My initial impressions of MGSV weren’t great. Before I’d even started the game I had to skip through what seemed like an endless list of ‘online information’, including reports of game breaking bugs and what not to do at specific points in order to stop the game from totally f**king up.
It seems these issues have been resolved in a recent patch, but it’s not the most reassuring thing to see when you start up a new game you just paid 45 quid for. It also doesn’t help that the game has a habit of crashing on start-up when trying to connect to its servers. Thankfully, once you get beyond the initial start-up and information screens, the game runs flawlessly.
On a technical level, MGSV is very impressive. I’m playing with everything cranked up to max and I’m getting a constant 60FPS. In the 20 hours I’ve sunk into the game so far, I’ve not seen it dip once. I’ve also not hit any bugs or glitches, or experienced a single in-game crash.
I wouldn’t say it’s quite the best looking open world game I’ve ever played, but it looks pretty damn fine with some impressive scenery, character and environment models. This isn’t a great surprise, however, considering we’ve already had a ‘preview’ of MGSV in terms of graphics, gameplay and technical performance in the form of Ground Zeroes.
GZ was a very limited slice of MGSV and looks, plays and performs almost identically. I was, however, pleased to see that they’ve really upped the view distance in MGSV, as this was one of my main issues with GZ – particularly when observing locations at range to tag enemy guards. If you’ve read my GZ review you’ll know I quite enjoyed it from a gameplay perspective, although I questioned the value of such limited content.
That’s not a criticism I could make about MGSV, at least so far. Because from what I’ve currently seen, MGSV is packed with content. Even if you only focus on primary missions and objectives, there’s a lot of hours of play to be had. But with additional core objectives and numerous side ops to complete, not to mention a high degree of mission replay value, MGSV gives you a hell of a lot of value.
The game opens with a tutorial prologue chapter which I didn’t really enjoy. The first 10-15 minutes are great, but the rest of it is badly paced and simply not very fun to play. I was glad when it was over. But even once I’d jumped into the first proper missions, I still wasn’t quite sure I’d like MGSV. It’s a game I took a good 8 hours or so to really warm to.
Part of the problem, for me, is that you’re very limited early on in the game in terms of available content. I understand the need to ease the player into new features one at a time, but it does make the first few hours of MGSV feel quite restrictive. You feel like you’re locked into an extended tutorial which gets a little irritating.
But slowly, MGSV opens up and lets you play with its toys. And once it does, it’s great fun! You have primary missions which, if you only focus on core objectives, take anywhere from 15-30 minutes to complete, depending on how you approach them. These missions also have multiple additional objectives. They don’t quite take place in the ‘open world’ as such, but within a locked ‘zone’ of it.
But you can visit the open world any time you wish and this is where you’ll find the side ops. You don’t get graded on these missions and there’s only a handful you can replay, but there does seem to be a lot of them. Mission variety could be considered something of an issue, as your objectives, primary or not, will usually be to eliminate or extract a specific target – be it a person or object. It’ll be interesting to see how/if the game introduces new mission types or mixes the formula up.
And honestly, outside of the missions, I’ve not felt any great desire to simply explore the open world because the missions do a good job of taking you to every location as you progress. So far, missions have taken me to various locations multiple times for different objectives, which can get a little repetitive, but also encourages an alternative approach.
And that’s really where the fun in MGSV is – the freedom the player has to approach missions as they choose. Although limited early on, you’ll begin to unlock all manner of weapons, tools and equipment. It’s like a fantastic toy box which always has something new to discover. Although top ranking on core missions requires a more stealth based approach, you can replay these missions as much as you want to try various weapons and tactics.
Combat is a viable strategy and a lot of fun, if perhaps, as I said in my GZ review, a little too easy. MGSV is a game that requires a degree of player investment to make the most of the tools on offer. It encourages and rewards creativity with some of the most fun sandbox gameplay I’ve seen. The first time I unlocked the extraction balloon, I must have spent 2 hours replaying the first mission capturing every soldier I could find.
The stealth gameplay of MGSV is also great fun, perhaps even more so than a combat based approach. Sneaking into a base, planting charges, extracting a prisoner or target and then sneaking out without raising a single alarm is very satisfying. It’s also great fun when things don’t quite go to plan and all hell breaks loose, which is why it’s advisable to have a back-up plan.
Simply in terms of its gameplay I’ve been having a real blast with MGSV so far. It took a little while to get going but once it did I was thoroughly hooked. So what are my current issues with the title?
The first is the story stuff. The prologue and a few missions have this odd, almost supernatural element to them which feels very out of place. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not very aware of the MGS series in terms of characters or plot, so maybe this is something that’s a normal part of the series. I really don’t know. It just, so far at least, doesn’t feel like quite right. Other than that, I’ve not really played far enough to say much more.
We also have the Mother Base system, which is where you recruit personnel and develop new items. I’ve still not unlocked everything at MB, so I’ll reserve my judgement on it until the review, but at the moment it feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity, as the actual base is just a big, empty lot of nothing.
Okay, I’d better wrap this up. From what I’ve played so far, MGSV is a very impressive title. Despite my few issues, if it can maintain this level throughout the rest of the experience, we might just have another contender for my Game of the Year.