Metal Gear Solid is one of my favorite video game franchises, so it goes to say that I am part of the market the Hideo Kojima and Konami were selling to with Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. Ground Zeroes is a love letter to fans who patiently (or not so patiently) await the arrival of the next installment of the series, The Phantom Pain.
There was a lot of controversy over the length of Ground Zeroes when it came out that it could be completed in a little under two hours (presumably not including Kojima’s infamously long cutscenes), even with the game being sold for half or even a third of the price of a regular console game. It has even been reported that the main mission can be completed in as little as ten minutes. This is not a game for the newcomer. This is not a game for the story-enthusiast. This is a game for those with a deep love of the Metal Gear series and its stealth gameplay.
Ground Zeroes was meant to be replayed. A lot. Even in its main mission, you are inserted into an environment and given an objective and little else. You’re set free to roam about the base and find a way to complete the objective. You’re given far more options than in previous entries to complete your objective. The addition of drive-able vehicles adds a whole new element to gameplay, giving players the option to drive around the base without arousing suspicion (so long as you don’t wander too close to enemy soldiers) or even grab the nearest tank and start blowing things up. If you want to go about a sneaky route, you’re given the option to knock enemies out, which gets them out of the way temporarily, or kill them. You can also do additional objectives that give you a small benefit in Ground Zeroes (presumably also transferring to The Phantom Pain for a larger one), such as rescue prisoners, blow up anti-aircraft guns, and kidnap enemy soldiers. There is no one right way to play Ground Zeroes, and that is where its strength lies.
The story of Ground Zeroes will most likely be enjoyed best by those who have followed the entire series, specifically Peace Walker. Ground Zeroes picks up not long after the events of Peace Walker and deals with many characters who were introduced in Peace Walker. The “Backstory” in the main menu does a good job of bringing newcomers up to speed on the story of Big Boss so far, but cannot convey in a few pages of reading all that was Peace Walker. Ground Zeroes‘ story doesn’t do a whole lot to advance the story of Snake, but does show some pretty major events. Those who became fatigued by Kojima’s cutscene-heavy titles will be pleased that Ground Zeroes features far fewer and much shorter cutscenes. And what cutscenes they are! It can be seen through the awesome cinematography that Kojima once wanted to direct films. Camera angles capture the mood of the moment. Effective use of shaky-cam. A musical score that juxtaposes happy themes over haunting ones. The little amount of story there is is great.
If nothing else, Ground Zeroes is a very pretty game. Playing on a PS4, detailed textures and high frame rates combine with an almost J.J. Abrams level of lens flares to dazzle the player. There are, however, a few strangely muddy textures. The oddest thing is that vehicle wheels are visually not round. It seems odd to have soft, beautiful shadows and high-res textures alongside a wheel that looks like it could have been in a game last gen. Load times are hardly worth mentioning, taking mere seconds to load a replay and not much longer to load a mission from the menu.
The controls of Ground Zeroes feel tight. Though it does not conform to many of the western ideals of controller mapping, it quickly becomes familiar and allows the player to do exactly what they mean to do. The new inventory system abandons the long-held items/weapons boxes of previous entries for a much more intuitive and slick d-pad design. Ground Zeroes, sadly, does nothing interesting with the PS4’s touch pad, instead opting to use it as a basic start/select combo.
Also worth noting is Ground Zeroes‘ tablet integration. I played with my tablet in iDroid mode and it proved to be very helpful. You can easily call for an extraction chopper, set a waypoint, or track enemies’ movement on the app, all in smooth real time. It also features a number of heat-map overlays for better strategizing. There is also a base-building game that will feel very familiar to those who have played Peace Walker that will presumably tie into the upcoming Phantom Pain. Best of all–it’s free!
The audio of Ground Zeroes is also excellent. Dirt crunches under Snake’s feet as he sneaks along and easily turns to metal ringing as he walks over a plate on the ground. The lack of David Hayter is disappointing, but I believe will ultimately prove to be good for the series. New Snake actor, Kiefer Sutherland, does a decent job in the events of Ground Zeroes, but I feel not enough was given to really give a verdict on his performance.
For those of you who find themselves able to have fun experimenting with different game systems and strategies, you will get a lot of enjoyment out of this game. For those who cannot replay a game, you will likely find yourself feeling angry and ripped off. Ground Zeroes features a number of other missions besides the main story that allow you to experience different conditions on the military base and different objectives. If you’re like me, you’ll likely get many hours of enjoyment out of replaying Ground Zeroes, but if you have doubt over your ability to do so, this might be a title to pass on.
Ground Zeroes is a extremely well polished game. The few glitches I ran into never affected the gameplay and the overall quality of the game leaves you with no doubt it is a AAA title. It is a short title, but is meant to be replayed over and over again. The story, while short, is an interesting one. Ground Zeroes is a service to fans of the series but will probably do little for newcomers.
- Excellent gameplay
- High replayability
- More Metal Gear
- Short length
- Some bad textures/boxiness