With the promise of the new Metal Gear game on the horizon, Konami and Kojima Productions have released Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, a sort of prologue and primer guide for The Phantom Pain as well as to show off the new Fox Engine which the series is running on. Is Ground Zeroes a mission worth going on, or should you stay hidden in a cardboard box until The Phantom Pain launches?
First off, let me talk about the game’s length. There has been a lot of negative press surrounding the game’s length, with sources claiming that the game is only 2 hours long. What they mean is that the titular ‘Ground Zeroes’ mission is only 2 hours long, which is the ‘prologue’ part of the game. In actual fact, I completed the mission in one hour and 20 minutes but the points still stands that the game is not simply 2 hours long. It’s probably about 5.
The game is split up into the main story mission, and 4 side ops which become available upon completion of the story as well as an extra op which appears when you complete all those. The extra op differs depending on which console you play, for me on the PS4 it was a mission where you play as PS1 Snake sneaking around the base. The main story mission itself carries on from MGS: Peace Walker, with Chico and Paz being held prison at a Cuban prison which Snake (now voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) must break into and rescue them both. There is a bunch of other story points which I don’t want to spoil but by the end of the mission, you are hyped up to play The Phantom Pain.
The main mission gives you the objective, rescue Chico and Paz, and then gives you free reign of the island to complete the mission in any way you want. You can run in guns blazing, you can sneak past everyone, you can tranquilise guards and hide them, and you can even drive round in a jeep for a while if you feel like it. The mission is basically give you the chance to test out the Fox Engine, get used to the controls and see how the mechanics of Metal Gear have changed.
It might seem obvious, but the game looks absolutely stunning. This game begs to be playing on current gen consoles because the graphics are amazing. Animations and character models are incredibly lifelike, the weather effects add so much to the game’s atmosphere and the lightning system is astonishing, especially in the side ops where you explore the island in the daytime. The controls are greatly improved from previous Metal Gears, taking the movement system from Peace Walker and refining it, allowing Snake to move, aim, sneak and shoot much more effectively.
Another thing to notice is the new Reflex system, which gives the player a few seconds of slow motion to react if they are caught by an enemy in order to stun, kill or roll away. For players who aren’t great at stealth games (me included) it is a welcome addition but I could imagine it would be annoying for a serious stealth game veteran.
The openness of the island and the sheer numbers of ways makes the game feel how a stealth game should feel. You actually feel like you are sneaking around and the improved AI of enemies, with guards following routines but occasionally going off path to talk to another guard or check a sound you’ve made, making the stealth experience incredibly tense and fulfilling when you pass through an area unseen. The game does not have the typical radar setup of previous games, making it your priority to mark guards and vehicles and keep track of patrols through the iDroid, this game’s menu and map system. It is completely up to you how you sneak around the island and this openness is a great sign for the eventual release of The Phantom Pain.
The problem is, apart from the ‘Ground Zeroes’ mission, that’s all the game really has going for it. The side ops are alright but they require you to play in a certain way, with one mission having you gun down people from a chopper or one having you blow up AA guns with only a bit of room for experimentation. After completing those missions (which won’t take you too long) and maybe going back to the main mission to beat a best time, try a different playstyle or collect all the various collectables in the base, there’s nothing else to do. It does feel like a tech demo after all and the fact that it is being sold for £30 is pretty inexcusable. While you may have great fun for that short period, the game will only leave you wanting more and seeing as The Phantom Pain may not be out until late 2015, Ground Zeroes leaves a bit of a sour taste in your mouth.
I can only really the recommend Ground Zeroes to diehard Metal Gear fans who want to see how The Phantom Pain is set up or people who want a quick stealth game fix. Otherwise, I’d just wait until the full game is released.