5 out of 5
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is, hands down, the single greatest demo I have ever played. The unfortunate part is that they’re charging $30.00 for it.
Or something like that. The main mission is certainly short and it does simply whet your appetite for the story set to emerge in The Phantom Pain, but it really is excellent.
Listen, let’s set aside the price for a few moments, because there’s already been a whole lot of brouhaha about that. Here is the deal – stepping into the role of Solid Snake or Big Boss is insanely fun and has only gotten better as videogame consoles have improved. Now, with Ground Zeroes having been unleashed onto the PS4, we have hit a new high, even if said high includes Kiefer Sutherland voicing the role once played by David Hayter.
I am not entirely sure where to begin here. Trust me, there have been several previous attempts at writing this all up that have failed. I find myself continually returning to the game’s incredibly short length and so, let’s deal with that.
This is a short game. You will complete the main quest in less than two hours and if you don’t run through it even faster than that, you’re likely not to get a very good ranking when you’re done. The mission is simple – Boss has to get onto a US base in Cuba and escape with two prisoners. Sure, they could hav
e made that take 15 hours, and you can absolutely spend that long investigating the whole area, but if you’re proficient at stealth techniques, you can zip right through it all. You’re just not going to want to.
Ground Zeroes is a gorgeous game. Boss moves with a heretofore unknown fluidity and with only two small exceptions are movements foolish or unrealistic. Want to see the sort of awesome the game allows, just find a relatively hidden spot in the game, lie down, whip out your gun, and start moving it in a full 360 degree circle. Just the way in which Boss spins as you do this looks and feels fantastic and well conceived. These are the sort of moments in Ground Zeroes that illustrate just how good Metal Gear Solid can be on the current generation of consoles.
As for those two minor bits of movement that don’t work – it can be difficult to get Boss facing the appropriate direction to crawl through a confined space. While this doesn’t work as well as it should is unclear, but it doesn’t. Additionally there are occasions when Boss emerges from first person aiming that he is facing a direction which seems unlikely.
The one other thing that doesn’t fully work about the game is the AI. The AI, in co
mparison to what you see in the vast majority of games is actually brilliant, it’s just that MGSV excels to such a degree in other levels of realism that only having pretty good AI is a let down. The search routes run looking for Boss, the calling off of a search despite it being abundantly obvious that there has to be someone in the vicinity, and generally lackadaisical way in which the enemy carries out its assigned task is disappointing. Truly. You can be in a watchtower during an alert, kill an enemy as they climb the ladder and, despite there being a dead body at the foot of the ladder, no one else might come up to challenge you. You could have taken out 30 guys (I don’t recommend it, you lose points for killing folks, even if you’ve done it silently) before climbing the watchtower and then send a dead body flying down, and the not only will the remaining guards not set fire to the watchtower in order to burn you out, they might still call off the search.
Even with this slight letdown, as stated, the AI is still better than most of what you’ll find in the videogame universe, and they certainly will not let you walk in, grab the prisoners, and walk out again unmolested. You may lose points for taking enemies out, but odds are you’re going to have to do just that before the credits roll.
Once you are done with the main mission, there are several, enjoyable, side missions to attempt. And, the game is so much fun (and so short), that you will attempt them. That is, as you may have already read, is one of those things that keeps being touted about Ground Zeroes – sure, the main mission is short, but once you go in and do the sidequests, it’s a lot longer. To me, that’s the correct sentiment, it’s just pitched badly. The mistake is in calling something the “main” mission and the other ones side missions. If this was all reorganized so that every mission was put on the same sort of footing and you were told that there were a half-dozen missions present which would all take you something between an hour and two hours, you might feel differently about plunking down your $30. It might still be a lot, but it’s Metal Gear Solid, the preeminent franchise in the genre.