Choosing the best action game was problematic because all the actions games of this year had major flaws. Trying to objectively weigh between these games’ flaws and strong points is not an easy task and the result might be upsetting for some, but this article wasn’t written to make people happy.
Being honest with the readers but also with myself, my highest hopes for 2015 were in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain while the least appealing action game for me was Batman: Arkham Knight (I’m not sure why). But in an ironical turn of events Arkham Knight was a somewhat pleasant surprise (in terms of gameplay and story), while MGS V was a little disappointing. Then there was Dying Light which was very entertaining with its innovative way of fighting a contained zombie apocalypse by using parkour, but even this one is full of problems.
I liked Arkham Knight a lot with all its slightly annoying flaws and its poor design choices. But all of them could be overlooked, the one thing that couldn’t be is the performance problem which was and still is experienced by a big percentage of the PC players. Despite Warner Brothers and Rocksteady Studios attempt to fix the game after it was pulled from the stores, the taste of the terrible first release and the problems that still weren’t fixed after its re-release stole this game’s chances.
So, choosing the best action game was difficult, but I’ve set my mind on a controversial title with a stunning cinematographic presentation and probably the best gameplay I’ve experienced in years: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Right off the bat I have to say that before Ground Zeroes I haven’t played any MGS game, so I’m not part of those two extremist categories of fans, those who zealously defend the game or those who hate it for its failures compared to the rest of the games in the franchise. I’ve read and watched a lot of stuff about the franchise before playing The Phantom Pain and I was pretty caught up with the messed up story and how the game really works. As a guy that only experienced the theoretical part of the series, there was no emotional connection for me. But maybe this was for the better as I could judge the game for what it is without many prejudices.
The Phantom Pain is an action adventure stealth game heavily focused on gameplay mechanics befitting for a wide variety of play styles. The game’s strongest point is clearly the gameplay which allows switching from intensive action shooting to complex and smoothly working stealth in such a way that no other game has done it before. The options are mind boggling and the unique scenarios that can rise from putting your imagination to work while using the game’s tools are completely amazing. I can’t remember the last time when I had such a realistic freedom of doing things the way I wanted while still in some boundaries of logic ironically placed in a game with a hardly logical story.
Sadly, The Phantom Pain deeply suffers from its narrative which starts extremely strong but dilutes in a matter of hours lost between tons of repetitive missions designed to have fun with the gameplay mechanics but not with the story itself. The storyline is weak and gets weakened as the game progresses with only a few moments where it truly wakes up and delivers what was promised. The game that was supposed to present a hero’s descent into madness doesn’t deliver on that promise, showing instead a phantom of that very hero. I can’t say the story is bad, because the more you search through it and explore its possibilities you find out what Hideo Kojima tried to do, but the exposition is hard to digest and the pacing is extremely weak. The story is there, maybe not the greatest in the franchise and with a lot of cut content to make everyone mad on Konami, but sure it’s there, slightly hidden in a presentation style that won’t be on everyone’s taste.
But for all the cut content and the weird story presentation, The Phantom Pain is still a tactical stealth game delivered with the help of an open world platform. And while the AI is dumbed down for that reason, the gameplay still stands undeniably strong worthy of a masterpiece that missed the mark through its various problems.
The Phantom Pain will leave the fans of the series in pain over the cut content and the departure of Hideo Kojima from Konami, but will remain the game with one of the best and most refined action stealth gameplay ever made.