Review by horror_spooky
I fear for Snake's future...
I've adored almost every Metal Gear game that I've played. I even have a soft spot for the NES port of the first game, which is not held in very high regard by most people. The PlayStation classic Metal Gear Solid I think is one of the best games ever made, and I had an amazing time with almost all the sequels that came after that. With the dawn of a new generation of consoles, big changes are on the way for Metal Gear Solid, and if Ground Zeroes is any indication, the future of the franchise is very, very scary.
I feel like Ground Zeroes was basically set up to fail right out of the gate. Konami wanted to have a Japanese game on the PS4 and Xbox One in their early lives, so they decided to cut off the "prologue" to the true Metal Gear Solid V, The Phantom Pain, and then sell it as a stand-alone product. The result is a game that definitely does feel like it was chopped off from a larger, perhaps better product, but it's laughably short length just makes it come across as a cheap cash grab. Which, in all honesty, that's probably what the real intention behind it is.
Ground Zeroes stars Big Boss as he is on a mission to rescue a couple of his friends from an enemy base. The plot has a couple of twists, but since this game is merely the "prologue" to The Phantom Pain, all of the major plot points were spoiled well before release simply by the promotional material and marketing by Konami. Story is a big part of the franchise, and knowing everything that's going to happen in Ground Zeroes before the controller is even picked up is a pretty big problem. Spoilers can completely take the wind out of the sails of stories, and for those that might be playing Ground Zeroes to experience the latest MGS story, they might as well just watch a couple of trailers and call it a day.
The game just doesn't feel like a true MGS game. The most glaring and obvious way that it departs from the series is by swapping out the franchise's iconic voice actor David Hayter in exchange for Hollywood star Kiefer Sutherland as the voice of Snake. I will admit that Kiefer has a lot more range than David Hayter and his added experience definitely comes through, but he's just not Snake. Big Boss/Snake just does not sound right here. Hayter's interpretation of the character comes across as goofy sometimes, but damn it, Metal Gear IS goofy. That's part of the charm. That's part of what makes it good.
But nope, Ground Zeroes does it best to not feel anything like a Metal Gear game, and then at points when it DOES let its goofy side out, it just feels weird considering the subject matter. I'm not going to spoil anything (though I honestly don't know why I feel so reserved to do so when the trailers and promotional material will just spell everything out for you anyway), but there is some seriously twisted and dark crap at the end of the game that feels like it's just there to be there. Hideo Kojima has stated that he wants to tackle taboo subjects and help video game grow as an art form and be more respected...but this is the wrong way to go about it. It just doesn't mesh well with what MGS is, and it feels like it's there just for shock value.
The game is also extremely frustrating to play. When I saw The Phantom Pain revealed at E3, I was ecstatic for the possibilities that could be created with an open world MGS, but Ground Zeroes does not give me high hopes for this idea any longer. As it turns out, open world MGS is more frustrating than anything else, and when it's not frustrating, it's way too easy for its own good. There is no middle ground here, and as a longtime fan of MGS, I came away extremely disappointed with the stealth mechanics in this game.
Now to address the elephant in the room...the game's length. Ground Zeroes is obnoxiously short. I am usually a proponent of games that don't take 60 or 80 hours to complete, and I feel a game just needs to be as long as it needs to be to accomplish what the developers are trying to accomplish. But Ground Zeroes is just way, way too short. It'd be the equivalent of paying full price for a movie ticket only to watch 10 minutes of film and have the credits roll.
Yes, Ground Zeroes is releasing at a budget price, but even at its budget price ($30 at the time of this writing), the game still feels like a ripoff. It is possible to complete the main story in under 10 minutes. That is...just sad. Getting 100% in the game doesn't take all that long either, and yeah, there are side missions, but they all take place at the same boring, lifeless, dull enemy base. The repetition is mind numbing.
Konami then decided to throw more salt into the wound by having system exclusive missions. Usually this wouldn't be a big deal. Hell, I kind of like some exclusivity when it comes to one game releasing on multiple consoles, like what SoulCalibur II did across the PS2, GameCube, and Xbox back in the day by having console exclusive characters. But with a game that is so ridiculously short on content like Ground Zeroes, it comes across as a little insulting.
So who gets the raw end of the deal, the Sony people or the Xbox people? I've played the Extra Ops on both the PlayStation and Xbox platforms, and, sorry Xbox guys, I have some bad news for you. The Xbox version promises the ability to play as Raiden, but he's basically just a new skin. The dude plays exactly like Snake does, and this makes absolutely no sense considering Raiden's insane abilities as illustrated in Metal Gear Rising. Of course, it also makes no sense that Raiden is even here at all, but whatever. The PlayStation Extra Ops gets you a cool new skin for Snake that makes him look like he did back on the original PlayStation, and the mission itself is actually based on the Shadow Moses incident. It's still nothing to write home about, but if I were going to pick a version for their Extra Op alone, I'd be picking the PlayStation version.
Ground Zeroes does get points for being pretty. The game is outright gorgeous. I don't think it takes full advantage of the hardware, but it is a cross-generation game after all, so what are ya gonna do. The level of detail is very impressive, and the lighting effects are absolutely stunning. The game doesn't do anything extraordinary, but it's still quite gorgeous and better looking than most games that have been released.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is an insulting experience to fans of the series and fans of games in general. The game is ridiculously short, and it simply does not live up to the standards that Hideo Kojima and Konami have set with previous Metal Gear entries. The story is just plain bad, replacing David Hayter as the voice of Big Boss/Snake was a bad move, and the open world stealth gameplay may not be as good of an idea as it seemed. Ground Zeroes is a glorified demo and is not worth your time.
Product Release: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (US, 03/18/14)
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