For most people, the brand of ‘Metal Gear Solid‘ has become almost synonymous with complex and arguably overly-intricate storytelling. From the original games on the MSX to the most recent iterations, the series has told an elaborate story of drama, romance, espionage, and revenge. Some may claim it’s a little too extravagant, but I’ve personally always been a huge fan. With the upcoming MGSV: The Phantom Pain, things look set to continue in this fashion. Luckily, although much shorter on the story front, Ground Zeroes continues this tradition.
Ground Zeroes beings with our established hero Big Boss infiltrating a military black-site to rescue Chico – a young boy who is familiar to fans of the series. The game is set almost immediately after the previous title (Peace Walker), and expects you to know this, as you are dropped immediately into the action. MGS titles have always required knowledge of the prior games to fully appreciate, and so this should come as no surprise, but it’s worth knowing so that newcomers aren’t immediately put off.
Your mission is simply to rescue Chico and then another returning character (who I’ll keep nameless for the sake of spoilers), and that’s pretty much it. There are a few twists and turns in this bite-size Metal Gear experience, but for the most part the story is simply to tease fans whom are eagerly anticipating The Phantom Pain sometime next year. But where the story may be slightly lacking, the gameplay certainly isn’t.
The other games in the Metal Gear series have always played like very stealthy third-person experiences, meaning any aggressive interactions with enemies were strongly weighted against you. The 4th iteration released on the PS3 changed this slightly with a much more action-orientated combat system, but some fans found this to be too much of a drastic change. Ground Zeroes finds a really enjoyable middle-ground to this, and then some. Not only is the gunplay incredibly satisfying when it needs to be incorporated, but the stealth is also a lot of fun to use. Gone are the slightly awkward controls of the previous games which occasionally meant you would pop out from cover on accident, which have now been replaced by a intuitive and natural feeling control scheme.
The game still feels very Metal Gear, but now actions such as choking a guard or melee in general are just much more fun and simple to pull off. For the most part you will try to stick to the shadows and avoid being seen, but if you do happen to slip up, then time slows down and allows you a few seconds to ‘fix’ your mistake by eliminating any nearby guards. It may make the game seem far easier, but it’s easy to disable this feature if you find it too much of a distraction.
Series’ creator Hideo Kojima has claimed that The Phantom Pain will play much more like an open-world game than previous iterations, and Ground Zeroes goes towards showing exactly what he means. The camp in which Big Boss must venture is considerably larger than previous areas in the series, and is all one open-sandbox to play around in. Sure, you have a set objective and goals to complete, but the method which you use to complete them are completely up to you. If you want to hijack a truck (yes, there are vehicles) and drive straight through enemy soldiers, you can do just that. If you’d rather crawl on your knees through a drain to sneak into a hotspot, then that’s just as viable. It adds an incredible amount of replayability to an initially small game, which has provided me personally with hours of entertainment.
And of course, I couldn’t review this game without bringing up the incredible graphics. Particularly on the next-gen systems, Ground Zeroes looks like an almost unbelievable game. Every texture is beautifully realised and life-like, and weather aspects such as rain and wind make everything insanely realistic. It is almost definitely the best looking game currently on the PS4, and a true testament to the brand new FOX Engine which the game runs on.
Quite a lot of controversy was garnered with the release of Ground Zeroes, with many claiming it was nothing but an overly-priced demo. Now, although the main mission can be completed in little over an hour with some skill, I find it hard to see why you’d just stop there. There are several other missions all set within Camp Omega which you can carry out, as well as alternate difficulties which really change how you need to go about certain tasks. Not only this, but there are also a multitude of collectables and weapons which can be found within the camp, both of which add even more hours you could easily sink into this game. I have played Ground Zeroes just as much as any other AAA release, and rightfully so, as it’s just as good as others.
Overall, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is well worth your money. There’s plenty to do on the disc, and even more ways to do these things. Long-time fans will salivate at the teasers the story brings, and newcomers will definitely enjoy the easy yet intuitive way which the game plays. There really is something for everyone, which is why this is still one of my favourite games on the PS4.
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