Yes, a rumors are true: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a demo masquerading as a bone-fide videogame.
Now, it’s a flattering beguiling demo, mind you. If I’d flown out to Tokyo to revisit Konami’s imposing, impeccably purify Roppongi domicile and played Ground Zeroes as partial of a customary preview process, I’d have combined a generally certain impression.
The problem is that Ground Zeroes isn’t a preview. It isn’t a demo. It isn’t a pack-in. It isn’t a giveaway download. And as a $30 boxed sell product, it presents critical problems for me as a videogame consumer for some-more than a quarter-century.
Let’s get this fact pure and pure from a start, however. we am not a Metal Gear hater. The strange is one of my favorite NES games. Metal Gear Solid is one of my favorite PS1 games. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is my favorite PS2 game—and competence good be my tip game, period. Even Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty binds a special place in my heart; a surreal, wonderful comment emerged as a strangely comforting messenger in a intolerable disharmony of a post-9/11 world. Hell, I’m even one of those people who likes a card-battling, strategy-infused spin-off, Metal Gear Ac!d. Series executive Hideo Kojima fascinates me as a developer, and even if I’m not always smitten with a choices he makes, one thing stays true: we never, ever bewail personification his games.
I also wasn’t going into this with “Kojima fatigue,” an distress that many of my colleagues in a fan press seem to be stricken with these days (the symptoms: snarky Twitter comments). After all, Kojima combined one of gaming’s good duration pieces with his swinging-’60s Cold War magnum opus, Snake Eater, and he seems staid to presumably do it again with Metal Gear Solid V and a take on Soviet-occupied Afghanistan in 1984—drawing a pure together to America’s joyless swamp in a same nation over a past decade.
Kojima competence good broach a diversion estimable of a Metal Gear name in a stirring second chapter, The Phantom Pain. But a prologue, Ground Zeroes, is about as candid as one of his notoriously involved narratives gets. we can mangle a story down into 3 sentences, in fact: It’s 1975, and Snake contingency remove dual prisoners from Camp Omega, an American black-ops site in Cuba. He infiltrates an area and finds a initial hostage. He afterwards sneaks his approach into a somewhat some-more fortified location, rescues a second prisoner, and a diversion ends. Completing these dual tasks took me all of 90 minutes, and as my associate EGMers know, we like to take my honeyed time with games (I’m a man who spent 26 hours on BioShock Infinite).
Now, this isn’t a initial time Metal Gear has introduced a new mainline territory with a voluntary segment. Some have argued that Ground Zeroes is same to a Tanker territory in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. While a length of a dual segments is flattering comparable, they’re not in a same category when it comes to direction, characters, drama, pacing, and action. Ground Zeroes doesn’t set a stage good during all and relies on a title-screen calm dump to supplement context—information that will be straight-up foolish if we skipped Snake Eater or a series’ 2010 PSP incarnation, Peace Walker.
But it’s not usually about defective art or impression direction. The Tanker sourroundings behind in Sons of Liberty felt so many some-more alive and perplexing than anything you’ll find here; any sold room came opposite as a lived-in territory in that a infantryman on unit would find a approach to make himself a proxy home on a high seas. And graphic Snake Eater, Ground Zeroes competence good be set in any time duration over a final 50 years—aside from a crafty use of a Joan Baez song, there’s not any genuine clarity that you’re ostensible to be in a violent mid-’70s and a failing days of a Vietnam War. (The anachronistic use of a Sony Walkman, not accessible until 1979, usually adds to a odd, could-be-anywhere feeling.) And forget about Ground Zeroes charity anything even as infinitesimally overwhelming as a opening sequences to a initial 3 games—you’ll find no Snake Eater–esque HALO burst and stirring orchestral accompaniment here.
And, yes, we contingency contend it: Part of what’s missing, for me, is a romantic gravitas that progressing Snake actor David Hayter brought to a proceedings.
Whether we desired Hayter or detested him—or somewhere in between—you have to acknowledge he was distinct. He had a presence. How many Lara Crofts have there been? Could gamers even brand a quintet of actresses who’ve spoken gaming’s many famous tomb ravisher over a past 18 years? Few diversion voice actors strech iconic heights, yet Hayter’s Snake—a Dirty Harry–era Clint Eastwood in troops fatigues—was one of them.
Kiefer Sutherland, for as many as he’s been lauded for several films and as Jack Bauer on 24, brings no such eminence to a role. Many Metal Gear fans recoiled in fear after conference him grocer of one of a franchise’s famous phrases in a Ground Zeroes trailer, yet there’s some-more to Sutherland’s failures here than atrociously bad timing. He brings no energy, no eloquence, no dignity.
Hayter cared about this role, he finished it his own, he played a games, and he finished Snake a durability pitch to Metal Gear players opposite a Anglosphere. To Sutherland, it’s pure this is usually another paycheck (as distant as we can tell, he hasn’t even spoken a difference “Metal Gear” in any talk compared with his new role).
And if that’s what Kojima—or whoever eventually finished this casting decision—wants, so be it. we was indeed grateful that Snake stays flattering many wordless for a 5 side operations (all take place in Camp Omega as well, and they’re all around a same length as a categorical story mission), roughly like he’s some pointless soldier—because a paint-by-numbers grunt describes precisely how Sutherland approaches this role.
I will say, however, that while a comment and impression elements are distant from Kojima’s best work, it’s good to see him acquire some complicated pattern sensibilities that make personification by Ground Zeroes some-more beguiling than not.
To start with, Kojima’s embraced regenerating health. You’ll find no some-more rations—a tack of a array given a NES days. Instead, teenager wounds are now simply healed by diving into cover, while a mortal wound requires first-aid mist (a singular resource) in sequence to recover. This allows a movement to reveal with fewer trips to a postponement menu, creation for some-more organic firefights after botched attempts to sidle past unit towers.
Snake can also use his law close-quarters-combat maneuvers to survey a enemy, a technique that indeed comes in surprisingly useful—they competence screech on a plcae of a weapons cache or elaborate on a series of patrolmen in a sold area, and a map updates to take their intel into account. A new bullet time–esque option, Reflex Mode, allows we to delayed down time when you’re sighted, giving we a possibility to dull a few purloin rounds into an enemy’s cranium before they have time to radio their comrades. This is substantially my favorite further in all of Ground Zeroes, given rivalry AI can be rather variable in Metal Gear games, and this helps even a odds.
Max Payne is clearly distant from a usually diversion on Kojima’s playlist these days, though. Ground Zeroes also utilizes a Splinter Cell–style “last famous position” (without a cold Sam Fisher silhouette, unfortunately), that creates it some-more discerning to obstruct enemies from a smell of your trail. You can even use vehicles sparse opposite Camp Omega to make your approach by a base—or proactively forestall baddies from revving a engine themselves.
But while some of these elements are welcome, a secrecy segments also feel like a bit of a letdown in places. In past Metal Gear Solid games—particularly 1 by 3—Kojima did a good pursuit of creation Snake feel like a badass. That’s blank here. Even after mastering techniques both cat-like and fatal over a march of a 6 missions, we never felt like we was totally in control of a supersoldier as he slithered by a high weed or peeked around a dilemma to waylay a jail guard. Cover doesn’t feel as discerning as in prior entries, either, and a diversion emphasizes context-sensitive symbol prompts, that also feels a tiny like Splinter Cell—and not in a good way.
Apart from a side objectives, a diversion offers one final surprise: A handful of collectibles clear one final console-specific tip operation, and if you’re a Metal Gear fan, you’ll wish to replay a story-based Ground Zeroes segment to find ’em all. we should note, however, that we wasn’t quite preoccupied personification by a categorical comment a second time, and a tiny environment unequivocally attempted my calm by that point. There’s usually so many to learn after you’ve explored a same area 5 times in 5 missions, generally when Camp Omega isn’t quite vast and takes approximately 90 seconds to lope by from north to south—likewise from easterly to west.
All else aside, here’s because I’ve never felt so confused after finishing a game: we generally suffer a calm of Ground Zeroes, yet a judgment disgusts me. Whether this is a approach to finance The Phantom Pain’s growth or if it’s usually an bid to get a Metal Gear–branded diversion on store shelves in a initial few months of a new consoles, it doesn’t unequivocally matter. What matters is that this is an unprepared product—if we’re holding Kojima during his word, 1/200th of a product—and gamers shouldn’t shoulder a fiscal-year weight for publishers.
If Konami wanted to get players vehement about The Phantom Pain, I’m certain there was a improved approach to go about it. Why not embody Ground Zeroes as a pack-in alongside Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2? You know, like what companies used to do with demos (see Metal Gear Solid 2)? Or how about including Peace Walker—hardly drifting off store shelves these days—free of assign in a package (not usually for European PSN pre-orders), deliberation it’s essential to bargain a story? None of this is to contend that The Phantom Pain can’t totally right what Ground Zeroes gets wrong. Even after personification a game, I’m still intrigued by Snake’s arriving mid-’80s adventures, and I’m certain large other Metal Gear fans won’t be totally soured, either.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes doesn’t paint a genocide knell for this princely tactical espionage franchise. It’s not even a terrible approach to spend a few hours of your time. I’ll go behind to my progressing indicate about Kojima, that stays loyal here: we don’t bewail personification this game. But we fear it represents a dangerous new line that Konami, as a publisher, has now crossed—and now that they’ve finished it, can others be distant behind? All we know is that we, as consumers, can't be complicit in this money grab.