Review

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a prologue to Kojima Productions’ upcoming open-world title MGS V: The Phantom Pain. The game consists of six missions designed to introduce players to the open-world gameplay mechanics of MGS V and showcase the developer’s proprietary Fox Engine that’s optimised for new-gen consoles like the PlayStation 4.

What You Need to Know

Ground Zeroes takes place shortly after the conclusion of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and finds Big Boss infiltrating an American black site on Cuban soil called Camp Omega. Big Boss’ mission is to locate and extract two key characters from Peace Walker – Chico and Paz – in order to determine whether secrets pertaining to his mercenary unit ‘Militaires Sans Frontières’ (Soldiers Without Borders) have been leaked.

The game consists of one story mission, four ‘Side Ops’ designed to test your skills and encourage you to explore Camp Omega, and one ‘Extra Ops’ mission that changes depending on whether you’re playing Ground Zeroes on PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4 or Xbox 360/Xbox One. These missions range from destroying anti-air emplacements to eliminating a pair of renegades, to rescuing an intel operative who bears an uncanny resemblance to Metal Gear creator and series director Hideo Kojima.

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What’s New?

Previous Metal Gear Solid games feature some fairly large environments to explore but these are often stitched together and separated with loading screens. Thanks to the power of the Fox Engine the world of Ground Zeroes is one seamless area whose only boundaries consist of ocean and cliffs. This open-world design has an enormous impact on the Metal Gear experience as you can’t shake off soldiers simply by leaving the area, and it presents player with a number of new options such as driving around in jeeps, calling in air support to provide extra firepower or to extract you from a mission, and lots more besides.

The new engine also allows Kojima Productions to make Ground Zeroes’ environment far more destructible than Metal Gear fans will be accustomed to. Watchtowers crumble under your feet if they take enough damage and the various vehicles you can commandeer explode shortly after their engine compartment goes up in flames. This impressive level of destructibility adds a new layer of strategy in terms of where you decide to attack enemies from or where you seek refuge when you’re discovered.

Another major change to the series’ established gameplay formula is that Big Boss’ health now recovers automatically when you’re out of the firing line as opposed to the health bar and rations found in previous Metal Gear titles. As you take more damage the screen becomes increasingly spattered with blood and you’ll need to find a safe zone to claw your way back to full health. Big Boss’ new sprint ability comes in handy in these scenarios as you’re able to get out of trouble far quicker than you could in previous games.

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What’s the Same?

If you’ve played Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots then you’ll feel right at home with Ground Zeroes’ familiar third-person control scheme as well as Big Boss’ assortment of weapons and equipment that can be procured on-site. You can still run around in a crouched position to decrease your visibility or crawl around on your belly if stealth is your priority. Many of the CQC (close quarters combat) moves from MGS3, MGS4 and Peace Walker make a return here and once you’ve got your enemy in a neck-lock you can interrogate them to learn where armouries and the like are located on the map.

Whether you choose to adopt an action-orientated or stealthy approach during a particular mission is entirely up to you. For example, you can shoot out searchlights in order to improve your chances of sneaking through an area undetected or use any one of the game’s powerful weapons such as shotguns and missile launchers to take the fight to the guards patrolling Camp Omega.

Enemy AI is also fairly similar to previous Metal Gear Solid games with soldiers responding to sight and sound depending on your proximity to them, and going through the three phases of attacking, searching and finally returning to their positions if you go undetected for long enough.

You’ll Enjoy Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes If You Liked…

… Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Ground Zeroes’ story mission follows on from Peace Walker so if the latter game’s characters and plot held your attention then Ground Zeroes should prove a captivating experience.

… Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Ground Zeroes’ gameplay, control scheme and graphics most closely resemble MGS4 although it features enough innovations to keep things feeling fresh and interesting.

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What I Liked

5.) Ground Zeroes runs at a silky smooth sixty frames per second on PS4 and this has a huge impact on how fluidly the game controls. The high framerate also makes the action feel more immediate – try sprinting when you’re under fire to demonstrate this effect.

4.) The way that the time of day and weather conditions affect your visibility is a great new addition to the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Ground Zeroes doesn’t feature a day-night cycle but different missions are set at different times of day so you can get to grips with a variety of conditions.

3.) When a game looks as good as Ground Zeroes does it’s very important that every animation is spot on in order to maintain the illusion. Thankfully the game’s excellent motion-captured animations raise the bar for the series and make sneaking around Camp Omega feel that much more tense.

2.) Being able to select which track plays when your support helicopter comes in to land is a great touch and can make you feel like you’re in an epic war film (music dependent of course).

1.) The fact that there are no load times once you’re on a mission makes a big difference to the flow of gameplay and makes it easy to forget how the levels from past Metal Gear Solid games were broken up by loading screens.

Favourite Moment

Ground Zeroes’ PlayStation exclusive Déjà Vu mission is an absolute blast to play and makes a number of clever references to the original Metal Gear Solid. One of my favourite moments from this mission is when Big Boss’ second-in-command, Kazuhira Miller, tells him to look on the back of the game’s box for his next clue.

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What I Didn’t Like

- 3.) There are still some enemy AI issues that need to be ironed out before The Phantom Pain gets released. For example, I found one spot on the map that the soldiers appeared unable to chase me to, meaning that I could recover from my wounds in peace for as long as I liked.

- 2.) The number of enemies that the game throws at you when you’re discovered feels unrealistic. Since this is an isolated military base, why is it that they can still send in wave after wave of new reinforcements after I’ve killed every guard who was originally stationed at Camp Omega?

- 1.) The main Ground Zeroes mission needed to have more gameplay variety since it’s the only story-based mission in the game and one of its major selling points. Rescuing two prisoners from a military base sounds like it could be an exciting mission on paper but the way it’s been executed doesn’t equate to a very fulfilling gameplay experience.

Least Favourite Moment

One frustrating element of the Metal Gear Solid series has always been when you’re discovered by the enemy just before making contact with an ally. This usually prevents you from continuing your mission until your enemies have lost sight of you. In the main Ground Zeroes chapter I was very close to meeting up with Chico when I was discovered and forced to flee from the mission area until the soldiers finally left me alone and let me carry on with my rescue operation.



What’s Extra?

I was expecting the Déjà Vu mission to unlock after I completed the Ground Zeroes chapter but there’s actually quite a bit of treasure hunting to do before you can access it. Other extras include a variety of time-based trials per mission that feature leaderboard support and change depending on the difficulty you’re playing that mission on. Examples of these trials include fastest marking or neutralisation of all enemies, or how fast you can bring down all the wooden watchtowers in a level.

The Bottom Line

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes’ modest assortment of missions aren’t always a success but its numerous gameplay advancements and fantastically realised open-world do a good job of building excitement and anticipation for The Phantom Pain.


This Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes review was conducted on PlayStation 4


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