Now, I'm not the biggest Metal Gear Solid (MGS) fan in the world; I have dipped in and out of the franchise over the years and not played every game in the series. But of the games I have played, I can happily say I enjoyed them a great deal. I was around from the start too — and I mean the original Metal Gear on the MSX2 from 1987 — and lest we forget that infamous and terrible NES port the following year.
But I guess, like most people, it was Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation from 1998 that caught my attention.
I recall playing the hell out of that one. Its weirdness, self-awareness and fourth wall breaking was great. It was one of the best stealth-based games ever made. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
MGS V was released in September 2015, and just yesterday I finally played the game to its end...of which there are several. Yes, it has taken me over 12 months to actually complete this game — but why?
Is 12 Months Of Gameplay A Good Thing?
Yeah, it sounds amazing: a whole year of gameplay. That's value for money, right?
No, no it's not. MGS V is one of the most boring, insipid and laborious games I have ever played. It has taken me over a year to complete because I couldn't stand playing it for long periods of time at the risk of falling into a deep coma. I wished and hoped I would enjoy this game, especially after playing and loving MGS 3 so much. But it's left me feeling empty and massively disappointed.
Yeah, I know, the hardcore fans are going to shoot me down here, but allow me to at least explain my opinion.
It's A Chore, Not A Game
MGS V is not fun. It feels like work, and I mean actual labor-intensive drudgery. The missions are massively repetitive. Go to this guard-post and extract the highly skilled soldier, go back to the same guard-post and extract a prisoner, go back to the same guard-post yet again and extract the specialist, rinse and repeat.
You just keep doing the same handful of mission types in the same locales over and over and over again. Sometimes things get mildly interesting as you may have to obtain a blueprint from the same guard-post instead...yawn. It's the same thing just wearing a new hat.
Two Open Worlds, No Effort
The game features two explorable open world maps with a Kabul province in Afghanistan and an Angola–Zaire region in Southern Africa being the settings. Sadly, both of these maps are devoid of any depth or interest, featuring a few guard-posts and slightly larger villages, forts, etc. that you'll continually have to visit and revisit to complete the same missions over and over.
There is just no "life" in these maps — aside from a handful of wildlife animals you'll occasionally stumble across, the world is empty and dull. Yet you are forced to traverse huge empty areas to get from point A to point B to complete a yawn of a mission. This game did not need to be open world because there is no effort put into the open world environment anyway. Its so by the numbers it just pails in comparison to other open world maps. You know, maps with detail, effort, variation, etc.
I recall when you get the map to explore for the first time and remember thinking it was some kind of basic, opening tutorial map just to get you accustomed to the game. I thought this bland map would give way to a more in-depth and interesting area later...it didn't. That map is the main map and play area.
There Is No Plot
Nothing here, zero, zilch. In the previous games, the things you did were to continue the forward plot of the game and the developing characters. Why do I have to extract that prisoner from that guard-post? Because the game tells me to. There is no meaning or reasoning; you just do things in this game "because."
The thing is, the backstory of Big Boss (no spoilers) has already been done...and done very well with MGS 3. Everything ended perfectly and tied in to the events of MGS. This game is superfluous.
Everything in this game is just so pointless and asinine. Complete a similar mission to one you have already done several times previously, get put back on the chopper and just repeat. Don't get me wrong, there is a story in the game — it's just not very engaging or interesting. There are 50 story missions in total and I got bored after five or six. Where was that weirdness, self-awareness and fourth wall breaking?
Where Are The Boss Fights?
The boss fights in previous MGS titles were a highlight. They were creative, imaginative and sometimes outright WTF?
The Psycho Mantis fight from MGS (no spoilers) is a prime example of what this franchise did so well with the boss fights. Grey Fox, The End, The Boss, Sniper Wolf, Vulcan Raven, Metal Gear Rex and so on. Great boss fights that were inventive and pushed your gaming skills to breaking point.
These boss fights are long remembered as some of the greatest in gaming ever. What was there in MGS V? Nothing, there are boss fights but they are so banal and forgettable. I recall having to shoot some guy on fire into some water with a shotgun, and a fight against a the Metal Gear Sahelanthropus...and that's about it. Oh, that boring sniper battle against Quiet. There was no creativity in any of these, nothing that even comes close to the previous games in the franchise.
There isn't even a final boss fight in MGS V, yet the previous games had legendary final boss fights. Yes, I am aware of the cut content, but even then you'd just have to fight Sahelanthropus...again. Not even the supposed removed ending sounded as interesting or as epic as previous games.
I'd much rather have 20-30 missions with variety than 200 missions of which most are the same with very slight differences. I have never played a game with as much padding as MGS V — not even Batman: Arkham Knight with its blatant Riddler padding was this bad.
It's Painfully Slow
There is nothing wrong with a slow burner as long as it's enjoyable and has a great payoff. MGS V fails at this. That opening mission where you have to escape the hospital, having to slooooooooowly crawl everywhere...
This was effin' unbearable and tedious. Look I'm going to get up using this medical trolley...no, I slip and fall flat on my face. This time I'm going to get up using that stool...no, I slip and fall flat on my face. I'm definitely getting up now using this handrail...no, I slip and fall flat on my face. Repeat, repeat, repeat ad nauseum.
That is exactly what this game is, slow and repetitive, and this first mission sets that all up perfectly. The whole game is just so damn slow and that opening mission sets the pace for the rest. But it gets worse: you have to repeat this horrendously slow opening mission at the end. It had been over a year since I played the opening mission and to then have to replay it again for the end was nightmarish. A 12-month gap didn't make that bitter pill any easier to swallow.
Speaking of slow...
Do I really need to bring this vapid and trite part? The jeep ride with Skull Face. Nothing happens; you just watch these two guys stare at each other while they go on a slow and boring ride in the back of a jeep for what seems like hours and hours.
Yeah, you can skip this scene, but I didn't. Do you know why I didn't? Because I like story and character development and I thought that this scene would provide that, but it doesn't and I didn't know that until I had to sit through the entire monotonous sequence. Yeah, Skull Face reveals his nefarious plan during this scene, but it's so damn bland. There is so much of this game that has nothing going on in it; it gets ridiculous and unbearably slow.
Yes, the previous games were infamous for their long cut-scenes but they had plot progression and character development in them; there was always something going on no matter how long these scenes were. MGS V has nothing just slow action, slow non-plot and slow characterisation.
The Konami vs Kojima Fallout
I didn't really want to cover this aspect as I feel it has been done to death and is as boring as MGS V itself, but I do want to address one quick thing. Why is everyone putting the full blame on Konami for the mess this game ended up being? Why is Kojima getting a free pass and escaping this train wreck blameless?
The estimated budget for this game was $80 million and a development time of around five years...and the best Kojima could do was repetitive missions, dull gameplay, horrendous writing and bland characters. If you were Konami and realized someone had just wasted $80 million of your money, wouldn't you be annoyed?
The cut content that many people claim was "half of the game" was little more than one mission that was a repeat of an earlier mission, much like most of the other missions in the game. All the blame for the Konami vs Kojima debacle can't be placed solely on Konami, can it?
So Why Did I Play It?
Because I paid for the damn game and I enjoyed the previous games in the franchise. I kept hoping that things would get better — that the game would open up a bit and offer new and exciting ideas. More varied missions, better characters, and yet it never happened. I dread to think how many game hours I have wasted on MGS V; I don't want to check as it'll depress me too much, but I think I'm in the 40-odd hour region at least...and I feel cheated.
Yeah, I chose to play the game of my own free will and I could have stopped anytime I wanted. In fact, I did stop playing, many, many, many times — hence why this took me over a year to complete. Forty gameplay hours over 12 months is a lot to invest into a game, especially when the game is just not worth it. By comparison, I have poured hundreds of hours into Skyrim since it was released in 2011.
I played through the game multiple times trying different character builds and exploring the interesting and varied map, tried out the different conversations and quest outcomes, etc. Last week, I purchased the remastered edition of Skyrim for my Xbox One and I am currently playing though the game again. As I said, hundreds of hours and I'm still willing to return to the world of Skyrim for more.
I never want to play MGS V again. I completed the 50 main story missions and only did less than half of the side op missions, and even though there is still more game to play through, I just do not want to do it.
It's a shame the MGS franchise is dying a death the way it is, and the upcoming Metal Gear Survive looks like its just going to do further damage to the name too. This game is so bad that Big Boss himself even felt to need to face-palm it...
I need a cleanser; I need to play through Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater again.