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Review: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360)
Developed by Kojima Productions – Published by Konami
Release Dates: March 18/20th 2014 (North America/Europe+Japan)

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360)

Developed by Kojima Productions – Published by Konami Release Dates: March 18/20th 2014 (North America/Europe+Japan)

Reviewing a game like Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is incredibly difficult. On one hand, it is up to me, the reviewer to assess it’s value for the consumer, you, and whether or not you should spend your hard-earned cash on it. On the other, it is also up to me to critique it as a game, a task that some may argue has nothing to do with how much a game costs. After all, a game’s price is not eternal, eventually it will drop. Thus I’ve decided to ignore the price as a factor in my determination of this game’s score, leaving it up to you to decide the monetary value.

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Much like the incredible tanker level from Metal Gear Solid 2, which was included as a playable demo with every copy of Zone of the Enders in North America, Ground Zeroes plays out as a prologue to the upcoming Phantom Pain. In this barely two hour long foray into next-gen Metal Gear Solid you’ll be teased with breath taking visuals, a tight set of controls and some rock-solid gameplay.

Storywise, Ground Zeroes takes place almost immediately after the events of Peacewalker. For those unfamiliar with the series, or those who have only played the main numbered series, the game provides a summary of Peacewalker that quickly brings you up to speed. After a few cutscenes we are given control of our protagonist, Snake aka Big Boss, who must infiltrate an American military base based somewhere in Cuba in order to rescue both Chico, one of his men as well as Paz, a Cipher agent who was captured by her own organization after allegations of being a double agent.

That’s it. Sneak into the base. Find your targets. Sneak out with targets. But how you accomplish these tasks is completely up to you.

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Immediately you’ll notice that the game is much more open that previous games, giving you multiple ways of completing objectives. The control scheme itself is almost unchanged from Peacewalker, but the few changes that are there are much appreciated.

Most notably Snake can launch into a dive by pressing the square button, which is invaluable when trying to quickly get into cover and avoid enemy detection. The iDroid (which contains the map among other things) can be brought up via clicking the right side of the touchpad whereas the left side brings up the pause menu. For those with a tablet, smartphone or Vita you can download the iDroid companion app which lets you access these functions without having to open the menu in-game, a neat feature though not essential.

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Because it is so open, planning ahead and scoping out a route is essential if you want to get by enemies unscathed and undetected. Snake can easily use his binoculars and tag enemies to appear on his map permanently. Knowing the positions of soldiers ahead of time makes traversing an area a cinch.

Of course there will be times where you have no other option but to fight and in times like this you have several options available. The tried and true tranquilizer pistol is of course the most peaceful option, allowing you to drop guards without killing them but ammo for this gun is limited on higher difficulties.

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Your primary firearm packs more of a punch and has a toggable flashlight and silencer, allowing it to adapt to any situation. Finally, CQC, a Metal Gear mainstay is of course possible if you’re close enough to an enemy. Much like Peacewalker, you’re able to either interrogate, knock out or kill any enemy you’ve grabbed. Interrogation provides useful information, such as guard or ammo locations, which will be marked on your map.

The AI is smarter than ever and will deploy several tricks and tactics when engaging in combat with you. Be prepared to watch for flanking and NEVER forget to hide any bodies you’ve left behind. Chances are, a guard will spot it and call for backup.

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There is also a new “reflex” mechanic which will trigger bullet time whenever Snake is spotted. This makes it incredibly easy to take out guards when they spot you before they have a chance to start shooting. Of course, many Metal Gear fans will shy away from this and thankfully, you do have the option to turn it off (which provides a score bonus by the way).

I was able to finish the game in a mere hour and 9 minutes, with a B ranking. Much to my surprise, when I returned to the main menu I discovered that my completion percentage for the game was sitting a measly ten percent.

What about the other ninety percent? Well, aside from finding all the collectibles and S ranking the main mission, there are also 5 side missions included with the game. The missions are set in the same area as the main mission but feature different objectives, enemies and time of day. Some are heavily action based, whereas others can be done without killing a single enemy. The final extra piece of content is the Playstation exclusive Deja Vu mission, which recreates scenes from the original Metal Gear Solid.

Deja Vu

Visually, the game is jaw dropping thanks to Konami’s new Fox Engine which runs at full 1080p and a buttery smooth frame rate on the PlayStation 4. Everything from minute lighting effects to high quality textures to incredible character models is rendering in loving detail. This game is polished well beyond most others.

From the audio side of things you’ll be in for a treat as well with Harry Gregson-Williams returning once more to provide the score for the game. Of course the game audio is equally as impressive, and you’ll definitely appreciate if you have a surround sound setup.

Combat

Gameplay is very much the focus of this new Metal Gear, and it truly does show. There are only two real cutscenes throughout the game, one at the beginning and one at the end. Codec calls no longer interrupt gameplay either, with the ability to call Miller mapped to the L1 button. This allows for a lot of exposition and dialogue that would in previous games have been presented on the codec screen to be provided in game while the player is still free to move about. This change may disgruntle long time fans of the series, but it does lend itself to make the game feel a lot more modern, and a lot more accessible.

The worst thing I can honestly say about Ground Zeroes is that it teases you with some of the best stealth gameplay of recent times,  but with no release date in sight for The Phantom Pain, this does little to satisfy rabid Metal Gear fans. You’re getting a bite sized piece of AAA entertainment that will last you a couple of hours, with every minute being enjoyable. Metal Gear fan or no, I find it hard NOT to recommend Ground Zeroes to anyone with system capable of playing it.

Final Score: 9.0/10

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