Allow me to start with a confession.
I have never been a particularly big of open-world games. Often, I have found that the world is empty and devoid of anything interesting or alluring to do. Collectibles typically offer the most meager of rewards. On the other end of the spectrum, there are several games in this vein that do the complete opposite. Shoving so much to do in the sandbox has become commonplace. However, none of it had any sense of urgency or real purpose. With that caveat, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain does all of these things correctly.
There are several components of this game that are stellar. However, the gameplay is easily the most appealing aspect of this game. I overheard two friends of mine talking recently just prior to the release of the game. The topic of the aforementioned conversation was whether or not each person intended on playing the game utilizing stealth or a more loud and action-based approached. To be clear, the level of approaches to scenarios present in The Phantom Pain far exceed those two standard options. The number of gadgets present constantly grows at an almost overwhelming pace.
Do you need to take over a nearby outpost? Here are a few options:
Use long-range weapons to clear out the base before approaching
Go in and subdue everyone via Snake's masterful CQC (close quarters combat) takedowns
Call in your trusty, and customizable, helicopter to provide cover fire on the base
The options for gameplay are truly limitless. The Phantom Pain nails every component of gameplay. Navigating either of the game's two zones is fun and can be done using one of the several means of transportation that the game offers. The combat feels amazing. While this game has many whacky additions to it, the mission-to-mission gunplays feels about as authentic and realistic as it could.
The Phantom Pain is a dense game. There are constantly new systems added to the game that will drain more of the player's time. It is worth mentioning that this game does respect your time. While you will find yourself accidentally pouring in 8 hours into a session, every second put into this game is inching the player closer to a goal. Early in the game, the player will be introduced to the base-building component of the game. It is through this system that the majority of upgrades to weapons and gadgets happen. Additionally, extending and growing your Mother Base will unlock more and more systems and components of the game.
There is a staggering amount of content in The Phantom Pain. Generally, I don't find myself getting distracted by the side quests and missions in game. However, that has taken up the majority of the time in The Phantom Pain. I cannot count the number of times I approached a mission area with the intent to do only that mission and felt compelled to complete 4 surrounding Side-Ops. Between managing your Mother Base, troops, doing side missions, and the actual story missions, there is never a shortage of things to do in The Phantom Pain.
While this game is a masterpiece, the only place it doesn't deliver as well as it should is the story. The narrative itself is interesting and appealing. Unfortunately, the pacing of the story is constantly interrupted with side objectives and unrelated story missions. The overall story of The Phantom Pain is good one, but due to the nature of the game's open-world, the player will often have to spending a few hours in seemingly pointless missions before having the story develop any further. Another interesting change in the way the storyline develops is the usage of cassette tapes. This trend began with Peace Walker, but the game opts out of the hours of seemingly pointless information found in codec calls. This allows them to strip away all useful information and put the crucial stuff in the form of cassette tapes. The player can listen to these cassette tapes at any given time. While it takes some time to get used to it, I found myself enjoying the method of listening to the cassette tapes instead of the random and unrelated codec conversations.
Simply put, The Phantom Pain is one of the best games ever. Metal Gear Solid is a series that is known for presentation and story over gameplay. However, this installment is the evolution of the series that brings the gameplay into a new realm of perfection. If you are a newcomer or a veteran to the series, The Phantom Pain is a blast to play and an interesting story.