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- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Spoiler Alert: Concepts will be discussed below that don’t directly reference story pieces in the game, but do talk about game structure and design.
It was unfathomable when Hideo Kojima had a dramatic break-up with Konami. Working together for 28 years didn’t seem to matter as both the legendary Metal Gear creator and Japanese publisher split paths in a way that left gamers in shock.
No official reason has been given for the break up, but the recent release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain offers a clue as to what happened.
The initial wave of acclaim following MGSV: The Phantom Pain‘s release has been largely replaced with discussion about how its story didn’t live up to expectations—as a Metal Gear fan I certainly agree. Although its superb presentation and gameplay challenge any notion that it isn’t a great game, fans expecting a mind-blowing conclusion to the Metal Gear saga anywhere near as interesting as the pre-release hype (i.e. Moby Dick Studios) have been left scratching their heads.
Many players who have experienced Chapter 2 in MGSV: The Phantom Pain have noticed the incomplete nature of the game structure. While the first 31 Missions (Chapter 1) each have their own—mostly—well thought out objectives, structure, and storytelling, the 20 that follow in the second chapter feel rushed. In Chapter 2 Big Boss is tasked with revisiting many Chapter 1 missions with higher difficulty, full motion cutscenes are far less common than in the first half of the game, and by the end of it all it feels like something is missing.
Last week it was uncovered that an important Mission 51 was cut from the game entirely. Some of its assets were found encrypted in the files of the game, and only then did it become clear that there was originally supposed to be more to the MGSV: The Phantom Pain package.
Fans have also noticed that important events marked in the timeline, and even shown in pre-release media haven’t made it into the game. For example, there is no return to Camp Omega, and a section featured in the Nuclear trailer is nowhere to be found in the game. As a result, major plot points in the franchise are left unaddressed.
There are also the half-realized features. The Mother Base locale, for as highly detailed and important as it is to the story experience, serves no real purpose from a gameplay perspective. The world of MGSV: The Phantom Pain also lacks a lot of the details and unpredictability that you’d find in similar AAA open-world games, such as the presence of civilians and randomized events.
MGSV: The Phantom Pain is in such an unfinished state that fans have begun creating wild conspiracy theories, such as Kojima making it this way intentionally, with a post-launch package arriving today (9/11) to bring everything full circle—he was always a troll, but never to that degree. Others firmly believe that anything unaccounted for will be delivered as part of future DLC. And a select few remind us why Metal Gear fans are the craziest in the world. Just take a look at this:
Looking at all the evidence, it appears that Kojima’s vision for MGSV: The Phantom Pain was something much larger than it turned out to be. Previous Metal Gear releases had many more chapters (MGS: Peace Walker and MGS4: Guns of the Patriots had 5 Acts and a Prologue) than MGSV: The Phantom Pain, and it’s likely that wasn’t always going to be the case. There’s a good chance that Kojima wanted Chapter 2 to be full of unique missions, and perhaps even introduce a third region. There could have possibly even been more Chapters.
Konami invested more than any game in its history with MGSV: The Phantom Pain. An entirely new engine (FOX Engine) was developed along the way, A-list actors (i.e. Kiefer Sutherland) were brought in for voice and motion capture, and as the first open-world Metal Gear game it presented a tremendous amount of challenge. To help recoup costs a heavy dose of microtransactions were introduced. In addition, Konami would push Kojima Productions to sell the prologue for MGSV, MGSV: Ground Zeroes, as a standalone product for $39.99. These two moves would help buy some extra time for Kojima Productions as its development cycle pushed past the five year mark.
But it appears that extra time wasn’t enough.
Although clearly incomplete, MGSV: The Phantom Pain manages to be a lengthy experience that offers more than 50 hours of content. For the most part, that content is enjoyable thanks to what many are calling the best gameplay in any stealth action game in history (the real reason for its high Metacritic score). Along with tons of Side Ops to engage in, many of those unfamiliar with the Metal Gear saga have walked away satisfied.
MGSV: The Phantom Pain isn’t just an ordinary game, though. It is in-fact Kojima’s final Metal Gear game after 28 years of storytelling. It was supposed to fill in a void in the timeline that has long been unexplored, and bring closure to many unknowns commonly discussed by fans. Unfortunately, it doesn’t answer many of these questions, and raises some new ones along the way. You could even argue that despite its significance, from a story perspective it’s the single least eventful game in the Metal Gear Solid series of titles.
The greatest explanation for Kojima’s falling out with Konami is his drive for perfection. He wanted MGSV: The Phantom Pain to be something that was comprehensive and incredibly large. This was supposed to be the greatest Metal Gear game in history, with every last ounce of passion Kojima had for the franchise put into it.
Kojima wanted something way beyond Konami’s budget. Konami was willing to support him… up to a point. After more than 80 million dollars spent on its development, enough was enough. A deadline was set, and the development team had to rush to get everything in a state where it’s as cohesive as possible. Filler missions—which there are a ton of in Chapter 2—were tossed in, some content was cut, and a lot of the big picture dreamed of by Kojima had to be shelved.
With that, MGSV: The Phantom Pain will leave behind an interesting tale of how fun Metal Gear can be with perfect gameplay, and unanswered questions that continue the wild fan discussion that the series is known for.
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