Reviews

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes

Possible Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes opening lines:

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce, third as a cash grab.”

“Hayter’s gonna hate.”

“Kept you waiting huh?”

Yes, let’s go with the last one, shall we? It’s the least snarky of the bunch and is surprisingly the most apt for the latest entry in the series.

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The first thing that hits you is how good Ground Zeroes looks, especially for a cross-gen game.

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes is the precursor to the yet unreleased Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. It sets up the background for the events we’ll play through when The Phantom Pain is inevitably out. The game takes place on a military base in Cuba, where you’re in the boots of everyone’s favourite eye patch-wearing hero, Big Boss. You’re tasked with rescuing Chico and Paz, two of your buddies from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.

For those of you wondering, no you don’t need to play Peace Walker to understand what’s happening in Ground Zeroes. Like 2001’s Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, there’s a neatly edited summary of what happened previously, keeping you up to speed without having to trudge through the PSP game (or its PS3 HD port).

The first thing that hits you is how good Ground Zeroes looks, especially for a cross-gen game. Everything is rendered in gorgeous 1080p and runs fluidly. This is the PS4 version, of course. Hopefully, we’ll have impressions of how the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions play soon, but needless to say, if you need a showcase of how good next-gen can be, Ground Zeroes is a sterling example.

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Unlike MGS 3 or 4, there’s no camo system to keep your foes unaware. It’s all built around the simple pillar of avoiding enemy contact.

Everything, from the highly detailed character models to the terrain, is beautifully rendered using Kojima Productions’ proprietary FOX engine. Now, we know what it’s capable of thanks to PES 2014, but it really shows its worth free from the shackles of last-gen restrictions. There are instances of texture pop-in and aliasing, but they’re few and far between, making this one of the better looking games around.

That said, a consistent frame rate and delicious eye candy alone do not make a game. Thankfully, the gameplay delivers in spades. Unlike Metal Gear Solid 3 or 4, there’s no camo system to keep your foes unaware. It’s all built around the simple pillar of avoiding enemy contact. You can tag opposing soldiers from a distance using binoculars and have to rely on your judgement to avoid detection. On being discovered, you have a moment or two to silence your opponent before they call in for a seemingly limitless supply of reinforcements.

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The gameplay is a welcome return to form. It’s uncomplicated and demands player creativity.

Also absent are any gauges for psyche or stamina. Get shot one time too many and you die, but not before the game warns you to find a place to rest to recover your health or prompts you to use health spray. All in all, the gameplay is a welcome return to form. It’s uncomplicated and demands player creativity. You can either string together a series of deliberate movements, punctuated by periods of laying low in the grass, crawling through vents, or simply waiting for a blind spot to open up in enemy movement patterns, or you can take an approach not too dissimilar from Call of Duty and kill everything in sight. Obviously, the latter is a lot tougher to do and there are several means of finishing off Ground Zeroes in between these two extremes, making multiple playthroughs a distinct possibility.

If you do end up picking up Ground Zeroes, you’ll only get your money’s worth with multiple playthroughs of the main mission, finishing off the side quests, and pursuing every collectible. It took me around an hour and forty minutes to complete the core story mission, using a mix of stealth and killing more than a few soldiers. Others, such as IVG’s finest, who bagged a copy last week thanks to grey market import, managed to finish it even faster. There simply isn’t enough of a storyline to warrant the Rs 1,999 price point, or even the Rs 1,199 it’s going for on PSN.

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Even with the four side missions, you barely have enough content to put together three hours of gameplay.

Even with the four side missions, which can be finished in around 15-20 minutes each, you barely have enough content to put together three hours of gameplay. Factor in the optional fifth mission, Déjà vu and Jamais Vu for Playstation and Xbox consoles respectively, which require collecting nine tags, and you could perhaps add in an hour or so; more if you plan on playing through everything on hard mode, which leads me to believe that the only ones who can justify buying this game are hardcore fans.

Now, suppose you are a grizzled, mullet wearing, eye-patch toting veteran of the series, you’ll miss David Hayter’s gravelly voice as Big Boss. This was traded in for a slightly more personable Keifer Sutherland. Through my entire playthrough, I was happy that Big Boss said very little because his voice was jarring. And while there will be those who are fans of Mr Jack Bauer’s addition to the cast, count me out.

What I do like, however, is how excited I was for The Phantom Pain at the end of it. That feeling didn’t last too long though, as I soon realised that we’re nowhere close to a release date being announced, leading me to be depressed all over again.

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To everyone but the truly obsessed, this is a wanton cash grab.

To everyone but the truly obsessed, this is a wanton cash grab. This should have been a demo or, at the very least, an add-in with another game, similar to what Konami did with the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo included with Zone of The Enders. As a not-so economically priced game, this is beyond recommendation simply because there isn’t enough content.

Having said that, there’s not much to do except wait until it drops in price or hopefully ends up being free on PS Plus or Xbox Live Games with Gold just in time for The Phantom Pain, where we’ll be hopefully greeted with a familiar face asking us:

“Kept you waiting huh?”

Till then, hold on to your money and time. Unless, of course, you’re the sort who dreams up Shadow Moses fan fiction and quotes Revolver Ocelot while taking calls on your cell phone as if it were CODEC.

IVG's Verdict

5/10
  • Slick gameplay
  • Looks amazing
  • Brilliant set up for the next instalment…
  • …that has no release date
  • Super short, should have been free
  • No David Hayter
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