MGSV: The Phantom Pain — A Gun Guy Goes Gaming

Metal Gear Solid is such a weird combination of different awesome things: an insane story, tough guy characters, stealth, action, nukes, and tons of stereotypes mixed with heavy themes of loss, sadness, betrayal, and confusion. But there is always hope for a brighter future.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is an absolute masterpiece. Konami, publisher of the video game series, did the world a disservice by effectively killing Metal Gear Solid and focusing on pachinko machines rather than good video games. Metal Gear Solid V, or MGSV, is seemingly the last Metal Gear Solid game we will get from video game designer Hideo Kojima. It’s an interesting game that is an absolute must-play.

MSGV: The Phantom Pain - Snake
Don’t mind the horn, it’s just a bit of shrapnel. (Konami’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain)

Stop here if you’ve never played it. Everything after will be spoilers. It’s a great game. The biggest flaw is the last act; It seems rushed, and the missions are repetitive. However, the game is still fantastic.

Breaking MGSV: The Phantom Pain

Admittedly to understand the story and get the full experience, you have to play both Phantom Pain and the Prologue Ground Zeroes. These days the games are often included as the Definitive Experience. However, Phantom Pain is quite short and is a true prologue to a much bigger world.

Phantom Pain takes place eight years after Ground Zeroes. You are Big Boss, aka code name Venom Snake. You wake up in a hospital, and from there, things go off the rails with psychic soldiers, men made of fire, a guy named Skullface, and then your typical soldiers and bad guys.

Metal Gear Solid has always been known for its crazy, off-the-wall storytelling. It’s a mixture of conspiracy theories about who runs the world, giant robots that shoot nukes, oh and casual supernatural events no one ever seems to notice or remark on. It’s just part of this world. The story in MGSV has Snake returning to establish a new mercenary group.

Militia Sans Frontiers was disbanded and destroyed during Ground Zeroes. Your Snake is tasked with establishing a new group from the ground up called Diamond Dogs. (Sidenote Militia Sans Frontiers is a much better name.)

Snake in Metal Gear Solid
Peep the tiger stripe! (Konami’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain)

Militia Sans Frontiers was disbanded and destroyed during Ground Zeroes. Your Snake is tasked with establishing a new group from the ground up called Diamond Dogs. (Sidenote Militia Sans Frontiers is a much better name.)

The Gameplay

You have two main maps, one in Angola and one in Afghanistan. Both regions are unturned by war. You are free to explore the maps and do missions and side ops as you see fit. The game does prioritize stealth because you will often be outnumbered and outgunned.

Going in guns blazing is an option, but you better have a plan of attack. You might quickly be overwhelmed by the enemy if you go in half-cocked. Cover is a major element, and the troops will coordinate their attacks and use the tools around them to pursue and kill you, including calling for reinforcements.

Those tools included emplaced machine guns and mortars that will absolutely chew through you. However, you can also turn the tide. The action is satisfying, the guns are punchy, and when you hit the enemy, you know. Enemies get wounded and fall behind cover. Some are down on the ground but may attack you with their handgun.

Going in sneaky is the safe play. MGSV wants to take down your enemies quietly or not at all. You can avoid combat if you choose. You can also play entirely nonlethal with tranquilizer guns and similar tools. Interrogating enemies is a big part of surviving and finding resources because they can reveal the location of resources, specialist soldiers, and the placement of their allies.

Building Diamond Dogs

The game also tasks you with recruiting new friends from your old enemies. The enemies on the battlefield can be tranquilized or stunned and then recruited to Mother Base. You want to recruit high-value soldiers, and they have various stats and skills that you might want to aim for.

Base building isn’t tedious and is more staff management than anything. Even then, the computer handles it well. There are several different specialties like R&D, Intel, and Support you can recruit soldiers to. These affect what items and weapons you can build, what support you can receive, and early warnings about the battlefield.

You use a Fulton device to kidnap the troops, as well as extract vehicles, resources, and even animals. Hunting down soldiers with the right skills and stats is part of the fun, and it’s so satisfying to snatch at A, A++, or S-tier soldiers with the skill you need to develop your next weapon or item.

M60 clone in MGSV
The M60 clone is a great way to shake up the Russians. (Konami’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain)

The World of MGSV

MGSV gives you a very open and wide world to explore that feels somewhat real. There aren’t any civilians in Afghanistan or Africa for some reason, but it still feels alive. The soldiers have posts. They sleep, they talk, and BS between being killed or kidnapped by Snake.

You can intercept their comms and hear their panic as you beat them back or as they search and call for reinforcements. You can kill the guy with the radio and shut down their comms if you want to.

Aiming like this is fairly inaccurate, its only good for super-close ranges. (Konami’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain)

The voice acting in MGSV is fantastic. It’s very well done with a mix of real voice actors like Troy Barker and celebrities like Kiefer Sutherland. The characters are cool and interesting, from the six-gun-slinging Ocelot to Kaz, it’s all interesting. Quiet, who barely speaks, still develops as a character. However, the excuse that she breathes through her skin is a silly way to get undressed for the majority of the game.

The Guns of MGSV

Obviously, we have to talk about the guns! The game has an absolute metric ton of types and variations of the guns you already have. Sadly, they are largely fictional but also believable, if that makes sense. The AK is called the SV-76, and it’s used by the Russians and looks like an AK. There are stand-ins for the M60, the FAL, the Chiappa Rhino, the USP, and many more. They aren’t all 1-for-1 replicas, but it’s easy to see the inspiration. The guns can also be upgraded to different variations, including adding optics. I like a good red dot and magnifier, personally. If you extract the gunsmith, you can do even more customization.

MGSV SMG Glock sights
This SMG def has Glock sights, right? (Konami’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain)

Suppressors are in the game, but they degrade quickly. Like a few bursts from an assault rifle, and they are gone. It’s not realistic, but it balances the game. You can and should use iron sights. While the game is third person, you can go to the first person to aim. If you try to shoot in the third person, you’ll miss more than you’ll hit.

It’s BatS&^%

Metal Gear Solid is crazy, with a very complicated story spanning decades of video games. If you’ve never played the MGS games, don’t fret. You’ll still figure out MGSV without issue. You can ignore the story altogether and just enjoy the gameplay. The gunplay is a lot of fun, and so are the stealth elements and the base building. Heck, I spent two hours hunting and tranquilizing sheep and donkeys and found that fun.

It’s sad that we won’t get a proper Metal Gear Solid Six.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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