It has been almost three entire decades of gaming evolution since Hideo Kojima unleashed on the world the Metal Gear franchise. Since 1987, gamers have had controllers gripped with sweaty hands while alone in the dark with nothing more than pure Dr. Pepper adrenaline pushing them through nothing short of action and tactical espionage bliss. In a word, dynasty.
Kojima’s continued pedigree of excellence across six consoles and three handhelds is quite an impressive resume. To not only adapt, but to push to the limits new console technology while penning some of the best stories in gaming while continuing to build upon the MGS mythology is something that few outside the names George Lucas and Shigeru Miyamoto (Zelda) could be thrown into a conversation with when discussing legends in the industry.
Got to admit, never thought it would end like this. Not many know the details of the recent public divorce between Hideo Kojima and developer Konami, but one thing is for sure. This is the last true Kojima Metal Gear chapter and the current gen of hardware will be its tombstone. Join me as I give a spoiler free first impressions of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and please feel free to share your thoughts as well.
Note* The Playstation 4 version of the game was used for this feature.
It has been common knowledge that Big Boss has been in a nine-year coma since Ground Zeroes hit retail last year, but in nostalgic MGS lore, Kojima once again kicked off the game with a very cool and cinematic opening sequence unlike anything we have ever seen in a Metal Gear game. With some nice 1980’s music to really capture the mood of waking up in 1984 after a nine-year coma from the world. This is the type of opening introduction that truly makes the player feel like they have no idea at all what is going to happen next, and I love it! To maintain my spoiler free impressions, this is as far as I will go into the story itself. Even MGS vets will be blown away by this opening , trust me.
Graphical and cinematic presentation has always been a staple for the series, and this one is no different. Kojima has once again pushed the current hardware to show off just what the new generation of consoles can do. From MGS 2: Sons Of Liberty on the fresh Playstation 2 to MGS 4: Guns Of The Patriots on the last generation , Metal Gear games have always been just as incredible to watch as they are to play. Curtains wave from the wind of a nearby ceiling fan, facial expressions are impressively on point as if you were watching an action flick on HBO, and the musical orchestra is blended perfectly with the action. There is a scene during a thunderstorm where you are shooting while racing through a dark lightning storm that quickly made me conclude that I just might be witnessing the best graphics in the current console generation. Watching desert dust kick up in the air as your horse picks up the speed in the Afghanistan mountains was next-gen level jar dropper material.
The sound really sells the graphics too. Lightning strikes down on your home surround sound with a vengeance. Gun shots echo through your ears as you hear different gun shots from different guns. Listening to a puddle of liquid as you crawl though the floor serve as a reminder that Hideo Kojima has a unique attention to detail. Get a little to close to a fire, and you will hear the snap , crackle, and pop of the wood. In short, The Phantom Pain just sounds awesome. If your speakers have an option, I would suggest switching from game mode to cinematic instead. Just sounds better when watching an extended cinema.
The controls feel even more silky smooth than in Ground Zeroes. From crawling by a dead body on a bloody floor to sprinting for my life, the controls are spot on and requires more instinct than thought. Feels great to switch from 3rd person to first person and back again to 3rd person as you continue to get the best camera angle while in a gory Rambo style firefight. Using the R2 shoulder button to pull off any CQC however , might take a little more time to perfect. Let’s say I will avoid any up close and fighting for the meantime. When you do pull off a CQC move, it looks freaking bad ass. Jason Bourne would be impressed. Switching from guns and gear does have a learning curve of getting used to the new style in comparison to the controller lay out of some of the past classic titles in the series.
Voice acting is superb as expected. David Hayter wasn’t the only voice actor getting replaced. This entire game feels like a voice actor reboot. One of the most popular villains from the franchise gets a new voice. Like Sutherland, all the new voice acting for the characters still feels genuine to said character. Sutherland’s Snake is growing on me, but I still have trouble looking at Snake and hearing someone else’s voice other than Hayter. That is of course when you hear Snake talk. For paying such a high dollar actor such a Sutherland, you would think Kojima would have had him be a bit more chatty. I heard most of his dialogue in the Idroid tape player menu option. Speaking of the cassette headphones, was pretty entertaining to listen to witty mission briefs and conversations. Another layer of polish that Kojima is known for. Also the music was a nice touch of polish for those who want some smooth MGS fan music to listen to as your sneak up from behind a guard to snap his neck.
This final chapter in the series presents itself like it knows it is the last ride. By far, one of the most bloody and graphic introductions than your average Metal Gear entry. This is a revenge tale, and a great one at that. For those who have not played any of the Metal Gear titles in the past, no worries. The game’s story can be picked up from any ground zero player, but of course, the more familiar you are with the series, the better you will appreciate all its nods and connected dots. I think the only thing that would keep this from earning masterpiece status would be a short campaign. Judging from the games almost two-hour first chapter, I don’t think we have to worry. Hideo Kojima has done it again in this grand finale to one of the most successful and critically acclaimed series in gaming since the 1980’s. While it is unclear what the fate of Snake may have in store, I can say that his creator will no doubt have a spot reserved in the gaming hall of fame with a Zeus like statute to boot. Thank you Mr. Kojima for the thirty year ride.
I give Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain a 5 out of 5 Ninja Throwing Stars.