A look back at the achievements and controversies that have defined the legacy of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
A Complex Legacy After 5 Years
The legacy of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a complex and controversial one in gaming history. It’s a legacy defined by a massive vision that redefined the iconic series. It took everything that the team had learned in the series long history to create the ultimate experience. It’s also a legacy defined by the infamous break up in the relationship between Hideo Kojima and Konami. The result was an incomplete masterpiece that lacked closure. In the end, Kojima rode into the sunset to start a new chapter while Konami became persona non grata in the industry.
It’s sadly the latter that has come to define The Phantom Pain overall legacy. Due to the ugly breakup; fans were given an entry with no closure and a once iconic publisher incinerating its relationship with the gaming world. Many also forget that it was a game that was plagued by controversy form the start. From a change in cast, a prologue seen as a cash grab along with elements of sexual violence. This was a game that carried a lot of controversy.
To judge The Phantom Pain on the controversies alone would be ignoring its legacy. This was one of the first titles to define the Eighth Generation of gaming. It help set the norm by encouraging other developers to expand on their imagination. It showcased how to keep an iconic series strong while exploring ways to push it.
It has been five years since the game was launched. This is a look back not only at the controversy but also the legacy of a title that has defined an era of gaming. While the controversy can’t be ignored, I want to look back on all that Hideo Kojima achieved in the last entry into the Metal Gear series.
Not For Honor, But For You
The Phantom Pain story begins nine years after XOF attacked Mother Base and wiped out most of Militaires Sans Frontières (as depreciated in Ground Zeroes). Big Boss awakes from a coma at a military hospital in Cyprus. The staff works to speed up his recover before word gets out. However it’s too late and an assassin along with an XOF Strike Team attack the hospital at once. Big Boss escapes the ambush thanks to the help of a mysterious guardian named Ishmael and Revolver Ocelot.
Big Boss and Ocelot arrive in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan with the task of rescuing Kazuhira Miller (who has been taken prisoner after a botched CIA mission). Once all three are reunited, they begin the task of rebuilding their mercenary army (now called Diamond Dogs) and seeking revenge against Cipher. This quest to stop Cipher and desire for revenge will take Snake across the battlefields of Soviet-occupied Afghanistan and the war-torn region of the Zaire-Angola border.
Like previous titles in the series, players are tossed into an environment that requires them to use their wits to overcome the enemy. This time, it’s an open battlefield with danger at every corner. Snake needs to use the few items he can bring while using his limited resources to strike fear in the enemy forces. At the same time, players need to build up Diamond Dogs by collecting resources, recruiting volunteers and expanding Mother Base. The better the mercenary army, the better the player is able to overcome the many challenges they encounter.
All Hope Bleeds Out
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was highly praised at launch by both critics and gamers. It became one of the few games to receive the max score from media outlets. Numerous publications would name it their “Game of the Year”. The game also nominated for numerous award and won many of them (including Best Action Game and Best Soundtrack at The Game Awards 2015). It would become one of the best selling games in the series, having sold six million copies by December 2015.
Five years after its launch, the game still going strong thanks to its solid fan base. The PlayStation 3 community was finally able to achieve total nuclear disarmament back in July 2020. The soundtrack is still one of the most popular on Spotify (for video game soundtracks). It’s PC fan base is still going strong with an active players and a rich modding community.
All this is truly a testament to the overall legacy of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
One Who Lives Inside a Nightmare
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a game whose legacy can’t be separated from the controversy. Long before the Kojima / Konami feud, The Phantom Pain was a game already plagued with controversy. Even though part of the controversy involves Ground Zeroes, it will be included since it is all connected.
Kiefer Sutherland Replaces David Hayter
It all started in 2013 when rumors were floating around that David Hayter would not return as the voice of Big Boss. By the summer; gamers were shocked to learn that the rumors were true and that he had been replaced with Kiefer Sutherland. Long time fans of the series were outraged as Hayter had been the voice of Snake and Big Boss since Metal Gear Solid.
Many also questioned the choice to replace Hayter with Sutherland due to their acting background. Hayter has always been known as the voice of Snake. Sutherland was best known for his role as Jack Bauer on 24. This would be a good choice given his role as a government agent forced to make hard choices and lose those close to him. The problem many saw was in regards to their acting background. Hayter is a voice actor while Sutherland is a method actor (two radically different styles).
Ground Zeroes Short Playtime
The game that would be Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain were first announced back in 2012. Back then it was simply titled Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. The project was split due to the long development time and Kojima’s desire to give players a sample of what to expect. So it was decided to release Ground Zeroes as a separate game that would set the foundation for The Phantom Pain.
Fans were excited to sample the next chapter until it was revealed that Ground Zeroes had a playtime of only two hours. Many felt that Konami was trying to pass off a demo as a real game. Kojima assured gamers that there was more to Ground Zeroes then the main game. However this did not appease the fans. The controversy forced the game to undergo several price cuts before and after its launch.
Quiet’s Outfit and Sexual Violence
The depiction of women in gaming is a hot topic issue that took center stage in 2014. Meanwhile the use of sexual violence in media has always been lightning rod for controversy. So it should not have been a surprise when some had an issue with Quiet’s outfit and many had a problem with the presence of sexual violence.
Back in December 2013, it was revealed that the ESRB had listed Sexual Violence among the reasons Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes had received an M rating. This was because of an audio recording of Paz being gang-raped while she was detained at Camp Omega. Even though it was an audio recording, many gamers found it to be very disturbing. Then in The Phantom Pain, Mission 45: A Quiet Exit begins with Quiet narrowly being sexual assault by a soldier.
In regards to Quiet and her outfit, many were not too pleased with it. This was due to how revealing it was and the fact she never speaks. It was seen as being juvenile at best and sexist fan service at worst. Overtime, peoples opinion of her outfit has changed. This is mostly due to what an amazing partner she is in the game along with more context regarding her backstory.
My Heart is Already Dead
Despite its achievements and fumbles, it will always be the feud between Konami and Hideo Kojima that defines the legacy of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It was an ugly public fight that dominated the gaming world in 2015. It will end with Kojima coming out on top and Konami becoming an industry outcast.
The root of the dispute is that Konami wanted to focus more on mobile games and slot machines. At the same time, the leadership at Konami was not happy that the production host of The Phantom Pain had hit $80 million. These elements resulted in one of the ugliest disputes in the industry.
News of a breakdown in the relationship first became public when the Kojima Studios logo and Kojima’s name were removed from all promotional material. Konami also removed his name from the game’s official box art. Next came one of the most controversial decisions of that year: Konami announced that production of Silent Hills had been canceled. Silent Hills was first announced in 2014 and was one of the most highly anticipated horror games. The announcement enraged gamers and Konami essentially burned their bridges with Hollywood. After the games launch, it was learned that the story was incomplete. There was to be a Mission 51 that had Snake confront Eli one last time. However Konami chose to halt development and release the game with an incomplete story.
The final insult came when Konami barred Kojima from attending any award ceremony. This came to light when Geoff Keighley appeared on stage during Game Awards 2015 to announce that Kojima was supposed to attend the event but was barred by Konami. Following the announcement, the audience started booing while many in the industry were quick to condemn Konami.
The Last Waltz
During all of this, Kojima kept his cool. He said nothing nor spoke about the feud. He was able to walk away to start a new chapter of his career. He started a new studio and has been at work creating new experiences for gamers. Death Stranding may have divided audiences, it was still praised for its technical achievements and story telling. Many are now excited for his new horror game that is in the works.
Konami has not recovered from and continues to be an industry outcast. They have continued to waste their IP’s on casino machines and failed side projects. Since 2016, not one of their AAA titles has been a hit. Both Metal Gear Survive and Contra: Rogue Corps were among the worst games of the year they launched.
Can You Still Remember
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was suppose to bring closure to the story of Big Boss. While it took players on an unforgettable journey, its legacy is still connected with its controversy. Its legacy will always be defined by being an amazing game and the ugly feud that dominated the year. For now, fans could only hope that one day a new set of leaders takes over Konami and restore it to its former glory. Maybe it will be a diffrent story come its 10th anniversary.
Did you play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain? Share your thoughts about the game and its legacy in the comment section.
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