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Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

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Game Reviewed: Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Kojima Productions
Reviewer: Paul Stewart
Platform: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows
Category: Action/Adventure, Stealth
ESRB Rating: M
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Game Description:

In my previous review on Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, Snake, the game’s protagonist, infiltrates an “American” blacksite on Cuban soil run by Cipher, a private military company using it’s American cover to achieve it’s evil plans. He rescues two prisoners from the blacksite, only to have his base of operations, Mother Base, bombed by Cipher thanks to the treachery of Huey Emmerich. Snake’s aircraft was destroyed, and only he and his ally, Kazuhira Miller survived.

The Phantom Pain takes place nine years after the events of Ground Zeroes, where Snake wakes up in a Cyprus hospital from a coma, to find pieces of shrapnel in his head and most of his body, and his left arm amputated. He also realizes that Cipher is still gunning for him and almost succeeds, until a fellow patient named Ishmael helps him escape. Once he’s reunited with Miller and Revolver Ocelot, he learns that Cipher and their leader, Skull Face, are developing a weapon to control the entire world and war as we know it.

This game is by far the best game in the Metal Gear Solid series, and the very first open world game in the franchise. Snake can explore Northern Kabul, Afghanistan and the Angola-Zaire Border Region, and interact with the environment as well as local wildlife. What’s even more cool about this game is how Snake can infiltrate enemy strongholds and extract prisoners (and/or enemy targets, steal vehicles and resources, etc. Like in Peace Walker, Snake maintains control of the newly rebuilt Mother Base, where he can develop weapons and train his own private army in taking the fight to Cipher.
Is this game the right choice for your kids? Hopefully, this review will help you decide.

(Note: This review is based mostly on Chapter 1 in the game, which is 30 missions long and as far as I got before the game got too difficult for me to finish, so this review may not include everything from the game itself)

What Parents Need to Know

Violence:

Snake can kill enemies with a variety of weapons. Enemies spurt blood when shot, and bleed out on the ground. If Snake wounds an enemy, he'll writhe on the ground in agony, and you can either finish him or let him be. If you subdue an enemy, you can interrogate him for information, after which you can either incapacitate him or kill him with your knife (blood spurts if you do). Some enemies' heads can be blown clean off.

At the beginning of the game, Snake goes into shock twice, and a nurse sedates him twice. It is implied that Snake was injured in an explosion and pieces of shrapnel were imbedded near his heart and skull (similar to Tony Stark’s injuries in Iron Man) We see an x-ray of his ribs, skull, and upper body. A doctor tells him that if they tried to extract the shrapnel, he would suffer a brain hemorrhage. He also tells him that Snake lost his arm in the explosion. We see the bandaged stump a couple seconds later. The aforementioned shrapnel in his head is visible throughout the game. It is implied that Kaz lost his arm too as well as his leg; we see part of his leg and his entire right arm missing.

In one cutscene, Kaz and Ocelot interrogate Huey by injecting him with truth serum and stretching his crippled legs painfully with his own mechanical legs. They also taunt him with some acid on his glasses and the chair he's sitting on, with Ocelot leaving him with the syringe needle-up on the floor, next to where he's lying. Two pilots are killed in a helicopter crash, leaving one of the pilots' faces bloody.

A nurse is strangled from behind, and a doctor is choked to death with a wire later on, his neck bleeds as he writhes. A friendly patient attempts to fight off a female mercenary, but is wounded by a throwing knife to the chest. She incapacitates Snake for a second, but the patient throws flammable chemicals at her, setting her on fire. She writhes and screams in agony until she falls out a window. Amazingly, she survives. The patient helps Snake up and gives him a shot of dioxin.

A merc mercilessly kills a patient begging for mercy, by shooting him in the leg, back, and finally in the head, blood shown. Another patient suffers a similar fate, trailing blood as he's dragged off and then shot to death. A nurse and patient call out to a chopper for help, but are gunned to death offscreen. We see their bloodstained bodies afterward. Essentially, patients in the hospital are eventually caught by the enemy and gunned to death, blood smears on the environment. One scene has a bunch of helpless hospital patients and staff gunned down mercilessly, blood sprays on the screen. One scene has a fleeing patient shot through the abdomen, blood sprays on the curtain and we see him gasping for air up close in gruesome fashion. Some levels have areas with blood smeared everywhere.

Snake and an ally are blown away by a fireball explosion, with the other guy almost burning to death, before being saved by an automated fire extinguisher. A demonic looking man in flames attempts to kill Snake and Ishmael, but disappears after being sprayed with water. The same creature absorbs enemy bullets and blasts several enemies with fire, blood sprays in slow motion. An army of mercs is decimated by a chopper's rotors, blood sprays everywhere in slow motion; we see one soldier lying next to his torso-less legs on the right side of the screen. One sniper shoots down an enemy fighter, blood shown in the cockpit before the craft crashes in the sea. A kid is burned to death in his bed, Snake helplessly watches. A Metal Gear crushes a soldier with its giant arm.

(Spoilers)
A major villain is found crushed under some debris, barely alive, but covered in blood. He begs for you to kill him with his shotgun, which the player shoots him three times, followed by a cutscene with Snake shooting his arm and legs off, gore shown. Kaz tells the villain to "do it himself." Someone else does it for him.

After Snake rescues some child soldiers, Kaz hits one with his crutch, provoking the kid to pull a rifle on him in defense. One rescued child soldier attacks Snake with a knife, but Snake subdues him and dislocates his arm, but resets it after scolding him. This kid more than once gets into a (knife) fight with his elders, and always ends up with a dislocated or broken arm.

In one scene, a soldier is attacked by Quiet as she attempts to stab him through the mouth (blood shown), but is intervened by Snake who subdues her and threatens to break her arm as Ocelot sedates her immediately.

Ishmael painfully fixes Snake's dislocated arm, screen turns red to represent pain. Snake painfully sets the bones in his leg. In one part of the hospital, Snake and Ishmael attempt to play dead among a bunch of bloodstained bodies to fool the enemy. Snake and Ishmael are involved in a car wreck. A chopper is swallowed by a flaming whale. Snake is almost killed in another wreck caused by a Metal Gear, but survives.

Some of the Skulls are depicted as walking corpses, bloody and nearly stripped of their flesh, which they eventually conceal with armor.

In a flashback, a man is shot and blood sprays on the screen. In the same flashback, a woman throws herself out of a chopper before she is killed by an exploding bomb. Skull Face's face is burnt, gray flesh (hence the name), which makes him look sinister. In several missions, he kills his helpless victims in execution fashion. In one mission, diseased bodies are found floating in crude oil. Snake pulls what looks like an earphone out of a laceration in an infected man's throat, and removes a cloth from the man's torso, revealing purple, swollen flesh underneath. Many unfortunate souls are found later, suffering the same symptoms.

Whenever Snake is killed, the screen turns red and his ally calls out to him frantically. Blood splatters on the edges of the screen every time he takes a lot of damage.

In the first opening cutscene, there is a spot of blood on a cassette player. Frequently, Snake's face and outfit are stained with blood during missions, but they can be washed clean when you use the shower back at Mother Base.

Language:
Infrequent uses of f**k, frequent uses of s**t, infrequent mild profanity. One cassette tape mentions the phrase "'F' You". Some of the profanity is spoken in foreign language, but if you’ve recruited an interpreter, you’ll be able to translate whatever your enemies speak, profanity included.

Sexual Content:
One of Snake's allies is wearing scrubs, his back seams show a tiny bit of his bare buttocks.

Some levels contain posters with scantily-clad women that you can collect for your iDroid or post on the cardboard boxes you hide in. These posters may have suggestive words like, "Kept you waiting?" written on them.

A medicine man gives Snake a cure for the infection spreading on Mother Base, which will render the parasite (and the host) infertile.

One mission pits you against a female sniper named Quiet. After she's beaten, she's found unconscious wearing nothing but a bikini, nylons, and ammo belts. If you attempt to take her alive back to base, the camera zooms in on her breasts as her unconscious body is moved. Occasionally, the camera more than once catches a glimpse of the side of her breast. If you visit Quiet in her cell, she adjusts her bra and walks around. Ocelot mentions that she refuses to wear clothes, as they would suffocate her, due to her photosynthetic biology. However, it is possible (though difficult) to find a modest-ish outfit for her.

Note: Some of the outfits in the DLC store are skimpy in appearance, but as long as you don’t buy them, they can be avoided.

Some of the Skulls are female, and wear skimpy clothing. One Metal Gear, when walking upright, has a gun located between its legs.

Spirituality:
In some instances, a floating woman in a gas mask with flaming hands appears, followed by a demonic looking man engulfed in flames. Water appears to be its weakness.

Once, the floating woman psychically manipulates rubble and destroys a tank with it. The flaming apparition chases Snake astride a flaming horse (or unicorn?) Cipher's strike team, the Skulls, are very ghost-like in appearance and tactics, possessing almost-supernatural powers. Some Skulls, if they spot you, move super fast like ghosts. One Skull jumps out of a chopper and teleports herself to the ground. Victims of the Skulls act as possessed zombies. Kaz says the Skulls are not human, and compares Skull Face to the Grim Reaper.

Ocelot tells Snake in one tape that he went straight down to Hell, and his men pulled him out, eye full of venom. Kaz says Cipher sent them both to Hell, but they'll go deeper, which Snake replies, "I'm already a demon. Heaven isn't my kind of place anyway." Skull Face labels both Snake and himself as demons and even calls his Metal Gear weapon his "demon." Once Kaz tells Snake that his targets have two options: Heaven or Hell, to which Snake says, "No, there is another," referencing Outer Heaven, Snake’s safe haven for abused and exploited soldiers. Kaz says, "There's no room for angels in our Heaven."

One Metal Gear is named Sahelanthropus, after an evolutionary hominid.

Skull Face proclaims, "This is the day weapons learn to walk upright!", an obvious nod to evolution. He even has the audacity to quote, "The Word became flesh" in reference to his evil plan to dominate the world’s language. One man named "Code Talker" is found in a room with almost a hundred lit candles on the floor, and he talks and acts like a shaman.

Some dead characters appear to Snake a couple of times, which are hallucinations caused by the shrapnel in his brain.

Miscellaneous:
This game leaves you with both lethal and non-lethal methods at your disposal. You can either kill enemies, or you can knock them out. Like in Peace Walker, you can extract unconscious enemies with the Fulton Recovery System. If you do, your captives can be enlisted into Diamond Dogs back at Mother Base and help you with weapon upgrades or backup on missions. I guess that's one way to make friends out of enemies.

Some missions take place in Africa, where child soldiers are regrettably common there. Killing a child soldier results in Mission Failure. In one cutscene, Kaz tells Snake to kill some imprisoned children before they reveal information to Cipher, but Snake refuses.

(Spoilers) Snake opens fire, seemingly killing the kids; he doesn't.)

Kaz later tells you to get the kids to safety. Kaz shows no sympathy for these kids, though he does promise to get these kids educated, instead of wielding guns. One mission implies that the government wants Snake to kill a bunch of child soldiers harassing a village, but Kaz belays that order by telling you to capture the commander instead. After capturing their leader, Snake him, "Anyone here can use a knife or a gun. Here, we're gonna teach you how to use your head."

In one cutscene, Snake disables a man's mechanical legs with his knife, so he can't walk and escape.

Snake is given dioxin to help him move and escape from a hospital. One character urinates on the floor out of intense fear. One command you can give your animal buddy is to defecate, to distract enemies.

Kaz asks Snake why they are still alive, only just to suffer. Some missions require you to eliminate military commanders, only to get closer to the goal of defeating Cipher. However, the game does reward you if you extract them alive with the Fulton. In one cutscene (if you choose to spare the target), Kaz and his men attempt to kill Snake's prisoner, but Snake and Ocelot stand up for her, although Snake does say, "When the time comes, I'll pull the trigger."

Skull Face is a traitor to America, and uses the American agency, Cipher, to commit atrocities all over the world. His plan is eventually revealed to be wiping out the "immigrated" peoples from America, and opposes the idea of entrusting people with free will. Skull Face's version of peace is enslaving the world with his Metal Gear army and binding every nation and race under his evil philosophy.

Huey shouts "Revenge!" after killing someone who wronged him. Kaz states, "This 'pain' is ours, and no one else's."

Snake smokes a cigar in some cutscenes and onboard the helicopter. The player can also create and smoke cigars in the field to boost Snake's senses, plus you can create drugs like pentazemin, noctocyanin, and acceleramin to boost your abilities. An old medicine man gives Snake a pipe which contains an antitoxin for the disease infecting him and his men.

(NOTE: A recent update in the game, as of 11/30/15, has included the ability to arm Mother Base with nukes, which you can use as a deterrent against online players, but you can also choose to do away with nukes (if you’re pro-nuclear disarmament), but you’ll still be at risk of being nuked by other players online.)

A Child’s Perspective: The Metal Gear games (including this one) are not made for kids. Period. I’d be extremely concerned (no, extremely upset!) if I saw little kids watching this game, let alone playing it. This game is intended for adults, and adults only.

Reviewers Thoughts:
Personally, I found this game to be more fun than the rest of the Metal Gear games combined. Like Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist, I like it where Snake accomplishes his missions with whatever resources are at his disposal. I also found the story to be very intriguing and well written. I believe this game is going to end up in the video gaming hall of fame next to Halo, Call of Duty, and Gears of War.

In spite of its great design and extraordinary gameplay, I cannot recommend this game to anyone under 18, or anyone who has a weak stomach for violence and moral situations. If you do decide to get this game, please respect the M-rating before letting your kids play this game.



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