GAME NAME: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
DEVELOPER(S): Kojima Productions
PLATFORM(S): PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360
GENRE(S): Action-adventure, Stealth
RELEASE DATE(S): March 21st, 2014
Since it was first revealed at the tail end of 2012, the Ground Zeroes saga has unfolded like the best and worst of a typical Metal Gear narrative. It’s been more than a little confusing. But what is Ground Zeroes exactly? How does it tie into the Phantom Pain? Will it be some kind of episodic content? We finally have the answer. It’s a really cool demo, you know, like that one that came bundled with Zone of the Enders back on the PS2. I’m talking about the Tanker level in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. That was free (seeing you bought a full game). This is not.
Let’s make this clear- if you’ve never played Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, you’re in for a tough time trying to decipher Hideo Kojima’s maze of plotlines. Naked Snake’s, or Big Boss’, mission is to rescue prisoners Paz and Chico from torture after having received intel that Paz was a double agent. You’ll be introduced to a few new unknown faces, but I’d rather you experience that for yourself. Afterall, the main mission can be completed in under two hours. My first playthrough lasted me just over an hour and a half. It really is very short. Once you’ve completed the main mission, you’ll unlock several other side missions that help you get the hang of the controls, as the first time you play it you’ll feel a little rusty.
As short as the game demo might be, it’s undeniably fun. The clunky CQC has become a simple press of the R2 button and combined with directional input from the left analogue stick, you’ll have enemies hitting the ground in zero time (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). Press and hold the R2 trigger in and you’ll force the soldier into a choke position; here you can either quickly tap the R2 trigger to subdue the victim, press the triangle button to slit his neck with your Rambo knife or interrogate him by pressing the L1 button. Get answers out of the helpless puppet and it’s marked on your map, whereby you’re told that your map has been updated via the built-in speaker on the PS4. Download the companion app via iTunes or Android (named your iDroid in-game, that cheeky Kojima) and you never have to leave the action ever. A quick glance at your tablet or phone will help you navigate the area with ease. Like older Hitman games before this, the guards continue their patrols and you can track it in real-time on the map.
What about the basics? To access your map you simply press the touch pad in on the right side. Here you can see everything from new item locations, such as cassettes with intel, to soldiers you’ve marked with your binoculars. This is important as being aware of your surroundings has become a crucial part of Metal Gear Solid as soldiers don’t have cones that represent their point of visual distance any more. Oh no, you’re always on the lookout for some unsuspecting guard and more often than not he’ll sneak up on you when you least expect it. Once you’ve targeted a foe, you’ll be able to see them through walls, which helps your cause. The X button still has Snake moving from a standing to crouching and then the prone position and the triangle button still musters actions like climbing a ladder or jumping a fence or crate. The square button now allows our hero to dive when needing a last-second move to avoid contact with one of the searchlight beams and L3 has Snake sprinting at top speed, but at the expense of stealth.
With all of these little tweaks made to the gameplay and controls, gone are the L2 and R2 MGS weapon selection methods. Instead, you tap away at your D-Pad as you’ve been doing for years. Hold the D-Pad in and you can select a specific weapon in a category. You can also adjust your weapons very quickly by adding or removing the flashlight or silencer to or from your firearm by pressing square or triangle. It just works so smoothly, especially when you’re being hunted down by a tank or chopper. Yes, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, though still predominantly a stealth game, is now one hell of an action game. Jumping into a nearby Tank or anti-aircraft gun will make short work of any army in alert mode. Once your mission is over, it’s up to you to call in support via a chopper to pick you up and, again, allow you to blast away as you fly off.
The codec has also been updated. No more mid-mission calls to disrupt any of your plans. Kaz will simply speak to you on the go and if you’re not quite sure what to do, a press of the L1 button will call the required person. Playing Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is an absolute joy. That said, that’s all gameplay and there’s actually another important facet to consider when talking about an MGS game touted as being “next-gen”, the graphics. Hideo Kojima was not messing around when he went on about the real-time weather system and how the lighting will affect the realism. The Fox engine is indeed very foxy. The different times of day makes the area feel like a completely different game. Just imagine what Metal Gear Solid: Phantom Pain will be like?
Obviously, there are no multiplayer modes included, though Hideo did mention in a recent interview that they plan to launch MGS Online alongside Phantom Pain. For me, the biggest problem comes in the form of Big Boss himself, or rather his voice. Kiefer Sutherland has taken the reigns over from David Hayter, and if you’re a long-time Metal Gear fan you can’t help but notice that he’s just not quite the same. I experienced a moment of confusion whereby Kaz and Big Boss were chatting and I could not make out who was who. In the past, Big Boss spoke a bit slower and had this mumbling, groaning style of talking. That’s all gone. It’s a little disappointing and I do hope Hideo Kojima rectifies this in the future.
For those new to the franchise, it’s probably a good idea to wait for this to drop in price or eventually appear on PS Plus. If you’re a die-hard Metal Gear Solid fan, you owe it to yourself to play this new adaptation tothe MGS legacy. As short as the game might seem, don’t be surprised if it squeezes 15 hours out of your non-existent time.