Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes for PS4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360
Shameful gamer confession time; I’ve never played a Metal Gear Solid game before. My PS4 is my first Sony console and I was a bit young for the remake of the original on the Gamecube. Ground Zeroes is my toe dipping into the ridiculous waters of Metal Gear Solid, and thankfully I’ve found it to be to my liking.
So, the plot line for Metal Gear Solid is famously convoluted and insane, but I managed to piece together what was going on regardless. Ground Zeroes follows Naked Snake aka. Big Boss, the clone/father of the original protagonist Solid Snake. He has created a private army with nuclear capability, now under investigation by authorities. On the eve of an inspection, two of Snake’s associates are captured in Cuba; Chico, a young boy who works for Snake’s mercenaries for some reason, and Paz, a young woman recently outed as a spy in Snake’s organisation for the shadowy group known as Cipher. Snake must break into a compound in Cuba to rescue these two and preserve his secrets.
It took me a while to get what was going on, but Ground Zeroes makes a lot of effort to make sure that the player is brought up to speed, both in a summary on the menu and audio tapes which explain the run up to the main events of the story. The story is, like everything in Ground Zeroes, brief, with the most compelling element of the narrative being tapes taken from while Paz was undercover with Snake, at first contemptuous and then reluctantly fond of those around her. The tone is really uneven however, with one scene in particular towards the end feeling absolutely gratuitous and weird. Kojima said he wanted this game to tackle taboos, which it does, but tackling taboos is a risky business; it has to be done very well to pull it off, and Ground Zeroes doesn’t quite succeed there. Still, it’s mostly a precursor to the events of The Phantom Pain, so in the grand scheme of things it probably doesn’t even matter.
I’ll address the key concern first; the length. Yes, the actual Ground Zeroes mission is very short. There are a handful of other side objectives on the same map, and they don’t add up to much time either. There are collectibles, but I don’t really take seriously collectibles as a way to extend a game. Overall, there isn’t much content here, and if you’d paid £30 when it first came out you’d be well within your rights to be upset. It’s much reduced in price now however, and I think it’s worth the money you’d pay for it now, and its fun enough you’ll want to play through many of its missions again. Each of the missions feel very different, even though they take place on the same base, with a variety of weather conditions and objectives, ranging from exclusively stealthy to heavily action packed, helping hold off repetitiveness.
Ground Zeroes is, of course, a stealth game. The controls are a bit fiddly, and took me a while to get used to, but that’s largely because you have much more control than you normally do in stealth games. Ground Zeroes doesn’t hold your hand, and it takes a while to master. When you do though, stealth doesn’t get more satisfying. There are some concessions to modern gaming though, with a good binocular system letting you mark enemies ahead of time, Far Cry 3 style. The action stuff works well too, with solid third person shooting alongside the stealth. There are a lot of options in how you approach an objective, with emergent gameplay opportunities to be found everywhere. If the objective of Ground Zeroes was to get me convinced on the basic gameplay of The Phantom Pain, it certainly succeeded there.
Of course, it all looks lovely too, with excellent lighting and weather effects building atmosphere well. The faces are detailed and believable, and the voice acting generally good, if slightly hammy. If Kojima can spread this level of polish across something on the projected scale of The Phantom Pain, I’ll be extremely impressed.
Ground Zeroes is a lot of fun; I’m not sure how I feel about it, the whole thing seems a little bit sordid to me. It did succeed in convincing me that The Phantom Pain will be something I’ll love, and I guess the entire Metal Gear Solid series by proxy.