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October 16, 2015

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Full Review)


Intro: The possible end of a very long saga, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain promises to bring the storyline full circle, and to quite possibly conclude the entire series.

Metal Gear Solid is also known for it's heavy themes throughout the history of the series, and The Phantom Pain is no exception. How bad does the content get? Does the story match up to the series' best?

Let's find out...

Reviewed By: KVR (Head Writer)

Verdict: Mature Gamers Only (For Brutal Bloody Violence, Sexual Violence, and Mature Themes.)

Strongest Content: Violence

Recommended Age: 18+



Content Guide:

Central Themes:

Sexual Assault, Extremism, Grey Morality, Child Soldiers, Indoctrination, Torture, Politics, Leadership, Building a New Nation, Split Personality, Clones.

Violence:

Mild Moderate Heavy Intense Explicit X-Rated

Sexual Violence:

--A woman is strapped to a gurney to remove a bomb from the lower region of her body. We see a man cupping his hand in a certain fashion and moving it below her waist, (off-screen) with a crunch heard. The woman thrashes about, screaming loudly  in protest as the man removes the bomb, clearly in significant psychological pain because of the nature of the surgery. She passes out shortly afterwards. (8)

--A man strangles a woman in a pit of water, causing her to almost lose consciousness, and once he's subdued her, we hear him unzipping both of their respective pants. He is stopped before he can do anything, however. (6)

Torture:

--A woman is repeatedly shocked with electric prods: we see her jerking around realistically as the electricity courses through her veins. She is then splashed with salt water, which causes her skin to start burning, red burn marks visible as she struggles in pain. (7)

--A man is tortured by having one of his electronic "crutches" set to twist his leg upwards, almost dislocating it. He screams in pain during the process. (6)

Storyline Violence:

--A woman kicks and violently attacks a group of soldiers. She grabs one of the soldiers and bites his ear off, a huge amount of blood bursting out and we see the severed ear in her mouth before she spits it out. She then lifts her foot up and slams it into the crotch of one soldier, staining his pants with blood, obviously castrating him. He screams loudly, rolling around in pain.

She then repeatedly stabs another soldier, causing copious amounts of blood to stain their entire upper torsos. She grabs yet another soldier and repeatedly stabs him in the crotch, staining his entire groin with blood. Lastly, she shoots a soldier in the head with a sniper rifle, a huge burst of blood and gore staining his back. (9)

--In an extended sequence, a group of unarmed civilians are massacred by soldiers: A man is shot in the back and chest by a soldier, blood spraying, and is then shot in the head, blood splattering on the camera and we see a bloody bullet hole in the man's head, gore leaking out from it. 

Another man is shot in the back. He is then dragged away screaming, leaving a trail of blood behind him, before being brutally shot in the back several more times with huge sprays of blood. In an opposing room, a man and a woman are gunned down with a machine gun, blood spraying out of their bodies as they convulse with the impacts.

An entire group of civilians are gunned down in a hallway; we see lots of blood splatter around the environment, staining the camera, and loud screams are heard as they collapse dead. In another room, a few sleeping patients are shot off-screen. One of them stands up on his bed and is shot through the waist, blood splattering on a curtain and we see the outline of their face sucking for air against the curtain. (9)

--A man telekinetically picks up a helicopter and spins its blades, whilst moving it through several soldiers, slicing them apart with huge splashes of blood and gore, horrific screams heard, and we see a large amount of blood splattering over the environment. Blood oozes from the blades of the helicopter, dripping noises heard as the blades gradually come to a halt. (9)

--A man lies underneath a piece of wreckage, with a large pool of blood beneath him, blood on his injured legs, and blood leaking out of his mouth as breathes heavily. He is shot several times by another man, with quick flashes of blood, loud screams heard, and we see his arms and legs being shot off in close-up, with the limbs popping off with blood spraying out, and raw, bloody tendons visible on the stump of the limb. (8)

--(Spoilers) A man pulls out a pistol and shoots himself in the head, a huge burst of blood shown and gore splattering over a nearby wall. In the rooms following the scene, several unarmed injured people (some of which lying in large pools of blood and stained with gore) are shot dead by your character, with blood splattering over the environment and gore bursting out with a "splat" sound effect. We hear some of them screaming and whimpering in protestation. 

All of the characters are your teammates, and some of which react hopefully to your appearance only to break down crying upon realising your intentions. (7)

--A man and a woman are silently choked from behind with a garrote. The woman is choked and pulled off-screen, kicking in a vain attempt to escape. The assassin then grabs the man and we see him choking and struggling in close-up with the garrote hacking away at his neck, blood leaking out from the slit as he twists and kicks to try and break free from the assassin's lethal grip. His neck is finally snapped off-screen, a loud crunch heard. (7)

--A woman jumps on a man and stabs him with a knife off-screen; the camera moves around and we see that the knife has been wedged between his clenched teeth, as the man struggles to prevent the knife from fully impaling him. She splits his mouth open slightly, causing the edges of his mouth to crack open and blood to leak out from the torn skin, before she is interrupted. (7) 

--A woman is set on fire; she rolls around on the floor, screaming wildly as she desperately tries to put out the flames. A man throws a bottle at her, causing a small explosion of fire across her body. She screams wildly, grasping at her face, before falling out a window. (7)

-A young character is caught in a fire; we see fire surround him, and see his skin turning dark with the fire before he finally expires, slumping back on his bed.

--A couple of soldiers are attacked by a flaming man, who sets them on fire (screams heard as they flail around), and absorbs their bullets into his body, before blasting the bullets towards the soldiers, blood splattering and chunks of flesh flying out from the impacts of the bullets. (7)

General Violence:

--Gun violence features prominently in the game: We see sprays of blood, gory wounds, and hear screams of pain from characters. Blood stains the environment and clothing of victims. Several people are gunned down throughout the storyline at close range, with splatters of blood in the process. (8)

-The same violence can be done towards animals, with yelps and cries of pain and blood splattering on the environment.

--We see the corpses of fallen soldiers and civilians in several environments, splattered with large amounts of blood and with blood staining the clothing and skins of the fallen. Gory wounds are shown, with detail on wound openings and bullet holes. In some sequences, we see several burnt bodies, their corpses black and charred.

-In one sequence, we see several dead bodies lying in an oil tank, with fleshy growths covering their bodies and a goo like substance over their skin. Later on, we see an entire hospital full of people covered in similar boils, with an enormous amount of blood covering the floors of the hospital. (8)

--There are several sequences where explosions go off, throwing wreckage across the environment, knocking characters back like ragdolls, and setting them on fire, screaming heard as they flail around and become bloody and charred.

Players can also use explosives and projectiles to destroy vehicles and enemies, with wreckage strewn across the environment and characters sent flying from the shockwave. (7)

--Your character is able to use a knife to attack characters throughout the game; he can stab and slice people with realistic sprays of blood, splashing the surrounding environment with gore. (7)

-An optional move against a cyborg-like enemy is to grab their machete and impale them through the head, with sparks flying out as they struggle in pain.

Context of Violence: Shock Value

Sex/Nudity:

Mild Moderate Heavy Intense Explicit X-Rated

--Quiet - A silent female sniper - is clad in only a scant bikini top revealing cleavage, midriff and back for the majority of the game. She can also be seen clad in only her bikini top and a thong, buttocks visible. At certain points, the camera focuses on her breasts, "jiggling" shown.

Later on, when confined in a cell, she makes sexually provocative movements when showering (partially clothed), lying down, and moving from one point to another. She even unbuttons her bikini top, with only her arms covering her profile as she lies down.

At one point, she rolls around in rainwater, removing her clothing until she's only in her underwear, the camera lingering on her body for quite some time. (8)

-We see several female soldiers with tight clothing; the camera focuses on their clothed breasts and buttocks very prominently.

--A patient's buttocks can be seen through the back of his gown. This is shown for quite some time, but not focused on. (4)

Context of Sex/Nudity: Fanservice

Language:

Mild Moderate Heavy Intense Explicit X-Rated

Infrequent uses of F**k, S**t, and several milder profanities.

Context of Language: Grittiness

Spiritual Content: 

Mild Moderate Heavy Intense Explicit X-Rated

--A character is shown to have some kind of supernatural affinity, being able to levitate supernaturally, randomly appearing in scenes in a ghostly manner, and being able to telekinetically move objects around. (6)

--An entire military unit is made up of zombie-like soldiers, who have glowing blue eyes and make ghostly noises when moving around. They move around in a typical zombie fashion, stumbling awkwardly and growling. (5)

Context of Spiritual Content: Supernatural Beings

Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking:

Mild Moderate Heavy Intense Explicit X-Rated

--Several characters are shown smoking during the course of the game. Additionally, players have the option of lighting up cigars. (5)

Context of Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco Usage: Comedy

Gross Stuff/Gore:

--We see a man strapped to an operating table with a cable surgically inserted into his neck. (We see a split in the skin.) Another man rips the cable out of his neck with a loud crunch and we see the split open slightly. He then removes a piece of cloth covering the man's chest to reveal two big "hive-like" boils. He touches one of the boils and we hear a splat, with white fluid dripping from the man's fingers. (8)

--At certain points characters are illustrated as being soaked with blood, with gore running down their skin all over. (7)

--Some of the zombies have torn skins from the stomach up, exposing their raw, bloody muscles in detail. (7)

--A man smears the ashes of a dead soldier over his face, the white dust sticking to his face in close-up. (6)

--A man urinates on himself in one sequence after he is nearly killed by a couple of soldiers. We see a pool of water form beneath him. One of the soldiers steps in the puddle, squishing heard.

-Later on, another man urinates on himself after a fall, a wet patch shown on the crotch of his pants. (6)

--The player can fix injuries by snapping dislocated bones back into place, with loud cracks heard. (5)

Scary Stuff/Intense Scenes:

--The first hour of the game is super-intense, with lots of action and scares through the massacre of civilians and the appearance of several terrifying apparitions. (7)

--We see several zombie-like soldiers with "crazy eyes" and making strange noises. (5)

Emotional Scenes:

--(Spoilers) The player is forced to kill their own soldiers in one sequence, with several of them crying out desperately and breaking down sobbing upon seeing that you intend to kill them. The entire sequence is heavily emotional, especially because the soldiers are ones you spent the entire game trying to train. (8)

Morality:

Abysmal Sketchy Average Good Heroic

Snake's morality is often ambiguous, demonstrating heroism throughout the game but making questionable moral choices in the late storyline.  The player's own morality determines their outlook on Snake's choices throughout the game.

Morality Type: Shades of Grey


Review of Game:

All he needs now is a burning scalp...
Big Boss returns in quite possibly the last Metal Gear Solid game to be spearheaded by creative genius Hideo Kojima. Does it reach the heights of its predecessors, or does its reach exceed its rather long grasp? Well, both.

Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots is quite a big title to follow up, yet MGSV does it with surprising grace and confidence. Presenting a more stripped down narrative when compared to the "talky" nature of the previous games, MGSV's story unfolds through surprisingly brief cutscenes and long radio conversations.

The basic story is as follows: After narrowly escaping death in a hospital bed, Venom Snake (Big Boss's new codename in MGSV) sets out on a mission to rebuild Mother Base and create a haven for soldiers from any nation without the rules and manipulations of corporations and government officials.

Venom Snake slowly peels back the layers to a vast conspiracy involving a new experimental weapon which targets soldiers in a way they would've never dreamed possible, all orchestrated by an uncompromising villain known as Skullface.

Alliances, relationships and moral limits are put to the test, as Venom Snake tries to stop Skullface from bringing his evil plan to fruition. 

The story is quite different from what MGS fans may expect, at least when it comes to style and tone. MGSV is quite possibly the darkest MGS game in the series. Heavy themes of sexual assault, sacrifice, and moral ambiguity pervade every inch of the game. Even the humour in the game is quite subdued when compared to the rest of the series.

Gameplay mainly focuses on doing short missions involving the retrieval of intelligence, the capturing of strategic figures, and destruction of enemy camps. In this regard, MGSV is much more of a "game game" when compared to the other titles, which play out more like a "movie game" hybrid. This change was obviously instituted as a way to appeal to more people, but it takes away what made MGS so great to begin with. The long cutscenes may have been exhausting, but they were engrossing and deeply moving nonetheless.

Complaints aside, when MGSV does have a story, it more than delivers. The emotional gut-punches, which are staples of the MGS series, remain, especially in the heart-breaking third act. Kojima doesn't dwell on these scenes any more than necessary, letting the heavy material speak for itself.

Special praise has to be given to the actors, who did a great job across the board, from Snake's subdued yet commanding performance, Stefani Joosten's motion capture work as the (unfortunately objectified) Quiet, and James Horan's menacing yet surprisingly restrained performance as Skullface.

In the end, MGSV is not a perfect game, and it won't be viewed as one. But for what it is, it makes a huge impact, and is sure to keep gamers entertained for years to come. It's sad to see it go, but if this is the end of the line for MGS, it has been a wonderful road indeed.

Content Verdict:
Big Boss has an odd habit of posing for imaginary photo ops.

Quite a rollercoaster ride from beginning to end, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain doesn't shy away from the heavy themes.

From the beginning of the game, players are faced with strong, brutal and decidedly graphic depictions of violence. Armed and unarmed characters are massacred in a variety of ways, some of which are focused on and depicted in a way to elicit shock from the player at the level of brutality on display.

The violence also extends to some of the sexual content, with one rather uncomfortable scene where a surgeon has to remove a bomb from a woman's nether regions, resulting in her screaming out in an upsetting way.

Another woman almost falls prey to sexual violence as well, only to kill her attackers in a number of gruesome ways, one of which involves stabbing a man multiple times in his groin and stomping on another man's crotch as well, castrating and severely injuring both of them.

Language wise, things are surprisingly mild, albeit with quite a good bit of swearing nonetheless. Drug usage is limited, with only cigars and cigarettes making a real appearance in the game.

Spiritual content is sketchy, although never shown in full. An obviously psychic character drifts around in certain areas, accompanied with ghostly sound effects. The full extant of his powers are never fleshed out in the game, although the supernatural nature of the character may disturb some.

All in all, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a disturbing, intense yet ultimately engrossing thrill ride from beginning to end.

Verdict: 18+
For Brutal Bloody Violence, A Scene of Sexual Violence, and Mature Themes

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