Kept you waiting…just not very long.
The Metal Gear Solid series has been known for a lot of things over the years, but brevity has never been one of them. So when reports came out that the core mission in Ground Zeroes could be completed in less than two hours, I was shocked. After spending tons of time digging around with all the content in the game, I can say that Ground Zeroes is more than worth its price tag, especially for fans of the series. The side missions, sandbox-style game play, and superb control scheme make this the most enjoyable Metal Gear game to date. Plus it delivers just enough to whet my appetite for the upcoming Phantom Pain.
Ground Zeroes takes place after the events of Peace Walker, and demands knowledge of that title in order to understand a lot of what is going on. Thankfully the game has a nice 11-page recap of it included, but I would still recommend playing through it; not only for understanding, but also because it is really good.
The mission is simple: Snake is tasked with going into a base to rescue two prisoners, and get out. The cut scenes are minimal and the story brief, taking on a more serious tone for the series. Thankfully, Kojima’s wacky storytelling still crops up with fantastic villains such as Skullface, and completely over-the-top cinematics, keeping that trademark Metal Gear feel. While minimal, the story did give me a chance to hear Kiefer Sutherland voicing long-time series veteran Snake. His more emotional tone fits the character well, but I still wish it was David Hayter with his gruff, ridiculous one-liners.
The entire game takes place in one roped-off area, which includes the side missions. What really drives the replayability though is just how polished the game play is. Metal Gear has remained in the shadows of the genre it helped pioneer for years. MGS 4 was a step in the right direction, but Ground Zeroes nails everything that makes stealth work. Snake now has a nice snap left-trigger, right-trigger aiming system. Hiding bodies, crawling, dashing and hurdling obstacles now feels exactly like it should. In fact, Ground Zeroes is so much fun to play, I found myself redoing missions different ways.
Snake can commandeer vehicles, and ride into areas in the backs of trucks. There are so many ways to complete each objective, and the slick game play makes going back to try them all fun. Rarely has Metal Gear allowed players this many options, and it excites me to see the full experience when Phantom Pain releases. Metal Gear has finally caught up with the rest of the world.
The core mission only took me around 90 minutes the first time through, which sounds criminal considering the $30 price tag, but it also only accounted for 10% completion of the entire package. Once finished, I unlocked new gadgets and weapons to use during missions, along with a healthy dose of side missions. The side stuff takes place on the same island using the same enemies, but at different times of day. They are also varied, having Snake work with informants, eliminate enemies and even take down gun turrets, – all allowing for various types of game play.
I can’t talk about Ground Zeroes without discussing the new Fox Engine, and just how gorgeous this game is on the new consoles. I played through on PS4 and the opening cut scene is simply stunning. Watching small nuances like the lighting and rain dripping off of soldiers, or the superb facial animation really gets me excited. It is also worth noting that the 360 and PS3 versions also look fantastic. This new engine really looks great, and I can’t wait to see new areas when Phantom Pain launches.
Of course, the audio is stellar. The voice acting is top tier, even if I prefer Hayter over Sutherland. The music is once again scored by Harry Gregson-Williams, and really delivers on all accounts. The ambience blasting through my PS Gold headset sounded fantastic. The presentation all around really delivers, much like past MGS titles.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes delivers a solid package for fans of the series. While the main mission’s brevity may turn off some, I compare it to when I was younger and telling myself I would pay half the price to get to play games early. Sure being in this line of work now changes that, but fans will likely find plenty of stuff to do for $30. The ending is better than most full-priced titles, and I have easily squeezed out 8-10 hours of game play from this package. It may not be for casual fans of the series, but hardcore MGS fans like me cannot afford to miss this tease for Phantom Pain.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on PlayStation 4.