Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Fallout 4: S.P.E.C.I.A.L


In preparation for Fallout 4 there’s a neat little character builder available at Vault111. It’s based on limited pre-release information and is incomplete in terms of perk descriptions, but it should give you something fun to tinker with until November 10.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Now Playing: Life is Strange

Before continuing with this review, I’d recommend reading my previous post on Life is Strange. It covers my thoughts on episodes 1-4. This review will focus primarily on the final episode and ending. I’ll try to keep it as spoiler free as I can.

Okay, so if you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know I rather liked the first four episodes of LiS. My concern, however, was if the final episode could tie everything together and provide a satisfying conclusion. The answer is – yes…and no.

The final episode of LiS is far from perfect, and it doesn’t quite hit the mark in the way you feel that it should. But it’s certainly not a total f**k up either. In fact, I quite liked the ending. It felt thematically consistent to what the previous four episodes were building towards. Which is a fancy way of saying the ending was pretty much exactly what I expected it to be. There were no twists or surprises, but rather a sad inevitability.

I’m sure this will be disappointing for some people, but I actually thought this was an interesting decision and one that fits perfectly with the themes of LiS. The main character, Max, has the ability to ‘rewind’ time. And with great power…well, you know how it goes. Max uses this ability to change fate. But doing so is not without consequence.

 
Early on in the game we see Max’s power take a toll on her physically. It’s not a power she can freely abuse, and it’s certainly not without its limits. Max, being the good person that she is, uses her power to try to help people, but throughout the game, her attempts to ‘fix’ or change time often results in unforeseen negative effects.

And that’s really what the game is trying to tell you – Max may have a great power, but changing fate and rewriting history can come at an even greater cost. The ending puts the player in the position of deciding if they’re willing to pay that cost. It’s a conclusion I think many people were expecting but honestly, I don’t see any other way it could have ended.

Everything in the game, even a lot of the small choices, seem to push the player towards the realisation that no matter what they do or choose, at some point the bill has to be paid. And as powerful as Max is, she can’t save or ‘fix’ everything. Something has give, and nature must balance its books.

Another important aspect of the narrative is the notion of ‘moments in time’. Moments in time matter – to Max, and to the player – even if they’ll be erased. There’s a wonderful sequence during the final stages where Max revisits many key moments throughout the game – a winding path that guides her back to Chloe. This is just my interpretation of it, but what I took from it is this – even if these moments are reset or erased, they still exist, and Max still carries the memories of them.

 
At the end, the player has the choice to reset fate, or to change it and pay the price. But choosing to reset time doesn’t suddenly render your choices meaningless. The choices you’ve made throughout the game are important in the sense that they’ll shape the memories Max (and you) will carry forwards.

When Max uses her power it may be with the best of intentions, but it also upsets the ‘natural’ order. Changing fate is not without a cost, and the game reinforces this notion throughout in both large choices and small. Which is why the ending (and the choice the player has to make) feels both appropriate, necessary and, like I said, sadly inevitable.

Now, although I liked the ending and the way it built up, that doesn’t mean I think it’s perfect. The final episode feels rushed in places, and I don’t think it’s constructed in a way that quite hits the emotional highs it feels it should. I know people might be disappointed at the lack of explanation for Max’s powers. In fact, it doesn’t attempt to address the science/supernatural aspects at all.

But this honestly didn’t bother me because the game was never really about that. At its heart, this was a story about two girls. They were like the eye of the storm, and everything else revolved around them and their relationship. The final episode may stumble in places, and perhaps it does leave a little too much to interpretation, but I think it does just enough to provide a satisfying conclusion.

It also has some very strong sequences. There’s an ‘escape’ sequence early on that’s a lot of fun and unintentionally hilarious. There’s also a ‘nightmare’ sequence which is brilliantly handled – with the exception of a silly ‘stealth’ style section. I’ve seen people talk about it like a ‘dream’ sequence, but my interpretation is that it’s more of a ‘tear’ in reality.

 
The final episode sees Max use her power repeatedly as she grows increasingly desperate in an attempt to ‘fix’ everything. But doing so causes time and reality to unravel around her, eventually leading to a dark and disturbing nightmare reality. It’s almost like time is collapsing around Max. Her meddling could see her lost in time completely, but it’s her memories of Chloe and those moments in time they shared together that guide her back.

And I really liked this notion, of time fracturing around Max. She’s so desperate to save everyone, but ultimately she has to understand that she can’t – time always catches up to you, and changing fate is not without a cost. There has to be a balance.

I’ve played through LiS twice and seen both endings, both of which feel thematically consistent with the themes raised throughout the experience – you can’t cheat fate, not without paying a price. In some ways, it’s kind of a depressing notion, but it feels wholly appropriate and what the entire game is constructed around.

Overall, Life is Strange is one of my favourite games of the year. It has its missteps and stumbles, and maybe my interpretation is totally wrong. But this is a game very much about what you choose to take with you, what memories you want to hold on to. Every moment in time has its purpose. And even if you choose to reset time, those moments aren’t lost or erased. Not for Max. Not for you.

8/10

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Star Wars: Battlefront (BETA)

Following the disappointing Rainbow Six: Siege beta, I jumped straight into the Star Wars: Battlefront beta which I’m pleased to say, was actually rather fun. It’s not without its problems, however, and it’s not a game I’ll be picking up on release for reasons I’ll explain later. But let’s start with the good stuff, shall we?

Unlike the Siege beta, the matchmaking actually worked and I didn’t have any trouble getting into games. The menu system was also refreshingly neat and simple to use with regards to class customisation, and the in-game UI was tidy and unobtrusive. Starting up the game and jumping into a match barely took a couple of minutes. Technical performance was really good with a solid 60FPS at all times, even when running everything on High.

Battlefront is one of the best looking games I’ve played this year. The landscapes of the maps in particular are fantastic. Character and vehicle models look great, as do all the effects such as explosions and laser blasts. Battlefront also has excellent audio with effects and music ripped straight out of the films. The visual and sound design combines to create an authentic and atmospheric recreation of the Star Wars universe.

If you’re expecting Battlefront to play more like a Battlefield title, you might be disappointed. It’s actually far more fast paced and doesn’t so much have a skill/learning curve as it does a straight line. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a bad thing though. It’s undeniably simple and shallow, but also very easy to pick up and play, and most importantly – fun. Which is fine, but it does raise questions about long term appeal.

 
There were three modes and maps available in the beta. One was a solo or co-op horde mode which was instantly forgettable. Another was a 8v8 ‘capture the pod’ mode. Fun, but limited. The only mode really worth talking about in depth was ‘Walker Assault’ a 20v20 objective based recreation of the Battle of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back.

Now, it should be said that this beta wasn’t only limited in terms of maps and modes but also weapons, abilities and unlocks. It only allowed you to level up to rank 5, and only provided a very small selection of abilities. It may be that in the full release, there’s a lot more to these aspects that really change the game and add more depth, so keep that in mind.

But based on what I’ve played and what was available in the beta, Battlefront is a fun but shallow experience. I liked how the weapons handled, especially the overheat and ‘quick reload’ mechanic, but ultimately, there was very little to differentiate the different blasters. There’s no classes as such, and customisation is handled by picking three ability cards – a sniper rifle, a grenade type, a jet pack etc. I thought that was neat, but with such a limited selection, everyone pretty much rolled with the same gear.

The spectacle of ground combat is where Battlefront really shines. The graphics, the effects, the sound all combine to create a fantastic and immersive Star Wars experience. It genuinely feels like you’re in The Empire Strikes Back. I couldn’t praise it enough for capturing that feeling. Of course, the question is, if this wasn’t a Star Wars game, would I enjoy it half as much? Probably not. But that’s the power of the licence, and it proves just how strong it remains all these years later.

I think the best way to describe the gameplay is that it’s very ‘arcade’. It’s very easy to pick up and play. There really is no learning curve involved, even with vehicles. Everything controls much the same, with 3 special abilities to activate in addition to a primary attack. The ships, which I was expecting to be hard to master, are actually surprisingly easy. I wouldn’t say their handling is all that great, but they are refreshingly simple to fly.

 
A big problem with the aerial combat, however, is the size of the map. On the ground, it seems large enough, and you’re never too far from the action, but in the air, you suddenly realise how small it really is and you feel like you’re simply flying in a constant circle. The game also has ‘hero’ pick ups that let you play temporarily as Luke or Vader, but the heroes are actually pretty underwhelming to play and very easy to kill.

I liked the way the game handled various pick-ups, including the heroes and vehicles. You’ll find them as random token spawns across the map so it gives everyone a chance to find one and have a go, rather than just one asshole camping their spawn points. The only downside to this, is that the Hoth map can be won or lost quite easily in the air, especially for the Rebels, so if you keep getting idiots on your team picking up the tokens and crashing your air support into the ground, you’re kind of f**ked.

But overall, I liked the the token spawn idea (although placement needs some work as the Rebel side tokens are way too exposed). It’s just a shame the player spawns are so badly handled. The Rebel spawns on Hoth in particular are awful – during the last stage, the Rebels spawn on an open hill in full view of the AT-ATs guns. And then we have the ‘partner’ spawn mechanic which means enemies can just pop up right next to the guy you’re shooting.

In terms of balance, the Hoth map is heavily weighted in favour of the Imperials. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to win as the Rebels, because I have, but only in say, 2 in every 10 games. The difference is this – the Imperials can play like shit and still have a good chance of winning. The Rebels on the other hand have to work together, play as a team and focus on the objectives if they want to stand any chance.

For some reason the game spawns the Rebels pretty far from their first line of defence and puts their pick up tokens right out in the open. The Imperials can not only reach the first objective points more easily with significant cover, but also have an advantage in terms of height and vehicles. The second stage is even worse, as it allows an AT-AT to fire unopposed straight into the heart of the Rebel base with a clear line of fire at the objective point.

 
That said, if your team pulls together as the Rebels you can actually win quite easily. But in a public game, it’s a bit shitty when one side requires teamwork and coordination to win and the other doesn’t, because it’s rare you’ll find so many players working together, rather than just running about, ignoring objectives and fretting about their kill count. Oh, and people hacking. Maybe it’s a beta issue with false readings, but every match I saw at least 10 people being kicked by the anti-cheat. In a f**king beta. Why people bother, I really can’t say.

As you can probably tell, I’m now sliding into the negative aspects of Battlefront. It was a lot of fun, but where’s the long term appeal? Without any skill curve, or a variety of mechanics to master, where’s the depth? What’s going to keep me playing? I mean, let’s compare this to Titanfall. That was a game with greater weapon and ability variety, which also had the free running and titan combat, both of which took time to learn and perfect. There’s nothing like that in Battlefront. Not in infantry or vehicle combat.

And I really wouldn’t mind that so much. There’s nothing wrong with a basic, arcade style shooter that focuses on quick, easy fun. But for 50 quid? And that’s just the ‘standard’ edition. 50 quid for a online only shooter with no single player campaign, only 12 release maps and a handful of game modes? As much as I enjoyed the beta and had fun with it, I don’t see myself getting more than 20-30 hours out of it before it gets repetitive, especially with such limited content. With shallow and simplistic gameplay, Battlefront really needed to hit the mark with content, offering a wealth and variety to keep the player engaged.

But it doesn’t. And I’ll be f**ked if I’m going to pay 50 quid for 12 maps before they start pumping out DLC. Especially considering Fallout 4 releases 9 days earlier and is 10 quid cheaper. I have my reservations about that title, but getting good value for money out of it isn’t one of them.

All that said, I have to reiterate how much fun I had with Battlefront. Yes it’s a very shallow and simple shooter, at least based on what I’ve seen in the beta, but it’s f**king STAR WARS and it captures the license perfectly. If I see it on sale for 15 or 20 quid in the future, and the game isn’t totally dead, I might just pick it up. Hell, I’d probably get it on release if it was half the price or had double the amount of content.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Rainbow Six: Siege (BETA)

IT’S HAVOC!

I wasn’t sure if I should do a post on this considering how little time I spent playing this beta. But it certainly wasn’t through lack of trying. Because in the 8 or so hours I ‘played’, I’d guess that 4 or so was spent staring at a non-responsive matchmaking screen.

I only heard about the beta on what was intended to be the last day. Fortunately it was extended for a few more, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I’d liked the look of that original demo they showed at E3 a few years ago. It’s a shame that’s not the game I actually got to play.

Siege feels like an inferior CS:GO. What was promised, and what was originally shown, appeared to be more of a strategic, tactical based team shooter. You know, something more in line with the original Rainbow Six games. In reality, Siege has all the strategic and tactical nuance of a Call of Duty title.


Movement and weapon handling felt very, very odd. I got used to it, but movement in particular never felt quite right, especially when attempting to climb or vault over obstacles. It lacks a fluidity that results in simple actions being far more awkward than they should be. The guns have a recoil that also feels a little off. Although to be fair, I might have just needed more time with the game to become familiar with it.

That said, hit detection definitely feels off. Several times I was certain I’d hit an enemy only for there to be no reaction. It always seemed to be when the enemy was prone, however, so maybe it’s just an issue with the stance. Graphically, Siege looks decent. Like the recent BOPS3 beta, its visuals do the job but they’ll hardly blow you away. Technical performance seems solid.

The beta included three modes. One was a solo or co-op versus the AI mode. You just shoot bots. Some of them run at you and explode. That’s about it. The other two modes were a team bomb and ‘secure area’ mode. They’re pretty much self-explanatory. There were three maps to play across, and the maps were certainly one of the better elements with multiple levels, rooms and entry points.

IT’S HAVOC!

More positives include the destructible environments and the ability to blow open windows whilst hanging upside down before swinging into a room like John McClane. That shit is fun. Unfortunately, matches rarely last long enough to appreciate the maps or the destruction physics. Often matches are over in 2-3 minutes, quickly devolving into short, deadly shoot-outs.


A big part of this problem seems to be the way the maps place objective points, such as in the bomb mode. There are two bombs, but they’re often placed within close proximity, and that’s where the action will generally kick off. But it doesn’t really last very long, and the teams – 5v5 (although often due to the shoddy matchmaking it would be 3v5 or 4v5) – aren’t really big enough to make full use of the maps.

Each round has an annoyingly short preparation phase, particularly if you’re on the defensive. If you were expecting a more slow paced, thoughtful style of shooter, you’ll be sorely disappointed. With one or two exceptions, matches in Siege are determined entirely by twitch shooting, with many players choosing to remain prone and camp corners because it’s so easy to be randomly killed by stray shots through walls.

The menu systems in the game are needlessly convoluted and slow to function, especially when trying to customise an ‘operator’. These are your classes, and you’ll spend ‘renown’ on unlocking various upgrades to each. I didn’t have enough time with the game to fully explore what was on offer but honestly, it didn’t feel like the operators really made much difference to the experience. You’ll be just as successful rolling with the default recruit class as long as you’re quick on the draw.

IT’S HAVOC!

But as I said at the beginning of this post, I spent so little time actually playing the beta that it’s hard to really judge it. The matchmaking during my time with the beta was f**king terrible. I’d spend 4-5 minutes just to join a team, only to then spend another 4-5 waiting to find an opposing team, which then never appeared so everyone just quits.


Even when I’d find a team, it would often connect me to a match just finishing and showing the final score, before kicking me straight back to the matchmaking screen. And then I had problems with getting kicked due to server errors, or during host migrations. It seemed it would take about 5-10 minutes just to get into a full match from the beginning, but the match would often be over in less time than it took to connect and load.

And even once the match was done, staying in the same team was hit and miss as I often got kicked back to the menu due to an error. Oh, and there was also a bug that halted loading matches before they began, forcing whoever was hit by the bug to quit and causing an imbalance in the teams. Hell, the game doesn’t even address team balance at all. In one game it was just me versus 5 others.

I know this is only a beta, but with the game’s matchmaking in such a shoddy state it doesn’t bode well for the full release, especially not with all these other bugs and errors. Overall, what little I played of Siege was disappointing. Even ignoring all the connection issues and the shit menu and operator/upgrade system, simply in terms of its gameplay, Siege just wasn’t very fun.

It’s a shame, because there is potentially a really enjoyable tactical team based shooter in here, somewhere. Something closer to what they originally unveiled. But since then, for whatever reason, we’ve ended up with a shoddy mixture of CS:GO & CoD thats not half as fun as either.

IT’S HAVOC! 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Now Playing: Metal Gear Solid V

I wish I was only reviewing the first half of MGSV. If you’ve read my First Impressions post, you’ll know I was initially very impressed with the title. I had some issues with the opening prologue/tutorial elements, but once I’d got stuck into the game, I was completely hooked. The first half of MGSV is fantastic. It has its flaws, but I’d be happy to slap a solid 8/10 on the end of this review based on that particular content.

Unfortunately, I’m not reviewing only the first half of the game but the complete experience. And sadly, the second half of MGSV is where the experience suddenly begins to fall apart. But before we get too negative, let’s talk about why the first half is so damn impressive.

As I mentioned in my First Impressions, the game opens with a prologue chapter which, although intriguing from a narrative perspective, I found rather tedious to play. You’re locked into an extended tutorial during the early stages of the game, as it slowly reveals new features and abilities as you progress.

But the game does open up, and when it does it’s hard to pull yourself away. The first half of MGSV is comprised of 31 core missions. These take you to every major location across the two open world maps of Afghanistan and Africa. In addition to these are the side ops. By the time I’d hit mission 31, I’d completed roughly 70 of these (of a total 157). Although short, and largely repetitive in terms of mission variety, the side ops will take you to every corner of the maps, both large locations and small.

 
The core missions have a great deal of replay value thanks to the sheer variety of gameplay styles available to the player. As you progress, you’ll unlock all kinds of wonderful toys – weapons (lethal and non-lethal) gadgets, tools, outfits, support strikes, vehicles and ‘buddies’. It allows you to approach missions in a variety of creative ways, both by stealth or by force.

It’s this variety of gameplay options where MGSV really shines. There’s certainly an element of responsibility on the player to make use of all these options. Yes, there are more ‘efficient’ and easy ways to go about things. In a sandbox like this, it’s not that hard to find ways to cheese the systems in place or abuse particular mechanics. But if you’re willing to invest the time and effort and experiment with the various tools and abilities, you’ll enjoy some of the most creative and rewarding sandbox gameplay yet.

If I had to criticise the gameplay in any way, it would simply be that it can be a little too easy, especially when you unlock certain tools or abilities. Your buddy Quiet – a sniper – can be tasked to silently take down an entire outpost as you sit back and watch. And if you’re not concerned with rankings, there’s no reason not to drop a tank from the sky and roll over everything in your path. But as I said, it’s really up to you how you want to go about things and I can’t fault the game for allowing the player to do that.

Another negative aspect is the matter of location variety. There’s little to differentiate the environments between the two open world maps. Small outposts are all essentially the same, and larger locations, with one or two exceptions, are still surprisingly small and simple, particularly when compared to the military base featured in the Ground Zeroes prequel. In fact, I’d say no location in MGSV matches the variety, complexity or quality of that single map. And outside of the outposts and bases, the world is pretty empty, lifeless and pointless to explore.

The narrative aspects of the first half are surprisingly sparse. There are very few cut-scenes between missions, and the game relies far more on radio transmissions and cassette recordings to impart important information. Snake, the main character, barely even speaks. As I said in my First Impressions, there are some odd aspects to the story that felt a little out of place, but as I’m not all that familiar with the Metal Gear series, it’s hard for me to judge how this fits into the overall story.

 
All I can say, is that the story elements are a little weak. I didn’t have any trouble following what was going on, but when so much of it is exposited through numerous and often tedious/worthless recordings, it was hard to ever really connect or care about the characters or story. Some aspects of it, both in terms of gameplay and narrative, are also pretty silly and a little tongue in cheek, which may be par for the course as far as the Metal Gear series goes, but it doesn’t quite feel tonally consistent with the story aspects of Ground Zeroes, which was far more dark.

As you progress through the first half, you’ll slowly expand your Mother Base. This is a big part of the game, but sadly one that’s a little undercooked. The idea is that you’re building your own private military force. And you do get a great sense of progression as you watch your base and personnel expand, unlocking new upgrades or equipment. When you’re in the field, you’ll always be on the hunt for talented soldiers you can ‘recruit’ into your organisation, or resources to collect to further expand your base.

Managing Mother Base is kept relatively simple, although the multiple menu systems get a little irritating to switch through and sort, particularly the personnel. The real problem with the Mother Base element is how the actual base is a whole lot of nothing. It’s just a big, open series of platforms. There’s nothing really to see or to do there. There’s no ‘life’ to your base and you have very little reason to physically visit the place when you can manage everything from its menu system.

And that’s really what Mother Base is – a menu system. It only loosely ties into the gameplay during one or two missions but is something you’ll otherwise ignore, at least in terms of visiting the bloody thing. And whilst I still enjoyed managing my Mother Base, certain elements of it really irritated me. Such as the need for development of certain items to take up to 40 minutes or more of game time. Why? What’s the point of these time limits?

And why does it take so long to process raw materials? This slows base expansion to a tedious crawl during the final stages, especially when you’ll need one type of materiel – fuel – in far greater abundance than any other. There’s no real need for these limits. It wouldn’t be so bad if development and processing was continued whilst out of the game, but they only occur when you’re actively playing.

The first half of MGSV certainly has its flaws, but they don’t detract from the fantastic sandbox gameplay. The missions may follow a somewhat repetitive structure of eliminate/extract a target, but they mix things up just enough and throw in a few twists here and there to keep it feeling fresh. I completed mission 31 (plus about 70 of the side ops) with about 60 hours on the clock. And it did, to a degree, feel like an ending. Not everything was quite wrapped up or explained, but the core thread of defeating a particular bad guy and stopping his evil plans was done.

 
That said, there’s no way I could consider this first half to be a ‘complete’ experience. Too much is left unresolved, the story and characterisation is too weak, and whilst the gameplay provides a good degree of variety, the locations and missions certainly don’t – few missions are memorable due to the repetitive objectives, and the ones which are tend to be so for the wrong reasons. At the time, however, I thought I had an entire second chapter to play through and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

Oh dear. According to the stats, I’d completed 50% of the available content at the conclusion to Chapter 1, but this figure was misleading. Because Chapter 1 really is 95% of the content. I’ve seen Chapter 1 described as the ‘core’ game whilst everything that follows is ‘post-game’ or ‘bonus’ content. But personally, I think that’s a load of bollocks. Chapter 1, whilst great, is only great as part of a larger whole. Except the larger whole simply isn’t there.

Chapter 2, although teased with a series of clips at the end of 1 suggesting it will be a complete experience, as fleshed out and involved as the first, actually turns out to be nearly entirely recycled content. There’s no new map or maps, so even the few ‘new’ core missions only take you to places you’ve already been – at this point, multiple times, especially if you replayed any of the original missions. In fact, out of the 19 missions in Chapter 2, only 6 can be considered new content. The other 13 are all recycled missions from Chapter 1.

I don’t have an issue with the game offering ‘enhanced’ versions of the main missions, designed to test the player in various ways – no starting items, failure upon detection etc – but only when these are optional, not necessary to continue to progress. But play through them you must, if you want to keep the threadbare story going. (Well, maybe not – I’m not quite sure how the new content triggers, because a new mission did kick in after completing several side ops, so maybe that works too)

And suddenly, I went from being unable to tear myself away from MGSV, to almost forcing myself to sit down and play it. You end up grinding through missions you’ve already done, or through several repetitive side ops, just to reach the next ‘new’ story mission. But as far as story missions go, these are incredibly disappointing. They don’t really resolve or wrap up any threads left outstanding from Chapter 1. Chapter 2 feels like a butchered mess, hastily stitched together with content ripped from the first half of the game.

And with no new maps or locations, MGSV runs out of surprises and its fantastic toy box runs dry. You’ve already unlocked pretty much everything, aside from various upgrades, and there’s really nothing new to see. Chapter 2 is a tedious grind through recycled content. The story elements are even more sparse, and by the time you reach the end you really won’t care. It sadly spoils the fantastic experience the first half provided and results in MGSV feeling like half a game, like half of the content is simply missing.

I can’t and won’t accept the notion that Chapter 1 is the ‘complete’ experience because that’s clearly not the case. It seems obvious to me that far more content was planned for Chapter 2 that for one reason or another, was never developed. Imagine if Chapter 2 had introduced a new map, with new mechanics, mission types or a buddy or two, that fleshed out and tied together the unresolved story threads from Chapter 1, and we could have a real game of the year on our hands.

 
But we don’t. What we have is a flawed, but fantastic first half, combined with a tedious and recycled second. And it doesn’t even provide a satisfying conclusion from a story perspective, taking what was an already sparse and tattered narrative and just not doing anything with it. The game ends rather abruptly, with story threads either forgotten or ignored, and by that point you’ve simply ceased to care.

Even the online multiplayer aspect feels half finished. The concept is solid – you build a secondary base which other players can invade and you can defend (or launch invasions of your own). But every base is the same. There’s no customisation, no planning of guard patrol routes or camera placement. I had fun invading a few bases, but the whole system feels kind of pointless and I quickly stopped bothering with it. I don’t want to knock the mode too hard, because I’m sure some people will enjoy it more than I did, but like the Mother Base management, I felt it was too shallow a system to get particularly invested in.

So let’s wrap this up. MGSV is a tough title to score. I wish I could just focus on all the good things and the first half of the game and forget about the second. But sadly I can’t. The second half really ruined the experience for me. I found myself growing increasingly irritated and simply rushing through the recycled missions as quickly as possible in order to unlock the new stuff – but even the new stuff felt weak compared to core missions in the first half.

The story never really engaged me. The characters never really came to life. And in the end, I was playing it more out of a sense of obligation to finish the damn thing than because I was genuinely interested. The game ran out of steam and had nothing new to offer. It’s such a damn shame, because the first half, while not without its problems, is so bloody good.

I know there’s been a bit of controversy surrounding the title and I know there’s rumours of a lot of missing/cut content. That wouldn’t surprise me based on what I’ve played. But I can’t rate a game based on what it could or should be, but rather what it is. I’m not in a position to say if it’s a great Metal Gear game – I don’t have the knowledge or experience for that. All I can say is that, overall, I enjoyed it, and if you like freeform sandbox type stuff, you’ll get good value out of it. But it’s far from the game it could have been.

7/10