If there has ever been a video game equivalent to having blue balls, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what many will be experiencing upon playing through Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Yes, we knew the game was basically going to be a prologue to Phantom Pain, and were warned about that well in advance. Yes, the game is, indeed, badass— possibly the most badass Metal Gear Solid experience I’ve witnessed since Snake Eater. But the game’s biggest problem is that its 1-2 hours of gameplay (or 10 minutes if you’re Eurogamer) will leave you yearning for more, as it is cut short approximately at the same point at which a demo would cut a player loose before prompting them to purchase the full game.
Ground Zeroes picks up where Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker left off, with players taking control of Naked Snake, whom everyone has come to know as Big Boss. If you’re a bit iffy on the game’s backstory, fear not: there’s an 11-pages synopsis of the events that precede the game available at the main menu. Your mission in Ground Zeroes is to rescue and extract two imprisoned comrades who are being confined within the depths of an island military base. Upon completing this task, the main mission concludes, but there are also 5 side missions for players to occupy themselves with if they so please.
In true Metal Gear Solid fashion, the game begins with a long 10+ minute cut-scene, which is rendered using Ground Zeroes’ ridiculously beautiful in-game engine. Playing on the PS4 version, I was instantly sold on the game’s sexy visual detail after seeing the rain seep into and drip down the garments of the character models. Kojima Productions always sets the graphical bar particularly high for their AAA releases, and have once again managed to do so with the best visuals of the new generation to date.
The switch to an open-world format was something many were worried would damage the Metal Gear Solid experience; however, the change to sandbox-style gameplay does exactly the opposite, giving players limitless ways to infiltrate and over take the opposition’s base camp. Players less keen on stealth gameplay can take the more forward approach of gunning folks down, running and hiding, but will eventually have to resort to stealth at some point, as there are far too many enemies on the camp to gun down headfirst.
The radars and vision windows from previous MGS titles have been omitted in Ground Zeroes, so now, exercising patience is even more key with the only way of being able to keep tabs on enemies who are out of your sight is by using Snake’s binoculars to mark them in a Splinter Cell-esque fashion. Once marked, enemies can be seen through walls and from long distances, so your best bet is to recon areas from sufficient vantage points before heading in to engage them.
Kiefer Sutherland’s portrayal of Snake was everything we could have asked for. Where he lacks in David Hayter’s mysterious tonality, he makes up in with his sharp sounding scruffiness that’s unforced and very fitting for Big Boss’ character. There wasn’t an extreme amount of talking coming from Snake’s end, but when he did speak, I didn’t hear Jack Bauer in the slightest, as many suggested we would upon Sutherland’s casting.
As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed Ground Zeroes, as I felt the game had everything going for it up until the abrupt cliffhanger ending that felt like it came far too soon. Even if you play this game slowly, by the time you feel like you’re fully engaged in it, it’s over— and that’s where I struggle giving this game a full-fledged nod, because it doesn’t feel like a full-fledged experience. Konami may have been better suited offering folks a chance to purchase demo access, as opposed to marketing Ground Zeroes as a complete standalone experience.
Ground Zeroes is any Metal Gear Solid fan’s dream— a dream that is cut short by the thunderous impact of its untimely conclusion. I’m not just saying Ground Zeroes is short because of how it left me wanting more; the game is truly minuscule, despite it being arguable whether the game is worth $30 ($20 for current-gen). There are tons of full retail games coming out in the March/April window to keep you occupied, so unless you have $30 bucks to blow or are a big Metal Gear head who doesn’t mind having your soul teased in the worst way, you may want to hold out on Ground Zeroes for a summer price drop, with holding out for Phantom Pain being your last resort.
If you’d like to chat all things Metal Gear Solid or anything else gaming related, I’m only one tweet away at @Malik4play.