Game: Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC
Rated: M for Mature
Playing Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain was an emotional experience for me. I have been an avid Metal Gear fan since I first played the demo version of Metal Gear Solid on the original PlayStation as a child, but the history of this game goes far beyond the PlayStation. This series dates all the way back to 1987 for the MSX2 computer. For a game saga with such a storied history, a game that has so many invested fans, how does the new iteration stack up? Did it make me emotional with happy or sad tears?
The narrative takes place nine years after the last game, Ground Zeroes. Snake wakes up from a coma to find the hospital he is in is under attack. Luckily for him, he has an ally who has been watching over him for the last nine years. After a rather jaw drooping opening level, the main mission of the game is to rebuild Snake’s army by converting enemy soldiers to his side, and to find out who destroyed his base and put him in that coma. If you are not a longtime Metal Gear fan, the nuances of the story will be lost on you, but despite this, even if you are joining Snake for the first time, the overall story arch will keep you engaged. This time around the story missions have been developed into easily digestible bite sized episodes. Each of these episodes is like a mini movie, credits roll on the screen both when you start it and when it is finished. The game was written and directed by legendary developer Hideo Kojima, this master designer’s distinguishable method of creating cinematic scenes and story telling will be instantly recognizable to anyone who is familiar with him.
Metal Gear Solid is defined as stealth espionage, therefore the game emphasizes a sneaking play style, but you don’t have to play this way. There are two main locations in the game, Afghanistan and Africa. Once these locations are unlocked, you can free roam around them at any time, either to cause havoc or gather intel on upcoming mission locations. The game’s mechanics remain similar to previous versions; you can crawl through the undergrowth and send your foes into a premature sleep with your tranquilizer gun before recruiting them to your team by way of attaching a balloon (fulton) to their slumbering body, which propels them into the sky. This age old way of playing Metal Gear has been updated in plenty of ways. Now buddies can accompany you in the field, including a horse that can help you navigate the enormous landscapes more quickly, a dog that can sniff out and mark enemies on your screen so you don’t accidentally run into them and others you find along the way. Another unique aspect of gameplay is the mother base, Snake’s home. This is where all the vehicles, heavy weapons, animals and fellow soldiers are sent once they have been extracted by use of the fulton. With the money you make on your adventure you can expand your base and have zoos filled with animals you find, medical bays, jail cells and intel centers. The men and women you bring back can develop new weapons and items for snake along with outfits for him and his buddies. There will even be an online mode where you can infiltrate friend’s bases, but that feature is not currently available.
It’s simply beautiful—there is no other word to describe the look of this game. Characters have been painstakingly rendered through motion capture on actors’ faces, such as Kiefer Sutherland (voice of Snake), allowing emotions to shine through the screen. Lighting slowly changes as morning turns to afternoon, dusk and then night. Rain drizzles down the screen; sandstorms randomly emerge, consuming the player and the environment with a tornado of sailing grit and dirt. Blood soaks into the fabric of your clothing after intense battles, bushes sway, and tires spray sand into the air— there are always tiny details to pick up on.
Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain is not only one of the best games in terms of gameplay and graphics for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, but it also is an incredible experience on last gen systems as well. If you are fan of the Metal Gear series you will be in heaven, if you are trying it for the first you will fall in love like the rest of us.