Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Demos have always been free. When it was announced that Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes would be two hours of gameplay at a price point of $29.99, it was almost as confusing as the plot of the last three Metal Gear games combined. There are fond memories of MGS2’s “tanker demo” years ago, and many feel that this new approach is nothing more than a shifty cash grab. After spending some time with Ground Zeroes and immersing one’s self in the redesigned world of Kojima’s “Tactical Espionage Operations,” the actual intent becomes evident. Is it a cash grab? Hell yes. Is it a damned good one? Absolutely.
With this latest entry, Kojima is taking the MGS series into new, exciting and bizarre directions. Let’s get this out of the way: Kiefer Sutherland is not Snake. You can justify it any way you like, but when Snake opens his mouth and that voice comes out it just feels… wrong. Fans who are used to hearing David Hayter’s iconic take on this character may even find themselves confused as to who exactly is talking when the situations in the game get frenzied. MGS games have been littered with 007 references in the past to such an extent that some felt Kojima should just be given the Bond franchise (games) altogether. That having been said, this feels like Kojima just dropped his Sean Connery. With all due respect to Sutherland (a very fine actor), this miscasting is the most puzzling aspect of the whole title.
Ground Zeroes acts as a playable trailer of what is to come next year when Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is released. Skilled players will be able to finish the game’s one-location campaign in about an hour, and really skilled players will likely be drilling for speed runs over and over again. Without ruining any of the surprises, the entire campaign rests on Snake being able to infiltrate Camp Omega, in Cuba, to rescue a kidnapped child. Once completed, the game unlocks a whole bunch of side-missions and extras, so there is some replayability here. For those unfamiliar with 2010’s PSP game “Peace Walker,” an entire recap of that game’s plot is available in Ground Zeroes menu, in the form of audio recordings and files. It is strongly suggested that players go through this backstory if they want to have any chance of understanding the circumstances that brought Snake to Cuba back in 1975. It’s worth the time.
No matter what system you choose, Ground Zeroes looks beautiful. The new “Fox Engine” changes the playing field drastically from previous games. Long gone are the cones and dots of old, having been replaced by your own eyes, ears and a pair of binoculars that can tag enemies for further tracking. Getting spotted by enemies is no longer the outright death sentence it used to be, as the game also caters to those who like to sneak less and kill more. That is not to say that there isn’t a great amount of MGS-style hiding and sneaking to be done, but the overall gameplay under this new design feels more tense and realistic. It’s definitely a much darker tone overall, and the ending sequence is frighteningly visceral (no pun intended), if not a bit clumsily executed.
In case you were wondering, all of the aural cues that you would expect of Metal Gear are still here, and most have been enhanced and adapted. Players still get the chatter inside their inner ear radios, the trumpet-esque bleeting when seen by an enemy and, of course, the Harry Gregson-Williams score. Overall, it sounds like Metal Gear should in 2014. Except for Snake… he sounds totally different. *snicker*
Ground Zeroes is a tough recommendation. Yes, it contains all of the Metal Gear Solid goodness fans are hoping for, but clocking in at a total of three hours of gameplay (including the side missions) for the $29.99 price tag feels like a developer being presumptuous and arrogant, almost daring a fan to refuse. When one takes into account the fact that this is really just a glorified Phantom Pain demo, it makes the bitter taste of having been swindled even harder to swallow. If you can stand the wait, pick up a copy long after the price has been dropped to below $10 or, as some feel may happen, wait and see if Ground Zeroes comes bundled in some way with The Phantom Pain next year.
Reviewed By: Russell Garbutt
This review is based on a digital copy of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes for the PlayStation 3 provided by Konami.