Metal Gear Solid V isn’t actually the 5th game in the Metal Gear series thanks to games such as Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes, however it is the latest in the franchise starring Big Boss, or Punished “Venom” Snake as he’s known here. After Solid, Liquid and Naked etc it’s really hard not to smirk and think that Hideo Kojima really does like jokes about one’s manhood. Anyway, set 9 years after the events in Ground Zeroes, you awaken from a coma and head into Afghanistan and Africa to start a new private military company and raise your own army all in the name of freedom and revenge.
It’s really hard not to be spoilerific here so I won’t go into too many plot details, save to say you’ll meet some characters you’ve seen elsewhere in the Metal Gear games. As well as the real world military action, prepare for some slightly supernatural goings on and of course some silly humour such as Snake climbing inside boxes again and people being strung up on balloons and sucked into the sky.
In fact, the Fulton Delivery System as it’s known is an essential part of the game. It allows you to capture fallen enemies and gear and send it all to Motherbase, an offshore oilrig-type structure that becomes your base of operations. Here you can expand the base, assign your army to different areas of development and from there get better weapons, outfits, vehicles and so on. If you’ve played Peace Walker you’ll be familiar with this concept and whilst daunting at first, you can actually auto assign staff which means this micromanagement is only there if you really want to get stuck in.
You’ll also be able to take a buddy with you. To begin with it’s your horse, but later on you can choose a dog that you rescue as a puppy. They help you in various ways, for example the horse lets you get from A to B quicker and you can also drop to one side to hide from enemies, it’s useful when passing a guard post you don’t want to engage.
When it comes to combat and sneaking about, there’s nothing majorly new here, it’s just that the presentation is so good it’s mesmerising. The opening escape scene in the hospital is one of the most breath-taking set pieces I’ve played in a while, it also looks truly next-gen. Even the David Bowie track helps to make this one memorable sequence which, for a prologue, lasts over an hour. It’s long, but you know what to expect by now when playing in Snake’s shoes. Special mention also has to be made of sandstorms and the day and night cycles which dynamically change the way missions progress. For example, a sandstorm blowing in at just the right time will reduce your visibility but also the enemies’, meaning you can run around and find a good vantage point when it wouldn’t have been possible in broad daylight.
Another concept borrowed from Peace Walker is the episodic nature of the game. This isn’t an open world you’re dropped into to make your own adventure. While you can explore, you’re still kept within a mission hot zone with a very direct mission, be it rescue, assassination or retrieval. Quite how you go about this is up to you and that’s to be applauded. You will however have to extract and return to Motherbase on some occasions which can break up the action somewhat. The advantage of these chapters is you can go back again and try to achieve all the side objectives as well, earning yourself more cash and bonuses you can then use to strengthen your army.
Metal Gear Online also begins on October 6th. Quite what that will bring is yet to be seen but it’s sure to bring tonnes more playability to what is an already very compelling and playable game. I just can’t put it down.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain gets 9 out of 10.
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