Game Info
Platform 360, PS3, Win, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher Konami
Developer Kojima Productions
Release Date Sep 1, 2015

It"s fitting that one of the recurring themes of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is about the loss of a part of your being. Phantom limb pain is the sensation that flesh once a part of your body can still be felt, can cause you suffering, after it"s gone.

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Series creator Hideo Kojima has been making Metal Gear games with publisher Konami for close to 30 years, creating sequels and prequels that bounce back and forth between the future and the past of a labyrinthine fictional world of spies, cold wars and walking nuclear weapons bearing the series" name. The Phantom Pain, an open-world stealth game about the adventures of Big Boss, also known as Snake, seems to be his unexpected swan song. The Phantom Pain closes the loop on the three decade-long Metal Gear saga and the result, warts and all, turns out to be one of the best entries in the series.

Players who haven"t touched last year"s Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes will find themselves thrust into a conflict that can be pretty confusing

Set between the events of 2010"s Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and the original Metal Gear, the 1987 stealth game progenitor in which Big Boss plays the role of chief antagonist, The Phantom Pain serves as a sort of "missing link" between those two games, an opportunity to learn how Big Boss transformed from a sympathetic hero to an iconic villain.

Players who haven"t touched last year"s Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes will find themselves thrust into a conflict that, without similar knowledge of previous Big Boss-starring games Metal Gear Solid 3 and Peace Walker, can be pretty confusing. The Phantom Pain doesn"t waste much time getting players up to speed, but tells them that they"re on a mission of revenge, a mission to rebuild Big Boss" once-thriving private army.

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In an effort to grow that force, named Diamond Dogs, and expand the group"s stronghold, Mother Base, Big Boss takes on paid mercenary missions to fund his private military group. These missions include exfiltrating prisoners; eliminating military commanders either through assassination or kidnapping; dismantling the infrastructure of occupying forces and more.

Big Boss has a wealth of weapons, tools and tactics at his disposal in stealth and combat situations. He can sneak in quietly, knocking out foes with tranquilizer darts or go on a murderous rampage, unleashing air strikes and sniper fire at bases until everyone stationed there is dead. I found both tactical options to be valid in The Phantom Pain, sometimes depending on the mission at hand, though taking a stealthier approach I found paid dividends over time. As a stealth game pacifist, I preferred to keep my kill count low, though I rarely flinched when required to shoot some poor young soldier in the face. Occasionally, I felt better about just shooting them in the knees to disable them, then hoping that they"d survive a trip back to Mother Base.


Wrap Up: The Phantom Pain is a bittersweet but impressive send-off for the series" creator

There"s no denying that Kojima has a vision, a singular style that touches every facet of The Phantom Pain. Missions begin and end with credits that name the supporting players and the Kojima Productions employees responsible for writing or designing each chapter. I estimate I was told no less than 100 times that The Phantom Pain was directed and produced by Kojima. It"s a charming design quirk that regularly reminds you of the people who crafted this bold, weird, impressive game. And if this is where Kojima does finally leave the series he created, it will be a bittersweet send-off, both for Big Boss and one of gaming"s most intriguing auteurs.

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain was reviewed on retail PS4 code at Konami"s Los Angeles studio over the course of four days with equal time spent playing that retail copy at home. You can find additional information about"s ethics policy here.

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