A newcomer’s perspective on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
If you went back in time a month and told me I’d be playing Metal Gear Solid V I would call you crazy. When the first game dropped in the late 90s my parents would not allow me to play and when going back to the games more recently my experience wasn’t great (but was limited to a few hours). I believed that Metal Gear was just not for me. However, when I look back on this year, I can see a clear string of events that lead to this surprising outcome. Firstly, I have continued to work on expanding my horizons and to constantly try new types of games. Games like Dark Souls, Monster Hunter, and Darkest Dungeon were games that I would not have tried a few years ago but have ended up enjoying quite a bit. Secondly, I became infatuated with Giant Bomb’s Metal Gear Scanlon series. Watching someone else play and enjoy all the old MGS games showed me that while those games can be frustrating they can also be fun and rewarding. Lastly, since I have begun to enjoy the challenge of difficult games my patience has grown considerably. Now I sit here before you having sunk almost 30 hours into The Phantom Pain and I’m probably the most surprised out of anyone.
The Phantom Pain seemed like a good entry point because the story is less prominent then previous games and I would be able to enjoy it even if the story was lost on me. By passively watching Metal Gear Scanlon I’ve gleaned some of the broad strokes of the series, but certainly don’t have everything figured out. With all that said I’m very intrigued by the story whenever it shows up in this game. Events at the beginning are very perplexing and have me skeptical of taking things at face value. I’m excited to learn more about what’s going on in the game and trying to slot it into my knowledge of the series narrative at large.
Despite always being curious about the MGS story, that wasn’t what drew me to The Phantom Pain. The overwhelming praise for the gameplay, my biggest complaint with the older games, is what really piqued my interest. Open world games are some of my favorite when they are executed at a very high level (games like Grand Theft Auto V, Skyrim, and The Witcher 3). The Phantom Pain now enters into the pantheon of my personal all-time favorite open world games. There is so much to do it can quickly become overwhelming, but I feel overwhelmed like I would on Christmas morning rather than scrambling to meet a work or school deadline. Whether I’m doing side-ops, working on my base, completing extra objectives in previous missions, or advancing the story I’ve been having a great time. The emergent gameplay in the open world is fantastic and every time I play I have a funny or cool story to tell my friends. Metal Gear’s story has always intrigued me, but the few times I attempted to play I was extremely frustrated by the controls and quit. The Phantom Pain still plays like Metal Gear, but it is a much more refined experience which makes this the most approachable game for a newcomer like myself.
The fact that I’m playing a Metal Gear game still surprises me. The huge smile that The Phantom Pain puts on my face when I play surprises me even more. I’m absolutely thrilled to finally be in a place to experience these games because I’ve always respected them from afar. I’ve learned a lot in the last year or so about the significance of the MGS series and the level of detail it has brought to all aspects of each game. After watching some of the games, and now playing one, I am fully on board with Kojima’s off-the-wall narrative style and appreciate the way he has crafted such unique experiences. If you’ve thought about trying Metal Gear but were intimidated by the story or frustrated by controls this is the game for you to try. I have had so much fun that I’m considering shooting for the platinum trophy and I have the MGS Legacy Collection in a wish list because I want to see it all. In the span of 25-30 hours I have gone from having no interest in Metal Gear to wanting to play them all. If that’s not a resounding endorsement I don’t know what is.