Review by normalguycap
Unworthy of the Metal Gear name
While the length of this game is disappointing, that's not the reason this game gets a low score. Through osmosis alone, most people would have realized that this game was essentially the prologue or demo of the real game. However, it feels more like a tech demo or beta build when playing it. It even list the version number on the title screen. I don't want to call this a "game" because it's a single level, but for ease of writing I'll still refer to it as such.
The reason why this gets a low score is because of how it is presented and how it plays, which is just awful when judged against Metal Gear's stellar legacy. After playing it, it's clear that they just chopped off the first mission of the Phantom Pain to score early profits. In addition, all the iconic Metal Gear voices, items, and actions are gone in favor of mechanics that are terrible in comparison.
The controls are less smooth and intuitive to typical Metal Gear fare. The story is boring and pointless. Graphically, it looks fine except for the frequent pixelation and poor depth of field which can cause problems because enemies have to load onto the screen when you look at them and their range of vision is ridiculously long. Keifer Sutherland animates well when he's not clipping through everything like the prisoners he has to carry.
No more cardboard box or effective hiding places. No knocking on walls or luring enemies in any way besides the pitiful distance Keifer Sutherland can throw an empty weapon magazine. You can't even roll, but you have a dedicated dive button which is useless if you know what you're doing. Radio calls are boring and uninteresting if they aren't tutorializing what you already know. There is no pause and gone is the classic way to equip weapons and items for a method far less responsive which also doesn't pause the game. Events in the game love to update your map with data or locations, but you won't be able to check it during the parts which you are under alert and attack.
The game is very linear despite it's claim to be "open world". You really only have two ways to go and two ways to deal with enemies. You can go left or right and you can kill or tranquilize enemies. You can try to go through the center, but that would be dumb and you'd have to go left or right eventually anyway.
It forces Far Cry 3's enemy marking through binoculars down your throat constantly. It also steals Far Cry's enemy detection indicator which the Metal Gear series never needed. You have regenerating health, no health or stamina bars, and a press-Triangle-to-heal (also from Far Cry 3) if you get hurt enough. You auto-latch onto cover which causes more problems than it helps resulting in many discoveries. You have the standard over the shoulder "press L1 and then R1 to fire" control scheme. Hell, it's more similar to the 3rd person mode from Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 online multiplayer than previous Metal Gear games.
This game feels lifeless and acts like a generic 3rd person shooter. Enemies are sparse and none of the environment contains an ounce of the heart, awe and realism that every area of MGS4 possessed. Here, you are action-guy crawling through enemy-base. So it's rainy, big deal. They love throwing ridiculous amounts of lens flare in your face even if you aren't directly looking at a spotlight. The area is so small, I'm shocked at how excited Kojima and co is that they have vehicles in the game. The road is literally a warped figure eight and a line.
Your first time through the game, you are likely to be taken in by it's spectacle and wanting to know what happens next. But continuing to play, experiment, and explore, especially on Hard mode, you will begin to see how shallow and ineffective it really is. Enemies will now trigger an instant alert upon seeing a single hair on your head no matter how concealed in the dark you are if you aren't using the game's new gimmick of auto-lock on bullet time.
I'd love to talk spoilers because of how bad it all is, but I will resist I guess. The story is basically pointless; you're actions will not matter in the end other than you rescue an unlikable character that you won't even know if you didn't play Metal Gear Peace Walker. And while this is a personal opinion, I dislike the voice actors. Rather than using talent, people right for the role, or classic mainstays of the typical MG voice cast like Phil LaMarr, they use more popular names like Tara Strong and Crispen Freeman. I don't like that practice because I can tell that it's them just speaking and not the character they are supposed to be portraying. Tara Strong does not get a pass simply because she feigns a South American accent. Robin Atkins Downes is the only decent one
The villain barely shows up and what little we see and hear of him paints him as generic evil guy. There is nothing remarkable about him other than his burnt face which has been done before anyway. He even whines during one of the optional cassette tapes you can listen to that he was never allowed to make his own choices in his past. No big bad should complain or whine. If you know the history of the Metal Gear series, then you know that whatever he does won't matter in the long run anyway since none of it would turn up in the other entries in this series.
There is a stupid amount of audio and visual torture and gore in this game which lacks all humanity and reason. Usually a Metal Gear game would have pacing, and messages that actually mean something. Remember Gene, Meme, Scene? What does Ground Zeroes have? More war is bad? Rape is a form of torture? Gee thanks, Kojima, how revolutionary. There is no reference to what Ground Zeroes actually means either. If you never played Peace Walker then this game's "story" and "characters" will mean nothing to you.
I'll briefly talk about Keifer's performance. With the voice change it feels like Big Boss has become a completely different character. Namely, one without a personality. He hardly speaks, but his line delivery is boring, monotone and dull. He lacks all charisma that the character of Snake usually exudes. It further cements Big Boss has now become ActionMan, than a legendary hero. I don't believe these control and gameplay changes will be fixed for the future MGS5 which makes it this game feel as strange to Metal Gear as Revengeance was. At least Revengeance was supposed to be a completely different type of Metal Gear game.
Finally, any game in which the creator inserts his or herself automatically lowers the score because that is an awful, arrogant thing to do. Kojima gets no pardon especially after throwing together this schlock. I am now wary of the eventual Phantom Pain, but at least that won't be a single uninspired level to play through.
For further reading about this "game", I strongly recommend reading the starred detailed review on this site. It is far better than mine.
Rating: 1.5 - Bad
Product Release: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (US, 03/18/14)
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