Deadshirt is Playing brings you a look at the best, newest, and strangest of what the wide world of video games has to offer. What are our staff and contributors playing this month, you ask?
Kyle is a fan bound by curiosity…
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
PS4/Xbox One/PC/PS3/Xbox 360
The Metal Gear franchise has existed for nearly 30 years under the direction of Hideo Kojima, a man who claims that nearly every iteration is his final. However, for the first time in the storied history of the franchise, this is very likely the case. While I could go into the specifics as to why, that’s neither here nor there and largely debatable as the details of his supposed firing aren’t really public knowledge as of yet. With that said, if this is truly the last installment in the series, then it’s as fitting of a finale as I can think of, closing the Metal Gear timeline for the most part and fundamentally shaking up everything fans thought that they knew about this series.
As far as gameplay goes, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is by far the most refined that the series has ever been, and possibly even as innovative as well. While the previous games have mostly focused on infiltrating a linear fortress or something in that vein, this installment offers a large, open-world environment full of a variety of mission types and a surprisingly in-depth base-building system. By strapping “Fulton Recovery Balloons” onto enemy soldiers and sending them back to Mother Base for what I assume is brainwashing, you can build up your mercenary army to run missions, develop new weapons and tools, and provide support during your operations. Each extracted soldier has unique stats, skills, and a randomized codename to help give them a little personality, though you’ll quickly amass a force of hundreds and soon forget all but your most important soldiers.
While on deployments, you’ll have access to classic stealth tools (cardboard boxes, smoke grenades) and even some new ones (inflatable decoys, sleeping gas mines) as well as a massive array of customizable firearms to help deal with any situation that may arise. Also new to the series is the ability to select a buddy to bring along to help you out with your missions and the option to deploy any vehicles you may have recovered.
Another huge change to the series is the way that the story is handled. By Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, the series became the target of ridicule for featuring massive cutscenes that could last upwards of an hour in the most notable circumstances. This time around that is definitely not the case. While there are still cutscenes, there are nowhere near as many, in fact players will go hours without seeing one, and when they do they usually last about 5-10 minutes at the longest. Instead, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain opts in favor of dialog interspersed over missions or in the form of cassette tapes (See: audio logs). This is a little disappointing to me as I was a fan of the over-the-top exposition dumps in the previous games, and while I’m glad to see such a wealth of gameplay, the story itself is a little thin in the places I care about (characterization of the new cast members) and far too bloated in the elements that bore me to tears (Skull Face’s plot and just how he intends to carry it out).
There’s not a lot more that I can say about why I love this game that won’t spoil major elements, but there are a few interesting and monumental twists that really shake up the Metal Gear timeline, and I can’t think of a better sendoff to the series, though the game does feel unfinished in the back end and features some of the most gratuitous objectification of a woman in the series. Even with that caveat, this is by far one of the greatest games that I’ve ever played, and a near lock for my game of the year (tied with The Witcher 3).
Jen is playing to fail…
Emily Carroll and Damian Sommer
The spectre of inevitable failure hangs over you. Soon, disaster will strike, the Yawhg will be upon you but you are unaware. The Yawhg sets up a portent of doom that it follows through on with a wickedly difficult labyrinth of choose-your-own-adventure storytelling. “Will we learn from the past?” the narration asks, teaching you there is no way to win until you fail to survive time and time over.
A game starts with two to four characters, who can visit eight locations in town, each with two activities that provide a small, randomized selection of stories. Each story option provides stat boosts or penalties, and players cannot visit the same location as another player during the same turn. Some options trigger effects on the town that develop in future turns and different locations (rapidly learned that the risks of the hospital aren’t worth the benefits—stay away). Stats can affect your options as well—attempts to charm will fail without high charm, attempts to do magic will fail without high magic, and so on.
After the Yawhg hits the town, characters must pick the role in rebuilding the town to which they are most suited based on the stats they have earned throughout the game. That, too, is a guessing game, and most games conclude with failure. Your town cannot be rebuilt. An epilogue describes how each of your characters have gone on to live, die, or something in between.
When I finally managed to strike a winning combination (playing all the characters by myself), I was struck to discover that it still was a failure of a kind. My town was rebuilt, blue went and had herself a nice life…but green drank himself into a stupor, red enjoyed fleeting success followed by obsolescence, and yellow achieved lasting success but—the game wistfully notes—not love. Is there a more perfect set of actions I can craft to make every one of the characters end up happy, or is there an innate unhappiness in some of them that cannot be beat by any combination? Perhaps their perfect paths conflict with one another’s in a way that makes it impossible for all to end with their best outcome in the same playthrough. I decided to quit while I was ahead for now, but I already feel the urge to keep trying in the face of inevitable failure, in the hopes of finding that happy ending.
Jake is stockpiling ancient crystals…
Game Boy Advance
I like Wario. I feel like Wario and I have a lot in common. He’s burly and rude, and he loves vintage cars and precious gems and gold. I happen to love treasure. Getting it. Having it. The whole thing. Warioland 4 is hella scratching that itch for me, while simultaneously making me inconsolably angry. It’s a hard game, you see. The general gameplay structure is a sort of open-ended platformer, dropping you into fun, tropey 2D levels and letting you explore at your leisure, fighting weird little guys and solving puzzles.
Wario isn’t a master of subtlety or critical thinking, so most of the puzzles are solved by hitting things with his big dumb head, which, again, is something I find very familiar. To be entirely honest, something about the pace and structure of this game has been a needed respite from real-life anxiety lately, and I can’t think of a higher accolade for a game than making you forget about real life for a little bit. If you’re bored and looking to kill some time with a fun Nintendo game that you probably missed, the entire Super Mario Land series and the Wario games that spawned from them are available on Nintendo’s Virtual Console service, and this one in particular is a solid experience with tight controls, colorful graphics, and good music.