This is not a review of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

You might be forgiven for mistaking this post for a review, given that there will be discussions of a game and what I did and didn’t like about it. However, this cannot be considered a review for several reasons, with the first being that I did not complete the game, nor do I plan on doing it. (Nor do I plan on watching the rest on YouTube.) I will not be issuing a score or suggesting whether you buy it or not. I won’t even be going all that in depth with the various game elements. These are just my thoughts after playing for a few days, and I’d like to share them with you so you have something new to read from me.

I got Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain for free as part of the PS+ collection, so that tempers my reaction to it quite a bit. I went in with low expectations for many reasons, the biggest of which was that the last few times I played any Metal Gear games (for reference I played the remasters of 2 and 3 on the PS Vita) I was bored to tears by the game play and annoyed endlessly by the interruptions for ten, twenty, and even thirty minute sessions of “plot”. In my opinion, Hideo Kojima is probably one of the most overrated game makers out there because it often seems to me that he doesn’t want to write for a game. He wants to write a visual novel or even a movie, with minimal interaction on the part of the audience.

The opening of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain certainly seemed to back that up, inviting me to touch the controls once every five minutes or so before playing out yet another lengthy (and often stupid) cut scene. (No, seriously, like my character would watch a nurse being garotted and not so much as point to warn the doctor? FUCKING STUPID.) However, once I got into the actual game, the cut scenes were greatly reduced, and while I really didn’t like the controls, I could at least work with them. Further, some of the missions were, gasp, actually fun to play.

There were hiccups along the way, with the first being just past “chapter 9” and working a random side mission when I was suddenly thrust into main mission “Chapter 12” with Quiet, the “female sniper.” (I have so much contempt for that term, and for “female soldier.” Even taking the times of the game into account, the term wasn’t used for women serving in the military in any country. This just makes it seem like Hideo Kojima is one of those insufferable incels who can’t be bothered to refer to women as…you know, women.) I hated the mission to bring her into my base, and I hated the way she breaks immersion during the mission, leaping twenty to thirty meters into the sky whenever I finally managed to hit her. If she’s fucking Superfemale, why is she even bothering using the rifle? She can just leap over to Snake, fuck him with his own gun, and then hang his violated corpse over his mutilated horse. Quiet’s powers and abilities as displayed in the missions and the following cut scene had me groaning or rolling my eyes, even more so as my dumb as fuck compadre Kaz shouted about how we can’t work with “it.” (Just keep reinforcing those incel vibes, mang.)

But I got Quiet safely bundled away and went back to side missions, and for several days worth of streaming, I was having a good time. Early on, I’d joked that knowing the game had music tapes to collect, I would make it my life’s missions to find A-Ha’s Take On Me. Well I actually found it during a rescue of a random prisoner, and I promptly snatched it up with said prisoner riding Snake’s shoulder. I made a new life’s goal to find Billy Idol’s White Wedding, which sadly did not come to pass.

The mission that broke me was Lingua Franca, though the mission before it had already started to sour me on the African location. It’s not so much the location as my buddy “D-Dog,” who can’t seem to avoid being spotted, and who once spotted will run around slamming into soldiers, drawing more and more of them down on my location. What kind of asshole makes a stealth game and then thinks, “You know what would be great? A dog that can’t hide to save its life.” Up to the African missions, I liked D-Dog. I thought it was great that I had a button dedicated to petting the dog, and I would stop whatever I was doing to randomly pet and praise him just for being a dog. Each time I did this while streaming, I would declare, “forget what I was complaining about. Game of the Year!”

(But incidentally my Game of the year was Horizon: Zero Dawn. I played it again in hard mode for the Twitch stream, and it was just as good as the first time through, though I did notice quite a few more plot holes seeing them with foreshadowed knowledge of the ending. But I will move back to the topic at hand.)

In Lingua Franca, the mission given is that a terrorist organization has taken several of its own members prisoner, a faction of British folks who apparently can’t speak the local language despite being colleagues. So the locals drive over an interpreter to interrogate said British prisoners, and while they plan to execute all the prisoners eventually, Snake’s job is to find one in particular, a man called “The Viscount.”

So, the first time in this mission, I spot a prisoner being led up a road by a single escort, and I pounce the solider and knock him out, easy peasy. I’ve barely got Fulton devices on the prisoner and soldier before I’m being informed that the prisoner has provided valuable intel “back at base.” Um…what? The base is a long, LONG way from this location, and given his wobbling condition when I rescued him, I seriously doubt he was in any condition to give any information.

But never mind that. I’d barely made it close enough to see the camp when a sniper spotted me and shot me, and even belly crawling, he beaned me to death because the belly crawl controls are just slightly worse than trying to drive a tank in a mud pit with both treads busted. I reloaded the mission, saved the prisoner, found the sniper to flank him and…was spotted by a soldier I hadn’t seen standing nearby. I reloaded the mission and snuck in close enough to see the second soldier while also staying out of the sniper’s line of sight, took aim with my own silenced sniper refile, and…somehow alerted every single soldier in the base to my location when the sniper who didn’t see me shoot still swung 180 degrees to report he saw me.

I reloaded the mission once again and ignored both the soldier patrolling and the sniper to follow the interpreter, who went to a prisoner to ask some random questions, most of which were answered like “I don’t know, only the Viscount did!” The interpreter says, “Well then, I will just have to speak to this Viscount myself.” Okay, here we go, the real point of the mission, right? Wrong, the interpreter then walks into an adjacent building and does NOTHING. Zooming in and using my “iDroid” microphone reveals no conversation inside, and sneaking around far enough to look inside, I see the interpreter and several other men just standing around. Eventually the interpreter and his escort leave, so I tail them out to another building, where again, they do nothing. They wander back the way they just came and head for another building. They aren’t patrolling. They aren’t interrogating. This is just bullshit meant to pad out the mission. Needless to say, I am becoming greatly annoyed.

AND THEN D-Dog gets spotted, and the whole thing turns into a shit sandwich. I shut off the game and concluded my stream saying I’d come back to the mission later. But, as the days passed and I thought more and more about that mission, the less I wanted to play the game at all. The real fun for me was in the side missions where I had a simple goal. Achieving that goal might take ten minutes or two hours depending on how heavily guarded a base was, but in each case, these were the moments when the game felt comfortable being a stealth game. It’s the missions where I feel most like I have the gear and the methods available to do the job and get out with a minimum of bullshit that I really enjoyed the game. But in between these enjoyable sessions, I kept running into bullshit that pulled me out of that fun zone. Quiet, the XOF supa-zombie squad, pretty much anything resembling the supernatural. (I mean, really, I watched psycho-psychic and her pyrokinetic pappy destroy a tank and an armored chopper with ease, so what the fuck am I going to do to them using a shotgun, or any gun?)

I realize that what I’m about to say is going to be offensive to some of you (and that some of what I’ve already written is offensive), but it seems to me like the best parts of the game are when Hideo Kojima injects the barest minimum of himself into it and just lets the mechanics handle the heavy lifting. With the side missions in any location, the whole routine of sneaking in, meeting goals, and running away are fun. The moment Kojima steps in and says “Okay, let me inject my genius into this,” he fucks it up so hard that the plot should need a trauma therapist.

I realize some of you think the man is a genius. I realize some of you idolize this entire series as the greatest thing EVAH. I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with you. From the standpoint of his writing, Hideo Kojima is abysmal, and separated from the medium of games, a book written by him would be worthy of mountains of criticism for inconsistency and outlandish absurdity. Put inside a game, his writing burdens what could otherwise be some great ideas. The man desperately needs an editor to step in and cut the fluff he keeps trying to put in his games.

But…I got it for free, and I set the bar real low going into it. Even after deleting the game, I will say I got several hours of enjoyments out of it, and I can see its appeal. It just isn’t a game for me. In conclusion, I’m pretty sure I’ll be skipping Death Stranding until it’s a free game. At this point, I have no faith in Hideo Kojima, and nothing about the premise laid out in the trailers has given me any reason not to believe it will drag its great ideas down with a lot of unneeded bullshit. You’re free to disagree, but that’s my take on any project overseen by Kojima.