[Review] Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

ESRB:M
ONLINE:Leaderboards
INSTALL:1.8GB [PS3], 1.53GB [360]
RELEASE DATE:March 18, 2014
PLATFORM:Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
PUBLISHER:Konami
DEVELOPER:Kojima Productions
ONLINE PASS:N/A

Note: This review is based upon the Playstation 3 digital version of the game. Screenshots used are direct from Konami’s press site, as such, they may not accurately represent the look of the version I am reviewing. These screens are not meant to reflect the PS3 version’s visuals – just provide context to certain things that get mentioned.

I currently am without a means to capture my own footage or screenshots, until I can I have to rely on screens provided by the game creators.

Story

The main story of Ground Zeroes takes place a few months after the events of Peace Walker. Big Boss is on a mission to find MSF member Chico, as well as Paz who, after the events of Peace Walker isn’t exactly on good terms with Boss.

You’re not told outright how or why they were taken, but checking your mission briefing gives you insight on how Big Boss knows where they are – Chico sent a message to him, asking for help.

At the start, we’re introduced to Skull Face, who seems to be the new antagonist for MGSV. We don’t find out much about him, though. He’s seen approaching and talking to Chico in his cage, informing him that Paz has given up whatever information he was looking for.

He then leaves, heading to a helicopter marked with a strange XOF logo that they remove with some kind of blacklight device, something that isn’t exactly explained – though Skull Face refers to it as a “trojan horse”.

As they’re leaving, Miller informs Boss of the situation – explaining why they are rescuing Paz, and telling him of Chico’s location as well. Boss is scaling the cliff face as the XOF choppers fly away. Once Boss is at the top, you take control.

The story of Ground Zeroes feels much more grim than previous entries. There is still some silliness here, but overall the tone is definitely darker. I like this direction, and hope that The Phantom Pain keeps it up.

The story of Ground Zeroes is also very short. Clocking in at roughly 2 hours if you’ve done everything the mission has to offer. If you go into Ground Zeroes expecting a full fledged Metal Gear you’re going to be sorely, sorely disappointed.

That being said, I personally went into Ground Zeroes knowing exactly what to expect – a bite sized taste of the main dish to come. And I was not disappointed in it.

For the first time in the series, story is told very little through cutscenes. Most of the background is learned through cassette tapes that you obtain in the various missions. There are very few actual cutscenes – and the ones that are here aren’t very long.

Presentation

Ground Zeroes looks phenomenal. I didn’t really think it possible to outdo Guns of the Patriots, but they did. It’s super slick, and runs at a great framerate. I don’t think I ever had any slowdown.

The amount of detail within Camp Omega is impressive, even on the PS3. Grass blowing in the wind, rain falling down and splashing on the ground, Snake and even on item boxes.

Everything feels more grounded in reality.

I’m also in love with the Fox Engine’s lighting. It’s gorgeous. The lens flares may be a turn off for some, but personally, I love them – I love lens flares in general.

Lens flaaaaaaaarrrees.

Lens flaaaaaaaarrrees.

But the place that I’m most impressed, has to be the animation. Ground Zeroes has, by far, some of the smoothest animation of any Metal Gear game that I’ve played. I love the way animations now blend so seamlessly into each other. Not only does it look nice – it actually makes the game play better. I’ll get into that a little later.

Overall, this is not only the best looking Metal Gear to date – it’s one of the best looking games I’ve played in the last generation.

I genuinely have nothing bad to say in this regard, other than perhaps some of the textures look a little low-res at times – the only real flaw in the visuals that I can find.

One the audio side of things – the guns sound great. Enemies have fairly believable dialogue – though they do repeat lines and often you’ll hear the same voice actor for multiple guys.

Robin Atkin Downes does a good job voicing Miller again, but, and this is my main issue with him, while I love Keifer Sutherland – he sounds a lot like Robin. It gets a bit confusing at times. Other than that, I did like his portrayal of Boss.

I’m just hoping that he sounds a bit more grizzled/tired come Phantom Pain.

Gameplay

The other place where Ground Zeroes shines. Hands down the most open Metal Gear title created. The new mechanics of this game are really very freeing – you can finally, truly choose the way you want to play.

The game does still favor non-lethal, stealth play – guns blazing is a truly viable option now. Granted – you probably won’t get a very good rank if you kill every soldier you see and get spotted a lot.

Ground Zeroes‘ mission structure is handled in much the same way as Peace Walker‘s. Select a mission from a list and play it, bookended with cutscenes or dialogue of some kind, providing exsposition on the mission.

Weapon selection is handled with the D-Pad – no more fumbling around with the L2/R2 buttons, scrolling through a list of weapons. Simply press a drirection on the d-pad, and you’ve chosen a new weapon.

Like MGS4 and Peace Walker before it, Snake has a limited arsenal that he carries with him. He can carry up to two weapons on his back, one on his hip 3 different thrown weapons – such as grenades, and a few gadgets – I don’t know how many he can carry, but he generally only has the Night Vision Goggles.

For the slots that can have more than one weapon, simply hold down the direction of the weapon – for instance, Up selects his “Back” weapons – and use the right stick to navigate between them.

It’s so much better than the old method.

The Start button brings up Snake’s “iDroid” device – which serves as the hub for all of your mission information. You can find briefing files, a log of past conversations, call in a helicopter for extraction, and view the map. You can also use the map in real-time with the “Navigation” option to help you get your bearings – though using this forces you into first-person and you can’t do anything but move and look around.

Select/Back pauses the game. This….took a lot of getting used to. I’m so used to the CODEC/Radio being on the select button that I keep pausing the game by accident.

Since the L2 and R2 buttons/Triggers are freed up from weapon and item selection, they are now used for other functions. L2 acts as your radio button – use it to call into Mother Base and get information about whatever target you may be looking at – such as a guard or gun emplacement.

R2 acts as your binoculars. No longer are they an item you have to equip – you can use them at any time, and it’s a Godsend. In fact, the game has a much heavier reliance on them. You can use your binoculars to not only scout ahead – but also “mark” enemies and other possible threats/useful things, such as a gun emplacement or vehicle. This is done by simply getting the target in view and lingering on it for a few moments.

Once marked, you can keep track of them no matter what and can “sense” them when they’re nearby – they give off a pulsating blue glow and you can see them through walls.

It’s wise to mark as many emenies as you can – you have no radar at all, and it’s the only way to get things to show up on your iDroid map.

So, remember when I said the smoother animations make the game feel and play better? Allow me to explain. Before, when Snake would crouch or go prone, you would almost have to stop moving to do so – otherwise you’d execute a roll forward. The animations for this actions also felt…disjointed. It always felt like there were very specific movements for each action, and they never really merged with each other very well.

Ground Zeroes changes that. Big Boss can now go into a crouch or go prone from a run, and you don’t need to stop at all. You don’t even have to slow down. It’s a seamless animation that makes the game feel much more responsive.

Snake actually carries his momentum into these actions. For example, if you start crawling backwards and then proceed to stand, Snake doesn’t just stand – he stands and turns around in one smooth motion.

Diving is now also relegated to its own button – no more accidentally leaping off of a cliff or walkway to your doom, or tackling a guard that you just wanted to crouch behind. And just like the crouch button, if you hold the dive button, Snake will dive into a prone position.

It’s one of those minor changes that makes a world of difference in how a game is played.

Snake can now also carry enemies and POWs on his shoulders. No more do you have to slowly drag an enemy to another location to hide them – simply hold down the circle button over their body, and Snake will quickly pick them up. You can even attack while you carry them – though you’re limited to using your sidearm, like a pistol or small SMG.

You can even sprint while you carry them. Oh, that’s another new feature – Big Boss can now sprint. Useful for when you need to get away quickly, or for when you’re trying to get a better time through a mission.

It makes hiding bodies so much easier!

It makes hiding bodies so much easier!

Thanks to there being no radar or really any kind of indicator of a soldier’s location, other than a marker over their head after you’ve marked them that you can only see if you’re near enough, the game feels much more tense. You really need to keep your wits about you and really use the tools that you have to stay on top of your situation.

Things can go to hell pretty quickly if you aren’t careful.

Luckily Ground Zeroes offers another new mechanic, called “Reflex” This causes the game to go into a slow motion mode for a few moments, giving you a chance to take out a guard that just spotted you before he can call in an alert.

This may sound overpowered, but your ammo is fairly limited – especially tranquilizers – so if you’re going for a no-kill playthrough, you may find yourself with no means of stopping the alert. Or, if you get spotted by multiple guards, you likely won’t have enough time to stop them all.

If you do feel it makes things too easy, however, you can turn it off to give yourself a more classic Metal Gear gameplay experience – you also get rewarded with bonus points on your final ranking score.

In another first for the series, Ground Zeroes introduces bullet drop to the game. Your shots are now affected by gravity and will gradually drop down the further they travel. Because of this, you now have to adjust your aim to compensate for long distance shots with small firearms.

Replay Value

Replay is where a Metal Gear title generally shines. There are often lots of things to unlock – weapons, special items, emblems, etc., and Ground Zeroes isn’t much different – just on a smaller scale.

There are no emblems or code names to speak of, and no bandana or stealth camo that I’ve found either. However, there are 7 different missions to play through that are all wildly different – from an assassination mission, to an on-rails shooting gallery, to a recreation of iconic Metal Gear Solid Shadow Moses scenes.

These missions all take place on the Camp Omega map – but they happen at different times of day, and have varied enemy layouts, often making your approach different.

Some missions can take place during the day - and lighting matters a lot in Ground Zeroes. You'll be much easier to spot!

Some missions can take place during the day – and lightning matters a lot in Ground Zeroes. You’ll be much easier to spot!

And that’s where the real replay value comes in. Sure, there are different challenges for each mission – like marking all enemies as quickly as you can, or neutralizing all enemies in the fastest time – but the real value comes in how open most of these missions are. You can approach your target in anyway you wish. Literally – there is no set path to your goal, no real “optimum” route.

For instance, in the Ground Zeroes story mission, from your starting position, you can choose to pick the lock on the gate directly in front of you, hoping you don’t get spotted by the search light if you didn’t take out that guard, or you can proceed up the hill past the searchlight, and hop over the fence from the rocks.

At this point, you can head straight to your goal – or you can explore the map for alternate routes, maybe interogate some guards and find hidden items, like cassettes or ammo – even rescue a prisoner from execution before you even know he was slated for it.

What you do is completely up to you. Save all the prisoners in the camp – who will then be imported into your new Mother Base in The Phantom Pain, or speed through and only save your main targets. Go in guns blazing and kill every soldier you come across, or play it smart and quiet, only using your weapons if you downright need to.

There’s a lot of variety available here.

Jamais Vu brings Raiden in from the future...somehow..and puts him into a Snatcher-eqsue mission, where he must eliminate enemy soldiers possessed by Snatcher aliens!

Jamais Vu brings Raiden in from the future…somehow..and puts him into a Snatcher-eqsue mission, where he must eliminate enemy soldiers possessed by Snatcher aliens!

There are also 2 missions that are locked until you meet a certain requirement – finding all 9 of the XOF patches scattered around the map in the Ground Zeroes mission. These missions are the Deja Vu & Jamais Vu missions – once console exclusives, both missions became available to all players through a free update.

The Deja Vu mission puts Boss in a recreation of Shadow Moses within the Camp Omega base.

The Deja Vu mission puts Boss in a recreation of Shadow Moses within the Camp Omega base.

Trophy wise – it’s fairly easy to get the 100% ( There’s no Platinum ) – most of the trophies/achievements are fairly straight forward. The hardest part is finding all of the cassette tapes and XOF Patches.

Final Verdict

Now comes the hard part. Telling you whether or not the game is worth your hard earned money. It’s a game much in the vein of Gran Turismo 5: Prologue, or even the recent Freedom Cry DLC for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

It’s not a full game – but it’s much more than just a demo. There’s a decent amount of content here, but it’s not as much as a full fledged MGS title.

So, is it worth buying?

It is, but there’s a bit of a catch to my verdict.

You see, I can only recommend buying the digital version for your given console. It’s cheaper, and the game’s download size just isn’t that big – it won’t hurt to have it on your hard drive.

If you just flat out have to have a disc, then by all means, buy the physical release, but the game’s size and the limited amount of content that’s actually here, doesn’t really need it.

It’s certainly worth buying – I got a lot of enjoyment out of the game, and it has a great replay value – but it just isn’t worth paying the retail hard copy price.

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PROS CONS
  • Extremely open-ended gameplay.
  • Slick controls.
  • Beautiful visuals, even on "last-gen".
  • Main story is short.
  • Only one location to play in.
  • Draw distance on last-gen is a bit worse than current. Makes it difficult to shoot far away targets.
  • FINAL VERDICT
    Click here or on the verdict image to the left for full disclosure of what these ratings mean!

    About James Headrick

    James is an aspiring game reviewer that plays primarily on the Playstation 3 & 4. He also works freelance as a graphic designer, doing print and branding based design.

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