Open-world ‘Metal Gear Solid’ installment lives up to anticipation

This game franchise has proven its prowess through amazing stealth game play, over-the-top set pieces and extremely elaborate plot. The release of this masterpiece ushered in a fresh and final game for the “Metal Gear” saga.

“The Phantom Pain” brings the franchise to its first take on an open world game, and it has succeeded with flying colors. Visuals are as top-notch as ever, showing off amazing cut scenes and in-game graphics thanks to the new Fox engine. The world you play in is large but still has restrictions comparable to Monolith’s “Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.”

The game play mechanics were ripped from “Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.” Being an open-world game, it is massive, not just in map scale but choices as well. What I mean by choices is the multitudinous ways you can approach a mission. Do you run in guns blazing, or are you a bit more subtle and skulk around utilizing silent weapons? The game doesn’t punish you for going loud as much as other “Metal Gear” games. It lets players excel through a combination of creativity and skill, making improvising during a situation enjoyable.

Almost everything is customize-able and upgrade-able as well: weapons, vehicles, companions, etc. This is all done through your Mother Base. Unlike the one in “Peace Walker,” there is physicality rather than just an on-screen menu. You get to see your men and greet them in person. There is also a recruiting system that gives you an incentive not to go lethal. It gives you an incentive not to kill soldiers that you meet in the battlefield because you might like what they offer you by looking through their skill set. It’s fun to micro-manage every single thing in the Mother Base, from managing your soldiers, picking which equipment to research, and even upgrading the Mother Base itself. You don’t even have to go to it for you to be able to upgrade it. You can do it while in a mission through your communication device called the iDroid. The A.I. of the game is fantastic as well. It boasts the best companions in a video game and the A.I. enemies are good enough to be challenging. I have just one gripe: the actual Mother Base feels lifeless and hollow. Nothing much is going on, just your soldiers walking around and occasional preset cut-scenes. Ambiance is key and the Mother Base doesn’t have it. Let’s just hope that the multiplayer aspect will redeem another use for our lonely little upgrade hub. Servers are still down at the time of this review.

The game still is great when it comes to extreme, sci-fi, cinematic scenes and set-pieces, but the story was a little underwhelming so far for a “Metal Gear” game. You don’t need to play the other “Metal Gear” games to get the story but it is advised. It is noticeable that Snake is not as talkative as the other games in the series. Other characters carry the weight of the plot more and it succeeds so far. The characters are endearing but most of their stories are in cassette tapes collect throughout the game. It made me genuinely happy and sometimes even heartbroken for them as the narrative unravels. It made me care about them and invested that if ever one of them met their demise, I would tear up.

This game doesn’t feel like the game to end the franchise with. “MSG4: Guns of the Patriots” still takes that cake, but what this does is leave a master-crafted “Metal Gear” experience and show that Kojima is top dog. Fifty hours of playing and I still haven’t finished the game (34% completion). I could easily drop another fifty hours playing this game and not even consider multiplayer. This is a game you cannot and must not rush.

In conclusion, if you have not picked up this game, buy it now. This is so far the “Game of the Year” of 2015. It is a must have for fans and newbies alike.