Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review
As a longtime fan of the series, I can say with certainty that Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes does not feel like your standard Metal Gear game. There are no long-winded Codec conversations or lengthy cinematics. No hiding in cardboard boxes, no girly magazines, no Soliton radar, and no David Hayter. Ground Zeroes is a darker, grittier take on the franchise that feels fresh, and perhaps even a bit alien. While its main campaign takes at most two hours to complete, the overhauled combat and stealth systems, open-world environment, and unlockable side missions lend a decent amount of replayability. While some have scoffed at the idea of what was believed to be a glorified tech demo, Ground Zeroes does feel like a complete package for its price point – especially for die-hard fans of the series who don’t want to wait until 2015 or later to play the latest iteration.
While it’s not exactly mandatory to have played all of the Metal Gear Solid games prior to Ground Zeroes, the story ties in heavily with the PSP title Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. For the uninitiated, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes handily contains an 11-page “Backstory” option on the main menu, and a large amount of cassette tapes will fill you in on the rest.
Upon starting the main campaign mission, “Ground Zeroes”, the first thing you’ll notice is the strikingly gorgeous visuals. The driving rain and soaked surfaces, the trees swaying in the intense wind, and the realistic lighting look fantastic – especially in 1080p on PlayStation 4 – and really pull you into the game’s atmosphere. Character models are lifelike and very detailed, managing to steer clear of the uncanny valley. Facial and body animations are spot-on – the result of many hours of motion capture work. The nighttime mission looks amazing, and Camp Omega holds up well in daytime and sunset lighting during side missions. On next-gen Ground Zeroes runs at a solid 60 frames per second, and it looks stellar in motion.
Once the initial cutscene is over and you’re in control of Snake, you’ll probably feel a bit lost at first. There’s no Soliton radar as there’s always been in the past, and instead you’ll have to make use of a pair of binoculars to mark enemies from a distance. Once enemies are marked, you can track their movement even through walls – similar to the recent Assassin’s Creed games – but trust me, you’ll feel a bit naked without the radar. Enemy vision has been extended a huge amount, and especially in the daytime missions, you need to be extremely careful with your movements. This ramps up the difficulty considerably, and many times I sat behind a piece of cover, staring at Snake’s holographic map and trying to anxiously plot out my next move. Even when looking through your inventory and at your map, the game doesn’t pause, creating a lifelike tension with the constant threat of being discovered. Of course, you can always run around guns blazing, laying waste to everything in sight — but you’ll never attain the S rankings that way.
Each platform has an exclusive unlockable side mission. On PS4 you get “Deja Vu”, a mission in which you play as the pixelated, low-poly MGS1 Solid Snake, reliving moments from that gaming classic. Xbox One players get “Jamais Vu” in which you play as Raiden on a mission to kill a bunch of body snatchers, in a nod to director Hideo Kojima’s Snatcher video game. Aside from that, the two versions are very similar, except for the fact that the Xbox One version runs at a lower resolution and doesn’t look as sharp. I feel I should mention Kiefer Sutherland’s performance, as much has been made about him replacing David Hayter. In short, he’s good, and by the end of Ground Zeroes I was getting used to his version of Snake.
Once you’ve beaten the main mission, you’ll unlock side missions, and if you collect all of the XOF patches scattered throughout Camp Omega, you’ll obtain the exclusive Extra Op. Obtaining S rankings in all of the missions will take some time, and there are a number of collectibles strewn about, including some lengthy tape recordings that add some context and meat to the rather thin story that’s here. The game also tracks realtime stats like headshot distance, how fast you tag all the enemies in a mission, and so forth. If you plan on playing all of the unlockable content and replaying missions, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is worth $30 ($20 on PS3/ 360). If you only want to see the main story, you might want to wait until it comes down in price a bit.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is certainly a unique product, as nothing like it has really come before. If you want the full story before playing The Phantom Pain, playing Ground Zeroes is necessary, and MGS fans will definitely get their money’s worth. If Ground Zeroes is indicative of what The Phantom Pain will entail, there’s reason to be excited (provided we don’t get another MGS2-style bait-and-switch).