Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Is Short On Hours, But May Not Be Short Of Quality
It has been many years since the Metal Gear Solid series concluded in 2008 with Guns of the Patriots on PS3. Although, that wouldn’t be entirely accurate since there was the awesome Peace Walker in 2010, which was first an exclusive to the PSP but later saw release on PS3 and Xbox 360 via and HD collection. However, the “main” series seemed to have ended. Peace Walker was another prequel entry for the series, following Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Portable Ops, and it and its predecessor are probably two of the best games ever seen on portable consoles.
Despite the years gone by, I still stress that the Metal Gear Solid series is my favourite video game franchise of all time, with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater being the best game I’ve ever played – and the only game that I believe is truly perfect. Heck, I still reference Guns of the Patriots for being one of the best examples of blending stealth and action that I’ve ever seen in a game. Each game in the series has been a supreme accomplishment, whether on console or handheld, and I honestly have goosebumps thinking about what the series could do on its new generation console debut.
Let’s take a look at what’s next for the series.
Name: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Genre: Tactical Espionage Operations
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
Developers: Kojima Productions
Release Date: 18-20 March 2014
Price: R375 (PS4, Xbox One), R340 (PS3, 360)
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes has not been without its scrutiny, due to the fact that there is a lot of frowning happening over the whole concept of ‘prequel’ releases. That’s a topic for another day, because Ground Zeroes is almost upon us and I’m sure if you’re interested then you probably want to be equipped with all the necessary knowledge before jumping into it. Firstly, Ground Zeroes is the fourth prequel entry in the series and takes place sometime after the events of Peace Walker, once again putting players into the shoes of Big Boss, also known as Snake. It is a stand-alone opening act of sorts to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and will serve to introduce players to the new mechanics and story. Getting back into the swing of things, so to speak.
Ground Zeroes is set in the year 1975, after the conclusion of Peace Walker, as mentioned above. Big Boss, now voiced by Kiefer Sutherland instead of the iconic David Hayter, is still working with MSF (his private army of soldiers without borders) and is attempting to infiltrate an American black site on Cuban soil, called Camp Omega. For the sake of interest, a ‘black site’ refers to a location where a highly classified military or defense project is conducted, unacknowledged publicly by the government, military personnel and defense contractor. It’s sort of a top secret, shady deal. Big Boss’ primary objective is to extract Cipher agent Pacifica Ocean and child soldier Chico, both of who were involved in the events of Peace Walker. During the mission, however, MSF’s mother base is attacked by an organisation known as XOF (I’m sure you noticed that’s FOX backwards), which is led by a deformed man called Skull Face. The events of Ground Zeroes will ultimately result in a major change to Big Boss’ character, and set the stage for The Phantom Pain. I’m sure that means it will end on a major cliff-hanger, or WTF moment.
The only trouble here is that fans who did not have the opportunity to play Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops or Peace Walker may find themselves rather lost with regards to the events of the story. Perhaps Portable Ops is not vital to the main story, but Peace Walker is certainly more than a side story, and for continuity sake and to make sure you know exactly where things are heading into this title, it would be advisable to try and pick up the HD collection in order to give the most recent game in the series a spin. It helps that Peace Walker is a fantastic game, but it’s also one you can spend a lot of hours playing, as I’m learning once again on my Vita. Of course though, the option always exists to take a trip to a wiki and read up on the story. Personally, I don’t believe that will ruin anything in this case.
If I may sidetrack for a moment, one of the most remarkable things about the Metal Gear Solid series is how it finds a way to innovate and reinvent itself with each sequel, yet never stray from its roots. As a result, I’m extremely excited by the open world aspect of the game, because if there is one man out there who will blend open world and stealth, it’s Hideo Kojima. Despite the recent controversies he’s been involved in as of late, the incredible achievements by Snake Eater and Guns of the Patriots more than convince me that Metal Gear Solid V is up for the challenge. But enough free advertising for Kojima Productions and Konami. Let’s get back to talking about Ground Zeroes.
Similarly to Peace Walker, Ground Zeroes will offer a base-building feature which will allow players to develop weapons and items. In case you didn’t play Peace Walker, this was a particularly awesome feature that let you designate allies, recruits and captured soldiers to various divisions, such as the combat unit, R&D department, mess hall or intel gathering. Competent recruits increased your rank in the respective fields, and a higher rank unlocked new gear to develop, which cost points you acquired from your recruits and their performance. It was pretty cool as you could send your soldiers out on missions, play as them in side missions or partake in extra operations to acquire mech units or stronger soldiers and such. They could die in missions or get sick or wounded. There was more to the system, but that’s the gist of it, and it gave you plenty to do in-between missions and made for a wonderful way to progress on your own terms and as a result of the hard work you put in, rather than the cash you invested in DLC. It also added a tactical aspect to the game as you could call in supply drops during missions or air support, and any resources you collected in missions were transported to your base.
Hopefully, Ground Zeroes will expand on this system, as it was a core part of the Peace Walker experience and definitely what made it stand on its own. All that we know so far is that players will be able to access their motherbase from their smartphones, in real life of course, which is sweet. To move onto the open world, Kojima has in the past spoken of the restrictive nature of previous games in the series, saying that they “set [the player] on one rail to get from point A to point B, with a certain amount of freedom between”. As such, Ground Zeroes will go in a new direction (there’s that reinvention I was talking about) and attempt to achieve a “true open world experience” by allowing players new ways to traverse the map and sneak around, such as taking a plane, helicopter or motorcycle to mission areas. Another way in which Ground Zeroes will reduce that restriction found in the older games is by allowing players to choose in what order the story events take place by selecting the missions they’d like to do in any order. However, it’s been promised that despite the order players will still “understand the encompassing message by the end”. That means the story will still make sense and be coherent.
There have been many concerns about the length of the game, and various sources such as IGN and Game Informer have reported that the core story mission can be completed in two hours. However, keeping in mind that this is an open world game and you will play at your own pace rather than rush, it’s safe to assume that the average gamer may get a little more out if it than that. In addition, there will be four side missions as well as an exclusive mission for each console. The four extra missions are “Eliminate the Renegade Threat”, “Intel Operative Rescue”, “Classified Intel Acquisition” and “Destroy the Anti-Air Emplacements”. It’s certainly not the longest game you’ll play, and is apparently more a teaser than much else, but hopefully the quality and story intrigue will make the investment worth it. Prologues are still a sore subject, but when it comes time to review the product it comes down to the quality of what’s on offer, at least for me. Debates will continue of course, rightfully so.
To provide some additional information, Kojima revealed that Ground Zeroes features a new day and night cycle that runs in real-time, and that “depending on how you travel between one stage to the next, the travel time will affect the time of day when you arrive at your destination”. Usually day and night cycles are just for aesthetic purposes, but in Metal Gear Solid I’m sure it will matter because the past four titles have used a “stealth camo” system in which your visibility is constantly tracked via a percentage rating shown on the HUD, and it depends on your equipped stealth suit and movement. Also, as far back as Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty the series has had an awesome attention to detail, and in that game if you were out in the rain and ran around, you’d leave wet footprints on the ground which soldiers could see and follow. Perhaps the weather will make a similar sort of impact to the stealth gameplay in Ground Zeroes, thus adding to the immersion and diversity of the gameplay.
There was a bit of confusion about the release of the game, as originally only the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions were getting retail releases. But to clear any confusion that might still be around, there will be a digital and physical release for all platforms, namely PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360. I’ve recently taken a look at the prices on Takelot and Kalahari, and I’m happy to see that the PS4 version’s price has been adjusted to match that of the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. To put it into perspective, the PS4 and Xbox One versions cost $30 for retail and digital, while the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions cost $30 for retail and $20 for digital. Don’t ask me how this works, as it’s quite bizarre that the digital price has remained the same for the new consoles, but the retail price could come down. My best explanation would be aliens. Just to mention something about the retail titles, the box art for the Japanese version features Kazuhira Miller, a core character from Peace Walker, alongside Snake, but the western cover only has Snake, due to the low sales of Peace Walker outside of Japan.
The final bit of information required would be the console exclusive missions and what they’re about. The PlayStation version of the game includes a special “Deja Vu” mission, which allows players to control a recreated Solid Snake model from the original Metal Gear Solid title. Players will get to explore Camp Omega with new-found nostalgia as elements, like soldier skins, and characters, such as Psycho Mantis, will feature from the original PlayStation title. The Xbox release, however, features the “Jamais Vu” mission, which lets players take control of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s Raiden, who must eliminate the “body snatchers” at Camp Omega. I was personally quite annoyed by the difference in content here, because while nostalgia is cool and all, getting to run around as a super ninja with an electrical sword would have been pretty awesome too. I don’t quite get the need for content exclusivity this early in the new generation, but I guess it’s more aimed at the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.
Suspected Selling Points
- Metal Gear Solid is back!
- If there is one man out who will do something amazing with open world and stealth, it’s Kojima.
- The story of course.
- The short length and general distaste for ‘prologue’ titles.
- It may not give fans enough to ease the wait for The Phantom Pain.
- Those who didn’t play Peace Walker may have difficulty following the story.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is around the corner, and despite the controversy surrounding its pricing and content situation, there’s no doubt that fans, such as myself, are very eager to return to the phenomenal series and continue Big Boss’ journey. The series’ first ever transition to open world may prove to be a spectacular move or a disappointment, but I’m inclined to believe it will be the latter due to my fanboyism and the fact that every time this series has reinvented itself it has basically outdone itself and reached masterful proportions. This is the also the first time that the series has done this sort of prequel thing, and as such only time will tell whether Ground Zeroes will be worth investing in. We’ll let you know all about that as soon as our review lands.