Saying that I’m a fan of the Metal Gear franchise is a bit of a understatement. I’ve loved the games ever since I played a pirated version of the MGS at a friends house 15 years ago (I’m a terrible person, I know).
But the series has always been a bit odd. Whether it’s the plot, or the characters the franchise has always been a bit different.
So when I heard that Konami was releasing the opening of MGSV: The Phantom Pain early I was surprise and excited. But the product ultimately much like the ending of Sons of Liberty, left me scratching my head.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a game developed by Kojima Productions led by producer/director Hideo Kojima.
The game’s story picks up a year after the events of Peace Walker with Big Boss/Snake (Kiefer Sutherland) and his army looking to recover two characters from the past game.
The two: Paz (Tara Strong) and Chico (Antony Del Rio) are being held at an American black site in Cuban called Camp Omega. Snake must enter the base, rescue the two and discover what the games new enemy Skull Face wanted with the two.
Along the way Snake is faced with a number of obstacles that he must defeat using his limited gear and Close Quarters Combat skills.
As many of you might have heard by now Ground Zeroes is a short game. The idea was to release the opening section of the upcoming game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain as a way to tide over the fans whom were going to have to wait a while longer for the final product.
That being said, I didn’t quite understand just how short the game would be.
While the game does open up later with a number of side missions the story mode can be dusted off in just over an hour or quicker during your first playthrough.
To put that into perceptive, that’s $20 (or more depending if you got a physical copy or not) for a story that took me 65 minutes to figure out. To say that’s short would be an understatement.
What normally makes the franchise so…Metal Gear like is series creators Hideo Kojima’s use of long winded and over the top cut scene’s explaining the complex (and often confusing) storyline.
This time, the game’s longest cut scene clocks in at under 5 minutes.
While some might be happy about the shorter cut scenes, the production team made a number of changes that fans were looking forward to, the biggest being Big Boss’s new voice.
Replacing the loveable David Hayter, whom voiced both Boss and his clone Solid/Old Snake for the past four games, is 24’s (and Flatliners) own Kiefer Sutherland.
With this talented of an actor in a key position, I was hoping for a number of scenes where Sutherland could show off his voice (he must of improved since Armitage III, right?), however the title gives the character little in the way of dialogue and even less in the way of plot development.
Despite the disappointing lack of V/O work, Ground Zeroes does accomplish a number of things, the biggest being training the audience on the franchises new controls.
Several times I’ve read that the game plays much like the PSP game Peace Walker, however having not played said game the changes were jarring at first. Fans of the controls of MGS4 will need to take there time in teaching themselves the ins and outs of the new controls.
Adding to the frustration is the fact that the game more or less throws the player in and explains only a few of the changes. Players might end up spending more than a little time staring at the controls in the pause menu.
However, there are number of improvements made.
Snake can move easily from one cover to another with the use of the tweaked roll and crouch features. Once Snake is close enough to a wall he pushes up against it himself with out the player needing to push a button. Additionally the transition from crouched to crawling is smoother allowing the player to feel more in control of the character.
The team also made some changes to the CQC gameplay. Once the player is close enough to an enemy a on screen prompt appears and from there the player has a number of options. The main three include; interrogation, knockout or killing the enemy. Snake can also throw the solder to knock them out, but the process feels less natural than in previous MGS games.
Along with the CQC skills Snake enters the mission with a silence machine gun and the series trademarked tranquilizer gun.
Much like in MGS3 the tranq takes a few seconds depending on the location of the hit. That being said I found myself firing many rounds into an enemy in frustration only for him to go down after three or more shots. This is made worse due to the scarcity of the ammo, but then again that might have been the point.
Ground Zero also gives the development team a chance to show off Kojima Productions’ new Fox Engine. While the version I played was on the PS3 there were a number of improvements that I noticed right away. The most impressive was the way the engine used light.
The black site is dark and rainy and most of the guards use flashlights or are stationed near larger spotlights. When the light hits Snake the screen briefly flashes and a glare remains.
These moments end up making the game more intense and allows players to stop and react if you hadn’t noticed said soldier.
When a player is detected the game slows down giving Snake a few seconds to fire at the target before he calls for backup.
One of the elements of the game that isn’t so noticeable is the games soundtrack.
Returning for both games is series composer Harry Gregson-Williams however, with the limited playing time the score isn’t that prevalent. What does stand out is the games almost theme, a re-recording of Here’s to You, a song that originally appeared in the MGS4.
This version is sung by Joan Baez and feels more upbeat sounding a bit like an old Motown track. The call back (or is it call forward?) is a nice touch and end up tying up the game’s ending quite well.
Ultimately, Ground Zeroes is a bit of a mixed bag, and a short mixed bag at that.
The graphics are impressive (even on old tech), the gameplay is tighter once you master it and it hits many of the sweet spots that MGS fans have come to expect.
On the other hand the game is short and at a price point of $20/$35 it’s hard to recommend it to anyone but the franchises diehard fans (and even then).
In the end Ground Zeroes ends up feeling more like a trailer for the upcoming epic that is Phantom Pain than a game itself.
Kojima and his team end up giving their audience just a taste of what’s to come, but the only issue we’ll want more, and we’ll want it fast.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes was developed by Kojima Productions and published by Konami. The second part of MGSV, The Phantom Pain, is still has no solid release date.