Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes review

Big Boss in Ground Zeroes

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a short game, a very short game, about 5 hours with all extra ops, even less if you want speed through it with some people finishing the main story mission in less than 10 minutes. Despite this I find myself not feeling short changed or missing out. Ground Zeroes as well as being a short is also an excellent game in almost all regards, from superficial graphics to the heart of its gameplay this is a wonderful experience. However I must admit that I am already a fan, Metal Gear is perhaps my favorite game series and I can't shake the feeling that part of my enjoyment came from that. Not that this game is scared to break the formula, far from it. Ground Zeroes has some of the most drastic gameplay changes in the series to date, removing some of the most well-known mechanics.

One of the most striking things one notices in Ground Zeroes is the brevity (compared to previous Metal Gears Solid games) of the in-game plot. Hideo Kojima, the series creator/director/writer/producer, has been well known for his indulgent exposition and rich dialogue in the past which can last upwards of 45 minutes in-between gameplay. This has also been for many one of the main criticisms of the series. Ground Zeroes on the other hand has a far more restrained narrative, leaving it up to the player to decide how much depth of plot and back story they want. This is done mostly via the use of tapes, which have partially replaced the 'CODEC' from previous games and allowed for the extensive narrative which Metal Gear is known for to be up to the player to enjoy rather than as a forced and lengthy gap in gameplay. It remains to be seen whether this new brevity will remain in the Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain. The plot for Ground Zeroes although short remains as metal gear as ever, with the character of Big Boss/Snake being sent to rescue two prisoners from a clandestine military base with plenty of twists along way.

The other big change in the series is the far darker tone. This is the first Metal Gear that I'm aware of to receive an adult rating and while the series has dealt with adult themes before such as child soldiers and torture, this is the first game to really show graphic gore, albeit only once during a cut scene. Ground Zeroes themes and plot also have much darker and morally grey characters whose aims are ambiguous. This change is one that could potentially become an issue as while it is refreshing and appropriate for the protagonist, it could easily overshadow and replace the signature humor of the series. That is not to say that Ground Zeroes does not contain any light hearted moments, but these are largely overshadowed by the dark tone and mostly found in the 'extra ops' bonus missions.

The biggest changes to the series are in the gameplay, such as the removal of the magic infinite pockets that were in earlier games. Now you are limited to a select pair of two handed weapons and a single handgun as well as four items such as grenades, magazines etc. This is a change that is hard to judge given the concise nature of Ground Zeroes, however with the mission based nature of the game I found it created a much more immersive atmosphere. Being able to see the weapons you are carrying changes the sound of your movements and encourages you to plan out your strategy with limited means. Another big change is the move from a health bar to quickly regenerating health, meaning no longer will Snake need to eat a bunch of food or health pills in the middle of a fight. In Ground Zeroes this worked quite well, it highlighted the need for stealth, dissuading the player from doing a one man army Rambo run while munching down on some rations ( or the various wildlife for MGS3). Ground Zeroes has also added the feature of 'Reflex', Temporary slow motion, for when you are first seen by an enemy. The main purpose for 'Reflex' is to take out the enemy who saw you before they can alert anyone else. This is the one feature I see annoying MGS stealth purists as it can greatly increase the ease of stealth sections. However as this feature can be turned off, which will grant the player a higher score, it should not completely sully the experience for those who do not want it. Personally I found it fitted quite well in the game, giving it a cinematic feel in sections and allowing a moment of panic as you quickly try to line up a head shot and take out enemies before they can raise the alarm. All of these features really give a fresh feeling to the series, opening it up for replay value more so than ever before.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a game that reinvents a franchise while at the same time being a terrible value purchase for anyone who is not a fan of the series already. While I enjoyed it immensely, I still can't help but feel this is a game which should have been part of 'The Phantom Pain'. I enjoyed this taster of what's to come, however for anyone besides a fan this game will perhaps leave them feeling short changed, even with the lower price. However if value is disregarded or if you're a fan of the series then Ground Zeroes is one of the most exciting games I've played this year, the best game on both the PS4 & Xbox One at the moment and I would whole heartedly recommend it.