Version Reviewed: PlayStation 3
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is one of those games that almost defies explanation, is it a “two hour demo” for The Phantom Pain as some have suggested? Or, is the game’s $29.99 price justified with the addition of optional side missions and bonus content? Certainly the game’s marketing gimmicks (*cough* Fake producer joakim mogren *cough*) have led to some confusion in the gaming community as to what exactly Ground Zeroes entails. Well I took Big Boss’ latest retail release for a spin and I’m ready to debrief you on why you should suit up for Snake’s latest.
Chronologically Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes takes place right after the events of Peace Walker, so if you missed out on Snake’s last handheld adventure some of the more dramatic moments of Ground Zeroes won’t hold the same impact as they will for others. Both Paz Andrade and Chico Valenciano have been taken hostage by an organization known as Cipher. It is up to Big Boss to rescue both of his comrades by infiltrating a clandestine military base located on the coast of Cuba. Series canon aside, Ground Zeroes is light on in the narrative department but it does drop enough hints and packs enough surprises to wonder what Kojima-San has up his sleeve when The Phantom Pain drops in 2015.
Ground Zeroes isn’t structured like your typical Metal Gear Solid title , instead of an eight hour single player campaign Ground Zeroes’ features a single story mission centered around the rescue of both Paz and Chico as well as four smaller side missions. All of these missions utilize the same Camp Omega map but they do change things up in terms of vehicle / enemy placements and a variety of different objectives. If you are worried about not getting some bang for your buck, during the process of reviewing Ground Zeros’ I completed the main story mission in just over two hours and each Side Op lasted between 15 – 45 minutes depending on difficulty. All told I spent just over four hours with Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes before unlocking the hidden Deja Vu missions.
Camp Omega might not be the Shadow Moses in terms of size or scale but it is the perfect venue to showcase how Kojima Productions have changed up the Metal Gear Solid formula for the better. Sneaking around is still the name of the game but Ground Zeroes’ open ended nature ensures that there are multiple ways to accomplish your objectives. During the majority of my main mission play through I spent the majority of my time crouching and hiding in the shadows as enemies finished their patrols. You’ll also sneak through grates to enter highly guarded military installations, sneak into trucks and interrogate enemies for the location of hidden items.
If all of this sounds familiar you’ll see that once you set off your first alarm there are a number of new mechanics that Kojima Productions has embraced. The lack of an on-screen radar is the most apparent and it make the alert phase feel a lot more intense and organic. Once Big Boss has been spotted the game will enter two or three seconds of slow motion, allowing you to incapacitate your adversaries, before additional reinforcements will come rushing in.
Completing your objectives isn’t the only thing that has opened up, if you’re the type of gamer who likes to solve their problems with bullets you’ll be happy to know that aiming and shooting feels very natural in Ground Zeroes. There were entire sections of the main campaign where I chose to eliminate my enemies using a trusty sub machine instead of sneaking around. This would have never been possible in previous Metal Gear titles but suffice to say that Ground Zeroes is a fully serviceable action game when things get heated and is absolutely intense when going the stealth route. Also returning from Peace Walker is the ability to interrogate enemies once you’ve grappled them. By doing so Big Boss can get his foes to spill the beans on the location of several hidden items around Camp Omega, as well as demanding that they call an end to any alert phases.
Metal Gear Solid V is an absolutely stunning and gorgeous title, even on the current generation consoles. Once your current mission has loaded there are absolutely no load times allowing you to become completely immersed in Snake’s world, everything from guard towers, to underground tunnels and island foliage are accounted for with very little pop-in. On current-generation hardware some textures are blurry up close but are some truly awesome moments, including several scenes that involve the awesome weather effects, will make you wonder if the game is really being played on a PlayStation 3. Lighting is one area where the next-generation versions shine (pun intended). Regardless of which version you are playing, Ground Zeroes is an impressive looking game.
Long time fans, me included, were disappointed to find out that David Hayter would not be reprising his role as Big Boss / Snake. 24’s Keifer Sutherland delivers a much more subdued approach to the character but after twenty or thirty minute his approach will more than likely grow on you. Gone is the over the top gravelly voice that Snake brought to the character and in its place is a softer, more detached approach that really shows how years of conflict have taken their toll on Big Boss. Considering that Ground Zeroes only features a handful of cutscenes, Snake’s voice isn’t the only thing that feels a bit more restrained. Alongside the change in VO Kojima productions has ramped down the nano-machine filled dialogue and replaced it with some of the best game play we’ve seen from the franchise.
If you are a fan of the Metal Gear franchise you owe it yourself to pick up Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Let’s face it; we’re not going to get The Phantom Pain for at least 12 months. If Zeroes’ only gives us a brief morsel of what’s to come, then the main game is going to be absolutely amazing and surely worth the wait. As it stands, this 4 hour sampler of Metal Gear Solid V is light in the narrative department but Kojima Productions has included enough changes to the established formula that everything feels fresh. For the uninitiated Ground Zeroes isn’t going to turn many onto the franchise but for long time fans this glimpse of what is to come is a must have.