This game takes place after Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Snake has been in a coma for nine years, and woken up suddenly during an attack by a mysterious organisation. Eventually rescued by one of Snake's old acquaintance, Ocelot, and plans to exact their revenge on the same organisation who hunted the MSF down nine years ago.
The game deals with dark and serious issues like Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, such as revenge, sacrifice, child labour, and death. Despite tackling those issues, the game's story is rather not as focused as previous Metal Gear games, such as no proper endings to some of the game's characters. Most of the important plot points are only told in radio conversations, but I personally think that many of the radio conversations are too important to be placed as radio conversations and instead they should be developed with full cutscenes like previous Metal Gear games. Also, I do not like some of the plot alterations made in this game that retcon some of the established plot points in the Metal Gear, especially the actual history of Big Boss in the series. Some of the plot twists in this game are not really likable as well, in my opinion, as some really do conflict with a number of story expositions in other Metal Gear Solid games, in an unfavourable way.
The game is divided with two chapters, yet there is not much closure to some of the characters' stories. The deleted third chapter, named Peace, would have provide a major exposition to one of the popular Metal Gear characters, but it was eventually cut.
Although I like most of the characters in the game, there are some underdeveloped characters that should be addressed. Venom Snake is a good character, but his presence was somewhat overshadowed by his own comrades like Ocelot, Quiet and Miller. To avoid spoilers, one of the game designs caused this Venom Snake to be less appealing than Snake in Ground Zeroes, despite having more lines in this game. Another major complaint I have is that the underutilisation of the character Skull Face, who despite being a major villain in this game and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, has very few appearances that eventually diminish his villainous presence.
Unlike previous Metal Gear games, this game plays more of a stealth & open-world game, with lots of gameplay features carried over from both Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.
You will first control Venom Snake, where you can do actions such as aim and shoot, running, sprinting, walking, crouch walking, diving, take cover and many other actions while on the field. As you progress in the game, you may recruit soldiers who may have better stats than Venom Snake who can be extremely beneficial in tackling harder Missions in the game.
2) Exploration and Progression Section
Exploration of this game is pretty much free-roaming in an open world, where you can travel around in either Afghanistan or Africa to recruit soldiers for your base as well as completing side missions called Side Ops. There are very few other side-activities can be done, which are capturing animals and acquiring useful resources such as materials and vehicles. In comparison to previous Metal Gear Solid games, you will mostly explore outdoor areas compared to many bases or indoor facilities featured in them, There are still bases exist in this game, although they are still fewer in numbers. You may also choose to visit your Mother Base, and travel along the platforms by a vehicle or on foot. Day and night cycle also applies to this game, and it affects the behaviours of enemies like their patrol routes and placements. Most of the time, sneaking at night is recommended as it allows you to blend in environments to avoid detection, however, visibility will be an issue unless you use a night vision goggles. Also, weather also plays a part in the game, as some can be advantageous or disadvantageous to you in different conditions.
Missions in this game often have mandatory objectives that you have to complete in order to progress. In the majority of the Missions, there are also Side Objectives that you may choose to complete them. Completing them would benefit greatly towards your Mission Ranking, as well as rewarding you new staffs or plans. Depending on your performance on different aspects, you will get different rewards, such as the amount of GMP, materials, and others. As there are many ways to complete your Missions, don't be afraid to experiment and retry them to get the best rankings. For example, you can choose to save the POWs using route A, or you can choose to save them via route B.
You may also choose to complete Side Ops, optional side missions where you can complete them in order to get more GMP and possible new soldiers recruitment. Side Ops have a variety of objectives, such as rescuing POWs, neutralise an armored squad, and others. There are some mandatory Side Ops in the game however, as you complete them before progressing the game's story.
Outer Ops are optional missions that can be participated by sending your combat units to complete them. The progression is real-time, so you can send them while completing your main Missions at the same time. As some of them may take a long time to complete, sending several groups of combat soldiers to complete several Outer Ops missions are recommended. Rewards usually include GMP, new soldiers, and materials.
3) Customisation Option
This game also features heavy customisation options, where you can customise certain appearances of your vehicles, equip your playable character with different suits for different effects, and many more. Upgrading in this game is close tied to your resources management and staff management, where you can spend your acquired materials to invest on weapons and tools research to improve your arsenal.
You may also choose to upgrade your main base's platforms to extend them and improve their functions. For example, improving the R&D Platform allows you to invest on more expensive and powerful weapons researches as well as allowing you to place more staffs in that platform to hasten the development time. The development time of researches are done in real-time, as some researches may take one hour or maybe even more to be completed. Some researches require plans to be developed, where they can be found in bases or other locations in the game. You also must spend currency GMP to start weapon researches, which can be obtained by completing Main Missions, Side Ops, and selling resources.
As you recruit more soldiers, you will notice them that they have different stats in different aspects, such as Combat, Medical, and others. Different aspects dictate different factors in the game, such as having high Combat stat grants them increased weapon accuracy. It is wise to delegate different soldiers with different specialisations to appropriate platforms for your Mother Base, such as soldiers with high Medical stat should be assigned to Medical Platform. Different soldiers may have different passive Skills, which may be beneficial in both combat and development.
4) Combat Section
Combat system is exactly the same with Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes combat system, where you have access to new features like Marking system and Reflex system. Marking system allows you to mark enemies caught on sight by you by your gun aiming or by using the binoculars. This system also allows you to keep track on your enemies' movement and behaviour, which is extremely vital during stealth missions. It is also useful to keep track on enemies when you are being hunted by them during your escape.
Reflex system also returned in this game from Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Reflex allows you to slowdown time when being spotted by an enemy for a short time, and gives you a chance to shoot down an enemy to prevent any alerts. Although this is a very useful ability, using it may prevent you from getting score bonus for S Ranks in Missions.
CQC also returns in this game, where you can do several melee actions on enemies. You may strike down enemies with a melee combo, throw them down with a powerful slam, and grab them as hostages. You may also hold enemies up, interrogating them as well as order them to lie down to neutralise them. As you progress into more Missions, these are vital techniques for you to clear Missions quickly. You may also carry knocked out soldiers to avoid them being spotted, or to carry them and POWs for extraction.
Before you start a Mission, you will need to prepare your equipment, such as attire, weaponry, and items. Having proper equipment to tackle different Missions are highly recommended, as they can help you to complete them easily. For example, using weapons with silencers are highly recommended for stealth missions. The variety of enemies encountered throughout in different missions also should be mentioned as they may pose different level of challenge, like heavilly armoured soldiers are more resistant to gunfire. However, each piece of equipment has a resource cost, which may expend your materials reserves slightly or greatly, depending on what equipment you are carrying. You may also choose to bring a companion to help you during Missions, Side Ops or during freeroaming.
5) Online Section
You may also choose to connect online to access more resources, new FOBs (Forward Operating Bases), and new Outer Ops missions. You may also choose to invade other player's FOBs and steal their resources, which in turn you can use them in Missions as well as weapons development. Conversely, online players may also choose to invade your FOBs and attempt to steal resources. If this happens while you are playing, you can repel them back as you go back to your FOB and defend it from the invader. It is highly advisable for you to assign high ranked soldiers as security to reduce the rate of online players successfully invading you. You may also place other security options such as laser sensors and cameras for increased security. However, be also aware that if you loose the online connection, you will not be able to access any online resources such as materials. You may also participate online Events as well to obtain rewards like high ranked soldiers and materials.
Like Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, this game has the best gameplay controls of all Metal Gear games. Tight, precise and robust game controls that are well-utilised in the game, like both combat, exploration and driving controls. The online features are robust and easy to understand, while the variety of weapons and customisation are welcome additions. Staff management, exploration, and the variety of Side Ops are well executed. The enemy A.I. in this game are also clever and well-implemented, where they demonstrate appropriate actions when trying to search for loud noise or attacking you. I also like the variety of ways to complete your objectives in the game, such as saving the prisoners first from dying before killing off a dangerous target, and vice versa. This game allows you to experiment a number of ways to complete your Missions using different equipment and approach, which should be commended.
However, there are some issues with the game. First of all, the Missions' design is repetitive, like Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker's Missions' design, as the some of the second half of the Missions are reused from earlier Missions with a higher difficulty. Due to the lack of unique Missions, the pacing of the game is somewhat affected, and the story itself is not as dense as other Metal Gear games. Secondly, lack of unique boss battles. The boss battles are severely lacking compared to previous Metal Gear games, with around only five unique boss fights. Although they are nicely designed, the lack of unique boss fights should be noted as you may fight them in later missions with harder difficulty. Plus, I do not feel all of the boss fights in this game are intense or fun to beat compared to previous Metal Gear games.
Other criticisms include the lack of activities in Mother Base. The Mother Base feels somewhat... lifeless despite being populated with your staff. The inability to interact with important NPCs at the Mother Base, the limited customisation of the Mother Base and the few number of indoor areas in Mother Base should be noted as well. The inability to revisit Camp Omega from Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is disappointing as well. Despite all these issues, this game still stand out among Metal Gear games as being a more robust and advanced version of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker with excellent game controls.
Despite being a multiplatform title for five platforms, this game looks great on PS4. Impressive character designs, great environment designs, and great visual effects such as rain made this game one of the best looing games in 2015. Even the game's cutscenes mostly used in-game engine, which is an impressive feat. There were a few of bugs and glitches present before installing updates, but most of them are fixed by installing the latest update.
Overall voice acting is great, with excellent voice performances by every voice actor. Unfortunately, Venom Snake's voice actor, Kiefer Sutherland has less lines than expected from a main character compared to all characters in both cutscenes and radio conversations. Kiefer Sutherland seems more natural in this game, but I find that his voice talent was underutilised in this game.
The soundtrack is pretty good, with some nice themes like the introduction theme for Venom Snake, Quiet's Theme, Sins of the Father, and some of the battle themes. The licensed songs are a nice selection as well, where you listen when you are in the chopper.
Due to the game's open-world nature, this game has high replay value, even if offline. You may choose to capture all animals, capture all outposts in Afghanistan and Africa, building up your main Mother Base, create new FOBs, complete all Side Ops, complete all main Missions, complete every mission Task in every main Mission, and many more. Playing the game online will give you even more options to do other tasks, such as doing optional online FOB missions. You may also opt to play Metal Gear Online if you wish to.
This may be the final installment of Metal Gear Solid series, as it attempts to tie in multiple stories from previous Metal Gear games into one comprehensive storyline. Unfortunately, I do not feel that this game's attempts to tie in and solve past mysteries in Metal Gear games are as good as Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Despite being overloaded with story cutscenes and short completion time, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots are better than Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain in these factors. Despite it being confirmed as an official main game by Konami, I find it easier for me to treat both Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain as spin-offs instead of main games in the Metal Gear series, particularly due to the story issues. I think the game would have been much better if this game includes Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes' story campaign and side missions for more proper continuity and to compensate the inability to visit Camp Omega.
Plus, I miss the humour from previous Metal Gear games, and I do not think the dark and radical changes to the tone and story of this game are fitting for a Metal Gear game. I also do not like the retcons and massive plot changes to the established Metal Gear plot points, such as the legend of Big Boss. The lack of unique boss fights is another major issue I have with this game, as well as poor Missions variety and sparse story cutscenes compared to previous Metal Gear Solid games.
However, do not let that deter you from playing this game. Personally, I think this game has the game controls among all Metal Gear Solid games, have lots of replay value, impressive combat system, and expansive exploration. I do advise Metal Gear fans to keep an open mind when playing this game, as some of story sections and the major nature of gameplay may be difficult for you to accept. It is a good game with a number of merits, but still filled with some issues, both major and minor.
Pros and Cons
- Mature and dark storyline.
- Impressive and tight game controls.
- Great combat system.
- Extensive customisation.
- Multiple methods to achieve Mission objectives.
- Well-done day/night cycle and weather systems.
- Long playing time.
- Clever enemy A.I. design.
- Impressive graphics.
- Great voice acting.
- Good soundtrack.
- High replay value.
- A number of unfavourable retcons on Metal Gear history.
- Too many important plot points available only via radio conversations.
- Several unresolved storylines, such as the deleted third chapter.
- Several underutilised characters, like Venom Snake and Skull Face.
- Lack of unique boss fights.
- Lack of variety of side activities.
- Repetitive Mission designs and objectives.
- Lack of activities in Mother Base.
- Inability to revisit Camp Omega.
- Lack of Venom Snake's lines.