Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain of the Metal Gear chronology, is set in the mid-eighties just before the time frame of the first ever game in the series. Put simply, it is one of the best games to be released on the newest generation of consoles and potentially one of the last decade’s best. After recovering from a horrific set of injuries, the main protagonist Snake sets out to discover more about the mysterious ‘Cipher’ organisation through establishing a private military corporation known as ‘Diamond Dogs’.
The player’s time is split between building this mini-army and then out on missions in Afghanistan or Africa. Every aspect of the game has been crafted to near perfection and it is so much fun to play. You are free to explore the vast open landscape on foot or horseback, a joy in a game which looks as good as this one. Players can approach missions in any way they want: scout out the objectives from afar, plough straight through with a machine gun, call in air strikes etc. This freedom means that the fact that a lot of missions are effectively the same doesn’t matter at all. The developers have harnessed that very powerful idea of giving players almost free reign over their experience, rather than holding their hand throughout the game. The game facilitates any approach with tight controls and very good shooting and close-quarters combat mechanics.
The story which ties all of the gameplay together is nicely done as well. The player is kept at arms-distance in early stages to retain some mystery, before horrific details of the antagonist’s actions are released via a slow drip. Several missions feature truly emotional situations not featured in many other games. For example, a mission to execute several prisoners is complicated by the fact that they all turn out to all be young children. Another involves discovering a terrifying ‘Devil’s House’ which is revealed to be a twisted hospital. There is a potent resemblance to the classic Heart of Darkness format of a journey into hell. This literary ambition is one of the most striking things about the game, somehow working perfectly in tandem with the trademark Hideo Kojima (the mastermind behind this game series) crude humour.
It is a blistering experience with moments of horror, amusement, pride and shock. Undoubtedly one of the best games released in recent years.