Available on 360 and PS3 l Published by Konami l Developed by Kojima Productions l Classified MA15+ l Supports 1 player
REVIEW IN BRIEF > There’s not really much to Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, except a glimpse of what to expect from the upcoming Phantom Pain. What you will find is an enjoyable stealth experience with striking graphics and acute attention to detail. What you won’t find is your money’s worth. At a RRP of $49.95, you’ll wonder why it wasn’t just a demo, or at most, a $10 download.
REVIEW IN FULL > Before getting my hands on Ground Zeroes, I’d always wanted to like Metal Gear Solid. I’d enjoyed other stealth games, but I found the early days of this particular series to be frustrating, perhaps because I had to endure Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Rosemary as my commanding officer (or girlfriend, take your pick). I certainly didn’t appreciate trying to sneak around whilst constantly being interrupted with her concern for me. My next exposure to the series was Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, which barely resembled a Metal Gear game at all.
As with any good Metal Gear game, patience was the key. Alas, I misplaced that key on a number of occasions…
I, like many, had a renewed tinge of excitement in the series after being teased by early footage of Ground Zeroes. The preview clips contained almost everything that I would eventually see and enjoy in the finished product. From the moment I fired up the game, Ground Zeroes looked amazing. Subtle touches such as expressive facial animations or a character’s hair bobbing about in the breeze were complemented by inventive level layouts and clean art design. This was an ideal game to show off the capabilities of the next generation.
The action took place in 1975, a few months after the events of Peace Walker. There were no flares or afros here. The only facet that made it stand out as an earlier time period was the presence of cassette tapes instead of data files or even CDs. Returning to the series was Big Boss, this time voiced by seminal bad ass Kiefer Sutherland. As Big Boss, I was tasked with rescuing Chico (a former child soldier captured by The Skull) and Paz (a young woman who held pertinent information). They were being held at a Cuban refugee camp that had been turned into a ghastly and well-guarded prison.
As with any good Metal Gear game, patience was the key. Alas, I misplaced that key on a number of occasions, which lead to several untimely deaths. The developer didn’t dedicate much time to a gradual walkthrough of the game’s systems. This resulted in some trial and (mainly) error, as well as the need to scroll through a bizarre PDF style manual (complete with tiny font) to discover the absolute basics of the game. Once I figured out how to play, the mechanics were quite satisfying. I’d use my binoculars to get intel on enemies or facilities. I’d sneak up behind a henchman and decide whether to interrogate him, stun him or (my favoured option) kill him. This mechanic never got old, not that it had much of chance to, given the short running time (more on that shortly).
Although visually more impressive, the AI characters were just as moronic as ever. When spotted by an enemy, my best option was to hide while they searched. Alarms went off, enemies piled into my area and spotlights were pointed in the direction of my last known sighting. Many times I would be hiding in a nearby bush or behind a crate, just a few feet away from alerted soldiers. Eventually I’d hear them give up on the search claiming that they’ve lost sight of me. If their incompetence hadn’t been in my best interests, I would have shouted, “You’re not looking hard enough!” The most notable instance of this occurred when I fled a gun battle by ducking into a portable office with only one way out. “I guess that’s it for me,’ I thought. After firing a few rounds into the door, they called off the search. I was dealing with human gold fish!
Once I located the prisoners, getting them out alive proved to be a bit more of a challenge, though not enough of a challenge to make the game a suitable length.
Once I located the prisoners, getting them out alive proved to be a bit more of a challenge, though not enough of a challenge to make the game a suitable length. The main mission felt like nothing more than a longer, glorified demo. Yes, it provided enough interest and enjoyment to make me want to play the upcoming Phantom Pain, but not enough to justify the $49.95 price tag. I did unlock some side missions to tackle after finishing the main game, however they all took place in the same area. They were a nice addition, though, requiring me to assassinate high-ranking targets and protecting VIPs by taking out enemies from a helicopter. As much as I enjoyed these bonus missions, I did feel that including a mini credit sequence after each one was a bit much.
Although the gameplay was engaging and the graphics were impressive, I was a little disturbed by the story’s content regarding one of the female characters. The ending revealed some horrid aspects about what she had endured and I just didn’t feel that this level of detail was warranted. I had to wonder if her torments would be used as a Women in Refrigerators motivation for the protagonist in Phantom Pain. However, if Ground Zeroes was anything to go by, that game will at least entertain me with some engaging stealth action and slick graphics.