We didn't attend the Metal Gear Solid V review event that Konami recently held, and we don't yet have a PC copy, so our final verdict isn't quite ready. (For starters, we have to play the thing.) Other critics, meanwhile, have already played Hideo Kojima's grand open world stealth opus, so while we wait to give our own verdict, let's see how the PS4 version is faring in the press. The gist: they love it.
IGN and GameSpot both awarded MGS V: The Phantom Pain their highest scores. Its best quality, according to IGN, is its freedom, which "feels intimidating" at first but becomes "a well integrated set of meaningful gameplay systems." Reviewer Vince Ingenito praises the "more organic" transition between stealth and combat and how staffing and equipping your private military HQ, Mother Base, affects the decisions you make in the field. "Every soldier I kill and every supply truck I mercilessly blow up in the field is missed potential," he writes. "In other games, enemy outposts are simply filled with threats to be eliminated, but in Phantom Pain they are opportunities to gain resources and new recruits."
The only major failing, says IGN, is a lackluster story. While "Phantom Pain’s gameplay systems are far richer and meatier than any the series has ever seen," writes Ingenito, "its story feels insubstantial and woefully underdeveloped by comparison." He continues later: "Almost gone are the off-topic codec convos, climactic boss battles, and memorable character moments of Metal Gears past."
GameSpot, on the other hand, loved the story, saying that "the gravity of the game's encounters leaves you on the edge of your seat, with a racing pulse." Likewise, Destructoid says the story is satisfying, and all of them praise the customization and Mother Base management.
"While I usually tend to ignore mechanics like [Mother Base], your crew is integrated into the game in a number of ingenious ways," writes Destructoid reviewer Chris Carter. "New weapons rely on the R&D team's efforts, for example, and the Intel team can inform you of incoming weather, as well as nearby enemy patrols if they are sufficiently staffed. The rewards are both tangible and poignant. You can also visit some more important NPCs, partake in a few target practice minigames, hit the shower to wash off the blood of your enemies, and generally just explore the base's nooks and crannies for collectibles."
Carter does criticize some of the mission design, which he says can be "uninspired, and force a degree of backtracking, usually for a menial task you've already completed multiple times." More than one review also notes that certain missions have to be replayed on a harder difficulty—with one of three modifiers (no supplies, increased damage, or stealth only)—to unlock the final story missions. GameSpot calls the segment "mundane," while Carter is more positive, saying that the repeat missions were "sometimes aggravating" but rewarding.
GameInformer, GameTrailers, EGM, and PlayStation Universe have also published positive reviews. Polygon, meanwhile, is holding back for now, saying that there's still more to do after putting in 40 hours, which has netted them "a little more than 40 percent of what The Phantom Pain has to offer." GameSpot's reviewer spent "almost 50 hours" with The Phantom Pain, and has also achieved 40 percent completion after beating the story missions and "playing a few dozen side ops."
Our sister site, GamesRadar+, has likewise decided not to put a stamp on its final review just yet, citing the challenge of playing The Phantom Pain under Konami's restrictions.
"For fear of spoilers, Konami invited journalists to review the game at five-day 'boot camps' tied to strict NDAs (non-disclosure agreements)," writes reviewer Dan Dawkins in his spoiler free in-progress review. "We played between 9am to 5pm, with no unsupervised play outside these hours. That's a maximum play time of 40 hours, assuming no stoppages for eating, drinking, stretching… or reality. So you're trying to complete a 35-50 hour game (or longer, depending on your play style and the nature of your 'completion'… I can't say more), that you've been anticipating for five years, in a realistic window of 30-35 hours. On one hand, you're finally immersed in one of the deepest, most experimental, open-worlds in history—overwhelmed by side-missions, upgrades and secrets—on the other, haunted by a tick-tock race to reach the 'end' without knowing when that is."
But while he wants more time to file a verdict, Dawkins is clearly enthusiastic about the game, calling it "brilliant" and "incredible." In his conclusion, Dawkins says that "MGS5 is the densest, most considered, open-world stealth game ever" and "the culmination of everything the series has been building toward."
We'll start putting in our hours with the PC version as soon as we have a copy. Given the quality of MGS: Ground Zeroes and the confidence expressed by moving The Phantom Pain's PC release date up, we have a couple of reasons to be optimistic about the PC version. Fingers crossed.
For more, check out our recent hands-on preview. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is out next week, on September 1.