To help make the wait for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain easier, Kojima Productions has provided us with a short but sweet taste of what’s to come with Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Offering upwards of four or five hours of gameplay for an affordable thirty-dollar price tag, it’s caused quite the commotion within the industry, and for good reason. Then again, when does a new Metal Gear game not come with a lot of hype, buzz and hope?
At its core, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a one-mission-long tactical stealth espionage experience. However, once you complete the main, story-driven mission that bears the game’s subtitle, several side ops become available. Those secondary objectives add between one and two hours’ worth of game time to the brief stealth title, and are welcomed additions.
I won’t pretend to be what I’m not, so I’ll admit from the start that, despite having been a Metal Gear Solid fan since the days of the original PlayStation, I’m far from an expert when it comes to the series’ storyline. I’ve enjoyed playing through the games, but simply haven’t gotten into all of their back story complexities. As such, I’m not the best person to tell you how well the new Ground Zeroes storyline ties things together, but I’ll do my best to provide you with a quality synopsis of its plot.
Taking place after the events of Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker, which began its life as a PSP title before being ported to other systems, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes tasks Snake with infiltrating a prison camp to extract two allies, one being the controversial potential double-agent Paz, and the other being Chico. Both are locked up in the same facility, so to speak, but not in the same areas, which adds challenge to the proceedings.
From the start, Chico’s location is quite evident, and it’s more of a matter of getting to him than anything else. However, in order to find Paz, one must do some detective work. That’s because, instead of being locked up in a simple structure like the boy who admires her, she’s been placed in a more isolated location, which has provided the enemy with a better opportunity to both interrogate and torture her. Clues to this location are available, though, and can be obtained through grunt interrogations and cassette tapes.
The majority of the time I spent playing through this mission — which totaled 90 minutes according to the end game stats screen — was spent looking for Paz. I honestly could’ve finished it earlier, though, if I’d found a branching hallway earlier. It turned out that I was in the right spot early on, but ran right past where she was being held. At least it gave me more time to test things out and have fun.
In order to get an S rank or anything close, you’ll want to be ghost-like in the way that you proceed. That’s because, as per usual, Ground Zeroes is a stealth experience at heart and rewards those who make an effort to both get in and get out while remaining undetected. You can play as you want to, though, because the way the mission is set up makes it feel like a virtual toy box. As such, you can even go all out by using explosives, driveable vehicles, anti-air guns and a tank to complete your objectives. It’s all up to you in the end.
The nice thing about this particular iteration of the Metal Gear Solid formula is that it doesn’t punish players for being more offensive than defensive. In fact, there’s a helpful mechanic that gives you approximately twenty to thirty seconds to take out a guard once he’s spotted you. If you grab him, shoot him or put him to sleep before the resulting slow-motion sequence ends, then the threat will be neutralized. However, if you fail to do so, then he’ll call his buddies and they’ll come running.
While the main mission takes place under the cover of nightfall and an intense rainstorm, its complementing side missions are daylight oriented. At least, the ones I unlocked were, as I missed unlocking the final one because I failed to find all nine (or so) hidden patches in the Ground Zeroes op. I’m not one to use guides, and only found a couple on my own.
From start to finish, all of the side missions were fun, engaging and interesting. They weren’t mediocre-at-best, nor were they merely VR scenarios. Instead, they provided very entertaining challenges to overcome and mixed things up while doing so. For example, one forced me to fly in on a helicopter, while using machine gun fire and grenades to take out as many enemies as possible, in an effort to thin the ranks before attempting to ground extract a familiar face. That was the most intense of the bunch, while the others were more traditional and had me sneaking around more often than not. Their objectives included finding and obtaining an important cassette tape from a double-agent who was working within the military complex (it’s the same one every time), blowing up AA guns and killing two specified targets.
Outside of its updated gameplay, canon story elements and Phantom Pain teases, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes has drawn a lot of attention because of its graphics. Having developed it with the industry’s two new next-gen consoles in mind, the game’s developers promised and teased something great-looking through pre-release interviews, trailers and screenshots, and they kept their word. Ground Zeroes is a very nice-looking package, which is full of depth, detail and realism. Its character models look fantastic (for the most part) — which is especially true of Snake whose scars and facial identifiers were paid a lot of attention to — and its environments also look great.
There are a couple of downsides to note, though. To start, the sandy ground, rocky hills and sparsely populated blades of grass that make up a lot of the base’s natural geography don’t always look phenomenal. There’s some sort of graphics issue that occasionally causes faint lines to run through them, and it’s something that lessens the game’s normally high immersion factor. Additionally, I noticed some white lines in-between certain environmental items’ graphical seams, as well as another glitch that caused Chico’s hairline to look discoloured during a cutscene. These aren’t major problems, though, and can hopefully be patched.
As far as the voice acting goes, it’s tough to complain. The actors’ deliveries aren’t always flawless, but they’re still above-average. It is jarring to hear Kiefer Sutherland’s voice come out of Snake, though. However, he does a good job with the role, and we’ll surely get used to him as time goes on.
Although paying thirty dollars (or more if you’re Canadian like me) for just four or five hours of gameplay may scare you, I recommend that you do so if you’re a fan of the Metal Gear franchise. Sure, it may not be the full-length campaign that we’ve been waiting years for, but Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a high-quality and thoroughly engaging taste of what’s to come with The Phantom Pain. It’s also addictive, and will quite likely hook you into wanting to replay its missions in an attempt to put higher scores up on its leaderboards.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
Although its overall run time is brief, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is well made, addictive and thoroughly entertaining. It may not be Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but it does a good job of lessening our anxiety as we wait for that full-length sequel to drop.