Metal Gear Solid V is a big, beautiful game that’s managed to garner quite a bit of high praise from critics and players alike. But while classic MGS DNA still pumps through its veins, Director Hideo Kojima and his team took a big risk and changed up the formula quite a bit in this outing. Thankfully, that risk paid off.

There are a few things we’ve come to expect out of Metal Gear games over the years, including goofball humor inserted into an otherwise stone-cold serious narrative, a motley crew of super-powered bosses to take out and some of the best stealth espionage action available on the planet.

As stated above, though, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain breaks from tradition in a lot of ways. The goofball humor is definitely still in heavy supply, but those boss fights and the typically overly convoluted story take a back seat this time around. Coming to the forefront in The Phantom Pain are those brilliant stealth mechanics, making this the most enjoyable MGS to date in terms of pure gameplay.

While I wouldn’t blame fans for being a bit disappointed by an almost mute Snake, a less insane cast of characters and a story that’s far less involved than in previous outings, Kojima and Co. have managed to fill those gaps with a number of improvements that have made The Phantom Pain an absolute treat to shoot, sprint, ride and crawl through. Here is a rundown of our three favorite new features.

Afghanistan in MGS5
The Open World
Easily the biggest departure from previous Metal Gear games is the open world you get to explore. Spread across two large maps, Snake’s adventures can be customized to a high degree by the player in The Phantom Pain, with the game empowering you to choose your drop-off point, scout the road ahead, choose a path to your objective and then get the heck out of Dodge before enemy forces overwhelm you.

This type of open world allows for more emergent gameplay, as the clever AI and various moving parts within the world allow for events you could not have possibly planned for. Thankfully, the improved mechanics and various tools at your disposal allow you to roll with the punches or, at the very least, high-tail it out of enemy territory in order to regroup and try again.

When you’re not busy taking on missions, The Phantom Pain offers plenty of rewards for those who like to explore, including blueprints for new gear, resources to expand your merc empire and more. There’s also a steady stream of side ops available, giving you a large number of additional objectives to complete between big missions or on your way to another objective.

There’s a lot to do in MGSV’s open world, but not so much that you’ll ever feel overwhelmed.

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