Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes Review
There’s no denying that Konami’s Metal Gear Solid series is popular. But why is it popular? Is it the stealth action? The overwrought cinematics? The militaristic settings? How you answer this question will determine how you feel about Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, the latest entry in the saga.
Serving as a canonical sequel to Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Ground Zeroes’ mission is to rescue POW’s Ricardo “Chico” Valenciano Libre and Paz Ortega Andrade from the Camp Omega base in Cuba. Upon arriving on the scene, it is up to you to figure out exactly how you want to carry out the mission.
Unlike other entries in the Metal Gear Solid series, Ground Zeroes offers an open-world base for war-torn veteran Snake to explore. Utilizing creator Hideo Kojima’s brand-new FOX Engine, the lighting and terrain not only look great, but are implemented well into the gameplay. Drainage channels, cliffsides, and even military vehicles offer a number of ways to approach your objective, a welcome change from the linear nature often found in stealth games.
However, this freedom of choice can also be a bust. Ground Zeroes also gives Snake the option to go in guns-a-blazing, destroying anything and everything in his path. Combat is still optional, but the new slow-motion “Reflex Time” and lock-on targeting often make combat the preferred option of the two. This detracts from the overall feel of the game, making it feel less like a Metal Gear Solid game and more like a generic shooter. Put simply, an espionage mission shouldn’t require the jacking of a tank or a railgun shoot-em-up extravaganza.
That’s not the only thing Ground Zeroes has done to change the formula. Codec calls have been downgraded to a brief radio conversation via a single button, and outlandish weaponry like the Fulton Recovery System are replaced with the generic iDroid smart device. Even the series trademark humor is relegated to the “Deja Vu” side mission, making the hour of gameplay an overly somber experience. Cutscenes still pack a punch, but its lengthy exposition make little sense when it is nothing but cryptic clues for the sequel due out next year.
Said hour of gameplay can be extended by searching for XOF patches, listening to cassette tapes, doing side ops, and even taking to the leaderboards, but the whole shebang is still a short-lived experience.
This short length of Ground Zeroes is definitely a downside, but consider this: would this style of gameplay hold up after 20 hours? It might be too soon to tell, but the structure seems like a radical departure from what made Metal Gear Metal Gear. Action purists will no doubt love its combat-centric gameplay, but those looking to wax nostalgic with a MGS title from 2014 best tread with caution.