Metal Gear Solid V’s Way More Fun When You Stop Caring About Your Score

Metal Gear Solid V’s Way More Fun When You Stop Caring About Your Score

When you finish a mission in The Phantom Pain, the game dishes out a letter grade, based on your performance — S, A, B, C, etc. For the first few hours, I found this paralyzing, as I got anxious over any mistakes. Now, having ceased caring what the game thinks of me, I’m enjoying it a lot more.

The Phantom Pain is the first Metal Gear game I’ve legitimately enjoyed playing. Having endured previous entries to experience the eccentric magic that is Hideo Kojima, it’s lovely to have the game’s mechanics start matching its ambitions. It’s a wonderfully designed video game that provides seemingly limitless options for the player to tackle the many infiltration missions they will go on.

But to make the most of it, I’ve decided to ignore the way the game judges me.

Metal Gear Solid V’s Way More Fun When You Stop Caring About Your Score

This is somewhat rooted in my frustration with the previous Metal Gear games, which relied on a trial-and-error approach to stealth gameplay. Sneaking around was really fun — until you were caught. It was possible to mow down endless waves of enemies and hope for the best, but it was usually easier to restart from the last checkpoint or, if you felt like napping, waiting several minutes for the guards to forget you were ever there.

Metal Gear games have always allowed you to pick up a gun and start firing away, but it’s primarily been a stealth game with run ‘n gun as a last resort. With The Phantom Pain, however, it might be disingenuous to even call it a stealth game; stealth has simply become another tool for the player.

There is far less trial-and-error driving The Phantom Pain, and players always have options, no matter how dire and chaotic the situation might become. This extends to tiny details like the reflex system, which gives you a few seconds to take out an enemy when initially spotted, to calling a helicopter for air support when it’s just too much for one man (and his horse/dog/female sniper).

Getting spotted in Metal Gear used to be the equivalent of a game over screen, even though the player wasn’t dead yet. In The Phantom Pain, it merely changes your approach. Now spotted, maybe you’ll shoot a rocket at the nearest satellite, ensuring there won’t be any backup units coming in. Or maybe you’ll plant C4 around the house you’ve decided to hole up in and trigger the explosion when the nearby soldiers think they’re moving in for the kill. You might even just go all Rambo and begin shooting everything that moves. Or or or or or or or or or.

The Phantom Pain‘s story missions are the only ones assigned grades. The many, many optional side ops aren’t looked at in the same way, so you’re encouraged to do whatever the hell you want. I decided to extend this to the whole game, since I seemed to be having way more fun with the added flexibility.

While I enter missions with a specific plan, I’m never worried about everything going to hell over one false move. That’s part of the fun! It’s truly exciting when you’re forced to throw everything out the window and improvise. Such inventiveness wasn’t part of previous Metal Gear games; now, I can’t imagine it without. The surprises keep me on my toes, forcing me to develop new techniques and consider weird but inventive uses for the game’s many items.

That’s a long way to explain why I’ve stopped worrying about how my “failures” might impact the score given at the end of a mission. I’m not sure how the game is figuring that out, anyway, and it doesn’t matter. Stressing over mistakes seems at odd with the game’s playfulness, so if the game wants to flunk me out of Metal Gear school, that’s ok. I’ll be blowing shit up, happily. or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.


  • I agree. This MGS has the most rock solid (sorry) mechanics and best controls of the series. A you have almost total freedom with how you approach things. I’ve never found being a completist and attempting to get S rank on everything very satisfying either. Such a fun game!

  • First playthrough I didn’t bother with ranks. Just wanted to experience the missions and do some fun stuff. You can go back and play through for S-Ranks later… A much better approach to the game I think 🙂

  • If you want to get S rank just go back and do the mission later as fast as you can, it doesn’t matter if you get spotted and have one alert on your score if you did the mission in 3 minutes. You seem to get a huge bonus for being fast.

  • Have not played yet but I did play Ground Zeros the other day.
    Was being all stealthy, doing it “right” then got stumped and a bit frustrated.

    So I tried another route that took me past an AA gun. “Maybe I can disable it.” I think.
    Nope, Snake gets in it, right in view of a half dozen guards. Uh oh.
    Half a dozen dead guards later the AA gets blown up by a grenade, I stagger off bleeding, patch up, sprint to the nearby APC, gun down 7 waves of reinforcements, get blown up again, rambo my way into the base, acquire target, jump in nearby jeep, high-tail it out of the base at full speed and evac under heavy fire.

    Stuff your ranks, that was way more fun than restarting checkpoints a dozen times.

  • In previous metal gear solid games if you got spotted just go into a vent and hide and wait. It was far from game over.

  • i’m a big fan of the previous games, i loved the stealth mechanics in them. I think it’s great that kojima productions made more aggressive approaches much more viable than in previous games, while maintaining the core stealth mechanics that long-time fans love. they really have made it much more accessible to different kinds of players. i’m still mainly going for stealthy, no-kill runs, where you really have to be patient, scout the base out from a distance, then slowly move through. I watch my friends play the same mission and they ride their horse into the middle of the base and start blasting away at enemies. it’s great that both approaches are viable.

  • score? I am spending way too much time picking out the ones I want to kidnap, sleeping the rest and then firing the good ones at mother base. 9 times out of 10 if i get killed it is because i am ignoring my mission to get some guy who has 2 B’s.

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