Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review – Kept You Waiting, Huh?

MGSV-10-02-15-1

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the hotly anticipated follow-up to the disappointing tech demo that was Ground Zeroes. During its development, rumors abounded that Hideo Kojima, the series’ creator, would be leaving Konami due to some internal dispute. These rumors were made fact, much to the consternation of die-hard fans, but MGSV was still completed and released cross-platform.

I use the word, “completed,” in the preceding sentence rather loosely, as when you’ve beaten The Phantom Pain, you’ll realize just how fragmentary the game truly is. The ending has a pretty insane plot twist—even if the trailers did partially spoil it—but when you sit there and think about it after the game is over, it makes zero sense. There are so many plot holes and loose ends toward the end of MGSV, you’d think it was directed by the Wachowskis.

In a game that is all but assured to be the last in the franchise, having an ending like this is akin to a slap in the face. In the interest of not spoiling the game for anyone who hasn’t completed it, however, that will be all that is said about the climax of Metal Gear Solid V’s story. It’s unsatisfying, and raises far more questions than it answers.

Well, that’s a lot of doom and gloom. Is the rest of the game really that bad? To be forthright, no. Metal Gear Solid V is utterly fantastic in just about every way I can think to describe it.

MGSV-10-02-15-3MGSV-10-02-15-2

The gameplay is a delightful, rewarding experience, the controls polished and incredibly tight. Each mission allows for multiple methods of approach, which makes each sortie ridiculously fun. This also causes MGSV to have a fair amount of replay value, coupled with the fact that this type of game lends itself very well to challenge runs. It is a fair criticism to say that the online aspects of the game are almost unplayable due to hackers, but this might be a bit less heinous on the console versions of the game.

The gunplay is smooth and handles well, and the PC port thankfully is bereft of any mouse acceleration. The camera can get a little fiddly during in-game cutscenes, as the mouse tends to freak out when you look around, but otherwise I have few complaints. If I’m nitpicking, it would have been nice to be able to use the mouse in menus, and being locked at 60 FPS is slightly annoying on a rig that could easily blow past that—but ultimately, these are incredibly minor grievances. MGSV plays amazingly well.

As for the visual aspects of The Phantom Pain, there’s not much to say other than, “It looks great.” The FOX Engine is very well optimized, being able to run competently on older machines, as well as running at a solid 60 FPS on the PS4 and Xbox One. The graphics are impressive, really immersing you in the world the game presents. There is some shoddy texture work here and there, but you only really notice when you’re looking through the binoculars.

MGSV-10-02-15-4MGSV-10-02-15-5

The voice acting (even though Keifer Sutherland gives a curiously spartan performance), music, and sound design are similarly remarkable, which is all par for the course in a Metal Gear Solid title. Gunfire sounds amazing, especially when you’re hearing it in the distance. The music swells and themes are executed flawlessly as well, making each bout of action feel as dynamic as the last.

What’s also somewhat amusing is that you’re able to collect cassettes of popular music at the time, which can be played on your walkman as you go about your travels/missions. Executing very serious story missions while playing, “She Blinded Me With Science,” in the background is a truly transcendent experience.

The narrative in The Phantom Pain is engaging, though unfortunately falls flat toward the end of the game. It takes place in the aftermath of the events of Ground Zeroes, where Militaires Sans Frontières has been destroyed, and Big Boss falls into a coma for nine years. He awakens in a hospital, and manages to escape The Human Torch and baby Psycho Mantis–who literally attacks a helicopter with a flaming whale–with the help of a mysterious benefactor with a bandage-concealed face.  BB goes on to form the mercenary group Diamond Dogs, rebuilding Mother Base somewhere in Seychelles waters.

MGSV-10-02-15-6MGSV-10-02-15-7

Most of the story takes place at Mother Base, as well as the places you’re deployed in Afghanistan and Africa for various missions. You’re joined by old friends, such as Ocelot and Kazuhira Miller, and most of the game centers around the concept of revenge. In fact, it goes a little over the top with that theme, with seemingly every character you meet seeking vengeance in one form or another.

It seems the narrative takes a bit of a backseat in TPP, with a somewhat jarring majority of story being told via cassette tapes you can listen to using your walkman. I’m usually someone who enjoys reading/listening to codecs, but the amount of tapes to get through in MGSV is utterly excessive. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cassettes total several hours of straight talking.

Thankfully, you can get by without hearing most of the tapes, but you’d be missing out on some background and important story elements. However, with an ending as piss-poor as MGSV’s, it’s hard to care much about going back and listening.

MGSV-10-02-15-8

Despite having one of the most disappointing climaxes in Metal Gear Solid history, I still would be remiss not to recommend The Phantom Pain. The graphics are fantastic, the gameplay tight and rewarding. The voice actors put in a solid effort, even if Sutherland’s lines as Big Boss were somewhat sparse, and the music is fantastic as always.

If you’re a MGS purist, buy it on sale. If you’re simply looking for an engaging stealth/action experience, you’d be doing yourself a major disservice if you steered clear of The Phantom Pain.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was reviewed on the PC using a retail copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 8.75

The Good:

  • Fantastic visuals and smooth framerate
  • Amazing score, with more than competent voice acting
  • Tight, satisfying controls, excellent gunplay
  • D-Dog is the best

The Bad:

  • Incredibly disappointing ending with many loose ends
  • Hackers ruin the online aspects of the game (you can literally tweak everything in Cheat Engine)
  • Keifer Sutherland has surprisingly few lines of dialogue
  • If you’re a completionist, it will take you a very long time to 100% the game without resorting to microtransactions.
  • Dammage

    I wonder if all the plot holes will be filled via Pachinko machine…

  • sanic

    I’m haunted by the phantom pain of the missing parts of the game, how much more time would have been needed? 2 years? 3 years? Will MGS VI be made of what should have been chapter 2 and 3? They spent all that time making that engine surely they wouldn’t only use it for 1 game even with rumours of ending console development it would be an senseless waste.

  • Heavily Augmented

    Konami: MGS fans, what sounds better for our next MGS AAA pachinko machine. The Phantom Pachinko or The Pachinko Pain?

  • Orichalcum Road

    What about Quiet Riot; a Pachinko machine featuring erotic images of Quiet?

  • Shinaru
  • Zanthos

    I was okay with the True Ending (Mission 46), it had a decent wrap up except for the breakout scene….they just left it up to “Ah kids these days!”

    And the cassette tapes is a lose, lose. People bitch when the cutscene are over 3 minutes, people bitch when they have to listen to tapes that take as long as cutscenes. Can’t have the cake and….well you know.

    I haven’t gotten into the online, I’m waiting for MGO. All in all, I loved it, and will be playing for a long time to come.

  • Sorry, but i don’t see any plot holes. Just minor things left unanswered, but hey, it’s just a (fantastic, sure) game franchise. Like history, not everything is told to mankind. Making theories and discussing them with fans is what keeps the legend alive.

  • XiaomuArisu

    So it has great controlls and gameplay but only MGS fans should buy it? 0.0

  • makubexnas

    the missing chapter is the real phantom pain.

  • Some furf

    Why doesn’t Quiet use any form of written communication?
    Why is Huey shown walking around on top of the R&D platform at the end of mission 31 when Ocelot had said they’d need to keep him indoors due to the other staff members potentially distrusting him, with nothing to reconcile that?
    Why does Battle Gear do NOTHING after so much build up?
    Why is Eli’s butthurt over losing a fistfight a more intense hatred than Volgin’s?
    When the parasite outbreak happens, and you get told what’s causing it, why does it take another two missions to get that information back to base?
    I can call in a helicopter in a sandstorm with no problem any time. Why is it suddenly a problem in A Quiet Exit?
    For that matter, a snake bite or scorpion sting was no real problem on Operation Snake Eater. Why are we less prepared twenty years later?
    Why did the quarantine staff not wear masks at all times?
    How did a bunch of uneducated African children repair a super-advanced robot without anyone noticing?
    Why is Miller such a failure? He whines about losing nine years, but he was awake and free for that entire time, yet all he managed to do was get a skeleton staff back together.

  • Mr0303

    I really enjoy the fact that this review mentions aspects of the game that can ruin the experience like microtransactions and hackers. Those are elements of the game that shouldn’t be overlooked.

  • Zanard Bell

    The only thing that prevents me from playing MGSV is that I primarily play on the PC, and want to at least play Snake Eater and Guns of The Patriots first before playing this one. With how Konami is going about nowadays, I think I might have to invest in an old PS2, then.

  • 2501

    Honestly, l don’t see why people have such a problem with the lack of dialogue Keifer Sutherland has, sure it sounds like he is phoning it in but l think that minimal approach to Big Boss was necessary, especially with what happened to him (and that twist ending).

  • Hobo

    -She’s still butthurt for the majority of the game. She may not have wanted to talk for safety reasons, but she still was doing a Chell. When she actually needed to communicate with words, she couldn’t exactly use the written.
    -Huey was gradually given more leeway throughout the game, as shown when they let him create Battle Gear. Presumably he was still under guard though both against escaping and anybody doing anything untold.
    -Eli’s hated Big Boss even before the fistfight. He was informed about his birthright, which caused him to run away. His hatred was more intense because he was a child and had less filters for his emotions due to his brain or something. This one was weird, but actually pretty Metal Gear-ish.
    -You’re never told what’s causing it until Code Talker informs you, you can GUESS, and they give you plenty of clues to help stop the spread, but until Mr. Dine actually tells you, there’s no new information to get to base. It takes only one mission after Code Talker tells you because of the fact that it takes that long to actually get him to base to help fix the problem.
    -Dramatic reasons. I think they didn’t want to come in because the Soviets were still searching all over the area, though?
    -You were sitting there for a long, undetermined period, probably with your adrenaline rushing thanks to also hiding at the same time, letting the poison circulate, and you had no antivenom which you were able to make or obtain in OSE. Also, TWIIIIIST reasons.
    -They probably did. The soldiers that Miller sent in to search also ended up infected despite wearing masks (although they lost them somehow in the fighting). The better question is why the hell Snake didn’t get infected, because that confused me.
    -Huey helped, and Huey built the robot in the first place. Eli also directed them, and he’s pretty much superhuman, so I wouldn’t put anything past him after all the shit he does in MGS1.
    -Miller was able to still get some soldiers, although many of whom were Peacewalker motherbase survives, but he lost them against Skulls. Despite that, Miller isn’t Big Boss. That’s the whole point. Soldiers don’t have any incentive to work for him, so instead of sitting in the Brig until they’re convinced, they’d just sit there FOREVER, maybe only planning on escaping. They made a huge deal about the Big Boss thing several times.

    A lot of these points are implied, if not explained in the tapes (and more). Look, I get that a lot of people don’t like MGSV, but generally the biggest thing you can accuse of it plot wise was that it never resolved Eli’s situation, and the story had a lot of silly plots. But this is honestly not exactly a new thing to the MGS franchise. I remember playing MGS2 and having no bloody idea what was with that ending, nor the bits before it because that was like a drug trip in making sense when I first played it. MGS1 had some retarded moments too with the whole genes business, etc. etc. MGSV is not a perfect game, but many of the things that people complain about are shaky as hell. If you’ve got a problem with all of the MGS franchise, okay, but if you think only MGSV is the problem, your nostalgia goggles are on too tight.

  • Hobo

    “If you’re a completionist, it will take you a very long time to 100% the game without resorting to microtransactions.”

    This is practically a lie. It does take a long time to 100% the game, but microtransactions are currently almost completely useless. You can buy more Motherbase Coins for real money, but you can’t actually do anything with them in the main game except buy more FOBs, and to make online (and ONLY online) dispatches be completed faster. The thing is, the online dispatches suck, giving very little in the way of resources or money, and having another FOB can honestly make getting to 100% go slower depending on how you build it (or if you’re involved in the FOB online missions). At best, you can get maybe two or three achievements faster via the MB coins, but those achievements are going to come gradually if you’re going for the other 100% aspects.

    Maybe this will change once the October 6th patch comes along and MGO is released, but as it stands, microtransactions barely do anything, let alone are a shortcut to 100%ing the game.

  • Rez

    The lack of story and tapes thing is entirely the fault of gamers being whiny idiots. People threw an unbelievable bitch fit about the amount of cutscenes in MGS4 so Konami removed them almost entirely in MGSV. If people would have shut up and enjoyed the game MGSV would have had a much stronger narrative.

  • djluke_1993

    If you do Quiets mission you find out that she can’t talk due to Skull Face using her as a 3rd trigger to infect mother base.

  • Hobo

    No, she CAN talk, she just chooses not to. As furf also notes, she doesn’t try to communicate with anything written, nor does she uses the Navajo language to communicate despite knowing it (and it not being a possible infection vector). If she actually wanted to communicate with words, she could do so, but did not (barring two points, that is).

  • djluke_1993

    Yeahh…. If you do her mission you find out she can’t talk English due to Skull Face putting the English vocal strain in her.

  • evilmajikman

    Was a 7/10 for me. The plotholes were too much. The missions were repetitive. Building the mother base and waiting to develop/upgrade weapons feels like a waste of time. And there’s an episode missing as well as an entire chapter.

  • evilmajikman

    It was kind of warranted though. I just replayed through all the games, and 4 and 5 stick out the most. Sure, I enjoyed the narrative, but there was barely any gameplay. It almost feels like a parody because there are moments like Europe where you just stalk 1 guy, go on a rail shooting scene, and go into a boss fight and you’re done with that chapter. 5 has the exact opposite problem. 4 and 5 both needed to be more balanced out. 1, 2, and 3 are a perfect balance of gameplay and narrative.

  • – Quiet doesn’t use any written communication, because it could lead to an easier way to interrogate (and torture) her to get informations. That could lead her to be forced to speak, and imagine she’d carry more than one parasite strain?
    – Everyone is pretty much outside when the giant thing is back. It’s the 1st major accomplishment of the Diamond Dogs. Snake still believes in Huey at that time, hoping he’d really become one of them. So at that time, Huey being probably the best personnel in the R&D block, there is no problem for him to be there.
    – I think Konami’s staff said they had planned to include Battle Gear for actual gameplay, but couldn’t because of time limits.
    -You do know who Eli really is? (or will become, to be correct) Considering how he came to this world, it seems absolutely normal to hate Big Boss, the same way Skull Face hated Zero.
    – Code talker explains it to you. The fact you discover it by yourself is just to prevent having all your MB personnel being dead. I had more than 400 people at that time, would have been a pain to start from scratch, huh?
    – Haven’t done mission 45 yet (because i do like Quiet lol), but i suppose it’s just for gameplay purpose.
    – Hmm, probably because Snake is now 20 years older? I don’t get that question, he’s plenty prepared for missions, look at all these weapons and items…

    – The quarantine staff probably do, but when Snake goes to that block, the new infection is caused by radiations. A gaz mask does not prevent radiations. And as said in the cassettes, Huey modified the medical tool to add beta rays, so the anti-radiation shields they used were not enough to protect the staff.
    – It’s been proven by the cassettes, Sahelanthropus was repaired by Huey. The kids, especially Eli, were “playing” with it, he wanted to “show” them how it worked. Considering how evil Eli is, and how Huey can’t see what’s good and not, he could have been easily maniupalted by Eli.
    – Fact is, they losed everything. Probably just enough money and relations to keep Snake alive. Not to mention Skull Face and XOF probably searching for them, so keeping a low profile was the only option.

  • Dr. Evil’s Brother’s Evil Twin

    I finally got around to playing it and I fucking loved Quiet. She’s such a badass.

  • Tyrannikos

    Exactly how I feel. Solid gameplay and mechanics, but it felt like a waste. That’s on top of feeling like the story was wasted potential. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I had hoped to.

  • Alistair

    Which ending you talking about did you finish chapter 2?

    Did you done all of quiet side ops to get full closure with her.

    There is basically 2 endings not one after the credits you go do mission 32+

    The game has it flaws like i said in other thread but it glowing on me.

    Not the best MGS BUT if you want to complete the story this is a must.

    The other flaws I have was the credits after each mission & lack of major wow factor cutscenes.

  • Alistair

    Spoiler alert.

    Paz lives

  • Best and Easiest works for anyone. Make $ 7500 to $ 10500 per month 0nliinee. All you just Need an Internet Connection and a Computer To Make Some Extra cash.Visit My Pr0 f!le for more info..dfdd..

  • Mike Nieto

    “Actuallyyyyy this isn’t a niche game by any means because the word niche mean that blah blah blah….”

    Great review Cody, keep at it.

  • BattlerArisato

    Or buy a PS3 they’re cheap nowadays and you can buy the Metal Gear Solid Collection cheap too.