Seeing as how the cards are all on the table now, I can be a bit more open with my choices about what didn’t make my top ten. There were plenty of games I played this year I really enjoyed, but couldn’t justify putting them on here for one reason or another.
I would have really liked to put Borderlands The Handsome Collection on this list, but I can’t in all good conscious add a console port of a game that changes almost nothing from the original, despite how much I enjoyed it. Also, thanks to the Rare Replay Collection, I was introduced to Viva Piñata, a game that snuck up on me and I enjoyed in a way I never thought I would. But I’m doing this as honest as possible. At least this number one is clear cut anyway:
#1 Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Played on the Xbox One | Released 1st September | Developed by Kojima Productions
With a dramatic release almost as complicated as the Metal Gear lore itself, it’s difficult to believe that The Phantom Pain even came out, let alone still be as good as it was. This final true entry in the Metal Gear franchise is a bittersweet experience, going through it knowing that Kojima did his best work while he was been thrown out of the door.
Metal Gear V is a glorious experience from beginning to end, it’s a game unlike anything I’ve ever really played before. On the surface, it’s an open world action game that leans towards stealth as a preferred tactic. But that’s only the beginning, what is turns out to be is a game that seems to have a depth to every single one of its mechanics. Not only that it does things that no other game would dare (or think to) try.
All of these mechanics are woven into a game that is an absolute joy to play. It’s the best controlling game in the series by far, intuitive and fluid in a way that the series seemed to struggle with until now. The stealth is natural and the sheer magnitude of options available to players makes replaying the missions later on something I actually wanted to do. On top of the, the enemy A.I. is good, to the point where if you stick with one strategy for too long, they’ll get wise and start getting equipment to counter you.
It’s a very gameplay focused game, which is odd considering the cut-scene heavy narrative dumps the older games were known for. The Phantom Pain really just lets you spend time in the world before catching off guard with a weird cut-scene. When it does get weird though, oh boy.
Metal Gear has always had that reputation for being overblown and campy. One that is very much at odds with serious tone and subject matter it otherwise has. Phantom Pain gets its “Metal Gearness” through the gameplay and the mechanics rather than the too long cut scenes and naked blonde men.
For example, if you upgrade your iDroid to have a loud speaker then play a random recording of a guy taking a very perilous dump while hiding in a toilet, guards will actively avoid the area. They licensed a bunch of music from the era, meaning you can blast A-ha’s Take on me from your helicopter as it’s cutting down militia. They even got Kiefer Sutherland to shout “Rocket Punch!” into a microphone for when Snake shoots his robot arm like a cannon.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of how weird this game gets. All in the best possible ways.
The Phantom Pain is a game that rewards experimentation and thinking outside of the box, T can’t count the times where I thought i would try something totally outlandish, just to push the limits of the game. And every time they worked. The amount of thought and depth that went into this game is a testament to the development team and a “it’ll be done when it’s done” approach.
It’s not without some issues though. Quiet was an interesting character who turned into a fantastic ally to have in missions. The problem was the egregious way in which the developers treated her, with the camera seeming to go out of its way to leer at her throughout. There is a reason in the game for her to be half naked, but it feels pretty unnecessary to me.
Some of the boss fights suck too. fighting the ghosts was never any fun, especially because I spent all my resources developing stealth and no lethal weaponry, so when it came to get loud, I had nothing to work with. And the less said about that late mission with all the tanks, the better… easily the most frustrating gaming experience I’ve had all year.
It’s a shame everything went down like it did with Kojima, because this means that this was the final real Metal Gear Solid game in the series, and it was the best one he made. Maybe Konami will continue the series, but without Kojima’s barmy mind at the helm, it’ll be difficult to accept another entry in the series he created and what has been one of my favourite gaming franchises of all time.
The phantom Pain is a hugely ambitious game and it pulls it off fantastically. Both the licensed and original soundtracks are phenomenal. It controls like a dream and looks great too. It’s easy for me to recommend this and call it my Game of 2015.
And what a years it’s been. But we’re not done just quiet yet…