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Why Metal Gear Solid V is Both Underrated AND Overrated

A student, a gamer, a lover of film and culture. Less experience in life than a starting character in OG Fallout games.

Headfirst into controversy...

Headfirst into controversy...

SNAKE'S LIFE

It’s been five years since the final outing of Snake and essentially the end of the series, as we know it. The fifth mainline game, “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”, is an end to an era, showcasing both the past and the future. As always, the end of an old guard leads to discussion and conflicts

As a long time fan of the series, I recently did a playthrough of the mainline series (as time-consuming as it sounds). My opinions of the games didn’t really change – the original one is a brief and exciting “b-movie” romp; Raiden’s cartwheels still are a great addition to the existential cluster of forward-looking ideas; Big Boss’s genesis still is my absolute favourite piece of media; Old Snake still is an over-indulgent, yet fascinating display of Kojima’s branded fireworks.

The same happened with Venom Snake’s mission. I have never been sure about my feelings with the game – sad about the story, happy about the gameplay, making me feel indecisive about the whole experience. Of course, I am not the only one at the crossroads.

I am not trying to persuade You, dear viewer, either way. By all means, stick to Your guns and ignore each other. This is more of a textual infomercial, a way for both camps to be informed, why some call this the second coming of Jesus and others would be quite happy to have let GW improve societal sanity.

A CASE FOR ITS FANS (V HAS COME TO)

MGSV: TPP is visually and audially stunning. Booting it up three years later after my initial playthrough, the plush vistas, booming gunshots and ALL the lense flares still take my breath away. Then again, Hideo’s stealth romps have always been cutting-edge. The introduction sequence (the one with Nietzsche’s quote and Midge Ure wailing in the background) might be one of the whole series’ highlights and the fight against Sahelanthropus is just the best mech-fight in the series.

The fact is simple – “The Phantom Pain” is absolutely playable. No complex control schemes and a normal camera leads to experimentation and fun. No more finicking about to crouch, more choices and ingenious level design results in emergent gameplay and some of the finest scenarios the series has ever seen (almost every mission feels like the cabin before The End in MGS3 and that’s an accomplishment). The main defenders of this installment claim that it is “pretty good” that the game is actually as close as an MGS game could be to a conventional stealth game. That

SPOILERS

The whole twist – You are Snake and Snake is You – feels quite fascinating. Of course, by paying attention, the avid would had understood this during the first ten hours by all of the signs (Why Volgin does not react? Why doesn’t the AI pod recognise Snake?). The revelation is not supposed to be as mind blowing as, for example, the S3 Plan or the Boss’s true motives, but it feels as a heartfelt “goodbye”, a message and approvement of our involvement in this whole saga. And that is the least that Kojima could do after 28 years of playing with our expectations.

No cat-calls in sight

No cat-calls in sight

AN ACCUSATION OF INDULGENCE (FEELING LIKE A DAMN FIDDLE)

First and foremost – yes, the “Phantom Pain” I feel is real. Mission 51, the sad husk of the Mother Base and Kiefer’s (lack of) performance, especially after the “wow-factor” from Ground Zeroes leaves You with more questions than answers, some of which I am not still sure were intentional.

Every MGS-fanatic knows that gameplay is only half of the equation in regards to the series. Saying “half” feels excessive – the story has always dominated discussion. And... the game has a story. Barely. Twists are not delivered with the traditional soap-opera intensity and no-one feels as dramatic as before (the tame Ocelot is just boring). The players who came for the twists and turns in the tales of Snakes are (and rightly should be) disappointed and left with the titular pain.

And the gameplay has its faults. Headshot + tranq + FULTON + duck walking is as deadly as ever, and the latter half of the game, although awesome in practice, in theory, is just a lazy reskin of before.

I have always felt that the hate MGS V has received was always directed at the circumstances that the development experienced. Yes, Kojima Productions was basically hamstrung during the home-stretch, but, let’s be honest, Konami’s actions were sort of merited. The overblown budget and Kojima’s hubris are maybe not the only causes, but definitely contributed to the end result, but sadly the star designer has defected blame elsewhere.

CONCLUSION

There are so many points to discuss and maybe someday I will write a book about it. Psycho Mantis and Liquid Snake’s roles, cut content, Venom Snake’s identity, everything. Maybe this article will change with time, maybe I will dive headfirst into the cesspool that is the series’ fanbase, but, as Snake had put it so handsomely, “Building the future and keeping the past alive are one and the same thing.” With that said, personally, this adventure is an awe-inspiring tour de force, yet, by changing the formula so radically, it feels as it has lost a body part.

Phantom pain, indeed, I guess.