There’s been a lot of hype during the lead up to the release of Konami’s long running spy opera, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Some of it wasn’t so positive, but is it worth playing through this prequel to the highly anticipated fifth chapter in the spy series?
The story for Ground Zeroes is set after the events of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, where long time spy Snake has befriended a group of South American rebels. The main focus of this new chapter in the series is to rescue some of these new friends, who are being held captive within a high security Cuban military camp Besides a few extra nuggets of information, there really isn’t a lot story wise to find out by playing through every mission.
The structure of each mission depends on the objective provided at the beginning. But every mission begins with Snake going deep into the military camp, completing the objectives and then call in the chopper to enter it and complete the mission. In order to complete missions players make use of a variety of fancy spy gadgets, like the tranquilliser gun. In that respect, Ground Zeroes is fantastic given that despite the number of gadgets available, it never feels like any failed mission attempts are due to them not working properly. Snake himself is very athletic which makes the task of not being discovered easier.
One of the biggest debates surrounding Ground Zeroes is how long it takes to complete it. If it’s only taking the story into account, then it lasts no more than about two hours, depending on the skill of the player. The fact is that anyone only interested in playing story focused content is probably not as interested in the few other Side Ops missions, that are unlocked after completing the main story mission. But on the bright side, at least these side missions all have different objectives to complete that make it worth playing through them. One such missions involves hunting down two targets within certain areas.
All of these missions take place within the same map used in the rescue story mission. Fortunately, the map is wide enough to provide many possibilities to go about completing each of the missions. The developers certainly managed to build a solid sandbox environment, given how each mission seems to show off a different side of this map. At one point Snake is even shooting at targets whilst inside a moving chopper. It shows just how talented the team at Kojima Productions is, when it managed to make use of the same environment several times, without making it seem like a lazy idea.
This is still a difficult video-game to get into for those who intend to take it seriously and attempt to make use of stealth. Fortunately, it will also not hold a grudge against the not so patient players. Obviously, the art of every main Metal Gear Solid is in being able to complete any mission without being discovered. However, it’s feasible to complete Ground Zeroes by literally going in Rambo style and coming out with a hell of a lot more dead bodies covering the floor.
What stands out in Ground Zeroes is the Fox Engine technology that it is using. Enemy AI behaviour in particular is nothing short of impressive. Enemies will react appropriately to different situations and will ask for backup if they feel it’s necessary. The whole map is set up in such a careful manner that sometimes just following an enemy will show how each one behaves in a unique way. It’s almost like being inside a simulation video-game where everyone goes about their daily routine. Noticing smaller details like this does make for a better experience overall.
What doesn’t help is attempting to disguise the fact there isn’t a substantial amount of content, by including optional goals like collectibles, in the overall completion percentage. Obviously, fans will enjoy all the fan service that is included and collect everything. Obtaining every collectible will even result in unlocking the extra mission that is different depending on the hardware the software was purchased for. Perhaps a reward of sorts for those inclined to play through each missions several times to unlock the last one.
Visually the game looks incredible with such details as Snake’s individual hairline strands clearly visible on-screen. Ground Zeroes is even a remarkable visual spectacle on last generation hardware. If anything, this is a tantalising teaser at what to expect from the proper sequel, Phantom Pain.
The addition of a mobile application is a novel idea, but one that doesn’t quite work out so well in practice. At least it doesn’t when using an iPhone device, where it feels cumbersome to attempt to use the map during missions. But it’s still very impressive use of the Smartglass technology, given that any commands selected on the application were promptly received on the TV screen.
Just a shame that it’s not very handy to use it whilst concentrating on the mission objective. At least it’s still possible to make use of the map and other features by pressing a button. The whole point of using the mobile application was to have the extra screen to make use of such features. It’s possible it does work out a lot better when using a device with a bigger screen, such as an iPad.
Grounds Zeroes is a competent game and there is no denying that. However, it also feels more like a taster of what is to come, and in doing so it inevitably ends up turning into a technology demonstration. Fans of the series will surely take great pleasure in soaking in every nugget of information(no matter how insignificant). For everyone else, it will end up being as memorable as the short time it takes to complete what story content it provides.
There is no doubt the low price point is a an appealing idea, but the fact remains that Ground Zeroes is nothing more than a prologue leading up to the much more promising Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.