Let me make one thing abundantly clear right off the bat, Metal Gear Solid 5 is a great game. By now you’ve probably heard the reviews (they’re amazing) and it seems like MGS5 is everyone’s frontrunner for Game of the Year. There is so much to do and like about MGS5 (In fact here are my favorite things) but it is far from an infallible game. At this point I have put in over 70 hours into MGS5 and while I believe the game does far more right than it does wrong I do not think it is perfect, in fact I don’t think it’s anywhere close to the best game I’ve played this year. Below is a list of 7 things that really annoyed my in MGS5.
Full Disclosure: This is the first Metal Gear game I’ve put any considerable time into and that alone is a mark in the win column for MGS5. That being said, the reason I’ve spent so much time with MGS5 is because it is a radical departure from previous Metal Gear games. If you thought the Metal Gear series was perfect, MGS5 may change up the formula a bit too much for you. If, like me, you’ve never been hooked by the series MGS5 is a perfect jumping in point.
1. Navigating the World
I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about MGS5’s open world and while it is gorgeous it leaves a lot to be desired. I have no issues with the size of the two main maps or the fact that their environments aren’t varied, my issue is that the world is not truly open, it is a series of loosely connected sandboxes that are a pain in the ass to navigate. MGS5 is touted as a game that allows you to play and approach a mission however you see fit but the predefined helicopter landing zones and natural map topography often mean that (especially in crucial story missions) you’re left with only one possible approach. I could forgive the use of predefined LZ’s on story missions but why do side ops have them? It’s a game, let me drop myself off where ever I want to. Getting to and from objectives without a car, D-Horse, or D-Walker is a pain in the ass. God forbid my LZ is 1000m away and I chose D-Dog or Quiet as my buddy.
This leads me to my second issue with navigating the world, the damn helicopter. After playing for 70 hours I’m convinced that I’ve spent at least 3 of those hours either waiting for my helicopter to arrive or sitting with my legs hanging out the door as it flies to and from my LZ. KONAMI. WHY? The game is not even using the helicopter trips to masking loading screens (the game has plenty of those too) like Mass Effects infamous elevators. What makes it even worse, is that there are upgrades to make your helicopter arrive faster, this wasn’t a technical limitation it was a specific design to give you the slowest goddamn helicopter in Afghanistan.
Let’s say I wanna run through a few side ops to building up Mother Base and get some more GMP. I drop into one side op and run my ass over to the objective zone (I take D-Dog because D-Horse is completely useless for anything but transportation) I complete my objective and want to immediately jump into the next side op, well get ready to wait a long time. Odds are the closest side op is over 1000m away and again, unless you have a car, D-Horse, or D-Walker (none of which are any help on stealthy missions) you’re screwed. To be fair you have a few options but most of them require spending more money or waiting a long time. I could call in an air drop for one of my rideable buddies but that would cost me more GMP and I would then have to switch back to get a buddy that provided more field support. I could call for a vehicle, which again cost money, isn’t all that fast, and is largely unavailable until later in the game. Or I could do what I almost always ended up doing, running back to my LZ waiting for my slow ass helicopter to pick me up, sitting through 2 loading screens and selecting an LZ closer to my next side op. Why can’t I just call my helicopter, have it arrive in a timely manner, and just sit in it while it flies to my next objective (like it does at Mother Base)!
2. Mother Base
First things first, I love the concept and the execution of building up your private army Diamond Dogs. What I don’t love is the physical manifestation of Mother Base. Except for a few missions and cutscenes, the space is largely useless but you still have to return there every so often to take a shower and raise your staff morale. If returning to Mother Base is a necessity at least give it some functionality that is unique. Instead, Konami chose to make your ACC (Aerial Command Center) the most functional spot in the game. There is nothing you can’t do from the ACC that you can do at Mother Base, therefore returning often felt more like a chore than returning to a home hub world.
Similar to issue #1, navigating Mother Base is a pain in the ass. Why on earth are the platforms so far away from one another? Driving to them takes forever, and flying (like I’ve mentioned before) takes much longer than it should. Plenty of games have home bases or hub worlds for player to return to in between missions but they at least give you some reason to return, Mother Base makes you return just to make you return.
3. “High Skilled” Soldiers
When you first begin MGS5 you fulton every enemy you see, your staff is empty and you need all the manpower you can get. Later on in the game your staff is filled with “A” ranking or better member on every team, you eventually reach a point where soldiers that don’t possess “A” rankings aren’t even worth fultoning (well they wouldn’t normally be but fultoning is a good way to ensure the enemy vacates the battlefield without killing them). Oftentimes I would simply put a bullet in the head of any soldier that wasn’t worth extracting. This wouldn’t normally be an issue in minute to minute gameplay but often times you’re presented with side ops in which you’re objective is to extract a “highly skilled soldier” I can’t count the number of times I’ve scouted one of these soldiers out only to see straight “E’s” and “D’s” across their skill list with no specialties. These soldiers aren’t even worth the 300 GMP it takes to fulton them. What’s worse is that there is often a significantly more skilled soldier right next to them. Konami, please make sure your “highly skilled soldiers” are actually skilled.
4. Snake Barely Speaks
Kiefer Sutherland has a great voice and when it was announced that he would be voicing Snake people were (understandably) excited. The problem is all of Snakes spoken cutscene dialogue could fit on a single page of a word document. Basically, if you’ve read this far, you’ve read more than Kiefer Sutherland speaks in game. To be fair he speaks a bit more in the expository cassette tapes but it really seems like Sutherland just phoned in this job. It feels like Konami could only get him for one day of voice capture and had to try and get everything in one day. He’s far from a mute protagonist but he speaks rarely enough that I was always a bit surprised to hear Kiefer Sutherland’s voice comes out of this mouth.
5. You’re Still Meant to Go in Quietly
I’ve heard multiple people say how MGS5 is great because it lets you tackle missions however you want. Want to go in stealthy? You can! Want to go in guns blazing? You can! Except… you’re not really encouraged to do the latter. While there’s nothing restricting you from blowing the front door open with a a rocket launcher your post mission ranking will DEFINITELY suffer for it. You’re penalized for alerting the enemy, taking hits, and triggering reflex mode, all of which are guaranteed to happen if you go in guns blazing. With the exception of a few missions that require it, it is impossible to achieve an “S” rank by trying to play like a third person shooter.
6. The Ending (Spoilers)
Hopefully, if you’re reading this you’ve either completed the “true” ending or have no intention of playing MGS5. My first issue comes from the fact that there are actually two endings to the game; there is the ending where you blow up the giant robot war machine and kill the bad guy and the “true” twist ending. While the first ending is all well and good it is a bit cliche (although practically mandatory in a Metal Gear game). The game’s true ending, which only occurs by continuing to complete yellow objectives results in the player replaying the (long and tedious) first mission of the game. While it was alluded to at the beginning of the game, it is fully revealed here, you are not Snake. The game reveals that you are actually the avatar you created at the start of the game, a medic who was injured in the same explosion that left Snake hospitalized. In order for the real Snake to escape so he can basically DO THE SAME EXACT THING YOU’RE DOING, you’re given plastic surgery to look just like him and imbued with his memories so that even you don’t know you’re not the real Snake. The fact that you weren’t playing as the series protagonist throughout the entire game is a huge disappointment especially in a game that was supposed to signify Big Boss’s transition from hero to villain (Jason Schreier at Kotaku did a great job of explaining that issue here).
Fine. Whatever. Let’s say I’m ok with the fact that the real Snake is off being a dick somewhere else. It is then revealed that your former commanding officer Zero has somehow acquired the means to not only take Snake’s memories but to give them to someone else (…cough…Deus Ex Machina…cough…). Basically, Zero orchestrated this entire plot and was the mastermind behind everything. And how do we find this out? Through a long and intense cutscene with multiple timelines and flashbacks? NO! We have to find this out by listening to 30 minutes of cassette tapes while in the chopper. Thats right, the most important character in the game, the man responsible for everything doesn’t even have a face, he barely has a presence at all in the game and his exposition is entirely optional.