If Ground Zeroes is a proper indication of what to expect from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, it could very well end up being the best-playing Metal Gear game to date.
Ground Zeroes is a prologue to Phantom Pain, which is set to release … eventually. You might have heard the game is just over an hour long, and if you’re playing Metal Gear Solid because you love its story —or because you love to hate its story— then yeah it’s pretty short. But Ground Zeroes is actually much more gameplay oriented than the series’ last home-console outing, and makes up for it’s narrative’s length with a surplus of replayability.
The game is a collection of six short stealth missions spread out across one large prison camp. It’s right in line with Metal Gear Solid 2’s opening sequence on the tanker; there a plenty of different directions to approach each area from, and there’s a lot of satisfaction to be derived from pushing the limits of the environment to plan a perfect route. The amount of variables you can interact is really refreshing, there isn’t the slightest hint of a linear path — plenty of room for variation between grabbing a tank to storm the front and weaving underneath containers in typical Snake-fashion.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how modern Hideo Kojima games tend to be, mostly because Metal Gear Solid 4’s emphasis on cutscenes made everything else seem besides the point, but Ground Zeroes is a decidedly contemporary game. It’s done away with the series’ staple radar and replaced it with ‘tagging’ system similar to Far Cry 3. It has also adapted a new ‘reflex’ mechanic which slows time after you’ve been spotted, giving you a chance to kill guards before they sound the alarm. Nitty gritty control details aside, the game has done away with the codec in favour of context-sensitive radio chatter like the Arkham Batman games, and it uses cutscenes sparingly to bookend specific objects — which in the world of Metal Gear it’s a breath of fresh air.
The story, however, is still problematic. At its best, Ground Zeroes is able to use allusions to 9/11 and Guantanamo Bay to set-up its haunting prison environment; having the player fill in the blanks and let their mind wander is remarkably effective given the relative proximity most players will have to these events. At its worst Ground Zeroes is a repulsive and disturbing game that uses violence as a crutch to force mature themes that Metal Gear Solid simply is not ready to handle. Ground Zeroes offers a glimpse of what Metal Gear could be if it would ever figure it out that less is more, but it stumbles when things get too explicit. If you have a hard time with gore or sexual violence skip this one.
Having disliked Metal Gear Solid 4 immensely, it didn’t seem possible that a short prelude could have me excited to play a new full-length Metal Gear game, but the freedom of Ground Zeroes open environment was a treat to tinker with. The game looks terrific on the next-gen consoles and getting to enjoy a taste of Metal Gear’s story without drowning in cutscenes was a bonus. There’s no arguing that there’s a big discrepancy between Ground Zeroes’ pricing, and other pre/post game release content, but the game is designed well enough to merit seeing most of what it has to offer —I managed to soak 7 hours from this allegedly hour long game— and I’m still hankering for more … take that as you will.
- So Keifer, he’s alright. He’s not Snake though, it’s unsettling. Not bad, just wrong.
- The controls have their own personality. Not Ubisoft obnoxious, more: “hey that’s kinda crazy Resident Evil, but see what you’re doing.” I guess Metal Gear always had weird controls.
- Guns of the Patriots came out in 2008 (six years ago), not long after Grand Theft Auto IV. Makes you wonder what it must be like trying to direct a six-year project.
- Musical choice was great. Gregson Williams still up for a Metal Gear.
- Getting the last ‘patch’ (dog tag equivalent) had me burst out laughing. Reminiscent of early Kojima.
- I loath the violent plot beats. It’s as if someone set a trap, and Hideo just walked right into it.
- The ‘mood’ changes too dramatically in missions without rain — next-gen rain simulator inbound.