I've never played a Metal Gear game of any kind, but I've been a huge stealth game fan for ages. Pretty much half of my all-time favourite games list is comprised of stealth titles. Deus Ex, Dishonored, Thief, Splinter Cell, Hitman, Mark of the Ninja, all of them excellent games with huge replayability, something that's precious to someone without many funds to spend on games such as myself.
So I saw MGSV on sale for pennies a few days ago and thought, why not? It looks like a fun time and it's cheap. Of course, it is not that simple, and MGSV apparently has a very checkered and divisive past, from longtime Metal Gear fans disappointed with the plot to people lamenting about supposed cut corners and unfinished content. But considering that I'm not a Metal Gear fan and have no intention of actually focusing on the plot, and that one of my favourite games Dragon Age 2 is also pretty much loathed by everyone and suffers from the same issues listed above, I gave in anyways.
And just 8 hours in, I'm absolutely loving it. This has to be one of the most polished stealth systems I've ever experienced. Snake's movement is easy to control and snappy, the AI walks a great line between leniency to allow for creative player planning and room for error without going Dishonored levels of stupid (most of the time), the diversity in ways you can approach every outpost is HUGE, the gadgets and tools are diverse and genuinely helpful, and it's all carried along with a lovely tinge of campiness and self-aware light-heartedness.
Visually and stylistically, it's all great too. The desert may be a repetitive setting that not everyone will enjoy for very long, but I've personally always loved the hot and dry feeling that they bring and how they show off game lighting engines very well, and MGSV has great lighting in spades. I love how the iDroid PDA thingy is designed and the very satisfying beeps and boops and cool animations it plays while you navigate it, giving off a very techy spy vibe, and I also love how it doesn't interrupt the world around you while you mess around in it. Overall, the entire game feels immersive in so many ways, from the great sound design to the startling random enemy patrols and dynamic (and genuinely gameplay affecting, such a welcome sight!) weather effects, to the way you can play music on the iDroid while you're in the chopper about to start a mission just like in the best spy films.
And I'm not gonna pretend I actually know what the hell is going on in the plot. I went in knowing I'd be lost without 4 games worth of lore and backstory, so with that mindset, I'm actually impressed that I haven't felt the urge to skip a single cutscene yet. I don't want to offend any Metal Gear lore fans, as I know the pain that not having a satisfying conclusion to your beloved franchises can bring. Half-Life is my favourite series of all time, and we all know how long it took for Valve to finally gift us a new installment in the story. But as an outsider, the entire plot and all the cutscenes seem like a complete schizophrenic nightmare of flaming super soldiers, weird flying gas mask teenagers and fucking ghost people from New Vegas who chase you on horseback like the goddamn Wild Hunt. It feels like Tommy Wiseau wrote half of an action stealth game plot trying to be serious and then watched a bunch of superhero movies and thought "I wanna put that in my story too!" And I've been enjoying the hell out of it in the same context as the Room: as a weird, confusing and awkwardly written mess with a lot of heart behind it, enough to make you love it all the same.
Overall it feels like an amazing blend of the planning and tool diversity of Hitman with the movement options and feel of Splinter Cell, but with a level of polish and attention to detail in the animations, stealth and open-ended level design that puts those two and pretty much every other stealth game I've played to shame. Maybe the much criticised repetition will set in later on and my opinion will change, but considering I've always been one to ignore repetitive missions and settings if the core gameplay is strong enough, as with Super Mario Sunshine, Dragon Age 2 and Doom 2016, I think I'll be lapping this up for a very long time.
P.S: man, why did 2015-2016 give us so many amazing stealth games with great gameplay but disappointing/unfinished stories anyways? I'm looking at you, Dishonored 2 and Mankind Divided! Honourable mention to Hitman 2016, but they patched up the loose ends and short length with Hitman 2.
- WSIB: Good Stealth Games
- Hitman 2 – I don’t really get it?
- Something I’d like to see on the Stealth side of things come TES VI
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