Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review

By Adam Ma on April 26, 2014

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes sits in an unusual position because it seems as though most gamers aren't really sure what to qualify the experience as. In a lot of ways it fits the bill as a demo due to its limited content and sampling of mechanics, not to mention Kojima's own words that the game represents only a snippet of the upcoming experience offered in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. We could also make the point that its variety of missions and extensive unlockables will definitely take some time to discover. It's hard to argue that the value isn't there should you search for it, but instead of arguing about what the game should be classified as let's focus on answering a different question; how much tactical stealth bang do you really get for your buck?

For those who don't know, Ground Zeroes takes place just before the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which sees Big Boss trekking the open world, establishing a base camp, and probably doing a whole slew of stealthy things in order to get the job done. It will probably have something to do with tracking down those involved in the dismantling of his previous mercenary group Militaires Sans Frontières, but for now the entire game centralizes around an American military base where twice-turned traitor Paz is being held. The mission is to go in and out under the cover of night, extracting allies and acquiring sensitive material along the way.

Even if you've never picked up a Metal Gear title before, the great part about Ground Zeroes is how it invites everyone into the story without alienating anyone, which isn't exactly the easiest of tasks to accomplish. Who Paz and Snake are, what Militaires Sans Frontières is all about and who the bad guys are in this whole mess will all be very ambiguous to the un-indoctrinated, but that's really just fine. The entire game plays out like an action thriller, and though the core story of Ground Zeroes only plays out over an hour or two of content, other missions in-game give a lot of background on the kind of men and women you're dealing with.

To that effect while players are left in the sandbox of this military base they're allowed free reign on how they want to handle the mission with bonus points given for a month stealthy approach. Avoiding kills, setting off alarms or being spotted will net players a better score in addition to the speed of completion, but this isn't always the easiest to do. Whether you want to hide in the shadows stealthily or gun down every enemy in your path Ground Zeroes gives players a freedom that's really been unrivaled in the Metal Gear series thus far, let alone other games that exist within the stealth action genre.

The result is an experience that's remarkably cinematic, fueled by the game's new Fox Engine which certainly doesn't skint on the details. Weather cycles are rendered beautifully and in-game cinematics look nothing short of amazing. Some compelling voice acting ties the whole experience together and helps drive home the feeling of playing out a dynamic film. The vision of what The Phantom Pain is set to be is detailed here in full force, and it definitely leaves the player yearning for more.

Unfortunately that's part of the problem. With the core plot so ridiculously short, Ground Zeroes relies on its replayable missions to justify its cost, and with the full knowledge that these missions really don't bring much to the story beyond fleshing out characters as being 'the good guys'. Whether or not this is a value to the average player is kind of a coin toss. If you want to know what sort of missions are going to be available in The Phantom Pain, or want to explore the Fox Engine, or simply want to grab a few more collectables then Ground Zeroes should occupy a decent bit of time but it's not exactly as natural as playing the story mission.

Ground Zeroes tries to soften the blow by promising rewards in The Phantom Pain for completed missions, uncovered intel and rescued PoW's, but in a way they're promising content for a game that's not even completed yet. For the MGS fanatic this is no doubt a good deal, but unless you're dying for a chance to experience the Fox Engine, Ground Zeroes' main claim to success is its core prologue mission; and though it's a fantastic emotional rush there really isn't enough of it. You're left wanting, sorely, and not in the right kind of way.

Final Thoughts

As a game/demo/prologue that was really meant for the long-term Metal Gear fans, Ground Zeroes delivers, providing a satisfying taste of what's to come alongside a few dozen questions for players to go crazy over until 2015 rolls around. If you happen to be a die-hard espionage fan it's hard to imagine you'll be disappointed with Ground Zeroes either, as it does accomplish exactly what was promised. For the rest of us? It may be best to hold off, at least until we get closer to seeing The Phantom Pain in action. There's no doubt that a price drop will come somewhere down the line turning the almost-retail priced game into a much better deal. Just look at it as DLC you're paying for in advance of the full game; a business model that's almost sinister enough to be thought of by the Patriots themselves.

Offers a good expansion on the standard Metal Gear gameplay.
There is quite a lot of content, if you want to experience it.
FOX Engine looks gorgeous.
The story mission is very short.
The entire game takes place within one level.
The price of admission.
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