Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS4) Review: A Taste of What’s to Come
It was raining, amidst a massive hurricane I sprinted across the pavement in Camp Omega to reach one of the many extraction zones across base to get myself to safety. I was sloppy though, trying to escort an injured prisoner I forgot to check all my corners and was discovered, the entire encampment started to bear down on me like a colony of ants to a sugar cube. Luckily, a seasoned veteran like Big Boss always has a contingency plan in case things go downhill. Before heading to the prisoner’s location I took advantage of the vast world and covered my ass, setting C4 charges on all the anti-air cannons just in case I had to get out fast and hot. Realizing I wouldn't be able to get to the outskirts of the camp for a safe departure I detonated the charges I had planted initially and secured the landing zone dead center among the chaotic camp. With hot lead and determination I made a beeline to the chopper, prisoner on my back holding on for dear life. Quickly climbing up the ramp I laid down cover fire as the chopper rose through the sky, only just escaping the cruel grasp of death. Clocking in at about 90 minutes, the story aspect of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
is short but sweet, boasting tons of replayability and telling a decent prologue with wonderfully crafted cutscenes, music, and voice acting.
picks up its story somewhere in between Peace Walker
and the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
. Big Boss is dispatched from mother base to a rundown prison camp known as Camp Omega to rescue some old friends who have been captured by the nefarious baddie known as Skull Face. Compared to the other stories told in the fiction, Ground
Zeros leans heavily on darker overtones and shock value, especially the final minutes of the campaign. It also strives to center much more in reality rather than semi-supernatural like the other titles have dabbled with in the past, a notion I was happy to see. The game clearly exists for setting the stage for its upcoming successor but it deserves credit for telling a cohesive plot in its short runtime. Starting with standard array gear like a dart gun and silenced SMG, you are released to tackle the objective however you see fit. Whether that be exploring the sandbox given too you head on or sneaking around the back where the fence line ends, you have a large amount of freedom never presented in the series before.
A lot has changed since we last saw Metal Gear Solid
on the Playstation 3, the stealth and controls have seen a massive overhaul for the better, making the world feel more dangerous and dynamic than ever. While the option to keep controls faithful to previous iterations are present, there is a layout that is straight up mimicking what you would see in modern day shooters like Battlefield
or Call of Duty
. Both work fine but the refined shooter controls just feel more grounded to what we have gotten used to in the past few years and naturally feel much tighter than anything else offered in the game. Guards seem to be more capable than before, dynamically shifting based on every mistake and move you make as you rummage your way around the base. If you leave a guard that you killed out in the open or shoot a camera in fear of being seen, be prepared to face the consequences as guards will quickly react and adapt to the situation. If you catch a guard’s attention and take him out before he can check back in with his commanding officer, more guards will be dispatched to figure out what happened to their missing comrade. There is certainly the idea of everything going back to normal once you are out of sight for a substantial amount of time, but in general it seems the guards in Ground Zeroes
have a much longer memory span than most guards in other stealth titles.
Snake has also learned some new tricks himself, being able to sprint and use a quick dive to escape detection at the last second makes gameplay move along quicker and more efficiently. Building on what MGS 4
experimented with, the basic shooting has been improved even more making a complete action playthrough perfectly viable rather than the standard sneaky approach. Obviously, stealth is still the way to play and due to the open nature there is a lot of stuff to find and explore. Want to find extra ammunition for your guns or narrow down your search for your objective? Hang back and eavesdrop on chatty guards or sneak up on one and interrogate him to see what he knows. The action game is there for folks want it but the rewards are much more bountiful to those who wait and play it slow. The new additions along with the refined original mechanics meld together well, making a great playing, cohesive stealth experience that truly lets you play how you wish.
The initial shock factor of paying $30 for a 90 minute game may seem like slap in the face, but there is plenty to do after the credits roll to more than justify the price tag. Once you play through the entire story, new missions known as side ops open up and take place on the same battlefield the main story does. These vary from assassinating two specific guards deep within the compounds walls or interrogating a high ranking officer and slipping out unnoticed with the information. The really exciting and fascinating structures behind a few of these missions are the problem solving aspects of each one. At one point in the story you are presented with a tape filled with sound cues that will lead you to your target objective. Once the tape is over that’s it, there is no mission pointer or icon, it is up to you and your intuition to discover the origin of the noises and lead yourself into the correct location. Similarly are the side missions where you need to find specific targets, rather than providing you with simple mini-map icon up front, you need to identify each person by face via the photos you receive before you can mark them on your handy map. It’s the little things like this that really amp up the feeling you get while sneaking around, making you feel like the spy Big Boss is built up to be.
After each mission is completed you are presented with your performance based on a variety of things like how many times you were spotted to the amount of lives you silently ended. The game tallies all of these stats up and dishes out a letter grade which in turn opens up other unlockables such as new items or weapons at the start of every mission. In-mission challenges also appear and range from practical things like your longest headshot to more obscure, silly ones like your longest time driving with two wheels off of the ground. These upload to a leaderboard so you can compete with your friends in all the wild challenges Ground Zeros
has to offer.
Capping off the game is the wonderful production values presented in Ground Zeroes
. For years, Kojima has strived to make Metal Gear
as theatrical as possible despite the obvious limitations in technology. With the Xbox One and Playstation 4 you can finally see this vision slowly come to pass with the incredible animation displayed throughout the game; whether it be Snake smirking as he violently chokes a guard out or sprinting headlong to the rendezvous zone, it all looks natural and fluid. The game graphically shines all around but looks noticeably better during the night mission as the rain pours down with the beautiful lighting effects bouncing off every surface and raindrop. Day missions pale in comparison, looking a bit more bland and washed out than their counterparts. Surprisingly, the game is not littered with the long, drawn out cutscenes most fans are accustomed too. Instead there are two decently length in-engine cutscenes that open and close the story and really push the boundaries of what games are capable of doing in the cinematography category; other than that the story is told through cassette tapes you find and as you move through the hostile camp. The soothing yet somewhat sinister soundtrack wraps it all into one beautiful package making it a tour de force in the presentation department.
The only sore spot is the voice acting or lack thereof. Most guards within the game hardly say more than five words despite being able to interrogate every single one of them for information. Kiefer Sutherland does a decent job of making Big Boss his own even though the total dialogue expressed couldn't be longer than ten minutes. The main voice of the game is Kaz, the man on the radio constantly feeding you status updates about the mission. His lines are hit or miss throughout the game and are hardly more than background noise to the otherwise top notch sound design. It is a weird thing to lack this considering the pedigree but hardly dampens the overall experience.
Looking at what the game has to offer at face value, the 90 minute story may seem like a hard sell at 30 dollars (20 downloadable on last gen consoles), but with the addition of all the challenges and side ops missions that are presented later, it quickly becomes an adventure well worth taking. Expanding the Metal Gear
gameplay to a more open environment has now proven its worth and can only raise expectations of what The Phantom Pain
is going to offer when it releases. Along with the improved dynamics and controls, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
is not only a great game that will satisfy any fan of the series or stealth genre, but a wonderful proof of concept that only makes the wait for Snake's next adventure that much harder and more painful.