Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: PS4 Review
How do you finish a series like Metal Gear with a protagonist that's become so culturally iconic?
Well, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain doesn't really care what your perceptions of how it should be wrapped up are - it simply delivers to them. And easily exceeds them - if you're prepared to bear with the game.
The title's become synonymous with Hideo Kojima's split from the studio, but that threatened to overshadow what was simply an exceptional title from the moment it starts up.
Once again, it's back into the open world of stealth, but not before a slightly mind-bending prologue. You wake as Snake after a 9 year coma, with your body riddled with both pains and elements that could kill you - but before a doctor can give you a new identity to help you start again, the medical base you're on comes under assault. And it's up to you to escape the blood thirsty bandits who swarm. Your only method of escape is to follow a heavily bandaged dude who has a striking vocal similarity to Kiefer Sutherland....
For the prologue, patience is required; it's a trip in many ways, but also a smartly intuitive way to get you back into the world of stealth and the rationale for not going in all guns blazing. It's also potentially where some may feel The Phantom Pain will hold players back - but push on through, because Kojima's created a story that's as engrossing as it is intriguing. This is not a game that rewards quick hitters; this is a game that commands longevity, tactics and intelligence - and is all the better for it.
Once through this prologue, it's here that The Phantom Pain opens up as you begin to lead a mercenary group known as the Diamond Dogs and out into the wilds of Afghanistan. And it's here that the game itself begins to open up, proffering possibilities you'd perhaps perceived as impossible before and as captivating as you'd have hoped.
Graphically, the game's superb; from the hyper-realistic prologue to the Afghan based areas, it's a game that excels and offers the very best of the next gen mentality and console execution. The mo-cap work is second to none and there are times that you can feel that you are watching an animated thriller that's a little too life-like for your own comfort.
But it's also ideologically weighty too with story points touching on many important topics of war which are hitherto left by the wayside for nothing more than simply shooting people and progressing through a game - it's the depth of this which puts it into the echelons of Kojima's drama, hitting both the resonance which is needed and the kind of gameplay you've come to expect from this sort of game.
Ultimately, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a top tier title; from its story-telling to its execution and from its intimate openings to its open world play, it just excels. If you're serious about gaming and want a challenge rather than a constant mashing of buttons, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the game for you. Sure, it takes some time to get into, but stick with it -there's a real sense of satisfaction of getting the end results and seeing it all play out.