“A taste of things to come” that is what I kept telling myself whilst waiting for Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes to install. “This is like the Tanker mission from Metal Gear Solid 2. It is just a taste of things to come”, I intoned over and over. But after playing Ground Zeroes I can happily say that game is no zero.
Let me get this out of the way before I even get into specific details, Yes if you are that way inclined you can supposedly beat the game in 5-10 minutes. My initial play through of the Ground Zeroes mission took me 58 minutes. If you are following the age old gamer equation of Money + Time = Value, then yes you are paying thirty dollars for a main mission that you can complete in under an hour. If this is how you work out if a game is worth buying or not, then you are going to be missing out on a fantastic title.
Ground Zeroes slots nicely into Hideo Kojima’s pseudo-alternate history timeline just after the events of 1974 and the originally PSP title Peace Walker. Playing as the eponymous hero Big Boss your mission is simple; Rescue Chico & Paz from Camp Omega a Guantanamo Bay inspired Blacksite off the tip of Cuba. This is your only location for the entirety of the experience and yet I haven’t found myself bored with this environment. Even the simple switch from day to night gives Camp Omega a completely different feel. You may find it easier lurking in the shadows as rain lashes your face in Ground Zeroes, but how do you apply the same stealth techniques when the sun is beating down over your head?
As far as videogame internment camps go this is the most fully realized and is also a great open world playground. It offers you a significant number of different ways you can go about, be it quiet or loud hiding in a truck or storming in with Ride of the Valkyrie blasting over the helicopters PA all methods are viable. Upon completing the main mission I wanted to jump straight back in and give it another go in a entirely different method. With each method of play style you always have the tools available. From my most trusted friend the tranquilizer pistol, to the standard assortment of machine guns and explosives, you have a number of different ways to lethally or non lethally dispatch your foes.
“Kept you waiting, huh?” Snake intones directly at the camera and honestly, No I was not waiting for another Metal Gear Solid game. After immensely enjoying the almost campy James Bond pastiche of Snake Eater I found Metal Gear Solid 4 putting a bad taste in my mouth. It’s constant reliance on cutscenes, nanomachines and an over complicated stealth system left me not waiting another entry in the saga of the Snake. Gladly Ground Zeroes does not rest on old laurels and forges ahead. You could also call Ground Zeroes a stripped back affair with only two major cut scenes and a simpler stealth system which relies on line of sight and sound to give away position. If it had relied on its own tropes instead of modernizing then myself and many people would not be as excited for The Phantom Pain as we are.
The second elephant in the room is the loss of Snakes original voice actor David Hayter, replaced by Lost Boy/World Saver Jack Bauer also known as actor Kiefer Sutherland. Before we start decrying and building effigies to later burn at Kojima’s house first of all let’s realize that this is a good thing. At best I always found that it sound like Mr. Hayter was doing his best and subsequently worst Batman impression in the previous Metal Gear Solid titles, now it works because of the campy, strange nature of those games but with Kojima wanting to make a grittier title it requires an actor that can pull it off, Mr. Sutherland is that actor. He adds a much needed gravitas and grizzled grit to Snake’s voice which once you see what has happened to your friends in Camp Omega is duly needed.
Will we see Ground Zeroes packaged in with The Phantom Pain at some point down the line? Of course we will. Do we want Triple-A titles to start releasing levels individually at $20-$30 dollars a pop? No. It is a unsustainable method of content delivery that works for smaller studios but if we started seeing Call of Duty release as episodic content, I believe the game industry might suddenly implode. Do we think that Hideo Kojima is the only man that could have pulled this off? I don’t think other studios have the flair to release a part of a game and also make it a success.
Along with a few side-ops, collectibles, and depending on how many times you want to replay those side-ops you are the master of how much fun you get out of this slice of Metal Gear Solid V. Play the main mission once and blame yourself for spending thirty dollars, or delve deeper and sufficiently whet your appetite with this “Taste of things to come”.
A stripped down, Modern Metal Gear Solid title that should get you excited for The Phantom Pain.