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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

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MGSV:The Phantom Pain follows the story of Big Boss (aka Snake) as he sneaks, shoots and stabs his way through an open world Afghanistan and Angola during the Cold War. The story isnot front and center throughout the entire game. When the game does decide to hit major story beats, they are very entertaining and the story it tells is fantastic. It is full of twists and turns so the less I say about it the better. The biggest disappointment is how much of the story is hidden away on audio logs you find throughout the game. Even without listening to all the tapes the game still tells a surprisingly thoughtful tale that touches on everything from child soldiers to the power of language.

If the approach to story is unexpected, then the gameplay itself is the biggest surprise. Snake has an ever growing number of tools, weapons and gadgets at his disposal. The amount of ways you can approach any given mission is staggering. Whether you want to slowly inch across through the grass interrogating enemies before knocking them out or charge straight through the middle shooting rockets from horseback you are covered. I tended to play on the stealthier side of things but it was a relief that when that went wrong I could still shoot my way out rather than just fail the mission. The enemies are unpredictable and constantly communicate with each other meaning one enemy spotting you can cause the whole region to go on alert. Luckily, when you are first spotted the game goes into slow motion to give you a chance to take out the enemy that saw you. It sounds like this mechanic would make the game too easy, but it is well balanced.

Throughout the game, you are collecting soldiers and resources to build the Mother Base. This serves as both a representation of your progress through the game and an upgrade tree. Building, upgrading and recruiting is how you advance through the tree. It is a rewarding system that pays off with awesome new guns and gadgets, and allowing you to see your base sprawling into the distance by the end of the game. It is very satisfying. I do wish there was a bit more to do at Mother Base other than shower and beat up your soldiers (which they dutifully thank you for) but at least they use it for a lot of cut-scenes.

The game looks incredible and runs smooth as silk on PC. Whether it is a rainy jungle at night or a sandstorm the environments are expansive and impressive. The characters themselves are very detailed and well animated, especially the faces. I found myself constantly surprised by the detail and expression put in even the basic enemies.

Metal Gear Solid V is a masterpiece. It is (almost) everything you want from a Metal Gear Solid game. Other than an over-reliance on audio logs and some minor pacing issues in the last third there isn't much to complain about. MGSV may not have revolutionized video games as the first one did but it has perfected many aspects of modern game design. It is a game that shouldn't be missed.

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