In the spirit of Kojima abandoning the career defining exposition and embracing brevity, I will endeavour to deliver a “review” that surmises my experience playing Metal Gear Solid 5 The Phantom Pain (MGSVTPP) in a concise manner.
The game picks up straight after the events of Ground Zeroes (GZ), delivering a beautiful, cinematic experience with the most fluid control ever seen in an Metal Gear Solid game, period. But much like GZ, this experience is sort lived. The broader experience of MGSVTPP is that of an incomplete, incoherent mess.
Konami have come in for criticism for allegations of mistreatment of employees, apparently firing Kojima and his team and blatant mishandling of their franchises; Castlevania, Silent Hill(s) and now Metal Gear. They are deserving of criticism but so too is Kojima. Having played The Phantom Pain (TPP) for over 80 hours I can honestly say that Kojima did drop the ball. The shear volume of repetition, vast open worlds with little content or variety and a story so ill structured and poorly told, it is clear that Hideo was out of his depth on TPP.
He clearly mismanaged his teams time and the budget. While I don’t love Konami, you can understand their reasons for stepping in and setting a September 1st 2015 realese date, much to the detriment of the end product. Since the release of MGS2 back in 2001 sales of the series have fallen, from an estimated 6 million for Metal Gear Solid 2 (MGS2) falling to an estimated 2 million for 2010’s Peace Walker. After 5 years and a budget said to be in the region of $80 million, Konami decided time was up on Kojima’s oft mooted opus.
Konami’s decision to release earlier than Kojima most likely desired, is evidence that Kojima spent too much time building the game up on social media and not enough time delivering on his earlier promises. Promises on “the ultimate Metal Gear”, dealing with controversial topics, taboo subjects and delivering something that had never been done before in video games. All of this is absent from TPP.
Many clamber online for clues to missing content, an illusive Chapter 3 hidden somewhere in game file awaiting to be woken from a coma akin to Big Boss himself. As much as I hope the efforts of the dataminers and theorists on the NeverBeGameOver thread on Reddit yield results, I fear their efforts are in vain. The game is missing parts like the protagonist, and as Kojima walks away from the Metal Gear universe, we must move on too.
It is clear now looking back at the first few reveal trailers that the story was resolved at an early stage. With principle cinematic and narrative cutscene work complete, it begs the question what was he doing for the last few years? I am a fanboy for the series, I love all the games for various reasons, and while I am not unaware of the imperfections of past titles, I am far from a Kojima apologist.
MGSV’s gameplay, presentation and scope of ambition are excellent and admirable, but the game is unbalanced and it is clearly incomplete. The open world (two areas in total) are beautiful to look at but are barren in terms of content and variety of things to do. Where are the set pieces and beautifully detailed environments that made past titles so captivating and tense? I am tired of finding wandering Mother Base soldiers, clearing mines and extracting prisoners. Quantity does not equal quality.
In the clamber for open world mass market appeal Kojima fultoned his expertise in linear prefection. The side ops are repetitive, the story is poorly structured with the final truth (which I loved) came out of nowhere with no build up. For all the heat that the demo Ground Zeroes garnered it is a more structured, composed and complete package. I don’t condone derision of artistic endeavours but The Phantom Pain is an unmitigated mess and is more devisive than MGS2, but this time for all the wrong reasons. A case of quantity over quality.
The early promise tastes sweet, but the flavour soon dissolves into a bitter taste that will linger long. A sad not to end 28 years of Metal Gear. I’m off to play Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater, who is coming to join me?