There's been a lot of adversity facing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain since it's initial 2012 announcement: battles amongst developers and publishers, the unceremonious removal of creator Hideo Kojima's entire studio from Konami's lineup of future game producers, and the replacement of voice actor David Hayter, whose decade-long role as Solid Snake (and any other variations of Our Favorite Mullet in a Box) was taken over by 24's Keifer Sutherland.
Defiant in the face of these setbacks, The Phantom Pain is a gorgeous, thrilling cinematic experience that combines with time-eating gameplay to last even the most skilled gamer for weeks, with most players clocking roughly 30 hours on storyline alone. Flawed as they may be, the game delivers a handful of interesting new characters, and continues the story of our already familiar heroes in an epic way.
Unfortunately, several certain instances concerning Snake throughout the game just didn't feel like the character that has led this series for so long. Sutherland's dry performance falls flat, and the twist on who we're playing as for the duration of the game doesn't necessarily help the fact that the usually incredible Sutherland fell short of filling the emotionally heavy combat boots of a character that I personally grew up with.
In the face of that, The Phantom Pain seems to stand defiant when it comes to even the smallest of additions, including the delightfully distracting roles of D-Horse and D-Dog, animal assistants that pack unexpected punches alongside our hero. Your trusty steed sails you through waves of enemies (if you're inclined to do so) and the faithful canine grins through the blood of your enemies in an almost endearing way after putting the baddies to rest for good. With Revolver Ocelot at your side for most of the story, players will enjoy the quips and camaraderie of the cowboy combatant, in an era where he seems both familiar and brand new thanks to an unweathered attitude.
Easily responsible for one of the coolest boss fights in the game (and some of the most badass moments of heroism), Snake's new comrade and love interest of the week, Quiet, suffers from ridiculous camera angles that are more akin to the first Thor film. Unlike several of her female predecessors in the franchise, who play huge roles throughout other installments and enjoy their own varying sense sexual agency, her abilities and prowess take second place to awkward dances in the rain.
Stand-out additions to the overall lore of course rest within the hands of the game's antagonists, though many instances present enjoyable alternatives to that villainy, with morals flipped and reversed to the point where the player is once again reminded that we are, in fact, playing as Big Boss.
A show of digital animation prowess, The Phantom Pain brings players up-close and nearly drowns them in a sea of bright colors versus the darkness that players lurk through during most of the game. A long prelude is turned into a cinematic story that throws the player, unprepared, into exciting bouts of action unannounced.
Fans of the Metal Gear franchise have been given an incredible, tragic parting gift by Kojima Productions as the story of Solid Snake is rounded out at the hands of an incredible writing team. Despite a handful of flaws, The Phantom Pain is a riveting, gorgeous game that does justice to everything that came before, set to leave players beaming and emotional at their journey's close, no matter how long they've been playing.