guards to sleep and then extracting them via fulton (balloon) back to your Mother Base, is funny, ridiculous, helpful and just plain fun.  Using your rocket-powered prosthetic arm to knock someone out from a short distance is a goddamn joy, too!

You don’t have to kill anyone, hell, you don’t even have to stun or sedate anyone if you don’t want.  You can sneak and hide.  Or you can go in guns blazing until every last soldier is dead.  Better still, you can sneak up on soldiers at gunpoint and make them drop their weapons (ridiculously satisfying!).

I’ve interrogated and fultoned more soldiers than I’ve killed.  I even put the majority of them to sleep.

After a while, I’d amassed a small army (Diamond Dogs forever!) or people that I’d literally ballooned away from action!

Mother Base

This is actually a pretty big drain on time, but I actually quite enjoyed seeing my base grow, seeing the Diamond Dogs grow and being able to improve all of my units, to eventually improve things like research for items, the level of in-field intelligence or even just how quickly materials can be refined.

Every minute you spend working on Mother Base in Metal Gear Solid 5, is an investment that you see back slowly as the game progresses.

Better still, if you start capturing wildlife, you get to go and see them all in your very own nature reserve!

I thought it was all going to be a waste of time, some kind of mini-game with no real tangible reward.  However, the more you build, the more you can explore.  The more you invest, the more you gain.

Mother Base turned out to be the perfect in-between-mission activity to stop things from dragging or becoming too stale.

Getting around

One of my biggest bug bears in Metal Gear Solid 5 was that I wanted things to be more vertical.  All of these mountains and cliffs, but very little in terms of actually being able to get up them.

Sure, some of these are designed to force you down certain paths for missions, but I really would have loved some higher vantage points to scout from.  Only being able to properly climb using specific cracks in the wall was a little annoying.

D-Horse is great though, and travelling with him was always a joy.  Especially after levelling him up a little, so he could poop on the road!

Along with that, I was awarded vehicles for certain mission objectives and other rewards, which meant a jeep or even a tank was never really too far away.

A little more verticality and everything would have been perfect.

Same same same

40 hours into Metal Gear Solid 5 is much more than I’d anticipated, and when I’d gotten to the final credits, I’ll be honest I was kind of pleased that I’d done it.

Sure there are infinite approaches, loadouts and ways to go about things, but the missions all boil down to infiltration, execution, extraction or some other variation of a few similar themes.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s what this game is about and it does it superbly.  With the mechanics to make it ridiculously enjoyable.  However, 40 hours doing the same thing can kind of drag from time to time.

Prepping an infiltration for 20 minutes only for it to all go sideways, is of course a part of the sandbox and the fun of it.  But sometimes, if you end up dead and you’re starting again, and even though it’s all my fault, I just can’t be arsed.  So it’s time to take a break and come back to it another time.

Supports

What a wonderful addition to Metal Gear Solid.  Having support out in the field, not feeling like you’re completely solo.

D-dog, the little pup that grew up to be such a badass.  Sniffing-out and marking enemies for me.  Distracting them, and being able to kill or stun them after levelling-up a little.

D-horse, you starter, trusty steed.  Great for quicker travel.  Great for creating roadblocks long enough to slow down an enemy vehicle, and as already mentioned, a handy little poop-on-command feature, to leave manure on the roads, spinning vehicles out as they drive over it.

Quiet, the much debated, mostly naked female sniper.  Naked for “story reasons”, sure, but regardless of appearance, a really really useful ally.  Develop her gear and she can tranquilize enemies on command, or just straight-up kill them.  Adding suppressors to her loadout was one of the best things I did.  Her unlockable outfits are a little questionable, but hey-ho.

D-Walker, my own personal bi-pedal metal gear, of sorts.  Honestly, used it once, but I need to give it a proper go.  Can’t comment really, although it looks cool and I’ve been kitting it out with rockets and a flamethrower.  Got to be handy, right?

Story

The narrative of Metal Gear Solid 5 really took some turns.  I thought it was just about re-building Diamond Dogs and taking out Skull Face.  Which is was, but the path there included Dr Emmerich, Child Soldiers, The Skulls and even a parasitic virus that would have killed a lot of people, based on the use of languages.

I suppose, in hindsight, it’s a Kojima story, so of course it’s a little odd.

Truth is, I enjoyed it, and the added task of not killing child soldiers was a nice twist in the later stages.

Skull Face was a douche, a big ass metal gear needed to be stopped, and it was a blast.

Not sure Metal Gear Solid 5 will win any prizes for narrative or anything like that, but it fed the gameplay, and gave me continued purpose.

Voice acting

A lot of people were upset at the fact that legendary Solid Snake voice actor David Hayter wasn’t used for the voice of Big Boss.  I get that, he’s bloody iconic!  However, Kiefer Sutherland nailed it and really did a wonderful job in my opinion.

The whole cast was great.  So much of the game is delivered by tape recordings and in-ear comms, it really has to be good to keep you engrossed.  Thankfully, it worked a treat!

On top of that, the motion capture was really nice, with some excellent, realistic movement from enemy soldiers, whether that’s when I’d sniped them from afar, or if they’re reacting to me holding them up.  Awesome.

Audio

A stealth game is reliant on audio, to help you gauge your surroundings and make sure nobody is going to hear you.

A Metal Gear Solid game basically has to have some specific noises, namely the famous ! alert noise.

Metal Gear Solid 5 covers all bases with ease.  Mixing in an era-appropriate selection of songs (80’s baby!).  Hearing “Take on me” when approaching a tent and then interrogating an enemy soldier, before choking him out, is a really surreal set of events that I just loved!

My helicopter plays “Man Eater” when it comes in to collect me or to drop me off in a mission.  I can listen to cassettes that I steal from enemy camps, adding them to my collection. Really cool.

As mentioned, the voice acting is a slick affair, and then the whole sound design element of Metal Gear Solid 5 is spot-on.  Silenced shots sound like you’d want them to.  That headshot that hit a helmet and knocked it off? You know before seeing it, what happened.

Guard shouts, gun fire, explosions.  Everything is glorious, and sounds great through a TV or better yet, through a headset.

Looks great

A game that’s so big could be forgiven for compromising on visual fidelity.  Perhaps putting in some naff textures on the mountains, or poor character models for NPCs.

Nope! This game looks great.  The day and night cycle make the world feel alive, and seeing floodlights, flashlights and things like sunrise and sunset.  Wild animals grazing, scurrying and stalking.  Everything looks fantastic.

Loads of little touches, like posters in barracks and offices, blood on Snake after a rough mission. Dust and fog, plenty of smoke particles on display and wonderful looking explosions.

Metal Gear Solid 5 looks excellent.

On and on and on

I could go on and on about this huge, intricate, fun and frankly long, game.

I thought I’d finished it, only to find that there’s now a chapter 2 to play.  I love this game, I do.  But I need to take a break from it.

So, as it stands, it’s easy to give this the old Ninja Refinery “Exceptional”, because it really really is, and I’ll be back to look into Chapter 2. 

But for now, my story with Big Boss is coming to a close.  A wonderful close, an excellent game and some fantastic memories of botched operations and silky-smooth infiltrations.  There’s so much to still talk about, and the whole Metal Gear Online element, too.  I’m not done here, but I am for the time being.

Metal Gear Solid 5 is easily one of the best games I’ve had the pleasure of playing in recent years.  Everyone should dive in and have a blast.

I feel like it’s a fitting end to Kojima’s time with Konami, and even though it sits near the beginning of the timeline for the series, it’s a great way to see the series out, too.

I’ll be back for Chapter 2, but I need a change of pace for a little while.

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