Unlike other games, I have been in no rush to do a piece on the latest Metal Gear Solid Game. In fact I have been playing it sparsely in an effort to make it last as long as possible. As such a review in the traditional sense is impossible. These are just a few thoughts on what works and what doesn’t in Kojima’s latest epic.
To begin with everyone should play Ground Zeroes, it is a fun introduction to the current mechanics of MGS and serves as a good appetizer to the main course. It was recently available on PS+ and Xboxlive for free so hopefully everyone that is interested in the game will have picked these up. The new mechanics in MGS are probably the biggest departure for the series. While similar to Peace Walker in design, the change in viewpoint is like a change of game completely. No Longer is the game top-down, now thanks to the over the shoulder, third-person view you are always in the action. Previously one of the outdated aspects of the series was the camera angle, which seemed to force cautious play on you. Before you had to hit a button to go into first person view to get a good look around the corner or survey the situation. Now you just angle the camera correctly and you can see as far as Snake can. This means the immersion, is at an all time high.
The immersion extends to the early gameplay. Leaving the amazing intro aside for the moment, the first levels are set in Afghanistan around the time of Rambo 3, or to normal people the early eighties. You are dropped in Afghanistan with a horse and basic equipment and the rest is completely up to you. Anything you can think of doing is open to you, This is a worrying freedom that hasn’t been experienced since GTA 3. That sense of openness, that lt’s your imagination do the work long before your controller. Because of this MGS can be incredibly stressful to play. You see a base in the distance and chances are if you see them, they can see you. After a few close shaves, you start playing the game as if you were there. You creep around the edges of canyons to get a better view of things, you only deploy at night to limit the number of guards and if you are anything like me, you develop a hatred of clay pots, that smash if you brush against them. A far departure from other MGS games where you used the enemy AI as your plaything on lower difficulties. In MGSV there are no difficulty levels, just more difficult ways of doing the mission. One early mission for me went completely wrong leading to a major firefight. Luckily a sandstorm blew up and I could escape before going in again and mopping up the rest of the enemies. I had tried to stun them and recover, but when your stealth fails your use of lethal force is handled just as well.
The unlocking of the fulton recovery device opens the game up beyond belief. This surreal device attaches a balloon to stunned enemies, vehicles, animals and other resources in the levels, then shoots them into the sky for you to assimilate them into your mother base. This practice becomes a game in itself, from scanning the enemy soldiers, to see their individual skills, to placing them in the correct section of your mother base, the micro management part of the game takes on a more and more important role as you progress. It may be fun to kill all the enemy soldiers in one base like I did before, but that doesn’t get you and soldiers for your base. Who knows? One of the enemy soldiers I gunned down in a panic, may have had the skills needed to develop another wing of my base or a weapon I needed. The stealthy approach is rewarded, but not essential for the enjoyment of the game. Unlike last year’s Dishonoured, where the game gave you all these lethal abilities, then punished you if you dared to use one. The acquisition of resources also leads to the new mission structure. You have your story episodes and also the side ops. Most of the side ops deal with you extracting personnel or resources from deep behind enemy lines. Usually you have a few of these open at one time and can pick whichever you want to do at the time. You can even chain them and go straight to the next without extracting to base. Compared to the previous linear nature of the games, this approach lets you sink hours and hours in without really progressing the story.
The introduction to the game is probably the most intense and creative hour I have spent gaming, this generation. It also leads to my only real complaint with the game so far. Starting in a hospital after the events of Ground Zeroes, you are whisked on a rollercoaster ride and assault on the senses as you escape. Rather than spoil it all you can say is this shows the traditional MGS story elements at their finest. There is hyper realism, craziness and unbelievably insane characters, that some people love about the series and some hate. I love these aspects and have done since the original with the CyberNinja, Ocelot, Sniper Wolf and the other members of Foxhound, add in Vamp, Raiden and Solidus and you can see a rogues gallery building up. Unfortunately in MGSV the crazy characters that are introduced aren’t developed as characters immediately. Unfortunately this can be said of the story as a whole. MGS veterans will be used to convoluted and some would say preposterous storylines, unfortunately here we have a basic revenge tale. They smashed up my base, so I have to build a new one, pretty much sums up my first 15 hours of the game. Considering I finished all the other games over one weekend as they came out, putting his much time into doing side missions and base building and having no story advancement is very grating. In the long run you get the feeling that it will be for the best, at the minute as good and groundbreaking as the game is, the story is leaving me cold. I love being Snake/Big Boss and despite being voiced by Kiefer Sutherland instead of David Hayter, his personality remains the same as the series highpoint, Snake Eater.
In conclusion of this brief spoiler-free overview, the game is a landmark title. The gameplay is fresh and exciting and the gameworld is as detailed and realistic as there has ever been. Interaction is at a Half Life 2 level. The only negative at this stage is the lack of gripping story. Being the main character is gripping enough to forgive for series veterans, other players may get detached from proceedings leaving them with just an incredible infiltration simulator. In any case this is one game that shouldn’t be missed. Hopefully it won’t be the last we ever see.