Here we have a game that has garnered quite a reputation within its fan base since it’s release. It’s either a “you love it or you hate it” scenario, very rarely with an in-between. Metal Gear is known for it’s wide variety of opinions and this one is no slouch on that front.
What we have here are the two games that make up Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, & The Phantom Pain. This is the final game released in the series under Kojima’s name after his infamous leave from the company. It certainly left an impact that’s for sure and it’s pretty undeniable that it has.
A first time in the series, Metal Gear Solid V is broken up into two games which is one of the more notable things about it’s development. Both games have all sorts of varying opinions and we’re going to discuss mine here. Let’s begin the review of Metal Gear Solid V.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Ground Zeroes is the starting chapter of MGSV and it’s the prologue to The Phantom Pain. The plot involves Big Boss invading Camp Omega to rescue prisoners Chico and Paz, the latter having worked with Cipher and having valuable info on them. All the while trying to figure what strike team XOF is planning.
Let’s just get the obvious out of the way first, Metal Gear Solid V as a whole looks absolutely gorgeous. The FOX engine is a fantastic engine that delivers jaw-dropping visuals at every corner. Ground Zeroes is essentially a great showcase for the engine…but that’s kind of the problem here.
Ground Zeroes is just that and not much else, which makes it a rather contentious topic. The game, from a technical and gameplay standpoint, is fantastic. But the amount of things you get to do in the game is baffling with how little it is. You can beat this game in two hours, maybe even under an hour if you know what you’re doing.
Ground Zeroes gives you two extra missions to do after beating the game. The Jamais Vu mission where you play as Raiden in his Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance look (a game I highly recommend) and the Deja Vu mission where you play as MGS1 Snake. They used to be console exclusive, but it’s no longer the case with The Definitive Experience.
Both of them are fun and enjoyable in their own way, but they are both still relatively short missions that add potentially another hour to the play time. You can also transfer the MGS1 Snake costume into The Phantom Pain upon completing it. But…aside from other small missions, that’s all you get here.
All this sounds like I’m dissuading you with playing Ground Zeroes. Not really the case because with The Definitive Experience out which has both games in it, Ground Zeroes is ultimately harmless in the long run.
Now for the main course:
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
The Phantom Pain is what everyone went into Metal Gear Solid V to play and for good reason. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is one of the best action-adventure games of the 8th generation and from a gameplay perspective, it’s the best game in the series. That doesn’t mean it’s flawless, however, but it’s a game that is well worth a purchase and was a good swan song for the series.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’s Story
The game takes place 9 years after the events of Ground Zeroes. After said events, Big Boss awakes from his coma and was to be killed by Cipher before he was to wake up from it. With help, he manages to escape, sets out to re-establish Mother Base while rescuing fellow soldier Kazuhira Miller and vows to get revenge on Skull Face.
Unfortunately, the story is not up to par with the series standards and it barely adds much to the lore. The most it does it paint things in a different light, especially events from Metal Gear, Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid 4 but that’s it. I’m trying not to spoil the game but the story is fine enough on it’s own, though underwhelming to the series as a whole.
It’s narrative is also not beginner friendly, either. Phantom Pain does require you to know things from a large portion of the series. Snake Eater, Peace Walker and Metal Gear especially (it’s essentially a direct sequel to Peace Walker). Get ready for a lot of homework to get most of the references.
The characters, however, are all interesting and engaging in their own ways and stand out in the ways they were intended. Everyone in the cast does a fantastic job with their characters. Robin Atkin Downes as Miller in particular is a standout in quite a few scenes and delivers some of the best lines in the game.
The story itself also has it’s moments. The opening is haunting and reminiscent of a horror game. The first encounter with Skull Face is very memorable and intimidating. There’s one mission in Chapter 2 that is one of the more standout scenes in the series.
But before we get to the gameplay, let’s discuss the elephant in the room.
Konami & Kojima
Yeah, we can’t talk about this game without bringing this up. This game was heavily affected by the turmoil between Kojima and Konami. How so? It released unfinished and you can easily tell with the story. There was an entire third chapter planned for the game and it was scrapped because of this.
We’ll never know how that third chapter will play out, unfortunately. Especially with Konami very recently scrapping the FOX engine to replace it with Unreal Engine 5. So we have what we have. But while the story suffered, the gameplay most certainly didn’t.
Now here is what makes Metal Gear Solid V the beast that it is. It’s gameplay is absolutely superb in terms of customization and intuitiveness. From a structural standpoint, it’s essentially Peace Walker on steroids. Everything about the game is up to your discretion on how you would like to do it. The amount of freedom you have in being able to fulfill missions is mighty impressive. Dynamic is the name of the game here and it lets you know that from the very beginning when you ride on D-Horse.
Base Camps and Outposts
Base camps and outposts are designed to tackle them in a variety of ways and have many things that give you incentive to clear out the whole thing. You can go in all guns akimbo with your chopper and weapons or you can go in a stealth approach with your silencer and CQC options. Like Ocelot said in the beginning: “How and when you’ll make it, that’s up to you.”
Destroying satellites, radio comms and anti-air radars give you many advantages in completing your objective. Disabling satellites and radio comms removes the enemies ability to call for backup. Eliminating ant-air radars allows your chopper to land and get you out.
All these options give you so many ways and incentive to clear outposts and complete your objective. It’s very intuitive and puts every aspect of the game at your discretion, including it’s difficulty. Phantom Pain gives you all the tools and freedom possible to think of creative scenarios to clear a mission. This can also change depending on your companion.
While the series always used the environment to catch you off guard, the FOX Engine perfects this into the best use of it in the series. Shadows, light posts, garbage cans, sounds, all can be used to your advantage and disadvantage. Enemy AI is competent enough to give you trouble upon spotted so be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Phantom Pain gives you buddies to take with you on your mission. The very first one you get is D-Horse who gives you a lot of mobility to get to your destination. Later on, you get companions like D-Dog, D-Walker and Quiet. D-Dog is likely going to be your main pick at first due to being able to mark entire camps very early on. You can even upgrade him enough to give him a stun knife and stun entire camps himself.
Quiet is the hardest to get used to due to her status as a sniper and her weapon mods at first. Once you spend enough time with her, she becomes extremely useful due to having a silenced stun sniper. D-Walker will likely end up being the least used one. It has it’s uses, but it’s primarily if you want to go trigger happy.
Customization and Upgrades
Phantom Pain is also the most customizable game in the series by a long shot. While previous games allowed you to customize Snake’s appearance, it doesn’t compare to the options Phantom Pain gives you. You’re fully able to customize your gear, your weapons, your chopper and companions. I mean you can have “Take On Me” playing as your chopper music and you can dress as Raiden.
You can also upgrade everything that was listed above. How you sortie out Snake will also set up how you are going to clear your mission. It is a good idea to know how the mission is with it’s details to go in with the best sortie possible (especially for the awesome boss fights). Rocket launchers, grenades, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, the game gives you a bit of everything. All these things and factors make this game the most replay-able entry in the series and with how smooth it feels and controls, you’ll want to come back.
Overall Thoughts on Metal Gear Solid V
From a gameplay perspective, Metal Gear Solid V is one of the best games of the 8th generation. Very few action-adventure games come close to it’s level of gameplay control and freedom. It’s visuals still hold up as fantastic, the music is great, the sound design is top notch and the voice acting is superb.
What makes this game tricky to rate is the story. The story is a key aspect of what makes Metal Gear the juggernaut that it is. And it quite frankly doesn’t hold up here. Even if Metal Gear Solid 4 was very complicated, it had a sense of finality and scope that this game lacked. Yet the game’s gameplay is so top notch in it’s field, it does save it.
If you are a Metal Gear fan or a fan of action-adventure open world games, go out and get this game. There is very little reason not to. Even if you don’t like the story, the gameplay is extremely well done and top notch that it will keep your attention. In my opinion, it’s one of the best games of the 8th generation. It is available on Xbox Game Pass if you are interested in trying it out.
For more on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, check out this article on the best action games.