Despite there being no place for Hideo, Kojima returns to the world of Metal Gear with his latest installment, Ground Zeroes. The controversy surrounding this game as it bridges the gap between Peace Walker and MGS V, hinges on the assumed length and price. But before you pass this experience up because of negative press, please read on.
Ground Zeroes is integral to the overall plot of the Metal Gear franchise. It will finish up the events of the PSP game Peace Walker and set in motion the events of The Phantom Pain. For those who haven’t played Peace Walker, you’ll receive a full written recap and you should read it, as it is very helpful to have context for the mission at hand. In Ground Zeroes, Big Boss infiltrates a US Military Black Site on the tip of Cuba to rescue Chico and the triple agent Paz. Between the facial motion capture and attention to detail in the environment, this is without question the most visually stunning Metal Gear to date.
This time around though you are given a very minimalistic HUD. No longer is the life bar, codec, or alarm statuses shown. Instead, you’ll only see which weapon or item is currently equipped. It declutters your field of view, so you can really appreciate Big Boss’ athleticism and general badassery. Like the other games starring Big Boss, you’re not given a radar mapping out the location of the enemies or the layout of the land. However, by focusing on an enemy with the binoculars, they are marked on the iDroid map. Regardless you must still keep a sharp eye out for enemies. Between the rain and the cover of night it’s easy to look right past one, but be cautious for they will certainly see you.
Unlike all the other games in the series when you are spotted and the game goes into Alert Mode, you are no longer given a countdown. Instead you must listen attentively to their radio communications to keep tabs on their search, so be careful of where you hide the bodies. The feel and control of Ground Zeroes is natural and fine tuned compared to its predecessors. Not only does the game play well, it looks amazing, seamlessly transitioning from cut scenes to gameplay, helping to immerse you even more into the experience. With the crisp visuals, refined controls, and open world of Ground Zeroes you is sure to be pulled in and is in for an intense ride.
The mechanics are very smooth and allow for precise control of Big Boss. You can sneak, crawl, climb, dive, roll, sprint, and shimmy all over the map. The camera’s freedom and range of motion puts you in control, offering an experience that’s better than ever and feels natural. With a press of the right stick you can even switch which shoulder the camera is looking over when holding a weapon. Every input is in its natural place on the controller. That being said, the CQC did take a little bit of getting used to, but once you understand its controls, it’s wonderful.
You can quickly knock out an enemy, interrogate him, kill him, or use him as a shield. The CQC animations are quite brutal, as Big Boss does not hold back when smashing an enemy’s head into the ground or wall. You’ll be surprised that enemies are even able to wake up after a beating from Big Boss. Once you understood the mechanics of CQC, it can be used almost exclusively as your means of attack and defense. The amount of weapons that Big Boss can carry has been severely limited, but this does not detract from the game. There are so many different weapons you can pick up along the way, you’ll just have to trade them for the secondary and primary weapon slots. This adds a greater sense of realism and really affects the strategy of you, adding a whole new element to the gameplay.
Now I must take a moment to talk about my favorite new feature: Reflex Mode. If you are spotted by an enemy before they know your exact position or if you’re close enough to take action the game slows down time and gives you a chance to take them out before they can alert the base. You won’t have time to switch weapons and unless you’re right next to them you won’t have time to perform any CQC, thus forcing you to use which ever weapon is currently equipped. Because you won’t have time to switch weapons you may want to always have one equipped, otherwise you may get caught trying to throw empty ammunition magazines at the enemies. This feature is intense and can sometimes shock you, sending him into a quick frenzy as he tries to find the enemy and headshot him. Reflex Mode really adds a sense of immediacy and gets your adrenaline pumping, especially when it takes him by surprise.
In Ground Zeroes there’s not a single way to complete the mission. While the MGS games have held a sense of options of how to deal with certain missions or scenarios, Ground Zeroes breaks out of a linear gameplay style completely. From the start you are free to roam the entire map and access every area before even getting to your first objective. You will find certain routes in the level that work better than others but you are not limited to them at all. For the first time you really feel free to roam and explore the world of MGS. Now, that being said, the main mission is actually very short. You could easily beat it in under an hour after a playthrough and if you know exactly how, it is possible to beat the mission in ten minutes.
If you’re here only for the story of the game, this may be a deterrent to an actual purchase and one is left wondering if this should have just been the opening of The Phantom Pain and not it’s very own release. But when it comes to overall replayability and content, the story driven mission is only 10% of the entire game. Upon beating the first mission you unlock several other missions which take you back to the Black Site during the day and are full of other objectives to challenge you. While these missions are not integral to the story they do provide many hours of gameplay. In fact, the Ground Zeroes mission is also full of plenty achievements and hidden items that are waiting to be found and unlocked for those looking to complete the game 100%.
Also noted is the new voice for Big Boss. This time David Hayter, the voice of Solid Snake and Big Boss in the rest of the franchise, has been replaced by Kiefer Sutherland. Now, Kiefer Sutherland’s delivery is great and he’s a great actor, but this sudden change of voice is a bit offsetting. By no means does it pull you away from the game but it does take some getting used to. Sutherland does not try to mimic David Hayter’s voice, which is a good thing because it doesn’t restrict him to any way that Big Boss was or would have been voiced. Instead he approaches the role from his own perspective and this allows him more flexibility in his acting and his vocal delivery. Regardless, it will take some getting used since David Hayter’s voice was so iconic and recognizable.
Set for $30 price point, this game asks a lot for only an hour’s worth of story. And at first sight this may seem enough reason to pass it up. But after playing the game I just want to go back and play it over and over. The fine tuned controls and the crisp environments alone make this game a joy to play. Everything works together to immerse you into the reality that is Metal Gear Solid. I want to go back and explore the Black Site, interrogating all the soldiers and finding all the clues. I want to go back and get the best scores I can and see how fast I can beat it. Put simply, I want to keep playing this game. And for that I have to say the price is worth it. I highly recommend this game, not only to fans of the Metal Gear series but to everyone.
|John Francis McCullagh is ScrewAttack's Hard News Editor and is one of the most recent additions to the staff. He trains in kung fu and is pursuing to be a major motion film director. He's also an actor, writer, hypnotist, poker player, and tailor. If he could choose his stomach animal, it'd be a fox. Don't know what a stomach animal is? No one else really does either.|