Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Publisher: Konami Developer: Kojima Productions
Genre: Stealth Platform Played: PlayStation 4
The Metal Gear series has seen many evolutions since its debut of the original PS1 title.
Metal Gear Solid (MGS) was revolutionary for its time with beautiful graphics, unparalleled story-telling and acted as a stepping stone for future stealth titles; MGS 2 improved the gameplay of its predecessor; MGS 3 emphasized stealth even further with camouflage and survival; MGS 4 gave players a choice between action or stealth with improved third-person shooting gameplay; and MGS Peace Walker added recruiting elements for Big Boss’ inevitable army.
With legendary series creator Hideo Kojima’s latest effort, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, it seems he wants to combine MGS 4’s gameplay, Peace Walker’s recruiting and trace amounts of MGS 3 stealth, making the ultimate MGS baby.
However, until we can continue the saga of Big Boss, Kojima is giving us Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, a $30 title with the sole purpose of providing us a sneak peek of what we can expect from The Phantom Pain. If Ground Zeroes is just a sampling of the sweet treat, then the full serving can’t get here soon enough.
Though Ground Zeroes is comprised primarily of side missions, or Side Ops, there is a relevant story leading to the events leading up to Phantom Pain.
After discovering characters Chico and Paz are alive and being held prison on an island, Big Boss is sent on a solo mission – in true MGS fashion – to bail them out, which takes place in the middle of March in 1975.
Anything you heard about Ground Zeroes’ main mission being short is not false. Now, I’m admittedly not the master of shadows when it comes to stealth titles. With that said, even with being detected – a lot – and adding a dash of exploration, I completed the story in barely under an hour.
While the plot is important in regards to The Phantom Pain while simultaneously following the events in Peace Walker, you can easily look up what happened online because of how short the story is. Including cutscenes, it could take two minutes or less to explain it all.
Aside the main mission, Side Ops breathes additional life into Ground Zeroes. Still set on the same island as the story, these extra missions have Big Boss completing various objectives, ranging anywhere from action-oriented to stealth. One mission had Big Boss sitting in a helicopter covering one of his soldiers’ escape while another had him searching the island to eliminate two wanted men.
It’s clear both the main mission and Side Ops encourage multiple playthroughs because there are not only many ways to go about a mission, but rankings based on certain stats could entice players to hunger for more.
Despite the additional incentives, it’s difficult for me to exclaim “Purchase this title now!” – even for Metal Gear fanatics like myself – because there simply isn’t much content to warrant a full price perspective. Sure, there are multiple ways to go about the missions and bonus items such as cassette tapes to unlock, but when it’s all set on the same island, and the only thing that changes on the island itself is the time of day, it stales the experience.
Where the Ground Zeroes rod may reel in players is in its gameplay and incredibly gorgeous graphics.
The gameplay is easily the best in the series since MGS 4. Although the shooting and movement mechanics remain largely the same, which is far from a bad thing, the small additions are what take the cake.
The new reflexive ability is particularly noteworthy. If the player is detected by an enemy, this ability slows down time for a few seconds to give players a chance take down the enemy before they can alert hell’s army to ascend upon Big Boss. Going into reflex activates emotions of excitement and panic all at the same time.
The twist with reflex, however, is having it activated reduces your chances of achieving that coveted high ranking. Metal Gear veterans may be able to brush this off, but it will be like taking the training wheels off for newcomers.
And forget about the olden days of Metal Gear where enemy soldiers were observantly challenged. Ground Zeroes’ guards can and will understandably notice you from a fair distance. It’s still not realistic because we have to remember this is a video game, but it’s much, much closer to it when compared to its predecessors. It also makes sense given the new camera angle, which is closer to Big Boss, but far away enough to give you peeking room. This makes the title it an even more thrilling journey of stealth.
By far the simplest, and perhaps the most effective new feature, is knowing when and where an enemy may have spotted you through a directional indicator, which is white static that appears on the top of the screen. It’s a helpful, but terrifying signal at the same time. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times this feature would have been useful in past iterations.
What is debatably the best part of Ground Zeroes are the absolutely beautiful graphics the Fox Engine bestows upon the screen. This is one of the few games where I see what true next-gen visuals should be. The game may be available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but the PlayStation 4 version does not come off as an upgraded port.
Every detail is gorgeous and runs at 60 frames in Ground Zeroes on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – though it will be 30 frames in The Phantom Pain. The rain cascading down rocks as guard lights shine upon it is a sight to behold in a game because it truly is as realistic as it gets. Fabric from the tents will wave about in the wind as if they were weightless. Every ounce of detail is, to say the least, stunning.
I don’t often praise a game for its visuals, but Ground Zeroes’ cannot go unmentioned.
I have never been so torn with a review before. On one hand, Ground Zeroes lacks both content and a good, lengthy story to the point where it’s understandable to approach a purchase with caution, but on the other hand, it boasts exciting, fresh features and unrivaled visuals that make the wait for The Phantom Pain all the more difficult. Metal Gear-heads will be satisfied with this prologue, but others who are casual participants in the series or have never partaken before should skip – at least until it gets to a lower price point.
+ Astounding visuals
+ Best gameplay in series with improvements and additions
+ Many options to go about missions
– Lack of content
– Same setting
The Score 7
Robbie Key is the Nintendo editor for Analog Addiction, entertainment editor and copy editor for the Pine Log at Stephen F. Austin State University, news editor for Worlds Factory and blogger for IGN. Follow his completely relevant Twitter updates, watch his awesometacular YouTube videos, and view his LinkedIn profile.