Some have said that a console generation doesn’t officially kick off until it sees the release of a new Metal Gear Solid game. I can’t exactly disagree with this statement seeing as how my last three PlayStation console purchases were directly related to when the next Metal Gear Solid game would be released. This was true with MGS2, MGS4 and now with Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Although this game is also available on last gen consoles, it signifies a new direction for the classic series and is very much the “next gen” Metal Gear Solid title.
For those who don’t know, Ground Zeroes is a prologue to the upcoming The Phantom Pain. As such, the game is relatively short since it is an introduction to the world of MGSV. Series protagonist Snake must rescue two of his former allies who are being held prisoner by an unknown enemy. This mission takes place while Snake’s headquarters called Mother Base is being scrutinized by the U.N. As the story unfolds, events become truly dire for the protagonists. Seeing as how this is an intro, it all ends on a cliffhanger that will make the wait for The Phantom Pain even more difficult.
The gameplay feels almost exactly like it does in the console version of MGS: Peace Walker. Peace Walker was the last official MGS game and is the predecessor to this title so having its gameplay transfer over makes sense. Although this game controls a lot more smoothly than PW, it feels a bit sluggish compared to other stealth games which have been released over the past few years. Aiming felt a bit stiff and the stealth mechanics didn’t give me as many options as I would have liked. Yes, I know that the main character is in his late 40s/early 50s but the controls didn’t have to feel old either. They work but definitely feel dated.
The main mission can be tackled in a variety of ways. You can either go in as silent as a ghost or come in with all guns blazing. Snake is more resilient to being shot and can last longer in a firefight than he could in previous games. The open ended nature of the way that missions can be tackled was something that I really appreciated. To paraphrase what Kojima said, 100 people will have 100 different experiences playing this game.
The game has a new device called the iDroid which can be used to find your way around sites, listen/read intel and call in a helicopter. Snake’s binoculars also allow him to tag enemies which will then show up in the world even if they are behind walls or far away. Although very anachronistic given that the game takes place in the 1970s, these devices did make finding my way around the world easier and helped me to avoid unwanted encounters. These devices function in real time so it’s a good idea to stay hidden while using them or you will be caught.
Although I originally didn’t have a problem with the decision to replace David Hayder (who has played Snake since the character first began to speak) with Kiefer Sutherland, I have to admit that I was a bit weirded out by actually hearing a different voice coming out of Snake. And not just any voice mind you but that of 24‘s Jack Bauer. Nothing against Sutherland, who I think is a fantastic actor, but I would have liked it if he had used a different variation of his tough guy voice. There is nothing particularly wrong with his portrayal of Snake but it will take me some time to really get used to it.
Sutherland was brought in because Kojima felt that the nature of the game called for a new and grittier Snake. While I slightly disagree with this decision (Hayder could easily altered his voice to suit the game) I do see what he was talking about with the game’s tone. All MGS games have had a certain “feel” to them but this one felt a lot different from the rest. This MGS game is definitely the most mature and darkest in the series. If prior MGS games were rated PG-13, this one felt like it was rated R. That’s the best way I can describe how different this game felt. Personally, I thought it was fantastic and I highly enjoyed this grimmer MGS experience.
I was completely blown away by the graphics. This is easily the most impressive looking game I’ve seen on a last gen console by far. The way that the lights interact with the world in both the day and night is amazing. I also loved the rain effects and how water rolled off the rocks and collected on the ground. Although the hair on characters left a lot to be desired, their actual faces were jaw dropping. This game looked so good that there were times when I thought I was playing the PlayStation 4 version of the game. The Fox Engine is a marvel and may become THE engine of this generation.
After beating the game, five side missions are unlocked. These involve you either rescuing personnel or destroying weapons. Like the main mission, these can be tackled in a variety of ways and are made to be replayed. You’ll also want to replay missions to get higher ranks which will unlock new weapons and equipment. There are also a few collectibles scattered throughout the map as well. Yes, the main campaign can be beaten in under two hours (I did it in 77 minutes) but there is still a lot to sink your teeth into with subsequent playthroughs.
I may be a bit biased seeing as how I’m an admitted Metal Gear Solid junkie but I really enjoyed this game. This is an MGS game for the new generation and I now understand why the numbering had to be changed from Arabic to Roman. While it is still MGS at heart, it had a decidedly different, and darker tone. Though the controls could have used a bit of updating, they still work well and didn’t hinder my enjoyment. I think that Hideo Kojima and team have something truly special in store for us when The Phantom Pain is finally released and Ground Zeroes is just a sampling of this.