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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review

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Graphics:

For several years now I have been a dedicated PC gamer, so I lack significant first-hand experience with the graphical capabilities of the consoles, but I am familiar with the graphics of PC ports. The reason I start off with this statement is because the graphics of The Phantom Pain look like that of a console placed somewhere between the previous generation (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) and the current generation (Xbox One and PlayStation 4) console. Closer to the current generation, but there are a good number of PC ports from the modern consoles that look better in more areas. The graphics are not bad looking, but they are not impressive. Of course the title has been released on the previous generation consoles as well as current gen and PC, so this appearance is probably not all that surprising.

Starting with the textures, most of them look good, but there are definitely plenty that are very simple and likely stretched. Some most certainly are, like the blood that can accumulate on Snake's clothing as you play. In some areas the blood is sharp and well defined, while in others it is blurry and stretched. Images with text on them, like signs, can be almost illegible. Typically, the textures are just not as crisp as I wish they were, although none are outright bad looking, except in a specific circumstance I will cover in the latter half of this section. (I consider it to be a bug more than anything, and that is where I collect those together.)

Models are not much better than the textures, with a great deal of them showing off edges and vertices. Some, like rock faces, you can get away with, but wheels are bit harder to let slip by. Foliage is almost all sprites, and obviously so. While I will admit I cannot readily name a game that does not use sprites for foliage, there are plenty I can name that do a better job hiding they are sprites.

 

 

It is largely the models and textures that make me think of console graphics.

Character models, thankfully, look substantially better. However, hair does have that sprite-like look I think I am coming to like less and less over time. I know there are limitations on what is possible, but it is just something I want to see changed.

The lighting is good and the shadows are also pretty good, although there is one significant issue I have to mention. The Phantom Pain does feature a day-night cycle, so the sun moves across the virtual sky, changing the angle shadows are cast. The problem is that the shadows step through these angles; they do not smoothly translate across the ground. You can stand still and watch as the shadows tick, tick, tick by on the ground. I cannot help but notice this every time, and it truly is something I wish was not there.

 

The way I play, I cannot say I have witnessed many explosions, but none that I have seen have looked bad. Fire is not particularly impressive, as I find it lacking in substance, being more like an orange mist collected around objects and characters than actual flames. Water, too, is not too common, and while there are places you can walk or drive through it, they are not common. Rain is fairly common in one of the game's maps. There the rain falls occasionally as a random weather event, and looks good.

 

Honestly, aside from the weird stepping shadows, the graphics can be summed up as unimpressive, but good. Time to talk performance, so here are my specs:

  • Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
  • Cooling: Corsair H110
  • Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
  • GPU: NVIDIA GTX 980 4 GB
  • PhysX: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
  • PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
  • OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit

I turned everything up to its maximum, except for motion blur, and everything ran very well at 60 FPS, with a singular exception, and that issue I mentioned earlier. One option that is missing, sadly, is anti-aliasing. Now, I never noticed any especially egregious aliasing as I played, so it is possible something is simply always running, like FXAA or another post-processing AA solution, but it is still unusual to find it missing.

The singular exception and earlier issue are very likely related to each other as they both deal with viewing things at great distances using scopes or binoculars. The exception is that initially I left the Depth of Field option turned on, but I have since turned it off because if I zoomed in, very often it would take a moment before the DOF would change and anything would be in focus. Turning off the option alleviated the problem.

The other issue does not appear to have as easy a solution, at least for a user like me. Naturally the game has a level of detail distance, so that distant objects and areas are not rendered at very high detail. The problem is that this is still applied when you zoom in, so you can pull out the binoculars or rifle scopes and see the low resolution version of the environment. This is definitely annoying and I hope it will be fixed, because when you encounter this issue, it looks so horrible.

 

I did not encounter any other issues of much significance. Some things, like collision volumes remaining as an object is extracted, and this one time I ran a truck through a solid wall also occurred, but really are not a big deal. (With the collision volumes persisting for a moment like they do I would consider a bug, so they should be fixed.)

Like I said before my specs, the graphics are good, but not impressive. They do also have some issues with distance viewing, but also perform very well, so I am not going to complain much. I wish it looked better than it does, but what we have is not bad.




  1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review - Introduction
  2. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review - Graphics
  3. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review - Story
  4. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review - Gameplay
  5. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  6. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review - Conclusion
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