Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review

Kept You Waiting, Huh?

Even though this game has been out for a year I promise I will try to stay spoiler free, or at least leave out any context of a scene or line that if you’ve played the game will make sense and if you haven’t won’t spoil anything.

Personally I loved Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. I know there has been a lot of contention about its validity as a full retail release game because of the length. On my first play through I think it took me just under two hours to complete the story mission. There was also some confusion as to what exactly this game was when it was first revealed. Is it Metal Gear Solid V or not. The answer is yes…..and no. Ground Zeroes is the first chapter of MGS V, I suppose I would liken it to a pilot episode, a short intro into what will be its much much larger brother The Phantom Pain.

The game doesn’t stop once the Ground Zeroes mission has been cleared, there are six side ops to complete, running the gamut (it’s a real word look it up!) from a silent infiltration mission where getting caught is an instant game over, to all out on rails shooting carnage. Each side op has replay value owing to the extra challenges like a non-lethal play through or disarming all mines in a location of the map, unlocked after the first play through to keep completionists busy for quite a while. If all you are interested in is the story then perhaps the original £25 asking price, which was knocked down from £40 just before release, will be a little steep. You can pick it u for under £10 if you look in the right places now though.

Collectibles take two forms. Unit patches are scattered around the map for you to find, one of which is in an incredibly clever hiding space which you probably won’t find without someone telling you how. Secondly there are cassette tapes, some that you have to pick up in different missions and some that are only present if you get to the right guard and interrogate them at the right time. I found the back story on the tapes pretty interesting to listen to, detailing the events leading up to Snakes arrival at Camp Omega. So there’s far more than just 2 hours of game here.


Camp Omega

David Hayter’s absence as the voice of Snake is something that has been caused a little controversy in the gaming world. I’ll stick to calling him Snake in this review since at this point in the plot Naked Snake is part of his past and he hasn’t really become Big Boss yet and well…I just like calling him Snake. I do miss Hayter’s performance as Snake I’ll admit, but the more I’ve played through the game the more Kiefer Sutherland appeals to me. There is more drama and less melodrama in his performance. Kiefer plays the good guy going down a dark path damn well. I guess that’s his shtick, just look at Jack Bauer, and that’s exactly what is going to happen to Snake in the Phantom Pain. He is destined to become a villain but as Hideo Kojima has stated we are supposed to understand and empathise with Snakes reasons for his descent and Kiefer, in my opinion, would give a more interesting performance in that regard.

Moving Snake just feels right in this game, I’ve recently replayed MGS 2 and 3 on my vita and I remember stop/start controls they had. Not that they are a bad thing, but they do take a bit of time to adjust to. The emphasis on movement in the early games was to position yourself and take your time to avoid getting caught so stopping, switching to first person and taking aim with your tranq gun made sense in those games. In Ground Zeroes, Snake is a much more versatile sneaking and killing machine. Running, sneaking, diving out of site and aiming all feel much smoother. Good thing too as the enemies are faster and less predictable when looking for you this time around so you need to be equally able to maneuver snake to out flank and take out guards effectively, quietly or otherwise.

The sound design is also really important to the way the game plays, you’ll need to listen out for soldiers who are not visible on screen and listen in on enemy radio chatter to learn where they are coordinating searches for Snake. The musical score changes on the fly to fit the situation you are in. When you get spotted the music becomes very urgent and an action film score fills the air. If guards are on alert the music will change again, making the atmosphere tense as you evade the patrols, settling back down if you are successful in doing so.

MGSV snake

The freedom of exploring camp omega at your own pace is really fun and once you get to grips with the ins and outs of the camp you can tackle missions in a few different ways. It may not have the boundless possibilities that the game was marketed with but you aren’t likely to do the exact same thing every playthrough. It’s fun to play around with the enemy AI. You have to watch and be wary as the guards react to your actions. For example luring a guard with another guard’s body so you can interrogate them makes you feel like you really planned your moves as you infiltrate the base.

The knock function to attract guards is a move that Snake seems to have inexplicably forgotten, as is the ability to hide either Snake or enemy bodies in containers and lockers. I can’t quite see why these basic features are missing since they have been part of the franchise since the first Metal Gear Solid almost 20 years ago.

The reason Snake comes to Camp Omega is to rescue Chico and Paz who are part of his private army. If you haven’t played peace walker for the PSP and now part of the HD collection, some of the conversations and references won’t mean much to you. There is a back story segment in the menu that covers the events of peace walker which I found to be quite condensed and will still leave some a little confused, luckily it’s still engaging without prior story knowledge.

MGS interogation

I’m Jack Bau- er I mean Snake! You will tell me what I need to know!

Unlike past MGS games Ground Zeroes’ story is told in two short (OK… short for an MGS game anyway) cutscenes at the start and end of the main mission. No constant codec calls with updated orders and funny little conversations this time around. These cutscenes and the game are beautiful to look at, flowing seamlessly from the first cutscene to gameplay and back again to the final cutscene. I loved the one take approach to the cutscenes with the camera flowing around characters and subtle framing and focus pulls happening on the fly instead of cutting between one character and another. It never pulls you out of the experience and I hope this style continues through to the Phantom Pain and from all the trailers and gameplay presentations I’ve seen this holds true.

I noticed that a lot of the oddness and humor that I have come to expect from an MGS game are missing from Ground Zeroes. Its not completely absent, “They played us like a damn fiddle!” is MGS through and through, but the silliness is just not as present as we are used to in one of Snake’s outings. It’s also missing that one final boss battle that I was certain would turn up and I think I wanted a few more answers than I got, but I suppose that’s what the Phantom Pain is for.

The ending wasn’t really to my tastes. It did the job of whetting my appetite for the Phantom Pain excellently, but the shock and awe moment (if you’ve played the game you’ll know what I’m referring to) just seemed unnecessary, a shock for shocks sake. I know that Kojima is going for a more gritty tone overall but it just seems like a nose dive from gritty to morbid that just didn’t fit with MGS for me.

It’s a great opening chapter for MGS V, introducing the open world infiltration on a smaller scale than what will appear in The Phantom Pain. It looks and plays just as a modern day Metal Gear Solid game should and although it is missing a few gameplay features and the story isn’t all that engaging it is most certainly more than just a tech demo and a game that every Metal Gear fan should play.

All that’s left for me to say is bring on the pain…..The Phantom Pain.

Snake take down


Genre: Action / Adventure / Stealth

Age Rating: Mature (17+ )

Developer: Kojima Productions

Publisher: Konami

Platforms: PC / Xbox 360 / Xbox One / PS3 / PS4

Player Modes: Single Player

So what do you think? Have a think and let us know in the comments section below.

– Dan P



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