When I finished Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, I was rather disappointed. I had been aware that Ground Zeroes wasn’t a full game, but the $20 price tag set my expectations too high for what amounts to a single-level demo (with a handful of remixes of that same level). It was an impressive demo, to be sure, but I was far less excited for the full game.
This lack of enthusiasm was a major departure from the insane amount hype that I experienced leading up to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The announcement of said game is what prompted me to purchase a PlayStation 3. And the months leading up to its released found me gobbling up every preview that I could get my hands on. If anything, my pre-MGSV days mirrored my general malaise toward the current console generation.
That all changed when the first wave of reviews hit the scene, the general consensus being that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was a game changer for the open-world genre. I decided to snag a (digital) copy of the game from some deal site that was offering a discount. Once I completed the strangely difficult introductory mission, I ventured out into the deserts of Afghanistan to sneak around and put some guys in a sleeper hold. This has always been a dream of mine, so my aforementioned lack of enthusiasm quickly transformed into a frenzied fervor.
In no time, I was thoroughly convinced that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was the greatest game that had ever been made.
I think the greatest strength of MGSV is the mission structure. The entire game is presented as a series of missions, rather than single linear one. It’s a fundamental shift from previous games in the franchise. This granular structure may come at the expense of the cinematic presentation that fans of the series might expect, but the moment-to-moment gameplay loop of this game is by far the most addictive one yet. Kojima (series director) may have wanted MGS4 to be a blockbuster movie, but he wants MGSV to be a Netflix original series. It worked. It didn’t matter that I had to go to work the next morning; I just needed to play one more mission… and then one more mission… and then one more…
Some might complain that the missions are a bit repetitive. It is true that the mission objectives often bear similarity to one another, but the game allows a great deal of player agency. You can approach each mission however you like: with all of the explosive indulgence of a Michael Bay film or carefully executed stealth. Like I hinted at before, I prefer to systematically send every soldier to sleepy-time. While this was technically the case with previous MGS games, the noisy approach is far more rewarding in this game than any other.
And that’s only a portion of the game. One of the most satisfying parts of MGSV is the base-building that drives much of the variation of the rest of the game. As I made my way through the arid countryside of Afghanistan, I was constantly on the lookout for expert soldiers to recruit to the Boss’s Diamond Dogs team. Our Mother Base kept getting bigger, and with a larger staff came the opportunity to research advanced weapons technology, which affected the way I approached my missions in the field.
Steam tells me that I’ve played this game for 156 hours, and I still want to go back to replay a few more missions and continue to upgrade Mother Base. I know that’s what the Boss would want me to do.
…and I want nothing more than to make the Boss proud.