Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is the notoriously short prologue to the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Many have claimed that it’s like playing a demo for The Phantom Pain, and while it’s true that Ground Zeroes is a very brief game, it does offer a healthy amount of replay value. With a campaign lasting between one to two hours, is replay value a good enough reason to make this a worthy purchase?
Ground Zeroes takes place a few months after the events of Peace Walker, and as Snake you’ll be infiltrating an American black site in Cuba called Camp Omega. Your mission is to rescue Peace Walker‘s Paz and Chico, who are both being imprisoned and tortured somewhere inside. You’ll also be introduced to new antagonist Skull Face and his XOF organization, who is responsible for capturing Paz and torturing her to obtain the whereabouts of Cipher.
In a series that has become just as much a movie as it is a video game, I was shocked by the initial simplicity of the goings on in Ground Zeroes, but that all went to hell by the end of the game. What happens during the course of Ground Zeroes is equal parts confusing, ridiculous and extremely disturbing, but as I mentioned earlier in the review, it’ll all be over in about 2 hours.
Ground Zeroes consists of one campaign chapter that will last you anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, depending largely on the amount of exploration you plan on doing your first time through. Once you’ve completed the campaign, four additional Side Ops missions open up that provide very little insight to the actual story. They’re supposed to take place a few weeks before you reach Camp Omega, but they’re all so short that you won’t really have much to pay attention to.
All four Side Ops missions take place at Camp Omega, but while the campaign takes place at night during a massive rainstorm, these missions all take place during broad daylight, making stealth much more difficult. Each mission has its own objective, like killing specific targets, collecting intel or providing cover fire from a helicopter, but only last about 20 minutes each the first time through.
There we go again talking about the game’s length, right? Well for what it’s worth, Ground Zeroes is an open-world experience and there is no wrong way to eat a Reese’s. Although your objectives are cut and dry, how you approach them is completely up to you and Keifer Sutherland. Sure, you can take the traditional stealth approach the first time around, but there are so many different ways to reach your objective. These are things that become more apparent as you familiarize yourself with the layout of Camp Omega during subsequent playthroughs, further promoting the game’s replay value as a selling point.
If you enjoy replaying missions and figuring out different ways to meet your objectives, you’ll easily invest 10 hours in to Ground Zeroes without hesitation. Personally, I’m not big in to replaying the same thing over and over again, but hard core Metal Gear fans will definitely get their money’s worth as they strive for faster times, weaponless clears and collectible farming.
For this review, I played through the Playstation 4 version while Miles played through Ground Zeroes on the Xbox One. Each version offers one Extra Op mission exclusive to that console, which opens up upon finding every collectible throughout the previous Side Ops missions. Sony’s Deja Vu mission lets you play as Solid Snake from the PSone Metal Gear Solid, exploring a Camp Omega that resembles Shadow Moses Island. Deja Vu also features some iconic characters like Psycho Mantis and the ability to unlock extra costumes.
The Xbox’s extra mission lets you play as the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance version of Raiden, hunting and killing Body Snatchers around Camp Omega. Otherwise, the only differences between the two versions are that the PS4 version runs at 1080p/60fps while the Xbox One sits at 720p/60fps. The PS4 version also makes use of the Dual Shock 4’s internal speaker when using the iDROID gadget in-game, but it’s not exactly game changing stuff.
Regardless of which version you decide to go with, both look amazing. Character models and cutscenes look fantastic, as does Camp Omega and the Cuban island upon which it resides. Snake’s new character model still has that wild mullet and witnessing the detailed water effects take shape as rain poured down his face was as impressive as it was disgusting. I didn’t notice an ounce of texture pop-in or a dip in framerate either.
From a gameplay perspective, Ground Zeroes has made some rather nice additions to the Metal Gear formula. Fans of Crysis will immediately notice the ability to tag enemies using your binoculars, which is extremely important as you don’t have an active HUD anymore. Snake also has access to a brand new toy called the iDROID, acting as your all-in-one tool to call for an evac chopper, view the map and review mission objectives. Pulling up the iDROID doesn’t pause the game, so you never truly feel that sense of security and safety, further increasing the already high tension of stealthing around without a HUD.
Another new addition to Ground Zeroes allows Snake to enter a brief period of slow motion upon being spotted, giving you a few seconds to take down the alerted guard and avoiding a base-wide manhunt. Interrogating enemies has also been improved upon with context sensitive pop-ups, rather than having to repeatedly aim your pistol at the enemy’s crotch or play “what does this button do again?“. You can also drive around in vehicles, which I believe is also new to Metal Gear.
Speaking of new editions, I’m probably going to be in the minority here when I say that I really enjoyed Keifer Sutherland as Snake. David Hayter’s iconic voice was definitely missed, but I can’t deny The Keif’s ability to hit a range of emotions that Hayter seemed to lack. Any sort of doubt I had when they announced his replacement is completely gone, and besides, Keifer was in Lost Boys. That counts for something, right?
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is going to be exactly what you make of it. I consider myself a fan of Metal Gear Solid, but I’m nowhere near achieving “diehard” status. Still, I found a lot to like about the game even without feeling the need to replay missions over and over again for the sake of squeezing blood from a turnip. If you’re not a hard core Metal Gear Solid fan and your only intention is to play through the campaign for the story, you can’t deny the overall lack of content in that aspect, and the story really isn’t that good, interesting or cohesive to begin with. There is also a rather disturbing scene at the end of the game where it’s implied that a female character has an explosive inside of her vagina, so anything goes here in Ground Zeroes.
Every game has their ups and downs, and while Ground Zeroes has the best gameplay and voice acting of any Metal Gear Solid entry to date, it in turn has the worst story and the least amount of content. We’re not taking the game’s price in to account for this review, but games cost money so it’s a point worth making. Imagine that you had paid $30 for Metal Gear Solid 2, but you only got to play the beginning sequence as Snake in the tanker. You reach your objective, things start to get interesting and then the game is over. Now in about a year, Metal Gear Solid 2-2 comes out and it’s the full retail price of $60, and lets you play the remainder of the game as Raiden. You’re basically paying $90 to complete the game, as the initial $30 only got you an appetizer. Sure, it’s the prologue for what some call the “real” Metal Gear Solid V in The Phantom Pain, but this isn’t a free demo. It’s short and sweet, but proceed with caution.
Recommended for fans of: The Metal Gear series, or stealth games in general. Fans of raw shooters may find something to like as well, but remember that it’s a stealth action game.
Bradley Keene is an avid gamer & freelance blogger from Baltimore, MD that handles news and reviews here at What’s Your Tag?. If he’s not knee-deep in an RPG or some form of Nintendo game, he’s usually watching terrible horror films or listening to Gwar. Follow him on Twitter @amgfail_WYT, or contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Love gaming? Join TEAM XBRO today!