Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
How would I describe it?
Liberating? Definitely. Engaging? Absolutely. Flawless? Not exactly, but I'll discuss why in a moment.
The graphics are stunningly beautiful. The gameplay is smooth and feels almost luxurious in how well crafted it is. The finer details are there all there and everything meshes well. There are just a few key points that I feel deserve to be elaborated on.
I’ll start with the term “liberating“. Not your average description for a game like Metal Gear Solid, in which the previous games were all very linear in their storyline. This game, despite its humble beginnings, manages to execute what dozens of other triple-A titles can only dream of.
With a myriad of options for every mission, from tailoring your load out, to your play style, or choosing the best way to infiltrate the enemy base, the game gives you everything you could wish for in-game customizability. I found my gameplay experience constantly changing, even after only a few hours in. In the beginning, I played very aggressively at first, but I slowly settled into a very nice niche playstyle that I felt comfortable executing. It might not be the way most people go about with doing missions, but it was what I wanted to. In the beginning, it may seem intimidating, but as the game progresses everything becomes a well-planned choice √¢‚Ç¨‚Äú should you blow that guy to the moon or leave him be?
One point worth stressing about the game is that the player is not punished for not being stealthy, which is a surprising development from the game that comes from a long series of "tactical espionage". Of course, there are some lines drawn in the sand that can’t be crossed, like killing a child. Of course, that’s a pretty big no-no in real life too. As I said, the game allows for many styles of play, which does allow for a lot of room for replayability. Part of this comes from the fact that many memorable experiences are not scripted or planned out in any way. You are set with a very realistic set of instructions √¢‚Ç¨‚Äú eliminate this guy, we don’t care how you do it √¢‚Ç¨‚Äú and you carry it out however you choose. You can go in guns blazing, call in air support, and fight your way through it or you can stealthily make the guy disappear. Whatever your choice, the mission will be however you make it out to be. It needs to be noted, however, that you do get a limit to your rank depending on some choices, but it's very reasonable. You don't call in aerial bombardments to kill everyone and still get a perfect rank.
About it being liberating, I would say so not just because of the open world aspect of the game, but that it is so hard to create a game like MGSV:TPP. Taking aspects of making the game one with a deep and convoluted storyline as brilliant as its predecessors while also maintaining the ability to undergo a truly open world experience? Very few games pull this off effectively. From the top of my head, I can only list a handful (with titles such as Fallout or Mass Effect being the most acclaimed).
On the subject of Metal Gear Solid’s storyline, I decided it was noteworthy because of how engaging it is. In some other games that implement an open world environment, the story is often lost through the player’s own intentions. Sometimes for other games, it doesn’t feel like the story is all that important. One game often criticized for this fact would be Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs, where missions start getting repetitious and things get stagnant. In MGSV:TPP, between getting new gear of discovering new things, the game seems to be able to hold the player at the edge of their seat, wondering what’ll next happen to their beloved one-eyed protagonist. Or alternate protagonist, of course √¢‚Ç¨‚Äú remember, MGSV has a lot of options.
Speaking of options, sometimes the game give too many. No, not in the way that there's no reason to have your gold-colored helicopter over your gold-colored tank with your gold colored robot because there's every reason in the world for that. The game gives you too many options in that, for example, because the game is free roam, sometimes you might accidentally stumble into a mission. As my friend described an encounter, he accidentally found a crucial plot point, in which he then got shot in the head. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (the open world, not getting shot in the head), as it does allow for a more realistic opportunity to go from place to place. It needs to be noted that it's very unlikely for what happened to my friend to happen to you, because only side missions are in the open world environment. There are only rare occasions when a side mission becomes more than just eliminating a skilled soldier.
[Spoilers not related to main story below]
About there being many possibilities, there are some just awkward situations. In the side ops to “Capture the Legendary Brown Bear“, my friend and I had different experiences. His experience with subduing the bear was to run up to it, empty every round of his tranquilizer pistol as the bear charged him, and die to it. He was only able to defeat the legendary bear after several tries and a prosthetic arm punch to the bear’s face.
Meanwhile, hearing his advice to bring everything I had, I hijacked a truck from the enemy, good, old-fashioned style, and I brought it to the place. Only after seeing the bear was at a location inaccessible to my truck, I got out, shot it with seven rounds from my tranquilizer pistol, and the bear fell asleep. Apparently my friend had not been waiting for the rounds to make their effect, but it proves the point of gameplay deviating per person, in not necessarily a bad way (though my friend may testify differently, because bear punches hurt).
The one big flaw about Metal Gear Solid V, in my opinion, is a result of the game being so free and open world. It’s a fair trade-off, but in my time playing the game, I’ve
begun to notice(d) that characters and some moments seem detached from the story. It’s almost to the point that some missions from the main story can be removed entirely to no major consequence. This might not be a complete downfall though, as every mission is interesting in its own way, but in the overarching scheme of things, they are easily forgotten.
Regarding the point about characters seeming detached from the story, very often it can be seen that they only appear when necessary. You only seem to hear Ocelot and Miller when they pop in to tell you some information crucial to your mission, and that leaves a lot to be desired in their character development. The resulting game seems like it almost has this hole in it: everything else is so perfectly weaved together, but you yourself as Big Boss feel like you're in solitude. The same also can be said about Mother Base, in some fashion. It’s not entirely important to the game except for some key points, but for most of the beginning one could just not visit Mother Base. Of course, Mother Base offers supply drops or intel, but that all is compressed into that little idroid of yours.
The only character I think that avoids this problem is Quiet, the main reason because she’s a buddy. She stays with you on your missions depending on whether or not you decide to take her, but when you do you can see subtle changes that Kojima managed to sneak in. Almost unnoticeable, Quiet can be seen to slowly grow on the player, becoming more open to Big Boss. While other buddies offer more commands when their bond level goes up, the same goes for Quiet, but she also has interesting quirks. When in the helicopter, she starts off very timid, sitting feet together and staring forward. As your bond level goes up, she stretches, walks around, and even poses in some positions that some may consider a little lewd.
Because of how the game is open world, however, MGSV can’t be blamed for lack of character development. It already does it better than most other story-driven, open-world games, especially for a game that is set between two other prestigious games in its own storyline. A game that does it right would be Grand Theft Auto 5, but it is notable that GTA5 doesn’t take on the same tone as MGSV; characters don’t have to fulfill roles that are almost larger than life, they don’t have to go through what the characters in MGSV do, and they don’t have the same drive that the characters in MGSV do.
In the end, MGSV is unlike any other games. No game has the same ambition to fulfill the Metal Gear series, yet change its entire basis of gameplay. No game allows for the serious and grim story yet a lighthearted and silly gameplay. No game is quite like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
I will be ranking this game, but I don't think it's entirely accurate. Like many of the other Metal Gear games, the overall impression is one to be experienced by the gamer themselves. Because of this, I don’t think whatever ranking I give can support it, because I myself am a gamer, so my views on the game may be entirely different from someone else's opinions of the game. Nevertheless, I believe I can still firmly recommend the game because of its merit alone, and that anyone who wishes to play it, whether they are an avid Metal Gear fan or the first time player, they will enjoy the unique experience.