Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes treads a thin line between tech demo and open-world sandbox
There’s been just one game that I finished in a single sitting, and that’s Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots on PS3. This fact is more a testament to the design of MGS IV than my unwavering commitment to the franchise. Let’s be clear: I’m not a Metal Gear Solid or Hideo Kojima fan boy. The reason it kept me hooked was the ebb and flow of the missions as well as even distribution of gameplay sections and long cut scenes (some long enough for you to consume entire meals while watching them like a TV show). But primarily it was the accessibility. MGS IV was a walk in the park compared to Ground Zeroes.
A question of brevity
You’re probably aware of the biggest complaint people seem to have with Ground Zeroes. The game can be ‘beaten’ in around 20 minutes. If you’re looking to simply finish Ground Zeroes, it can be done with minimal to no effort at all, but bear in mind that you shouldn’t be playing it in the first place if that was your intention.
Ground Zeroes is a showcase. It is Kojima Productions experiment to craft an open-world with a difference—not one merely filled with side quests and characters to interact with, but one of an enormous scale in which you are free to explore everything without having to suspend disbelief. And by God, have they succeeded. It’s just a shame they’re asking you to pay $19.99/`1,200 for the recently released PC version. And while this is the definitive version of the game thanks to native 4K support and inclusion of bonus content from both Xbox and PlayStation versions, one can’t help but wonder if Kojima-san wanted to give away this game for free, and was promptly overruled by the evil corporate overlords at Konami who sniffed a revenue opportunity.
For the completionist
After a trademark intro cut scene, you find yourself in the shoes of Big Boss with the task of extracting certain prisoners of war from an island prison. Do this successfully and you’ll open up extra missions and situations, as well as bonus objectives. For the completionist, Ground Zeroes is a wet dream, with different ways not just to beat missions but traverse the excellently designed sandbox of Camp Omega and discover something new every time you do it.
There’s a tonne of stuff here for fans (who have probably bought this anyway), but for those on the fence, there are several reasons to pick up Ground Zeroes. First, it’s the most complete stealth action game available today. None of the mechanics are watered down, it is intuitive but not accessible, and it’s mostly unforgiving to careless play. Guards may follow certain patrol routes, but they will surprise you with their intelligence and unpredictability on occasion. Get caught, and you’ll have once chance to headshot your potential captor—miss your chance and you’ll be in a spot of bother to say the least. MGS has been guilty of limiting gameplay scope, preferring to go down the cool-but-linear party tricks route, ‘meta’ gameplay and easter eggs. Ground Zeroes is the exact opposite, with a strong gameplay basis and true open-world mechanics.
However, you’re likely to get the most out of this only if you’re a hard-core MGS fan or find Splinter Cell too easy. For the rest, there are games out there with ten times the content Ground Zeroes offers, and with more variety (Far Cry 4, for instance). Without a doubt, I enjoyed Ground Zeroes, as I’m sure anybody who plays it will. But the game also makes you wonder at the type of company that charges $20 for a demo.
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