Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes Review
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes is a paid demo. There’s no getting around that.
But that, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing.
Metal Gear Solid is utter nonsense – it always has been – but few other franchises could attempt such a bold risk. The combination of decades-long lore and a prestige that never seems to wane has made MGS ripe for short-burst experiences like this.
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes – The Details
But where do you begin to explain a game like Metal Gear Solid? There are so many questions people will have, it’s impossible to know we can answer them all. Still, might as well try…
Such as the big question: how is Kiefer Sutherland as a replacement voice for Solid Snake?
Fine, for what it’s worth. The nostalgia in us does miss David Hayter, and it’s not exactly an improvement (but nor is it a detriment either). Sutherland manages the esteemed role amicably.
Admittedly he does add a little more sobriety to Metal Gear Solid too, and though that might sound like a criticism for a series notorious for using nanomachines to explain away its impossibilities, it does feel like a worthwhile change in tone.
You may also be concerned about how short it is?
Well it took us one hour and ten minutes to finish the main mission, and that was while taking time to make sure it was completed to ‘sneaking mission’ standards.
There’s extra content to get stuck into once that main mission is completed, but no part of Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes’ overall package can shine a torch to that first playthrough.
But do you need to have played Peace Walker to follow the events of Ground Zeroes? Not at all, but your connection to the events – which we won’t explain – will be greatly impacted if you’ve already absorbed the story elements of the Militaires Sans Frontières.
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes – The Story
This is Peace Walker era Metal Gear. You’re Big Boss, the original Solid Snake, and you’re on a mission to save two kids, Paz and Chico. If you’ve played Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, you’ll know who they are.
That’s really all the story the gameplay has to tell, but in true MGS fashion it’s presented in a fashion that is so moreish, so compelling that it’s hard not to get sucked in.
It helps that it’s the ‘good’ era of MGS, too, and not the stupid nanomachine-fuelled future that ended up becoming a parody of itself.
There are some brutal moments here, though, which we won’t detail for obvious reasons. Needless to say, Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes definitely pulls its punches, and especially so for fans of the series.
It most certainly leaves you clamouring for more with Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain, too. So in that regard Ground Zeroes is a throbbing success.
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes – Gameplay Changes
Mechanically, however, this is one of the most changed Metal Gear gsmes in years. Movement is much more natural, the awkward inventory system is replaced with D-Pad control and an open world setting provides greater scope for variety and choice.
On the matter of the open world, it’s worth pointing out that – though initially it can seem quite sprawling – the island available to you is sadly too small and enclosed an area to really offer much for the explorers among you.
Though some corners of the map won’t be properly explored for the main mission, make the effort to do so and you won’t find anything of interest.
Sure there are a couple of optional rooms where you can stock up on explosives and a handful of dogtags to find and collect – but by and large the area is devoid of the detail we’ve come to expect from the series.
As a gameplay feature, however, the open world works surprisingly well. Learning where you can travel – and how you want to do so – is an interesting twist on an otherwise tried-and-tested Metal Gear formula.
You can even tackle the objectives in whatever order you like, though you’ll likely need to play through at least once first to get your bearings.
It’s a shame that the open world is so limited in terms of content, however. The small concessions to additional extras don’t do enough to ignore the fact that, at absolute best, you’ll get two hours of game time from the main mission.
Other criticisms come with the shaky AI – which often has an entire squad of enemies sitting packed in a group all pointing their guns in the same direction – or the detection mechanic, which can be more confusing than helpful.
It’ll pop up on screen on a radius around Snake, but will linger as a guard peers in your direction. It’s never clear if you are still visible, and often you’ll be spotted and the alarm raised when you believed you were safe.
Overall the additional side missions you’ll unlock after finishing the game help highlight the potential of an open world Metal Gear Solid – and some of the tasks you may need to tackle – but the segregation is a bit disappointing.
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes – A Paid Demo?
The problem with these missions – bizarrely – is that they can’t really be considered canon, due to the timeline (and in some cases, the events that occur) they take place in.
Perhaps that’s an odd criticism, but it seems unnecessary to exclude them since the same mechanisms and objectives could have been tied into the main campaign quite easily.
Not only would this give these tasks a extra meaning, but it would help to draw attention to other areas of the island – and the open world experience – that would get overlooked otherwise.
This method makes them feel a little more like filler, almost an acknowledgement that the main mission alone simply would not be enough.
So what is Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, then? Is it a paid demo, like the internet whined, or is it a well-valued prologue?
Sadly it is more of a demo, a snippet of what could have been with not nearly enough extras or longevity even if you want to play through with multiple different playstyles.
Admittely it highlights the potential for some of the series’ changes – from the addition of Keifer Sutherland, an open world or the use of vehicles – but also builds interest for Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain.
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes Review
No other game series could present a slice of story and gameplay in this fashion – most would have to rely on complete, full-priced releases and use DLC later as additional content.
Fans of the Metal Gear series will get a lot out of Ground Zeroes, and that alone would be enough for many of you. The main mission of the game will draw you right back into Kojima’s crazy world, and offer up some interesting cut-scenes too.
But unquestionably it does come down to value; at £30 Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes doesn’t make a compelling enough argument.
As a digital-only release at industry standard pricing of £11.99 it would feel like a wholly more convincing purchase, but considering US gamers will pay (unfairly matching our own price of £30) then the value of Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes begins to feel a little insulting.
It’s a shame because what is here is a prime example of Metal Gear Solid at its best and a tasty teaser of what we can hope to expect from Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain.
Version tested: PS4