Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review

Doesn’t it sound like fun to play in a game where you get to be known as Big Boss?  No further details needed, surely? Oh, go on then, what else is there to know about Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (what an awesome title)?

As Big Boss, you’re the leader of a private military contractor organisation who takes on ‘freelance’ contracts ranging from rescuing prisoners of war in Russia, to blowing up strategic military assets on behalf of world leaders.  Big Boss isn’t particularly bothered about ethics or morality – if the request comes in, generally it will be responded to.  The action primarily takes place in Afghanistan and Zaire, and it’s important you remember that there is no ‘just cause’ or ‘greater good’.  Just kill whoever you’ve been asked to kill or blow up whatever you’ve been asked to blow up and everyone will be happy.  Well, on some level at least.  I’m not here to delve into the finer psychology of mass murderers or power hungry despots.

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Of course, many of you will already be familiar with the massively successful franchise, so some of this version will be familiar to you, for example the Reflex Mode, which gives you a few seconds of slow-motion, ‘gather your thoughts’ time once you’ve been spotted by a guard and allows you a wee chance at least to incapacitate him first.  The open-world of The Phantom Pain, however, is vastly expanded upon and is, quite simply, huge.  Massive.  Big.  You get the picture.  The space given to you is eerily large, intimidating almost, particularly given the relative linearity of previous Metal Gear offerings.

Big Boss is essentially a lone wolf, but all of your actions in this game are centred on building your empire, that is, the aforementioned private military contractor organisation.  So, every weapon you commandeer, every prisoner-of-war you capture, anything else you happen to find while out in the field, can all contribute to your success, or failure.  So as an example, enemy soldiers you capture can all be taken back to your base (which expands as the game progresses and you fill it with an increasing amount of ‘stuff’) and trained up to be deployed in one of your research teams – useful if you’re trying to gather intel, or develop new weapons, for example.  The base is an actual place, not some metaphor for life and it seems to increase indefinitely, depending on how you use it.  Wish my house was like that…

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Anyway, the game develops depending on the choices you make, and the success or failure you make of those choices.  Within the overarching plot there also a multitude of side-missions, just in case you don’t have enough to do already.  For example, you’ll have to clear a field of land mines to protect the locals, or decide whether to take on the child soldiers you’ll encounter at a later stage of the game.

This game requires investigative skills, stealth and cunning as well as head on, face to face combat skills.  And the beauty of it is that how you play the game is largely up to you.  The game builds according to your whims so if you don’t put the time in to building your base, for example, your experience simply won’t be as rich as others who do spend that little bit extra time interrogating their prisoners or developing their research and development branches.

Open world, free choice, decisions to make...  If you ignore the general premise and setup, the game’s perhaps uncomfortably close to real life but actually it’s a testament to how awesomely made this game is.  It really is fantastically structured, produced, directed, and, well, just generally constructed.  It looks good, sounds good (Kiefer Sutherland, amongst others, provides voice-acting skills), and will give you at least 30 hours’ worth of high-intensity combat, strategy, mission-filled fun.

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If you’re new to the franchise and are concerned that you wont be familiar, then don’t be.  Yes, there are plots and aspects of the game which it may be useful to know more about, but there is no prior knowledge which is absolutely essential.  There are also enough twists and turns, anyway, which would only confuse you if you did think you knew what’s going on. It's a fantastic game that has so much to offer. So, what more can I say?  If you haven’t started already, whatcha waiting for?

Rating - 9.6 / 10

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