I've said it many times before:

Any story, even great ones, will inevitably take a back seat to freedom-oriented gameplay in any open-world/sandbox experience.

This is simply due to the inherently linear nature of any script or narrative. The more you get away from it, the more you give the listener or participator the opportunity to change things, the less that cohesive story will shine.

There's absolutely no doubt that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a fantastic game, as most all critics are saying . But if you read some reviews very carefully, they're fundamentally different than most reviews written for previous entries in this legendary series. For MGSV, critics clearly focus on the immense size and scope, on the awesome freedom the player has to tackle any given objective. In fact, I'd say the majority of most reviews written thus far focus on this element.

But some critics are also saying they'd hoped for a bit more in the way of emotionally driven, wonderfully memorable story segments for which this series is so well known. Other reviewers just seem to gloss over the fact that MGS has always been narrative-driven and this one, apparently, kinda isn't. Of course, the plot and characters play a much larger role here than in most open-world games – I think that much is obvious – but again, you simply can't offer the same narrative experience as is possible in a linear telling of an existing script.

Of course, I'm sure nobody really cares. In this day and age, bigger with more freedom is a universal positive and the consensus is that all games are automatically better when developers embrace these traits. Even so, I wonder what some hardcore fans of this series will say when looking back and comparing entries. Right now, just based on what I'm reading, it seems that most will agree that while MGSV is overall one of the best installments, it also may have one of the weakest stories.

P.S. I haven't played the game yet; I might end up feeling differently than other critics.

Related Game(s): Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain