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Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes Review

With Metal Gear Solid V The Phantom Pain still at least a year or so out, Kojima wanted to give fans a taste of what is to come when the game releases. Witness the beginning of the end for Big Boss and crew in Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes for the PS4.

A couple of things before I get to the meat of this review/overview. First off, I will be looking at Ground Zeroes as a game and not a “glorified demo”. I will mention the price of game, but in no way will it affect my score. I believe that games should be reviewed based on the content, not on price point. The same goes with value, since value is relative and differs from person to person. Besides this is a review not an economics/ethics  lesson. At the end of the review I will give my final thoughts and a score. If I feel that the game is worth a look I will give it either a rental or buy it recommendation based on my enjoyment. If you have any questions, comments, counter arguments about the review, try to keep it as civil as possible. I’m all for free speech, but if the comment is not about the review, the game or gets too off track, then I reserve the right to delete your comment. My blog, my rules. Now with that out of the way enjoy the review.
Aside from the Final Fantasy series and From Software’s Souls series, the Metal Gear Solid series ranks as one of my favorite series in all of gaming. This series was the first series to show that games can have engrossing stories that are comparable to movies and can be just as cinematic.  The story telling mechanics that series creator Hideo Kojima used made us think about things that you wouldn’t normally think about when playing a video game and gameplay mechanics were just as innovative,  always keeping us on our toes. They even frequently broke the fourth wall to mess with our minds in already tense moment, and often seemed to be self aware at times. But even with the supposed end of the Solid Snake saga in MGS4 and the possible continuation of the games with Raiden in Revengance,  there are some loose ends that need to be addressed.  I know. Metal Gear Solid, a series that has so many convoluted plot twists that could even give M. Night Shyamalan a run for his money, has loose ends. How can that be? Easy, Big Boss’ s down fall from hero to villain.

Big Boss made his first official appearance in Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 for the Japanese only MSX home computer, and in the NES versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2. He was Solid Snake’s commander, role model and revealed later on as his genetic father. Other than that and him being the master mind behind the events of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, we knew so little about Big Boss as the series went on. Which is why Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater, Portable Ops and Peace Walker exist. Snake Eater introduced us to the legendary mercenary, Portable Ops gave Boss a reason to fight and Peace Walker gave him the means to carry out Boss’s final wish while coming to terms to what he did. After Peace Walker this leaves a huge gap between it and Metal Gear. So what was Big Boss doing in the twenty something years between the two game?That is what will be answered in Metal Gear Solid V. Well, in two parts at least. The first part of the start of Big Boss’s downward spiral, which is also the main topic of this review/overview, is Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes. We’ll get to how The Phantom Pain comes into play at a later date, so for right now let’s focus on  Ground Zeroes.

Big Boss

Previously on Peace Walker- Ground Zeroes takes place a couple of months after the events of Peace Walker in 1957. Big Boss and his second in command Kazuhira Miller discover that Paz has been found alive floating in the Caribbean and has been taken in to custody by Americans and is being held at a black site military camp code-named Camp Omega. They also discover that Chico, one of the younger members of MSF, has gone ahead and tried to rescue Paz but was captured instead. With two people who have detailed information about MSF and Mother Base, Miller sends Boss on a stealth infiltration and extraction mission to get the two out. And that’s about it. It’s just a simple get in, get out mission and very short. However since this is a Metal Gear game, there is always more to the story than what is just shown through the cut scenes or code calls. Scattered around the camp are cassette tapes that belong to Chico. In these tapes are the recordings of what he and Paz experience during their capture. You hear them being tortured, questioned and some of their conversations with each other in between integration sessions. These tapes give a sample of the more dark and mature direction that Kojima wants to take the series. In addition to his tapes, there are also Paz’s tapes from Peace Walker. Paz’z tapes are basically her diary that detail her staying on Mother Base until her attempted theft of Metal Gear Zeke and boss battle at the end of Peace Walker. There are also tapes that contain post-Peace Walker and pre-Ground Zeroes conversations. Yes the main story of the game is criminally short but it pulls you quickly in and there’s so much additional information that contributes to the over all world that you’ll be wanting more.

Replayable missions- As short at the main story mission may be (more about the length later), there is a ton of replayablity. In addition to the main story there are five side ops and one extra op (the Déjà vu mission for the PS4 in my case) to playthrough and unlock. Each of the ops takes place in different times of the day and have requirements that you have to meet in order to complete the mission. It’s up to you to figure out how to complete the mission. Do you go in guns blazing, sneak around or plant some C4 and wait to blow them up? In addition to the main objectives, each mission has internal challenges that players can opt to complete; such as tagging all the enemies, killing all the rats/crows and unlocking all the doors to longest head shot and how far can you send an enemy flying. In one mission you even get to save Hideo Kojima himself, again.

As for the Déjà vu mission for the PS3/PS4, you are basically recreating certain scenes from Metal Gear Solid. As an extra op it doesn’t really add anything to Ground Zeroes prologue, but it is a really nice touch of nostalgia. With this op I recommend that you take your time and fully explore the camp. In addition to the scenes that you have to recreate, there are several easter eggs scattered around the camp.

FOX Engine shines- As everyone knows that graphics do not make the game, but my god; look how amazing the FOX Engine is.Everything is really super hi-res and detailed to the point that sometimes you do a double take to make sure that what you are seeing is a video game. Kojima productions spared no expense when developing the FOX Engine. From the falling rain on a dark and stormy night to a breeze of the wind in the middle of the day with no cloud cover, the weather effects are amazing. What really had me gushing over the graphics was the fact that a every character model in the game, including the guard dogs, were motion captured. Each sigh, sneeze, bark and reaction is all acted out by a live human actor.Many times gamers have been burnt by the promise that actual game does not look like the pre-rendered target trailer. This time with Ground Zeroes however KojiPro not only delivered but grew the hype for the Phantom Pain even more. Speaking of characters…..

 

 

 

 

 

Kiefer Sutherland portal of Big Boss- While many fans were calling out Kojima on recasting of Big Boss from David Hayter to Kiefer Sutherland, I am willing to give Sutherland a chance. Yes its going to take time to get used to Sutherland’s voice as Big Boss. Right now its still too early to tell if Sutherland has done a good or bad job with the acting, since Phantom Pain is still in the works.So we only have Ground Zeroes to go off on. So what’s the verdict so far? Just judging by Ground Zeroes, I’d say he’s doing a good job so far. Grant it that Boss only has a few lines, majority of which are in the cut scenes. Regardless its a good first step in the right direction and give players a sample of what to expect in Phantom Pain.

 

 

Gameplay mechanics- The gameplay mechanics for the Metal Gear games have changed and evolved over the years. From having to walk slowly to sneak and having an actual sneaking crouch to changes in move sets, radars and camera moments, the Metal Gear games have always added new mechanics in every new entry. Now with the coming of Phantom Pain sometime next year, Kojima decided to pool in all of these previous mechanics and add in new ones. The result of this is what players will use in Ground Zeroes. For example, the HUD gets a minimalist overhaul as the soliton radar, health/stamina bars, and equipped weapon/item icons have been take out and replaced. Now players will have to rely on the iDroid and an enemy tagging system, weapons and items have been moved to the d-pad. Sneaking is improved and no longer will players will have to hold a button if they want to press themselves against cover, when Big Boss gets near cover he automatically pushes himself against it. He even has a new dolphin dive and can now actually run.With these new mechanics sneaking around has never felt so great. There were a few issues with having these new controls in an open world, such as some character clipping when carrying an enemy body or getting suck on a corner when trying to look around it, but these were minor things that didn’t detract from the overall experience.

 

 

 

iDroid- New to the Ground Zeroes and the Phantom Pain will be the iDroid. As mentioned in gameplay mechanics, the soliton radar is no longer visible during gameplay. Instead of relying on a on screen map, players will have to look at their map with the iDroid, which turns out to be the physical representation of the soltion radar, and a new enemy tagging system. As soon a players see an a enemy, they are tagged with an icon so the player will be able to see their patrol route. Players are to used the iDroid’s holographic map in conjunction with the tagging system in order to see where each enemy is. Players can also used the iDroid and the tagging system to tag vehicles, anti-air weapons, location  of items, and place way points. The iDroid also houses important mission details, tapes acquired and allows for players to call in an extraction helicopter. At first it was hard to get used to having to stop every few feet to check where I am going. But after a while using the iDroid felt natural, especially using the tablet companion app.

Chiper

So short- As I mentioned earlier, while the main story and its side additions are really good, the main story is criminally short.I would give a spoiler warning however the story has already been spoiled thanks to the many trailers and official walkthroughs that came out before the game’s release. We all know that Chico and Paz get saved and that Mother Base is under attack by the XOF. But what happens afterwards is where it really gets good and ends on a cliffhanger. Right after that a new trailer for the Phantom Pain rolls along with the ending credits. The overall main campainge mission can take about two hours during the first playthrough as you get used to the controls. After that you can complete it in under ten minuets.

 

 

Controversy- As great as Ground Zeroes is, there has been some controversy around its pre-release and initial release. This all stems from the game’s pricing and the actual length. Let’s start with the length. When first details about Ground Zeroes was first released, Kojima said that the game is shorter than the average Metal Gear game and that it will serve as a tutorial/prologue for Phantom Pain. Due to this, and Japan not having any other major Japanese releases, Ground Zeroes would be a separate game from Phantom Pain. It was when Game Informer did their cover story about Ground Zeroes is when fans started to rage at Konami and at Kojima. In GI’s first piece about the game, they reported that the main story mission of Ground Zeroes was around two hours and that they had finished the game in under an hour. They later on went to state that this was not including the extra five missions and the secret console exclusive missions. Then came the price reveal. When it was announced that the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game where going to be priced at $40 retail, $30 for digital and PS3 and Xbox 360 versions priced at $30 retail, $20 digital, fans flipped out. Everyone came to the conclusion that this was nothing more than a “glorified demo” and a cheap cash grab attempted by Konami and KojiPro. Many have stated that the game should have been either free or at least dropped down to a lower price, despite the contents of the game. Honestly $30 isn’t that big of a deal here in the State, since most people drop more money on other things that are twice as much or even more. However in other regions such as South America, Australia and some parts of Europe the prices of games are heavily inflated and they usually pay more. So anger and reaction to the price and length of Ground Zeroes is understandable. Gamers were already angry that long time Solid Snake/Big Boss voice actor David Hayter was being replaced by Kiefer Sutherland, this just added more fuel to the fire.

 

 

I will agree that Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes is short story wise. And the controversy that has surrounded the game doesn’t help it reputation. But despite the price, the length, the dropping of David Hayter, and the rest of the controversy surrounding the game, I had a blast. I’ve played the main story mission multiple times, finding new ways to sneak around the base and just throwing caution to the wind and blowing the camp apart. Not only did I extract Chico and Paz, I also extracted other POWs and a few of the base soldiers. I was a sniper in one mission and a demolitions expert in another. I even saved Hideo Kojima himself in a mission. Yes the missions all take place in the same place but never once was I bored of seeing the same area. I was too busy thinking of how to get past the guards. And the story, while short as well, combined with Paz’s and Chico’s tapes made my jaw drop. It adds to Chico’s and Paz’s character and kind of makes you feel sorry for Paz in the end. This is all tied together in a nicely wrapped and amazing looking package called the FOX Engine. Never has a Metal Gear game look so good.

 

 

Ground Zeroes looks and plays great. But if you are in the camp that doesn’t like the fact that it is a “glorified demo” and refuse to buy the game, give it a rental at least on Game Fly. But if you are the kind of Metal Gear fan that picks the story of each games with a fine toothed comb and reads about various theories and research that was used to craft the stories of the games, then this is a game that you need to buy. The best is yet to come in The Phantom Pain and I can’t wait.

 

8/10

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