Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Mixed Feelings


The Phantom Pain is an incredibly hard game for me to talk about. On one hand you've got this incredible open world sandbox for stealth, espionage, operations. Then on the other you've got a story that fails to deliver in any meaningful way.

A game filled with cutscenes of Snake staring at people, saying nothing, while they speak directly to him and often times ask him questions. A game that asks you to trust it before it gets really, really fucking crazy, but goes nowhere. If the narrative in this game were Terminator 2, when the Terminator says "Come with me if you want to live", then the resulting action would be him taking you to McDonalds and getting you a kids meal. How does that even make sense? It doesn't. But unlike other MGS games where it's all over the top and it usually doesn't give a fuck if you understand it or not, it keeps going, and keeps getting crazier. The Phantom Pain? It gets a certain degree of crazy, dials it up, maintains it, then takes a nap.

And that's the biggest problem I have with The Phantom Pain. I love, love, love, the gameplay. For crying out loud, I've spent 144 hours with it and I'm only at 75 percent! I can't stop playing. I have never felt so immersed in a game before in my life. Except maybe Metal Gear Solid 2... okay yeah since MGS2. That game sucked my life away and made me fall in love with the series.

But the story is just... so plain. So whitebread. When I saw Eli in the flesh I almost shit my pants. I was like, holy fuck, it's KIDDIE LIQUID! IT'S REALLY HIM! His first real appearance in a Metal Gear Solid game since the very first MGS! Wow! What will he do? What will he be like? Where, just where, could this end up going? And... there really wasn't an answer to that question.

Like the rest of the game, cutscenes with Eli are just him staring at you. He barely talks, and it almost seems to imply that he didn't want to talk around Snake. He seems to know he's the son of this man and he resents him and blah blah blah who fucking cares nothing ever comes of it.

Ocelot is your total bro in this game, yet he has no character. They never acknowledge why he sounds like Joel from The Last of Us even though he's a a French born Russian. They never really explain anything. There's barely any exposition in this game.

I love Ocelot, I love Troy Baker Ocelot, but I just don't get it. It's like he was introduced to be a very on-the-nose "Angel on your shoulder" character as he gives you practical and levelheaded advice and information throughout your mission. In fact, he makes a great radio contact as he always has something to say about everything.

Kaz, or whatever the fuck he's calling himself but not really calling himself, is a constantly whining sadistic bitch. That's the long and short of it. If there's someone to rescue, he says you probably shouldn't, if there's some important documents, he'd tell you to burn them, if there's anything positive to come out of anything you can do on the field, he tells you to ignore it.

Kaz is a major issue for me in this game because his character just isn't really endearing. His change from happy peace loving mercenary to angry peace hating mercenary makes sense considering what he's been through in the past 9 years, but at the same time, I don't think they did a good job. One, his dialog was always about getting revenge on someone or something, which is a failure of direction as you never get revenge on anyone about anything. They should have tweaked his dialog to infer his burning thirst for revenge, instead of him saying "WE'RE GONNA GET REVENGE ON REVENGE FOR THE REVENGE OF REVENGE!!!".

And then there's his voice. He always, always, sounds like he's going to burst into tears. I love Robin Atkin Downes and it's not that he did a bad job - he did the job he was paid to do, he was great in Peace Walker - it's just that... I don't like it. He just sounds like he's gonna rage cry all the time and that tone gets on my nerves. Especially when I'm listening to Sins of The Father, the very song that named this website, and he buts in with some dumb shit. Man where's Ocelot!? His voice is DOPE.

The issues with Kaz go deeper. It makes some sense when you beat the game, but he's pretty much near constantly second guessing you. I'm not a bad guy from the movies, so when you question my motives I'm not gonna freak out, but to fucking ask me why I'm taking an S++ ranked soldier from the battlefield EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN TIME, it. gets. annoying. Ocelot? He's all "YO BOSS THAT'S A GOOD SOLDIER WE'RE GONNA TAKE CARE OF HIM" and "OH SHIT BOSS THANKS FOR SUCH A GREAT GUY WE'LL GET READY FOR HIM". And I like that. I like positive reinforcement. Being told you're doing good things for doing things is nice. Being questioned and second guessed for 144 hours is not.

It's a complicated discussion. Anyone who has read this far may think I don't like the game and would probably question me saying that I "love" it. But... man, it's just so good.

The fact of the matter is, The Phantom Pain is the best Metal Gear Solid game ever made. No question. It's also hands down the worst Metal Gear Solid story ever made. No question.

You can ask me what the plot was. What the story was about. I wouldn't know what to say. I mean, I know what happens in the game. I can understand characters and their motivations(Sorry Skullface, I've got no idea what the fuck you were talking about), but the plot... the overarching, er, arc.

I don't mind the ending. I'm gonna be honest. I don't hate nor mind the ending. It was okay. I'm a sucker for character creation and to find out that I actually contribute to the legacy of Big Boss, and, am actually Big Boss myself, well that's just fucking great. It's 3:43 as of right now and I could probably take it up a notch and analyze how, you, the player of the video game have been Big Boss from the beginning, and how with this game they actually take you and turn you into the man himself, but I don't think I can do it justice.

I mean it is cool though. They tried a similar thing with Raiden. Sense of self, what it means to be human, transcendentalism, which I thought was a word I'd made up just now but I find out it's a real word. That's what I get for watching so much Ghost in the Shell.

They could have done more, no matter how much I am okay with the "twist" of the helicopter medic from Ground Zeroes being the man they turn into a mental copy, or, a "phantom" of Big Boss. But it could have gone deeper, darker. We recruit people from all over the battlefield, all over the world. We get a steady supply of volunteers, sure, they want to team up with the myth himself, but what about those people who are taken from their comrades, their brothers in arms, and their families? I expected, once Ocelot began talking about how familiar and comfortable he is with hypnotherapy that they'd then explain that they could only recruit these soldiers with such fierce loyalty due to the brainwashing they put them through. But that's another thing that they refuse to talk about.

And what's the deal with Kaz's eyes? They actually make a note to talk about his eyes when you rescue him, but then they never mention it again. He has eyes like Code Talker, does that imply there's some sort of Parasite within him? Kaz makes several references to how MSF was basically a parasite living off of Cipher, and since MGSV is not subtly in the least, I expected this to be him spelling out some shit about what's going on with him. I mean that does make sense, right? It parralells Ground Zeroes in some capacity. Skullface captures Paz, tortures her, puts a bomb in her and waits for Snake to pull her out of there. Then, the bomb would kill them. So with Kaz, the idea is that he's captured, tortured, maimed, and they put parasites in him, wait for him to be rescued and then the outbreak would destroy all of Diamond Dogs, killing Big Boss and all essential staff.

It makes a lot of sense, or rather, it would have. They never bring up why his eyes are like that, and so I'm left here to sit and wonder. I do that a lot on this game. But I'll save those rambled 4AM thoughts for another time. Until then, I've still got work to do.

My name is Ryan. I like to play video games and Dungeons and Dragons and all kinds of other cool stuff. I also like to write. This is my website, it's nothing special, but I write about topics from time to time that probably make no sense. But if you think they do make sense, then hang around and check out some other articles. My friends call them "blogs" but goddamnit I've got a URL and everything, so they're "articles".

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