Let's cut right to the chase with this review and stare the elephant in the room right in the face: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is significantly longer than the 2.5 hours it was originally claimed the game would be. At $29.99, Metal Gear Solid V presents more than twice the value of other games for half the cost.
With that out of the way, is Metal Gear Solid V a good game based on its own merits? Absolutely. It is the next evolution of the Metal Gear Solid franchise and, while the game makes a few minor missteps, the game redefines what stealth gameplay is all about.
Setting The Stage
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is simply the prologue to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which will see release sometime in 2015. With that in mind, it's easy to see why Kojima went light on story, with the game featuring only two cutscenes: one at the beginning of the story mission and one after. These cutscenes are relatively short in length for the series, topping in at about five minutes each, and serve to only get you hyped for Phantom Pain. While the cutscenes are well-done (as you would expect from the Metal Gear Solid franchise), they offer more questions than they do answers in true Metal Gear Solid fashion. The ending in particular is one that will have Metal Gear Solid fanatics in particular talking right up to the release of Phantom Pain.
In-between those two cutscenes is nothing but sweet, delicious stealth gameplay so let's jump right into that.
Metal Gear Solid In Name Only
The first thing you're going to notice about Metal Gear Solid V is that many of the staple stealth elements found in the series are nowhere to be found. These are just a few of the classic Metal Gear Solid conventions missing in MGS V:
- The radar is gone, and while Snake has access to a map screen, time doesn't stand still while he does so.
- The inventory no longer allows you to hold an infinite amount of guns and is structured differently.
- Alert countdowns are a thing of the past.
- It's no longer possible to knock on walls to distract enemies.
- Health will now regenerate on its own.
- Time slows down when an enemy spots you, letting you get off a headshot before he sounds the alarm.
- You must now account for bullet drop when using guns, especially the Tranquilizer Gun
- The included location is far more open than almost any previous Metal Gear Solid location
If these changes sound jarring, it's because they are. Attempting to play Metal Gear Solid V like a past Metal Gear Solid game is only going to lead to frustration and death. My first attempt at stealth ended with a massive firefight where I eventually got behind the wheel of a tank, obliterating my enemies beneath my massive steel treads and vaporizing them with exploding rounds of death. Not quite what you'd expect from the franchise, no, but it got the job done, which is a testament to how open-ended the gameplay can get. After adjusting to the new mechanics of the game, I was able to stealth my way successfully, not being seen and not killing a single soul.
While a lot of mechanics change, some mechanics stay the same, such as the fact that Snake can hold-up and interrogate his enemies, he can hide bodies, hang on ledges, and transition from crouching to crawling with the push of a button. When it comes to brand new techniques, Snake can now mark enemies on the map with his binoculars, he can drive vehicles and despite being older, he feels far more agile and quicker than he has been in the past. Metal Gear Solid V takes the best parts of games like Arkham City and Splinter Cell and adds its own unique Hideo Kojima spin on them to make the borrowed mechanics its own.
Metal Gear Solid V is a difficult game, and even the base Normal mode feels more like a Hard mode. However, once it all clicks into place (and it will), you'll find it hard to go back to past entries in the series. Luckily, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes gives you lots of scenarios to practice with while you wait for Phantom Pain.
More Than a Story Mission
The game's initial story mission tasks players to rescue Chico and Paz, two of Snake's old compatriots from Camp Omega, the game's sole location. This mission provides the bulk of the game's story and this is where the rumors of the game being only 2.5 hours stem from. For your average gamer, the story mission will take somewhere in the neighborhood of two hours to complete but the game is far from over once the credits roll.
After completing the story mission, you'll unlock four of what the game calls “Side Ops.” Despite the name, these missions are far more than just side missions; each mission is fully featured and takes about an hour to complete on your first try. These Side Ops feature very minimal amounts of story and give you different objectives to complete within Camp Omega. For example, one Side Op tasks you with destroying all the anti-aircraft guns within Camp Omega while another tasks you with identifying and eliminating two key soldiers.
To make these missions different, enemy placement along with the weather changes in each Side Op. In the daytime, soldiers can see further, making you rethink your strategies, while during a nighttime rainy mission you can afford to be a bit more sloppy.
In addition to the Side Ops, there is a total of 9 XOF patches to find (finding all 9 unlocks a PlayStation exclusive mission, detailed below) in Camp Omega and both Normal and Hard modes for each mission. Completing missions with a high rank unlocks additional weapons, such as a sniper rifle, again giving you incentive to not only replay missions for high grades but then rewards that make you want to go back into the game and try them out.
All things considered, to unlock everything in Ground Zeroes should take an average gamer upwards of ten hours, if not more.
A Grittier Tale
Hideo Kojima promised a “grittier” story with Metal Gear Solid V and while he delivered, some may feel it crosses the line. The final cutscene features some gruesome imagery but the most shocking thing the game features? An audio tape that focuses on a nine minute long rape scene, a scene which many gamers feel is crossing the line when it comes to what's acceptable and what's not.
It's just something to keep in mind for both your own playthrough and for those watching said playthrough. The scene in question is definitely strong but luckily, it's just a small part of the overall package and the tape is optional, so you can skip if the content if it offends you. Just avoid Chico Tape 4 when you get it if you don't wish to listen to the content.
The PlayStation 4 Advantage
Simply put, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a jaw-dropping game. From the first cutscene (rendered entirely in-game) to the final moment, your jaw will be on the ground due to the amazing visuals. On the PlayStation 4, the game runs at 1080p and 60 frames-per-second, making this the best looking version of the game available.
If you're a fan of the original Metal Gear Solid, itself a PlayStation exclusive, the PlayStation exclusive bonus mission for Ground Zeroes will be right up your alley. In this bonus mission (available after finding all 9 XOF patches), you'll take on the role of Solid Snake as he returns to Shadow Moses, the setting of the first MGS game. We won't spoil any of the contents of the mission here but fans of the franchise are guaranteed to love it. Personally, I think it's a better bonus mission than the Xbox brand's Raiden inspired bonus mission, due primarily to the nostalgia factor. Note: On May 1, 2014, Konami has made the Xbox exclusive mission, Jamais Vu, available for free to PlayStation owners via a game update.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes got a lot of flack leading up to release, mostly due to the game's perceived two hour completion time. If you're only going to play the story mission and call it a wrap then yes, you may be a bit disappointed. However, if you're the type of gamer who likes to replay games, explore every nook and cranny, and try multiple approaches to a scenario then you're going to love what Ground Zeroes offers.
If Ground Zeroes is any indication of the future of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, then Phantom Pain is going to be simply amazing.
Final Score: 9/10
Game Category: Action / Adventure
Article by - Joshua Phillips
Insert Date: 4/8/2013
April 26th, 2014 Update
Konami has revealed that on May 1st, 2014, the Xbox exclusive bonus mission, Jamais Vu, will be released for free to all PlayStation owners via a game update. This content will lets players play as Raiden, the hero from Metal Gear Solid 2 and Revengeance.
The preview has been updated to reflect this new information but the score has not been changed.
Update By - Joshua Phillips