I was a big fan of Metal Gear Solid. The game came out when I was starting grammar school, and I was hyped. The game wasn’t that long, I finished it in a weekend, but it was great. It was the first game that I had played that had voice acting and stylishly directed cutscenes. It also featured the fourth wall breaking moments and overall I loved it.
Years and sequels passed. I stopped playing after Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, it went out on a high. Didn’t have a PlayStation 3, so I never played the fourth entry. I bought Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain on Xbox 360. I enjoyed it but didn’t play it that much.
Last month Xbox Games with Gold had released The Phantom Pain as it’s the free game that month. I reinstalled it on Xbox One and played it again. I’m going to share my thoughts with you in regards to why, although enjoyable, it is a broken game.
1: Metal Gear Solid Grinding
This is my biggest problem with the game. It is a grind. The Phantom Pain has a lot of resource management for a game series that was supposed to be about spying.
As you progress through the game, you are gradually introduced to more and more menus. You have to develop items, send soldiers on missions and build extensions to your base.
I don’t know how optional all this is but the game taps into that psychological need to collect everything. You want to max out every aspect of the game.
Part of me wonders did Kojima put these aspects in deliberately. The game keeps you playing for longer because you’re waiting for projects to complete. That means you play for longer. You ask yourself, why am I playing this for so long and your brain backwards rationalises that the game is good.
The problem with this is that the game becomes less challenging the more you play it, and the more you grind.
2: At odds with itself
Metal Gear Solid has always had a unique sense of tone. For every sad character death, there is some moment of slapstick nonsense. It was part of the charm but as graphics improved it has led to a jarring sense of tone.
There are aspects of the game that is ridiculous that also make it way to easy. The Fulton extraction where you strap a balloon to someone, and they magically show up at your base. I know it’s a video game and I’m not insinuating that it’s a bad thing. My problem is it’s hard to take the dramatic scenes seriously with this nonsense going on in the background.
3: Episodic nature Side missions are the same from
The first Metal Gear Solid was excellent because it was set over an 18 hour period. It wasn’t real time, but there was a ticking clock in the background which aided in creating tension.
In The Phantom Pain, this is not the case. There is an episodic nature to the game. Missions are split up into Story and Side Ops. If there is no urgency; there is no drama.
There is no difference between the Story Missions and the Side Ops. The majority of missions are going to this point of the map, rescue/kill someone and then leave.
There are many repetitive missions too. Rescue the child soldiers not once not twice but five times.
Overall they could have all the missions in one menu, but as I have found out, The Phantom Pain loves it’s menus.
4: MB coins
You can feel the rot set in with the MB coins. I’m not sure what they do, but they appear to be connected online. Part of my whole problem with the game is always online.
This was before Konami fired Kojima and they brought out Metal Gear Survive where you had to pay for a save slot. How much of the always online was to do with Konami and how much had to do with Kojima we’ll never know. However, due to my bias towards Kojima, I’m going to say it was all Konami’s idea.
5: What are the rules
In my time playing, I have never been entirely sure about what the rules are in the game. There is a lack of consistency in the AI of the enemy guards. Sometimes you can sneak past them. Sometimes they feel an inconsistency in air pressure and know precisely where you are.
I know you probably think I suck at the game. You’re right I’m not the best at it but I the game acknowledges it’s own shortcomings through the ranking system.
If I suck so much at the game then how am I getting a top rank in missions on the first playthrough? I barely know what I’m doing, but the game says that I am doing it well.
There’s no sense of challenge and no sense of reward if I am muddling through and doing fantastically in the eyes of the game.
6: Open world because why not everything is open world
Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain is open world, and it is not good. What you have is a big beautiful empty world with nothing much to do. There are guard posts, but good lord so much of the game spent with the sprint button held down. You have an option of cars and horses, but it doesn’t make it any more fun. Add to the fact that you can’t climb every rock. It means that there is a strong feeling of bottlenecking when it comes to taking on challenges. You can either approach from the left or the right.
7: The game feels rushed
It is no surprise that like the rest of modern games they always are released before they are ready. The Phantom Pain is no exception. The whole game feels like there was more to come. The way you’re introduced to new elements. There’s no real reason why and the fact that the game has one of the most baffling twists of recent years. There has also been footage released of the alternate ending. With Kojima no longer at Konami and Konami no longer making games it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a final cut. It’s a shame that the series goes out with a whimper.