Obviously this is going to be spoiler heavy so if you have not finished MGSV up to mission 50 and want to be clean for when you go into it stop now and press the back button. Do not go past the image from the best game in the series.
For years, literal years I have been looking forward to this game. All that time we were teased with the notion that this would be the game where we would see how Big Boss became a full villain. This would be the game where Big Boss would be betrayed so much that he would go down the path of a monster. The themes of revenge and going too far for what you want were teased with all the torture and death shown in the trailers.
So when I finally got my hands on MGSV I got obsessed with it completely. For several days the only thing I did was play this game. On days I had off from work it got to the point that I just survived on water or coffee. Food could wait until after this game was finished that is how manic I was when it came to the phantom pain.
In the end I am completely torn on this game. On one hand the gameplay is absolutely amazing. I do not think I will ever see a game which takes the concept of open world stealth and do it this good for a long time. The ability to take on almost any mission in full stealth or go in killing everything that stands in your path is something a lot of games try to do. Not many succeed though, normally they leave you with a feeling that there was only one real way to approach things. MGSV does not fall into that trap. Stealth is just as much fun as force, the reason for this is the tools for either option are varied and interesting so you rarely feel like one option is favoured more by the developers then the other. There are a few hassles with how big the maps are and how you cross them but once you figure out the box transport quick travel it becomes a bit more bearable.
On the other hand though the narrative for MGSV is fucking terrible. Metal Gear Solid games have always been narrative heavy and even in MGS4 when it was way too heavy on the plot at times I still enjoyed it. MGSV does the exact opposite of 4 where the plot is sprinkled exceedingly rarely to the point you are playing for hours wandering when I am I going to get the next bit of plot. This is hampered by the fact that nearly ever mission has nothing to do with the plot, you literally go through the same thing you do in the side ops but on a slightly larger scale.
When the plot does decide to occur it is shown in scenes that last less than five minutes. This leads to a plodding and confused narrative presentation that just irritates more than anything else. Especially when it leads to the characters becoming plot devices instead of characters. Ocelot is just there, Miller is just there, everyone is just there to speak when the plot needs to shamble forward. The worst part of this is that Skull Face the reprehensible monster of Ground Zeroes barely gets any screen time and becomes completely forgettable since you are told how bad he is instead of seeing it for yourself. Throw in a nonsensical appearance by Psycho Mantis and Volgin and you have a story that just leaves you going what the fuck am I looking at more than anything else.
It is almost like the plot is drunk as it proceeds forward. Introducing the concept of parasites in the second act, which act as the power for the Skull Unit in the game but then we never get an explanation of how they actually do the things they do beyond basically saying ‘magic science!’ When you question the drunk about why Quiet walks around in a bikini and tights the drunk plot explains she needs to be exposed to as much light as possible because she gets energy off it just like how the End in MGS3 did.
“See it makes sense! There is already a precedent for it!”
“Sure drunk plot but why does she need to basically be naked though? The End was covered basically head to toe in a Ghillie Suit so why can’t Quiet wear normal clothes?”
“Because she needs sun light like the End.”
“Plot please put the bottle down and start making some fucking sense.”
What kept me going through act 2 was basically hate at this point. I was so frustrated with what I was seeing but I had to see the end because this was the last entry in a series that has almost been going for 30 years. So at the end of act 2 we get the Shamalyan twist of hey you were never Big Boss you were just some random medic who for some reason is just as strong, skilled, charismatic as Big Boss himself. I know the game explains that in his coma the fake Big Boss you play as went through hypnotherapy to believe that he was Big Boss but that only explains him believing he was Big Boss it does not give him the skill, abilities and physical strength of another person. I mean if all you had to do to make some into Big Boss was whisper to them that they are Big Boss in their sleep why did they bother cloning him?
The game then ends with the loose plot thread of Child Liquid Snake escaping from Mother Base with a few other child soldiers, Pyscho Mantis and a FUCKING METAL GEAR! Shouldn’t something that big see a resolution in the game?
Probably the worst thing the game does is how it has no problem in wasting your time. Several moments when the plot actually starts rolling it stops to a screeching halt to type out ‘to be continued’ on the screen. I then puts you back into the helicopter where you select missions to continue on with the story in the next mission where it picks up where it had suddenly stopped. This happens at least three times in the game and each time I was left wandering who the fuck this to be continued was for? I’m not going anywhere so why do I need to be told it will be continued. This is not an episodic game where I have to buy the next chapter so why do I come to a screeching halt here? How in the development staff went yeah this is fine, this does not completely fuck up the entire pacing and enjoyment a person feels while playing.
There are a few positives in this absolute mess. Seeing Huey turn into an irredeemable scumbag was absolutely great. Finding out a man not only screwed over you by betraying Mother Base to Skull Face but also killed his wife and used his son like a lab rat and being in complete denial about how twisted of a person he was amazing.
Going into the quarantine area and seeing all your soldiers being infected by a new strain of the parasite and then being told you have to kill everyone infected was just as gut retching as having to kill the Boss in MGS3. It felt terrible executing your own men, having Huey berate you as you kill them. This sensation peaked when you go into the last room and all the soldiers and doctors stand up and salute you as you execute everyone. The amount of trust they place in you as Big Boss that they accept that they have to be execute on your judgement made me feel genuinely horrible and that is amazing.
These few amazing story beats just make the rest of the story all the more frustrating. The same can be said for the audio tapes. There are some that are so well done in an audio format that they would not have worked any other way. The tape where Code Talker is confronted by Skull Face and is told that one of his people will be killed every time Skull Face rings a bell works amazing well without visuals. Hearing Code Talker try to desperately stop the bell ringing when Skull Face drops it was chilling. The same can be said for the tape which has the last moments of Strange Love’s life on it. Being forced to hear the despair in her voice as she knows Huey has locked her inside the AI pod from Peace Walker which had the AI of Boss put in it was not something I am going to forget any time soon. Again this works so well as audio since your mind makes up the visuals in something so well acted. The same cannot be said for the vast majority of the tapes you have to listen to that deliver essential bits of narrative you need to understand what is going on in the dullest way possible. In a visual medium to have the vast majority of the plot revealed through audio is ridiculous and a waste of the players time since you have to sit and listen to everything. You can risk playing the tapes while you play the game but that requires you to split your attention between listening to the tape and looking out for enemies as you engage in side ops or scour the land for animals to fulton.
The saddest thing is nothing promised was delivered. We did not see Big Boss decent into madness. We did not see him meeting Sniper Wolf as a child or forming Fox Hound. We did not see his revenge on the world and forming Outer Heaven. What we got was something no one asked for in the worst presentation possible. All of this in a game that plays so well that despite this blog of negativity I would still recommend people pick up and play. I just expected better of a man who gave us MGS 1, 2 and 3.