Review by Mythgar

Reviewed: 03/27/14

"Kept you waiting, huh?"

After almost six years of waiting, we have finally been given at least a taste of the next main entry in the amazingly quirky series that is Metal Gear Solid. There’s a lot to love about this game, and a lot to be hopeful for in the Phantom Pain. The unfortunate part is that there is not a whole lot of time TO love it. Ultimately, the question that begs to be answered here is whether the taste it leaves is of the sour or sweet variety.

Story - 7/10
The story in Ground Zeroes is both intriguing and horribly confusing. If, coming into this, you’re not already a fan of the MGS series or if you’ve never played Peace Walker before, you will quickly find yourself unable to understand anything that is going on. Thankfully, the game does provide some backstory on what occurred in Peace Walker, for those of us who did not play it. This backstory comes in the form of audio logs known as cassette tapes. While I enjoyed listening to all of them, and found them fascinating, it will take a good 45 mins to an hour to listen to all of them.

The plot of Ground Zeroes is simple enough: We play as Big Boss, the original Snake, some ten years after the events of MGS3: Snake Eater. Chico and Paz, two characters from Peace Walker, are discovered to be alive, but have been captured by an unknown organization known as XOF (Odd, right?) which is headed by a mysterious, disfigured man known only as Skull-Face. Chico and Paz are being held in a compound in Cuba, so the mission is to sneak in, rescue these two and get out, preferably without being seen.

There’s not a whole lot to the story of Ground Zeroes, as basically all it does is set the groundwork for the beginning of The Phantom Pain. That being said, what is here is good and there is plenty of quirky MGS humor to be found in the optional Side Ops missions. Seriously, I didn’t realize how much I had missed the inane weirdness that comes from Kojima’s mind until it was brought back to me in Ground Zeroes. Some parts had me actually laughing out loud, though you might have to be a pretty big MGS fan to appreciate the humor. Ground Zeroes also showcases some very dark scenes, with the last few scenes to the campaign being some of the most dark/morbid we’ve ever seen in a MGS game.

Seems like all I had to say here was positive, right? So why the lower score? Well, despite all my praise, the story of Ground Zeroes really doesn’t progress anything… We’ve all seen the strange and cryptic trailer for The Phantom Pain, where Snake wakes up in a hospital after being in a coma, and is missing his arm. Well… all Ground Zeroes really provides is an explanation as to why Snake is in the hospital to begin with. And even then, it still doesn’t really explain why he’s been in a coma for so long, or even if the events in Ground Zeroes are what caused Snake to go into a coma.

Gameplay - 8.5/10
This is by far the smoothest and most entertaining MGS experience I’ve ever played. I’ve been a big fan of the series since MGS2, and while I always loved playing the games there is no doubt that they have always had some issues that prevented them from being as refined as they could be (horrible camera, awkward movement controls, etc). Ground Zeroes felt great, and I absolutely loved playing it. The controls and camera are smooth and work with you rather than against you. It has never been more fun being stealthy in a MGS game. The only real problem I had with the gameplay was that we are no longer given a range of sight for enemies on the map, so it’s sometimes difficult to gauge how far away an enemy can see Snake from. This is more realistic, since in the past, enemies had ridiculously limited lines of sight, but it definitely changes the dynamic of the game.

There are, of course, some major downsides to this game. It’s as everyone else and their mothers have said… Ground Zeroes main campaign mission is only about 2 hours long on a first play-through, and that’s really only when I was taking my time and exploring optional areas/objectives. Ground Zeroes does sport several side missions that are unlocked via playing the main mission and collecting various collectibles, but each of these missions are only about 15-30 mins long. I have to agree with what everyone has said, the price-point is far too high. While I think that this game being free would be a bit too generous, I really can’t say that Ground Zeroes is worth any more than $10 given the amount of content. Yes, the content is of a very high quality, and yes quality over quantity… but roughly 4 hours of quality for $30? I just can’t justify that. At the same time, the average blu-ray movie costs $20-$25 for roughly 2 hours of entertainment… so it’s really up to the individual as to whether it is worth it or not.

Another major addition to the MGS gameplay is something call reflex. Basically, when an enemy is in a position where they can clearly see Snake, time will slow down so that Snake has an opportunity to incapacitate the baddy before he can initiate an alarm. Some MGS players of old may not like this, as it seems almost like cheating, but I feel it’s a fair thing considering it’s harder now than it has ever been before to avoid enemies. Snake is also now able to permanently mark enemies on the map, by looking at them through his binoculars, which allows him to see where they are, even through walls. Again, this is another feature that I feel is extremely helpful considering how challenging sneaking can be in Ground Zeroes.

Graphics - 10/10
MGSV: Ground Zeroes is simply the best looking game I believe I have ever seen. The cutscenes and gameplay seemed to meld seamlessly. The game runs beautifully, the environments look stunning. Everything about this game looks absolutely amazing, and it really does a great job of showing just what the next generation of consoles is capable of.

Sound - 7.5/10
The music in Ground Zeroes is very good as usual. The main theme they seem to use throughout the game is an oldie by the name of “Here’s To You” by Joan Baez. It fits pretty well for the scenes that they play it in, and provides an oddly somber but simultaneously inspiring tone. The voice acting is mostly superb, but I really had to dock a few points here simply because David Hayter has been replaced by Kiefer Sutherland. Kiefer does a decent enough job, but it was far more jarring than I thought it would be to hear some voice other than David Hayter coming from Snake’s mouth. I’m really hoping this is some ruse by Kojima, and that Hayter will be playing some mysterious role in the Phantom Pain, but for now I am not pleased.

Overall - 8/10
Yes, 8 is a very high score for a game that is around 2 hours long, but that is how much I enjoyed Ground Zeroes. If this was a full-length game, and all of it was as good as this small sample… I may very well have handed out my first 10/10.

Ground Zeroes is an extremely satisfying experience. It has great gameplay that rewards you for being stealthy, an intriguing premise that is leading up to something truly promising, and some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen in a game. There is no doubting the controversy surrounding this game. $30 for 2 hours is a lot to ask in the gaming world. In the end, I purchased the game because I’m a rabid MGS fan and wanted a taste of what’s to come, and I would say I’m relatively satisfied with my purchase

The quality is there, the quantity is not. This is more than just a glorified demo, but ultimately it’s up to you as to whether the purchase is truly worth it. If you’re itching for a chance to see what The Phantom Pain is going to be like, and you’re well aware of just how little of a chance it is, then I say go for it. On the other hand, if you’re new to the MGS series, then I would recommend waiting until The Phantom Pain comes up. If there’s anything Ground Zeroes did to me however, it’s that it made that wait all the more difficult.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (US, 03/18/14)

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