We all know what rules the world right? No Beyoncé it’s not girls dear, it’s money. It comes, it goes and often it leaves your bank so quickly that you’ve hardly even had time to imagine what to do with it, let alone actually spend it. When us gamers do have some extra dollar though, we like to fritter it away on games, at least if the missus (or Mr) says so. However, when we do decide to splash our hard earned cash, we like to know that we’re getting value for money, whether that be in the form of a long and immersive campaign or a multiplayer option that makes us look like virtual gods among our, obviously, adoring teammates. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes boasts neither of these attributes, it’s short main story lasts half the time of a James Cameron borefest, a online option is non-existent and it’s all for a questionably high price. So, what are you actually getting when you buy this game? Well, unlike some of the works of Mr Cameron (sorry Avatar fans), with Ground Zeroes you get a number of entertaining hours that makes the subject of the debatable price tag fade away, albeit not completely.
Set after the events of Peace Walker, Snake, or Big Boss, is still rolling with the organisation known as Militaires Sans Frontières, the mercenary faction located on the Colombian coast that he and sidekick Kaz Millar established after Portable Ops. Having been through the ordeal of Cipher trying to recruit him by means not exactly on the ethical side, (the group ordered a young girl named Paz to infiltrate the MSF camp, resulting in her trying to force Snake to work for Cipher by threatening to fire his own nuclear deterrent, ZEKE, at America if he didn’t. She met her grizzly end in the ocean…or did she…), our favourite two-legged reptile is facing new concerns.
The International Atomic Energy Agency have requested that an inspection be done of the MSF Mother Base and Huey, one of the scientists stationed at the Mother Base who helped make the groups dangerous and trouble rousing nuclear toy, has agreed to the inspection. To top off Big Boss’s already sparkling week, he also finds out that Paz, you guessed it, isn’t dead. Having gotten word that she’s being held by Cipher at a black site named Camp Ortega in Cuba, Chico, a boy who she met in the camp who fell madly in love with her, decides to go all Jason Derulo, riding solo on a mission to save her. He is of course caught and realising that both Chico and Paz know way too much about MSF to allow Cipher to torture it all out of them, Snake, aka Mr Sutherland who does a very fine job of voicing our favourite mercenary, decides on the eve of the big inspection to set off for Cuba in search of the missing tykes.
As you would expect from any game touting the Metal Gear brand (we shall avoid eye contact with a certain Rising elephant in the room), the story is intricately webbed together, following on from previous events without any gaping flaws. Told via an informational 11 clip storyboard before you actually encounter the game, players can also choose to listen to additional tapes to understand even more of the situation at hand, with characters such as Paz being given a voice to listen to rather than just a backstory. The method behind this is clearly to help players invest time and feels for the characters and it works: once you find Paz, you’re ability to actually care for the two faced toerag is a testament to not only the writing behind Ground Zeroes but also the time and effort that has gone into the character development of the people on-screen, even if many of them only have a small amount of time on it. Well-thought out, the writing also brings with it an explosive ending that leaves you wanting more, which is really what this game is all about: giving you a tantalising teaser of what’s to follow with Phantom Pain, whilst also keeping the MGS name relevant in gamers minds.
Just like the story, the gameplay is also a teasingly good taste of things to come. An open-world style, you are free to roam around Camp Omega as much as you want, the path of how you get to your objectives being entirely down to you. How you get there is also another choice you’re free to make and whether you feel like creeping behind a mother and knocking him out or shooting everything in site, the game accommodates well for both scenarios. The controls are simply to use, with all activities gun-related being easily done with the flick of a button, whilst basics such as running, jumping and crouching/crawling are also done with the same amount of ease. Ground Zeroes also gives you a range of weapons and items that, if used to their full potential, make sneaking around Omega not ridiculously easy but manageably fun. Spotting enemies and looking for ways to get around them or through them without being detected has always been the key and arguably best element of the Metal Gear series and Ground Zeroes is no different.
When you do feel like being sneaky Snake though certain frustrations will rear their imperfect head. For instance, hiding behind something like a crate or building is now done by simply pushing up against it and more often than not, you’ll find yourself coming out of the position too soon because the control doesn’t quite stick as much as it should. Also, when you find yourself in a tight, undetectable space, such as in-between the tents dotted around Omega, the camera zooms into Snake making it difficult to see the enemies around, which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to avoid people with guns who wish to pop a cap in your ass.
The biggest problem with this game though is of course its length and the lack of environment outside Camp Omega. Ground Zeroes is a short experience that can be completed in a day and that’s with the side missions being done as well as the main story. If players wish though, there are other things that can be done to lengthen the gaming experience such as getting achievements and completing missions on the Hard setting, which become available for each one once they’ve been done on the Normal setting. Still, despite the missions differing in objective and required play style, all these additions to the main story and re-runs that are needed to gain achievements, will have to be done in the same area and as such, it’s difficult to continually play this title without the feeling of repetitiousness casting an overhead shadow. Having said this, when you first complete the missions, side and main, those few hours of you slipping, sliding, shooting and sedating your way around Camp Omega are very entertaining. Throwing grenades at guards when they’re not looking, watching as night falls on the world around you, shooting enemies out of a helicopter, Ground Zeroes is a very enjoyable creation that also looks fantastic, and that’s just on the PS3.
Whilst the fun doesn’t last for very long with Ground Zeroes, never did Konami insinuate that it would, which is what makes it difficult to really critique this game based on normal video games values. From the off, we knew what we were getting if we bought this title, so to mark it down for not being a full and expansive game when it was always promised to be a short snippet of a prologue, and a very good one at that, isn’t exactly fair. What it really comes down to in the end is money and value for it. Is Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes really worth the green it’s asking for? No, probably not but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play it. You most defiantly should, especially if you’re a fan of the series because despite the few snags and dubious price tag, Ground Zeroes offers a great few hours of exciting and rewarding gameplay that when you’re in it, makes you forget about the amount labelled on the box. A glimpse of the good to come, if this title is anything to go by, Phantom Pain looks set to be a more than adequate addition to the long and prosperous Metal Gear franchise. Bring it on Hideo, bring it on.