The lights are on
When I first saw the $30 price point for the retail version of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, which I fled to for pre-ordering, I wasn't sure of what to expect. I managed to ignore any news of the game until its release as well, completely cutting myself off from any details about the game. One of those minuscule important details was the length of the game. I can't say I expected a 10 hour-long espionage mission, but I expected an effective prologue to the next-generation of Metal Gear. Man, was I disappointed.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes began with a visually excellent cut scene; a staple of the Metal Gear Solid series. It followed Skullface, who will most likely be the primary antagonist in the upcoming (and hopefully full-length) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, alongside the series regular, Ocelot. The cut scene suddenly switched to the perspective of Big Boss, or Punished Snake is my understanding. As a through-and-through Metal Gear Solid fan, one thing set me off, as I'd even heard about it a while ago. Big Boss is no longer voiced by David Hayter. Now, I have absolutely no quarrel with Kiefer Sutherland, the new voice actor, known for the show 24, nor the development team. It's just that when Big Boss first spoke for the first time, I instantly missed the deep, scratchy, throaty voice of Mr. Hayter's Big Boss/Snake.
After this unprecedentedly short and unrevealing cut scene, the next-gen gameplay waited for had finally arrived. Metal Gear games are generally known for their initial clunky handling and weird shooting controls (with the exception of Metal Gear Solid 4), but Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes felt inviting and intuitive. Going prone is easier and moving while crouching felt better than ever. While stealth is the obvious choice, I chose the guns-blazing approach, which was excellent and extremely fun. The third-person shooting may resemble Guns of the Patriots, but there is now the Gears of War-revolutionizing cover mechanics, which actually feels like The Last of Us in many ways, without the awkward aiming.
In past Metal Gear Solid games, Snake was forced to use rations or medicine in order to replenish health. Kojima did away with that, as health is now based on regeneration, which is for better or worse, depending on one's outlook. The Metal Gear Solid fan in me wants to riot about this, as rations are the traditional way to regain health. The ration factor also added a survival element to Metal Gear. However, for gaming purposes, this makes MGS V far more accessible, especially to those new to the series.
Additionally, Ground Zeroes allows you to drive vehicles around, even though this risks Snake getting caught more easily. The vehicles in the game, including a truck and jeep, drove well, if slightly clunky, and provided a faster way to get around Camp Omega. However, they do not make navigation more efficient. As mentioned, it takes a great deal of risk to drive around these vehicles, as it may cause Big Boss to be seen and, accordingly, shot at. I chose to simply navigate on foot because of this. If Big Boss must get around faster, it is simply more efficient to run, which is possible by clicking down and holding the left stick while tilting it in any direction, which is a component not seen in past Metal Gear Solid games. This felt foreign at first, but once I got used to it, I sprinted as much as tactically possible.
The visuals are stunning. It would not be a stretch to say that they rival The Last of Us with ultra-realistic sheens left on Big Boss' sneaking suit by the rain, as well as believable particle effects and explosions. I was playing the game on the PlayStation 3, so I experienced occasional frame-rate issues, but it was barely noticeable during the entire experience.
While I missed David Hayter's Big Boss, the music is in line with past Metal Gear Solid games in that it is absolutely epic. Of course, while sneaking, besides enemy chatter and the sound of raindrops, there was dead silence, providing the feeling that Big Boss will truly be killed if he makes one wrong move.
The mission in Ground Zeroes is to infiltrate Camp Omega and rescue Paz and Chico, from the previous Metal Gear Solid game, Peace Walker. Remember, this is a highly secretive black op. References aside, you must recover the two targets and extract them from the base by any means possible, but desirably stealth. In my first playthrough, I was able to complete this task in two hours and twenty-two minutes, with many pauses. In my second playthrough, in which I completed extra tasks, I finished the mission in just under an hour. I felt incredibly empty afterward. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes felt like a heavily glorified demo. There is an awesome Deja Vu mission, which allows players to recreate scenes that are similar to the first Metal Gear Solid, unlocking a Classic Snake, and there were side ops missions that had simple objectives. They provided more of the great gameplay, but they were certainly not enough to help Ground Zeroes to feel like an actual game. Additionally, the story was incredibly barebones. Aside from the familiar characters, The story didn't entertain at all. It honestly felt like I could've downloaded the same game without any plot whatsoever as a demo from the PlayStation Network without the side ops and I would've enjoyed it just as much.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a disappointing prologue sequel. It could have told a completely epic and captivating prologue-storyline, but it instead provided one that was a somewhat interesting backdrop to the fortunately excellent gameplay and graphics. Even despite the bone-tingling fan service and short but fun side ops, there is simply not enough content to keep one preoccupied until the actual Metal Gear Solid V comes out. The best course of action would be to let this one sneak by.
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