Developer: Kojima productions
Platform: Playstation 4
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes sees Big Boss make his first outing on the new generation of games consoles, in what is effectively a teaser for the full game arriving (hopefully) next year- in The Phantom Pain. For all intents and purposes, this is the Tanker mission for MGS2 or the virtuous mission in Snake Eater. The only difference is that Konami are charging you around £30 for this experience and releasing it a year in advance of the full game, in an attempt to showcase the new Fox engine that is running on the PS4, and in turn raise the anticipation levels for the release of the Phantom Pain in the future. So the big question is, is this game worth buying?
The first aspect of the game I noticed when I started playing it is just how stunning it is graphically, the opening cut scene (Kojima may have cut back on them but he will never stop having them) looks beautiful. It introduces you to the Ground Zeroes mission. This mission follows on from Peace Walker that was released on the PSP (then re-released on the PS3 a few years ago). This mission is set at night and in the rain, this gives the opportunity to showcase the incredible lighting effects, whilst you hide in the shadows with searchlights scanning the ground around you. But it is during the day where you truly see a huge leap in graphics that the PS4 is able to produce, a lifelike world is created, each enemy has an individual and distinct look to them. There are no copy and paste armies chasing you, even the grass sways perfectly in the wind as clouds move slowly overhead affecting the sunlight shining down, I have not seen anything as photo realistic so far on the PS4.
The transition from cut scene to gameplay is seamless. I couldn’t visibly discern any drop in the visuals and this is very welcome. I have often previously felt cut scenes running at higher detail draw you away from the game. Big Boss himself really does looks life like, he is not only voiced by Kiefer Sutherland but his facial animations have also been captured from the actor and this is evident as the voice perfectly matches the facial expressions. Sadly, Snake does not say too much in this game, so it is hard to judge how well the switch from David Hayter voicing snake has been handled in too much depth, but early impressions are that the voice of Kiefer does match this older Big Boss fairly well.
Metal Gear Solid games have always been about stealth and this one is no exception. Set in the mid 1970’s there is no Soliton radar to help you out. This game feels similar in style to Snake Eater, my personal favourite of the series, and whilst there is no radar you do have a pair of binoculars that you can use to tag enemies to help you keep track of them as they move around the map. These binoculars also have a directional microphone, great for listening in to conversations between the guards to give you small hints and clues.
The game encourages you to sneak around and stay undetected, the core of the MGS series, but this is no mean feat when you find yourself on an army base full of guards. Even with the ability to keep track of enemies they have keen eyesight, especially in the daylight. They can even spot your shadow as you hide behind a wall and will come to investigate if their suspicions are aroused. Like previous games, you are armed with a silenced tranquilizer pistol. Ammo is scarce and if you do knock your enemies unconscious, you have to hide their bodies as their comrades will investigate anything out of the ordinary. Yep, it’s classic MGS.
When you do get caught, and you invariably will do, a new mechanic in the game is activated. You get a couple of seconds in what is called ‘reflex mode’ to get in a quick head shot on the enemy before he can call for reinforcements or simply find the best route for escape. This option can be turned off in the options if you want an even bigger challenge than hard mode already is. At no point in my time with this game have I felt it is unnecessarily hard or easy, the gameplay feels well balanced and this is due to the open ended nature with which you can play the game.
Ground Zeros is set in a sand box world. You can go anywhere on the map and the missions can generally be completed in any way that you wish or can think of. Sneaking is obviously favourable and feels the most satisfying but if you want to go in all guns blazing then there is nothing stopping you grabbing a rocket launcher and literally blowing your way through the front gate. It is this choice that made the game so great for me. Early on in the game you have to get through a closed gate, in the past you would have had a more specific way of achieving this task, but not now. I have got past this point using three different ways, I have snuck around and found a side entrance, I have hidden myself on the back of a truck as it goes through, and I have also planted C4 on a vehicle and blown both the vehicle and the gate up letting me walk through or even drive. All of the vehicles in the base are drivable, nothing feels off limits. You really can play this game in a way I have not experienced before.
In the run up to the release of this game, director Hideo Kojima, announced that the campaign mission could be completed in a couple of hours, this had many people angry that such a short game could be released and charged for. I did complete the initial mission in around two hours on my first playthrough. But it doesn’t end there, this simply unlocks four other ‘side’ missions and if you collect all of the XOF patches also the Deja Vu Mission exclusive to Playstation.
I have played this game for over ten hours and still do not feel that I have completed it, there is so much more to do if you choose to and completing the missions is just the start. The open world allows and actively encourages you to try out new routes and methods. After playing this I am very excited to play the Phantom Pain- especially if it is around 200 times larger as Kojima has suggested. Essentially by making me feel this way, the game has succeeded in its aim.
If you are a fan of Metal Gear games then this is well worth the £20 it cost to purchase, if you aren’t or have never played a Metal Gear game before then I still recommend that you try it out. Few games give you the freedom that Ground Zeroes does, the missions may be on the short side but they really are incredible to experience.
Also Available on PS3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
Reviewer: James Holland.