Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review (Spoiler Free)

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Release Date: 09/1/2015
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Copy: Digital

After dedicating the last 2 weeks to Metal Gear Solid V I am finally ready to review it.  I’ve been eagerly waiting to play this game since the first announcement trailer back in 2013.  Did it live up to the hype? Did it live up to my expectations?  Continue reading to find out!

Core Gameplay:

Like the previous Metal Gear games in the series, for the majority of your adventure you are going to be on solo missions sneaking into enemy territory.  The operations you embark on are separated into 3 categories: Main Missions, Side Ops, and Mother Base.

Main Missions:  These are the missions that advance the story and can be replayed as many times as you like.

Side Ops: These are supplemental missions that you can do for added incentives such as weapon blue prints, highly skilled recruits, and GMP (the currency used to buy new toys and upgrades).

Mother Base:  Between missions and side ops you will be tasked with recruiting soldiers and collecting supplies for your Mother Base.  The Mother Base is your means of developing weaponry, gathering Intel, and funding support on missions.  You can level up Mother Base by recruiting the enemies you meet on the battlefield.  The more recruits you have, the stronger Mother Base becomes.   Mother Base is also a fully playable map that you can visit.  Returning to Mother Base will open up new cut scenes, raise your troops morale, and allow you to do target practice, and even take shower!  Aw yeah showers!


Home sweet home!

Tactical Espionage Operations with Buddies:

New to MGSV is the buddy system which allows you to bring a buddy into the field along with you.  Each buddy offers their own unique skill set.  It is important to review the mission details and to choose a buddy that is best suited for each operation. As you complete missions with your buddies their bond with you will increase, allowing you more command options and even allowing you to customize their equipment or appearance.  Buddies are optional as well, so if you want to go on a completely solo-sneaking mission that is still a option.


Always bring a buddy!

Dynamic Difficulty:

This game does not offer you the ability to select a difficulty at the beginning.  Instead MGSV employs a dynamic difficulty mechanic that adapts to your play style.  For example, during my play-through I primarily used my tranquilizer gun and assault rifle.  I landed frequent headshots from a distance and when things got rough I’d mow down the obsession with my assault rifle Rambo style.  After few successful missions I noticed that enemy troops started to wear helmets and bulletproof vests rendering my headshot dart tactics almost useless.  Some of the soldiers also began to carry shields to deal with my assault rifle.  In addition to that I started to use the high ground to snipe out my opponents from afar.  The next time I came back these tricky bastards set landmines in my favorite sniping position and literally blew up my spot…  They also adapted to my preference for night missions by equipping night vision goggles. This is a very clever mechanic that makes each player’s experience unique.

Also the dumb, near sighted, hearing impaired AI of the past is gone.  The soldiers of this game can see you, hear you, and will not hesitate to kill you.  Every action you take in this game should be calculated.  If you headshot a guard and another one sees their boy go down they will call for backup.  If you bump into a bottle and it crashes to the ground, the surrounding troops will rush to investigate.  If you’re in a muddy environment and you leave footprints, they will be followed.  Shoot a noisy weapon and expect to get surrounded.  Try to Fulton extract an enemy in a highly concentrated area and they will shoot down the balloon.  Run around like a chicken with your head cut off and get a few game overs and the game will actually offer you a chicken hat that will help you avoid detection!

Chicken hat

Don’t be caught wearing this…

Playing smart and the little details:

One of the things I love about this game and the MGS series as a whole is that it rewards intelligent and creative play. Each mission can be tackled in a number of different ways.  You can choose to shoot down all of your enemies with lethal force or you can opt to sneak by them entirely without any of them noticing you were there.  You can also play a more tactical game by interrogating a few enemies to gather Intel and then heading for your objective.  If hard mode is your thing you could challenge yourself and go into the field naked and procure all weapons and equipment on site.  Or you could just go in with nothing but a cardboard box and grenade launcher and blow up EVERYTHING! HAHAHAHAAHHHAAAHAAH!  Add to that the hundreds of weapons and gadgets you can produce at Mother Base and you have a recipe for hours of endless fun and variation.


They have no idea what’s coming… 


Graphics and Presentation:

This is easily hands down the best looking game on the PS4 to date.  The environments are absolutely stunning and character models are all incredibly detailed.  Each environment has dynamic weather with a day and night cycle. There are animals roaming all around for you interact with as well.  As you go through missions, any blood stains on your character will stay intact until you change your clothes or take a shower.  I could go on for pages about all the small little details that make this game amazing, but it’s just better to experience it first hand.


Yeeeaaa… It’s always this pretty.

Music and Sound Effects:

Similarly to the game’s difficulty, the music is also dynamic and will change to accommodate your situation.  If you are outside of enemy territory free-roaming, you will here nothing but the animals in the environment and the wind whistling.  As you come within proximity of your enemies music will play and change depending on your actions.  If your enemies go on alert the music becomes more intense.  If you are spotted or fully engage the enemy the music will escalate to match the action on screen.  It really is exciting to see how quickly everything changes with the action on the screen.  You can also choose to ignore the in game music entirely and play 80’s tune through your walk man! Yeaah the 80’s!


The Story:

Since this is a spoiler-free review,  it is hard for me to discuss the game’s story. However, it does need to be addressed. The story of this game is more of an interactive experience rather than a string of cut scenes like in previous installments. There are also fewer cut scenes in this game than in past MGS games. However the game supplements story conversations through cassette tape recordings. Cassettes tapes fill-in-the-blanks between missions and cut scenes.   Overall, I’m still not sure about how I feel about the story as a whole. There were some truly amazing scenes and the majority of the characters were very interesting, but in the end I was left frustrated and to some extent sad. The events of this game’s story stuck with me throughout the first week. I thought about it, analyzed it, and watched certain scenes again trying to make sense of them all.  It stirred my thoughts and affected me in a way most games don’t.  Whether I liked it or not is almost irrelevant at this point because it has already proven it’s worth. A story like this is rare and the has power to influence the player’s thoughts and feelings through play.  Not everyone will like it but the decisions you make will weight on you in the end.


We are Diamond Dogs.

Online Play:

At the time of this review the only online functions were the FOB (Forward Operating Base) missions, so for this review I will not be including any in-depth analysis on the online play.  The FOB missions allow the player infiltrate and capture other players’ soldiers and resources. When you invade another players’ FOB they will become aware of your infiltration and will know your location, allowing them to counter-infiltrate your base.  You can also defend a friends base as well as your own.  Overall this a fun hold over until MGS Online is release in October.

What I didn’t like:

Because this game’s maps are so expansive and vast I found myself doing a lot of leg work.  At first roaming around on my horse enjoying the scenery was great. However, running for 5-10 minutes straight to get to your designated location only to be blown up and getting sent back to a check point became tedious.

Another gripe I have with this game is the inability to replay the Side Ops or to even start a new game.  Once you clear the majority of the Side Ops, they are done and can’t be completed again. I understand that this put in place to stop the farming of elite recruits and resources, but some of the Side Ops unlock cut scenes that are only view-able after completing said Side Ops. The only way I can find to start a new game is to delete your save data or create a whole new account on your system. This saddens me. I want to replay the game again from the beginning just for story purposes, but I don’t want to lose all my progress.  Come on now Konami!


After spending nearly 80+ hours with MGSV, I have to say gameplay-wise this is my favorite MGS game in the series. All the features of the previous titles have been polished and fine-tuned to perfection while adding new exciting mechanics.  At the time of this review I still have yet to reach 100% completion.  The story was entertaining and powerful, the graphics are the best the system has to offer, the music is dynamic and intense,  and the gameplay is superb (and it’s only going to get better with the incoming online modes).  Metal Gear Solid V is not a perfect game, yet despite it’s misgivings it is still a phenomenal game.  So with that being said I give Metal Gear Solid 5….



Raaaghgghghahgghagh!   The suspense is killing me!  I’m so hungry! Metal Gear!  Aaaahhh!


cruncy tacocruncy tacocruncy tacocruncy tacocruncy taco


5 Crunchy Tacos! (out of 5)

Hope you enjoyed the review!

Don’t forget to watch me open the MGSV collector’s edition!





Juan Valei

Buffalo-based gamer, artist, and adventurer. Blogging about life, games, art, entertainment, health, and everything else in the universe.

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