For whatever reason, I had inadvertently forgotten about Metal Gear Solid V’s release date as well as the fact that it was a simultaneous console and PC release. I guess I had just assumed that it was going to be out on consoles first then PC 6 to 12 months later ala GTA, etc. So much to my pleasure, Phantom Pain has occupied much of my free time as of late as I slowly savor making my way through the main missions in between fulton extracting all the things. Metal Gear Solid has always been a game series that I hold dear. It has a combination of drama, humor, and ludicrous, over-the-top action that I just relish. Oh, and it is primarily a stealth game, which are sadly few and far between.
Phantom Pain is a fairly big departure from the traditional Metal Gear Solid formula in that it is structured in an open-world mission based fashion instead of being linear action/stealth narrative. The game is comprised of three main pieces: Main missions, side-missions, and base-building/fob etc. The side-missions allow for open world exploring whereas the main missions occur in a smaller subsection of the map. Changes made to the world during the side-missions though, persist during the campaign. As always, Snake has a wide variety of weapons and tools to choose from. Obviously, full stealth is the most difficult and rewarding route, though it is hard to resist unloading your full arsenal from time to time.
Phantom Pain is still a Metal Gear game, so there are quite a few cut scenes. I would say that roughly half of the introductory mission is either a cinematic or dialog, but that tapers off greatly when you get past the tutorial and into the meat of the game. If you aren’t caught up on the Metal Gear Solid series’ story, it’s no big deal; The gameplay stands on its own merits and is enjoyable to play even if the Metal Gear lore isn’t your thing.
If there is any one thing that I greatly dislike about Phantom Pain it is the saving system. I really wish that the game save system wasn’t checkpoint based. The game only saves when you zone in and out of a new area or very specific checkpoints on the map/mission, which is fine for a linear game but it doesn’t really work in an open world environment in my opinion. Quite often, being able to save at all, including situations while free roaming on a side-mission, requires exiting the area via helicopter or zoning into certain subsections on the map to trigger a checkpoint. It feels limiting and kind of defeats the purpose of a single player game. Some of the hotkeys and menu navigation in general is a bit irritating; The menus particularly since they are keyboard only with odd bindings (navigate tabs by using ‘1’ and ‘3’ not left and right).
The build-a-base aspect of the game is a lot more engaging than I had thought it would be. Much of my evenings seem to be spent indulging my mild game completion fetish by systematically fulton extracting every single valid resource on the map as well as meticulously scanning and extracting enemy soldiers with valuable skills to join the fold. In short, gameplay elements such as new and upgraded weapons are unlocked by researching them at motherbase. Each weapon blueprint has a minimum set of requirements in the form of resources and the level of your R&D team. Upgrade your team by recruiting folks or by…well…whisking them away from the battlefield via balloon.
I am 56 hours deep into the game and about somewhere between a third and half way through the game. To say that I am having fun would be an understatement.