If there is one thing that the Metal Gear Solid series does well, it tells one heck of a story. Sure, the gameplay and action have also been key components of the Metal Gear charm. But it is the story and development of the characters that give the series its depth. I can remember just sitting back and enjoying the banter between characters through Codec conversations in the original Metal Gear Solid on the original Playstation. But Metal Gear Solid also knows how to begin a game with a bang. My case in point…Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain.
Before I get to Phantom Pain, it is vital to give a great deal of gratitude to Hideo Kojima and his teams for what they have accomplished over the years with the Metal Gear brand. Also thanks to Konami for publishing the games. Kojima is considered to be the mastermind of the Metal Gear Solid series and they are some of the best tactical experiences in video game form that I’ve ever played. The games have a tremendous amount of grit and depth that keep you coming back for more.
Even when I was a child and played Metal Gear on the Nintendo Entertainment System, I felt like I was playing something different and special. I can’t say that I understood all of what was going on with the NES game, but it stood out to me and I always remembered it. For me, it’s crazy to think that Kojima’s influence was even on that game. He truly is one of gaming’s most brilliant minds.
Now let’s return to Phantom Pain. If you are meticulous with story development, I highly recommend that you play Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes before starting Phantom Pain. It’s the official prologue to Metal Gear Solid V and allows you to play through the events that happened leading up to Phantom Pain. Long story short, an operation went wrong…really wrong. And when Phantom Pain begins, you (Snake) are lucky to even be alive.
You awaken in a hospital an absolute wreck in Phantom Pain. There’s a doctor working to help restore you and there are people trying to kill you. They are ruthless and are absolutely willing to kill everyone (including civilians) to get to you. The Snake that you control is essentially helpless and in no condition to fight off the different obstacles he faces in the first 45 minutes of Phantom Pain. This is where the fantastic storytelling comes in. As the stuff hits the fan all around you, your allies begin to emerge and you realize that you’re not alone. But between attempting to survive, things getting really bat-crazy, wondering what’s real and what isn’t, the opening of Phantom Pain is a roller coaster ride that sets the stage for the rest of the campaign in an unforgettable way. Once you pass the first part of the game, you won’t play another part anywhere near like it the rest of the way.
Because I bought the Definitive Phantom Pain Experience on Steam over the holidays, I played the intro for the first time in years and I still had goosebumps over what transpired in that hospital and the vulnerable situations that Snake was in. It’s a miracle that he even made it out of there alive. You can’t help feel a chill run down your spine when you lay helpless on your bed and see a female assassin enter your room with deadly intentions. Or when you have to hide among dead bodies and play dead in order to not be killed. When you start building Mother Base, this opening scene becomes a distant memory, but it serves as a potent reminder of how bad things can get when they go south.
The very first time I played Metal Gear Solid V years ago, all I remembered reading was about how great of an open-world title it was. The “open world” part was what I was expecting from the start. But what I got was a linear beginning featuring a vulnerable and compromised Snake, who was fighting for his life and narrowly escaping death. The game was better for it and gave me a greater appreciation of the open world once I reached that point. Man, what a crazy intro.
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