Here it is folks, Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes. Developed by Kojima Productions and published by Konami, Ground Zeroes serves as a prologue to the upcoming title, Metal Gear Solid V The Phantom Pain, in which you assume the role of Naked Snake aka Big Boss. In light of the information we actually have in regards to this particular stand alone ‘game’ the burning question on everybody’s lips is “Is it actually worth it’s price of admission?”.
I’d be lying if I said that my thoughts on Ground Zeroes, prior to playing it, didn’t lean rather strongly toward that all too familiar tanker story fans of the franchise have been trying to forget for the past thirteen years, but it is with great joy that I’m able to say that this is not a repeat occurrence. Ground Zeroes is not seemingly placed in front of us as a means to deceive us into believing we’re on the verge of receiving something we’re ultimately not, but simply an introduction to, motivation for and a lesson in how the story proceed.
One of the first things that jumps out is that it looks phenomenal, made all the more impressive when considering the games have been developed for both current and previous generation consoles. I couldn’t begin to go into the technical minutiae of polywags and resoluguns, but suffice it to say that compared to other games developed across both generations and platforms it looks pretty damn spiffy. Of course, my experience with it is that of the far superior PlayStation 4. *gloat and moustache twirl*
Taking place after the events of Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, players reprise the role of Big Boss whose mission is to infiltrate Camp Omega, an American black site in Cuba. Why? To perform a rescue operation for an imprisoned agent, Paz Ortega Andrade, and a child soldier named Ricardo “Chico” Valenciano Libre… and… that’s pretty much all I can offer you storywise, I’m afraid. The truth is, while there’s a wealth of things I can tell you, the games overall runtime is as short as Hideo Kojima himself has confirmed. Therefore anything I would say beyond that point would be, if not on the cusp, well inside the boundaries of spoiler territory.
To accommodate the open world approach, the new angle being taken on delivery of story is one that minimizes lengthy cutscenes and codec conversations by providing the player with intel that can be listened to during play, such as pre-mission briefings, cassette tapes found on the field and so on. It’s clear that while the intent of Ground Zeroes’ story is to prep you for what’s to come, it’s central focus is to exhibit how it will be done. It’s a prologue/tutorial/demo, and therein lies my only real problem with it. Ranging from 20-30 of the greatest British Pounds you can muster, you’ll have seen the meat of it all within as many minutes. That’s not to say that there is no replay value in it. I spent a good 131 minutes doing a half “Serious face”/half “Ooh, what’s that over there?” playthrough, only to discover that upon finishing my mission I had earned a completion rating of 8%, but I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be seeing anything that I hadn’t seen repeatedly for the past 100 minutes. I can’t speak for what you, dear reader, consider good value for money, but I confess that for me at least, the content alone is not the whole value that Ground Zeroes offers.
I love Metal Gear Solid and have done for years, but always saw the gameplay, in all it’s rigidity, as an obstacle between me and the joy of the game – a means to progress the beautifully convoluted story instead of the actual fun itself. Because of that, the changes made to gameplay here, courtesy of the new Fox Engine, are beyond welcome. It feels just as good as it looks, and that is really good. From sprinting to gradually crawling into a prone position – rather than slapping down like you’re in possession of a cement spine – all the way down to the lightning fast unholstering of your firearm, Snake slithers comfortably around the battlefield looking like the ultra-professional we have always known him to be.
In regards to audio, I’m not much of an audiophile. Things sound good with nothing jarring, but one minor complaint would be that the controller audio, where I can only draw reference from Resogun and Killzone: Shadowfall, is noticeably faint. So much so I had to hunt down the option for its volume slider to make sure the problem wasn’t on my end. It wasn’t.
So we’re left with the elephant in the room. The part of the review were I try to restrain myself from saying something like “How could one Japanese developer be so wrong?”… damn, down at the first hurdle. Yes, that’s right, it’s the voice acting. Namely, Keifer Sutherland’s voice acting. His first videogame role… well, except for the… oh no, wait, I’d repressed that. I’ll be honest, most of you know that Snake isn’t a talker – classic or new. They both tend to stay quiet while people spew exposition at them, grunting from time to time to let whoever is boring him to sleep know that they haven’t succeeded yet. While I imagine that will change in the new game, it’s not displayed at any length here as he has a handful of lines, but largely lets his actions speak for himself. With what little there is, he’s not bad, he just… doesn’t have enough Hayte in his voice.
An honorary mention has to go to Tara Strong, who returns to the role of Paz. She’s basically like Nolan North, except nothing like Nolan North. She’s a female for one and, more importantly, has variety in her voice. If I didn’t know, I would not for one second believe that this woman was the Arkham series’ Harley Quinn. She is good.
In closing, I’m on the fence. It’s definitely fun and plentiful – if not entirely engaging with it’s content – but is that worth £20-30? The choice is ultimately yours, guys. If you’ll allow me one recommendation, preordering on previous gen systems is not only the cheaper of the two but will also result in a bundled digital copy of Peacewalker, the game that directly precedes the events laid out here. So if you must have it, which is understandable, that might be the way to go.
Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes releases 18th March, 2014 in the US, 20th March in the EU and Japan and 27th March in Australia. Available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The review copy for PlayStation 4 was provided by the Konami PR team.