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The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has brought a new edge to the Cold War, and in 1984, a one-eyed man with a prosthetic arm appears in the country. Those who know him call him Snake; the legendary mercenary who was once swept from the stage of history and left in a coma by American private intelligence network Cipher. Snake is accompanied by Ocelot, an old friend who saved him from attack when he finally awoke. Now, Snake's former partner Kazuhira Miller is being held by the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Snake must undertake a solo mission to rescue Miller and prove to the world that the legendary mercenary is not dead and gone. That first step will lead to a path of vengeance against the very Cipher that slaughtered so many of Snake's men, and to a battle that will embroil the whole world...What started in Ground Zeroes... must finish with "V."
Bring Metal Gear's signature stealth into an open world focused on individual missions
The visuals look great and run smoothly, with some occasional texture pop-in when your focus changes
Kiefer Sutherland does a good job, but speaks so rarely that the change from David Hayter in the lead role feels more like a PR stunt than a new direction for the character
Some of the contextual commands can be finicky, but the basic stealth and combat mechanics are rock solid
Many missions feel like puzzles, forcing you to use your available resources to find one of many ways to complete your objective. Applying your rewards to building, expanding, and improving your base is an irresistible joy
Metal Gear is a member of video gaming's old guard. It has been consistently popular since its inception in the 80s, which is a rare distinction it shares with revered names like Mario and Zelda. Unlike its peers, Metal Gear has been telling a continuous story the whole time - a major strength and a strange weakness all at once. Invested fans adore the series for its narrative just as much as its tactical espionage action, but the sprawling story makes it intimidating for newcomers. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is different; it puts the saga of Big Boss and his sons in the background, emphasizing dynamic gameplay and a player-directed approach to progression.
The story is still important, but it isn't the driving force in this installment. As Big Boss, you build an army and work against a villain named Skull Face (introduced in the MGS V prologue, Ground Zeroes). The premise of building Big Boss' legend is interesting, and it evolves to include compelling and unexpected themes that I won't spoil. However, Kojima Productions' decision to offload key story information into optional audio logs means that major developments can occur without necessary context, only letting you learn more about them after the fact. As a longtime series fan, I would rather deal with a few more cutscenes than spend hours listening to audio tapes to get the proper background. Though all of the information comes together eventually into a tale worthy of the Metal Gear name, the ending didn't satisfy me, presenting few answers and a lot of questions.
The hands-off approach to storytelling is disappointing, but it also makes room for other elements of the game to step to the forefront. Without frequent interruptions for exposition, you're free to immerse yourself in the addictive mission-based structure. You are presented with a staggering number of missions (split into story-critical and optional categories), and you plan and execute a series of operations at your own pace. The freedom is great, letting you choose the activities and rewards that interest you. Extracting valuable prisoners, stealing resources, sabotaging communications - each type of mission has a different flow. Getting into a rhythm is easy and fun, and you won't run out of content quickly. I finished the game around the 45-hour mark, and I still have a wealth of things to do.
The transition to an open world is generally smooth, though getting around isn't as easy as it could be. One fast travel system is buried and not clearly explained; You have to grab vouchers from certain shipping areas (which are not marked on the map until you find them), then get in your cardboard box to get shipped from one discovered location to another. Your other option is to spend a lot of time watching Big Boss ride on helicopters as you travel to and from landing zones. These mobility issues didn't stop me from enjoying the game, but the inability to quickly and intuitively get to where you need to be is a weird and unnecessary problem that other open-world titles solved years ago.
See the rest of the Review at Game Informer
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