Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS4) - A Short Pause Review
First Opinion Second Opinion
Prior to the highly anticipated release of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, I was pretty anxious to see what Kojima and Konami could accomplish on the PS4. I mean, I had this beautiful, sleek, next-gen machine but no games that would let her show off her assets. Then, I started to see some really impressive Metal Gear trailers on YouTube and I caught my PS4 primping herself in the mirror; she was getting ready to strut her stuff. While all of the big names were saying Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes looked good, the consensus was that the game looked especially good on the PS4. As its release date was fast approaching, I was getting more and more interested in finally playing the latest edition in the Metal Gear series on my new system — until the reviews started coming out.
The biggest complaint I heard was that the game was too short and expensive to only be a “demo”. If this was just a training mission for the soon-to-be-released Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, why wasn’t it a free download? I didn’t know what to believe and I didn’t like the thought of wasting money. So, when the game finally released I didn’t even buy a copy; I rented one.
I wonder how many people complaining about $10 "short" indie games bought the two-hour Metal Gear Ground Zeroes for $30— Mike Sacco (@mikesacco) March 19, 2014
After calling my neighborhood rental store and reserving a copy at the front counter, I called off from work so I could make a day of it. See, Metal Gear and I have been besties since the 80s and 5XZ1C cheat-codes. Picking up Metal Gear from the store was like picking up an old friend from the airport; we had a lot of catching up to do. I returned home, threw on my Astro A40s (not to be confused with the Gold Wireless Headset), and popped the disk into the PS4. Then the PS4 said, “What the $*%^ is this?”
Dejectedly, I ejected the disk. I picked up the box the game had come in, and noticed it said, “PS3," not “PS4”. I felt so stupid. Not only had I taken the entire day off and gotten the game for the wrong system, but my PS4 was looking at me like I had just called my new girlfriend by my old girlfriend’s name.
I called the store to explain the situation, but they didn’t have any copies for the PS4. So, I sighed and booted up the PS3 instead. I felt terrible missing out on all that PS4 beauty, but figured I might as well make the best of it, right? Then, ten minutes went by and I was logging into the PS Store to buy a copy for the PS4. It was like I kept hearing a whisper say, “I guess you won’t get to see what I've got.” [blush face]
And boy, let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed! The way the rain spatters on your clothes and the ponchos flap in the wind are a testament to the PS4’s power. Even the way the camera moves seems ultra-cinematic when compared to the PS3. Trust me, the trailers don’t do it justice. I can easily say it’s the most impressive display of graphics I’ve seen on a home console. But I could also say that Ground Zeroes is the most stunning "tutorial" I’ve ever played. Beyond the oohs and ahhs of its flashy looks, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a — sometimes frustrating — tease of a game.
For one, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes suffers from the same flaw as every other Metal Gear entry; it has a convoluted story. I respect a tale that tries to be intelligent and mysterious, but I hate feeling the need to take notes and do research to follow along. If you feel the same way I do, then let me explain the backstory as simply as I can:
- You are the head of a mercenary organization and your codename is “Snake,” aka “Big Boss”. One day, a girl named Paz introduces herself to you and she wants to hire you to defeat a group within the CIA. She gives you a cassette tape.
- When you listen to the tape, you hear the voice of an old acquaintance you thought you killed, codenamed “The Boss”. Details on the tape lead you to believe the tape is recent, but you killed “The Boss” quite a while ago.
- After accepting the mission, a scientist working for the CIA informs you that he’s being forced to make them a dangerous, nuclear weapon. Aside from the normal threat of being able to kill millions of people, this weapon will also be artificially intelligent.
- You decide that you will neutralize the A.I. weapon, and when you finally encounter it, you are shocked to see that The Boss’s voice and personality have been programmed into the weapon; that explains the cassette tape. Fortunately, the nuclear A.I. version of The Boss self-destructs — threat averted.
- Paz then joins your organization. The CIA scientist also joins your organization, and later, he beings to make YOU a nuclear weapon.
- Paz, who is secretly a double-agent, tries to steal your new nuclear weapon (ain’t that a $#@^?) but you defeat her and she goes missing. (I guess she didn’t know who she was messin’ with.)
- Unfortunately, because of Paz’s meddling, an international agency learns that you have a nuclear weapon and wants to inspect your facilities. They make an appointment with your people and set up a date.
- Your people then discover the whereabouts of Paz; she’s been captured by her employers and is being interrogated. This bit of news motivates one of your people, a boy named Chico, to go and rescue Paz by himself. Apparently, he loves Paz, but since he’s only a boy he only manages to get himself captured.
- Now you have to rescue him and her…and you have an inspection with the international agency in one day.
Enter, Metal Gear Solid V : Ground Zeroes.
After a dazzling cinema sequence introduces you to Skull Face — one of the bad guys my wife calls "Freddy Krueger" — you'll find yourself in a miserable rainstorm outside a gated military facility. There, you'll receive instructions from your commlink explaining your mission objectives and how to use the equipment you carry. Take the time to familiarize yourself with everything you've been given; Snake has some high-tech gear that, if used properly, can turn you into a cyber-ninja. Besides the radio in his ear, my personal favorites are his binoculars, iDroid, and tranquilizer pistol.
The binoculars have three levels of magnification and are the first piece of equipment you're instructed to use. Not only do they allow you to see things at great distances, but they allow you to hear what you're seeing as well. On top of that, if you focus your binoculars on a vehicle or person, you'll gain the ability to gauge the distance between you and them, to see your targets through walls and other objects, and to track their locations on your nifty iDroid device.
The iDroid is Snake's information terminal and it does a number of useful things. In it, you'll find logs, mission details, and the number to a helicopter pilot on speed-dial. But if you really want to impress your friends, download the mobile app and call that same helicopter from your phone. My guess is, this is the reason why it has such a hodgepodge name in the first place.
The tranquilizer pistol is exactly what you'd expect it to be; I just didn't realize I had one until I was already far along into the mission. Considering the fact that you'll be deducted points every time you're spotted by the enemy, and every time you make a kill, the tranquilizer pistol should become your next best friend. It's a silencing weapon that puts the bad guys to sleep for a long time, and does its job from a distance. Although it may take a while for the effects to kick-in, shooting people with tranquilizer darts doesn't even alert them that there's a cold-blooded killer nearby. They just react as if they've been bitten by a mosquito... then they're counting Z's moments later.
Yeah, but take away all of Snake's toys and what's left of him? A guy who can still kick YOUR @$$!
If you're the type who likes to get up close and personal, there are a few things in this game for you, too. Snake is a professional in close-quarters-combat (aka CQC) and I've read that a well-delivered combo will leave enemies incapacitated far longer than a tranquilizer dart will. If you manage to sneak up on your enemy, you can interrogate him and learn the locations of items or other enemies, before deciding to strangle him into unconsciousness, or stab him to death.
Either way, know that you'll need to hide the guy you just downed, unless you want him to get spotted by one of his buddies. The enemy has guards on patrol — including some driving vehicles around the camp and others manning watchtowers with spotlights — and they're all looking for signs of suspicious activity. Once they've found one of their fallen, they'll wake the unconscious soldier and/or alert everyone else via radio communication that there's a sloppy assassin in the area. You don't want to be a sloppy assassin.
I spent a lot of time marking my targets, planning my takedowns, rescuing hostages, and finding all the weapons and items I could. A few times, I even restarted from the last checkpoint when things didn't go as perfectly as planned. Once the mission was complete, I witnessed the most GUT WRENCHING ending I've ever seen in a video game, then was given my overall grade: C. Sadly, restarting from checkpoints and taking your time with the game deducts points from your score.
Personally, I think it deducts from the game's score, however, not mine. So, right back at you, Kojima! You made a great game that begs to be played again and again and again; don't fault me when I take my time and do just that. This is a game where you're an apex predator silently stalking your prey, while at the same time savoring every second of the hunt and the adrenaline rush it brings. Creep up to a guy, bring him down, and drag him back to your lair. It's slow and methodical, not run and gun, yippee ki yay motherf&#*%$ explosive. Well... not unless you want it to be.
What's ironic is how a game that promotes patient-play penalizes the player, yet the developer expects patience until its full release. If points are being deducted for taking too long with the game, then hurry up and release Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, because...
I want more !
- Suspenseful atmosphere
- Lifelike graphics
- Fun gameplay
- Cookie-cutter bad guys
- Preview teaser
- Boring story
It's a good thing Taz went ahead and provided that recap of the events that set-up the narrative of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes because, having never played Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (which leads up to the events in Ground Zeroes), I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to follow the story. Note to self: I really need to fire up my copy of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for the PlayStation 3 as it includes a copy of Peace Walker. I kept my expectations of the narrative pretty low, seeing as this is a prologue to the larger story of The Phantom Pain, and going in I suspected that this would be more of a tutorial of sorts, with a hint of “tech demo” sprinkled in. As Taz explained earlier, Ground Zeroes looks absolutely stunning on the PlayStation 4. Everything from the character models, to the environmental details and animations are top notch. As you play through all of the different side missions, you are treated to different times of day and a variety of weather conditions, all of which do a great job of showing off the impressive lighting and physics systems under the hood of Ground Zeroes. There is no doubt this game also doubles as a tech demo, and it raises my level of excitement for The Phantom Pain as I eagerly await to see what other levels and locations will look like within the impressive Fox Engine technology that Kojima is utilizing here.
Ground Zeroes Should Be A Free Demo? LOL, Yeah Right!
"There is no doubt this game also doubles as a tech demo, and it raises my level of excitement for The Phantom Pain as I eagerly await to see what other levels and locations will look like within the impressive Fox Engine technology that Kojima is utilizing here. "
There’s been plenty of criticism regarding the amount of content available in Ground Zeroes in relation to its price tag - $29.99 for current-gen, $19.99 for last-gen – and to some degree, I understand why some people would feel this way. However, I disagree with how they defend their position. I think your opinion of this game, and whether or not it’s worth the price, is directly related to your play-style and how you approach games in general. As an example, if you’re a fan of Call of Duty, you likely approach games with the mindset that you’re going to be consumed by relentless, over-the-top action. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that preference, either. It’s the way those games are meant to be played; blasting through levels and moving on to the next chapter. Another approach would be how one tackles an open-world game such as Far Cry 3, Skyrim, or Grand Theft Auto 5; you go in knowing there will be hours upon hours of story, side-quests, and collectibles for you to search for and complete.
When it comes to Ground Zeroes, I think it falls into a unique category – a hybrid if you will – of the aforementioned game types, with a heavy helping of the stealthy gameplay that is synonymous with the Metal Gear Solid franchise. I have enjoyed my time with Ground Zeroes so far, and I still look forward to playing it again over the course of the next year as I await the release of The Phantom Pain. The reason I enjoy it is because I’ve accepted it for what it is: a training simulation to prepare us for The Phantom Pain. The beauty of Ground Zeroes is that you can approach it in more than one way. If you want to immediately announce your presence with authority, you can. If you want to search the entire facility for audio tapes and the like, you can. Does the challenge of going through any of the missions without raising an alarm seem appealing to you? Guess what? You’re in luck! The best part about having all of these options is that whatever method you decide to use when playing this game results in a very rewarding experience.
As much as I can appreciate the fact that Ground Zeroes is more accessible for those who prefer an action-oriented type of experience, I still believe it’s a dish best served slowly and meticulously. Scoping out the area from a high vantage point is essential to planning your approach. You can use your binoculars to locate enemy patrols, as well as snipers perched up in watchtowers, and once you lock onto them they will remain on your HUD so that you’ll know where they are at all times. I would have preferred to have had their locations fade out after a set amount of time, as it takes away from the natural tension of wandering around behind enemy lines when you know where they are at all times.
"As much as I can appreciate the fact Ground Zeroes is more accessible for those who prefer an action-oriented type of experience, I still believe it’s a dish best served slowly and meticulously. "
A Worthy Adversary
The enemy AI is pretty challenging in most instances, but there are some lapses in logic that remind you that you're playing a game. For example, if you shoot out a camera you’ll pick up chatter from the enemy communiqué stating that a camera is down, and because there is no reason for it to be down, they’ll send someone to investigate it. Once the investigating troops arrive, they will conduct a thorough search of the area. It's pretty cool to see them interacting with each other, directing one another to go certain ways in an effort to flank any possible intruders. However, if they don’t find any one, they will call off the search and lower their alert status, even though it’s plain as day that someone shot the damn camera out. The lack of A.I. logic is even more obvious when an enemy patrol stumbles upon one of their comrades who was the unfortunate recipient of a well-placed headshot. The entire facility goes into lockdown (again), security is at a heightened alert status (again), and support troops arrive in an effort to hunt down the culprit (again). Thankfully, if you manage to lay low for a few minutes (again), they call off the search (again), lower their alert status and go about their business (again!). I don’t know about you, but if I’m running a military base and I just got word that one of my troops was found with a bullet in his head, I’m pretty sure I’d be searching high and low for quite some time — days, not minutes — before I brush it off as an “accident”. The best part about playing stealth games is being held accountable for your actions. If I’m going to take an ill-advised shot that’s likely going to attract a lot of unwanted attention, then damn it, I want there to be consequences! I understand that many gamers (and developers) believe that too much realism can take the fun out of games (and I agree with that to an extent), however, there are some hardcore purists who thrive off the ultimate challenge. Please don’t take this as a negative because, overall, the enemy AI in Ground Zeroes is very competent and will do its best to keep you on your toes, whether they are on high alert or fully engaged. It’s important you hide any bodies and study your surroundings before making your next move. It’s an extremely intense game when you approach it the way it was meant to be played.
Every mission has a report card at the end of it that grades you on a variety of variables, including how long it takes you to complete the missions, how many kills (which count negatively towards the score), how many alarms were set, etc. The time portion of it seems to contradict the point of Metal Gear games - making your way around slowly without triggering alarms - so it seems kind of odd that you're docked points on your report card should you take too long. However, seeing as they are making an attempt to cater to all types of play styles, I can appreciate that there are many gamers out there that find that type of challenge appealing, in much the same way that I’m addicted to trophies or challenges built around not killing anyone. To each their own!
The Elephant In The Room
The other area I’d like to address is the controversy surrounding the choice of Kiefer Sutherland to voice Snake over series stalwart David Hayter. I’ve stated my opinion on this matter before, but if you’re boycotting a game simply because the voice actor of a certain character has been replaced, that is just ridiculous. Splinter Cell: Blacklist faced similar controversy last year when they replaced Michael Ironside as the voice of Sam Fisher, and that game still kicked serious butt. The reason that game – and Ground Zeroes as well – were unaffected by these changes is because it’s the story behind these characters; the events they’ve gone through and the choices they’ve made throughout the years that make them so special. Voice acting is important in regards to making a character and their experiences more believable – and Kiefer does a great job - but it’s the story itself that makes the characters memorable. It may say Kiefer Sutherland in the opening and closing credits as opposed to David Hayter, but once you’re playing as Snake, you realize he’s still the bad-ass we’ve all grown to love, regardless of who is voicing him.
"I’ve stated my opinion on this matter before, but if you’re boycotting a game simply because the voice actor of a certain character has been replaced, that is just ridiculous."
I have to say that I’ve come away quite impressed with Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeros; every aspect of the game is of the highest quality. The presentation here, despite it only being one location, is impressive when you play through it during different times of day with a variety of weather effects. The gameplay features great stealth elements, exciting gunplay, and brutal close-quarters combat. It’s very possible that I’ll lose interest in playing the same level over and over again six months from now - especially when the fall line-up drops - but for $29.99, I get a great game that is rewarding regardless of how I decide to play it. In the end, my biggest gripe right now is that I have to wait quite some time to see how Kojima implements everything that’s impressive about Ground Zeroes into the epic Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain when it launches some time next year.
- Caters to all different play styles
- Incredible Visuals
- Report Card contradicts the Metal Gear Solid premise
- Having to wait for The Phantom Pain :(