Review: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Note: There is one thing that I need to mention before the review. This game will be around $50 in Australia. The cinematic experience by itself, without considering the replay value, is extremely short. So a huge part in your purchasing decision should be, determining the value of your own personal time. How much I value my time, may be completely different to how much you value yours. Personally, I got Ground Zeroes for roughly $40 through the US Playstation Network on the PS4, and I felt like I got my money’s worth.

Guys, here is a little reminder. Metal Gear solid 4 came out in 2008, and Peace Walker came out in 2010. Either way you look at it, it’s been quite a while since we have had some original MGS content. My frustrating bout with Vamp in MGS4 feels like a distant memory. Now with taste of Ground Zeroes on my pallet, the wait for Phantom Pain is going to be, well, painful (Forgive the pun).

I’m going to have to say it straight up, I can’t really comment on the story here. Ground Zeroes is so short, that I can only really give you a brief synopsis without pretty much describing the entire “Theatrical” experience. What I will say is that it does what it aimed to do, set up the story for The Phantom Pain. Think of it as an appetizer, it’s there to prepare you for what’s coming. In typical Kojima fashion it’s very cinematic, and engaging. The trademark Metal Gear insanity takes a little bit of a backseat here, but if you’re an MGS fan,I’m sure you’re going to buy this regardless. However, a warning for the newcomers. Ground Zeroes is technically the fourth game in this story arc, so there is quite a lot of backstory to cover. Thankfully GZ offers a way to bring you up to speed, but don’t expect to just jump in and understand what’s going on and why it’s important. Oh, heads up. It’s eleven pages of backstory. Have fun reading.

As mentioned previously, I got GZ on the Playstation 4. I haven’t played the game on Xbox 360 or PS3, so I can’t talk about the visual differences cross gen. If you’re interested, Kojima put out a graphics comparison video which you can find here. All you need to know is, I played the version that was in 1080p.

Ground Zeroes is our first hands on with the brand new and shiny FOX engine. Boy, oh boy is it pretty. Lens flare deluxe, weather effects, impressive lighting displays and a rock solid 60 frames per second are things you can look forward to gawking at. Then you have pop in issues, and some textures that look a little rough when you get up close and personal. For the most part it’s pretty smooth sailing.

As per usual, the sound in MGS is top notch. Guns have a kick, ambient noise makes you stay aware of your surroundings, and when things go awry the soundtrack does a damn good job making your situation feel all the more dire. Now for one of the many Elephants in the room, how’s the voice acting? I’ll say this now, by no means is Kiefer Sutherland doing a bad job as Big Boss. There was no point where I thought it was totally egregious. That being said, Snake doesn’t really talk much. Certainly not enough to decide if I’d prefer Kiefer Sutherland over David Hayter, let alone adjust to the change. Not to diminish all of the other talent, Robin Atkin Downes, Tara Strong, and Antony Del Rio return, reprise their roles and do a damn good job alongside everybody else.

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A lot of controversy has been surrounding Ground Zeroes in the lead up of it’s release, most of it concerning the length of the game. Here’s the deal, Metal Gear Solid has always been a fairly linear and lengthy series. This is no longer the case, MGS is changing fairly significantly, while still retaining the excessive amount of detail that makes MGS so great. Much like Metal Gear Solid 4, the game plays a lot like your typical 3rd person shooter, for the most part controls are intuitive if you have played this type of game before. Snake also feels more agile then ever, the trade for this is that there is no more radar. If you want to keep track of enemies, you’re going to have to manually tag them by spotting them with your binoculars. This leads you to pay much more attention to your surroundings and assessing the situation, how will you handle the assassination of a target quietly if your suppressor is broken? Situations like this gives a chance to show off the new open world type system we can expect in The Phantom Pain. You’re given an objective, kicked out the door, and told to figure it out. That’s the beauty of Ground Zeroes, you figure it out.

The entire game takes place at Camp Omega; a Military black site, so there is a whole lot of things in the environment to take advantage of if you choose to. Want to do things fast and loud? hop on an AA gun and lay waste to everything around you. Want to infiltrate quietly? try hiding in the back of a truck. The amount of things to see and experiment with, is easily enough to warrant subsequent playthroughs. On top of that you have diverse side missions, more guns to unlock, collectibles, and a learderboard to compete with. Yes, you could finish the game in 2 hours. Yes, that speed runner did finish the game in 7 minutes, but he played through the game multiple times and learned the optimal route. Everyone has their preferences, some will come to this just for the story. Some will stay longer for the fun gameplay. It’s all down to how you play, and how much you value your own personal time. Mathematically, it may seem like a bad deal, a $40 demo. Personally, I thought it was worth it.