Preview: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
It’s no secret Hideo ‘I really really want to makes movies’ Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid franchise doesn’t exactly set my pants on fire. With my aversion to stealth on a rapid decline I hit up Metal Gear V: Ground Zeroes with clear eyes and it left me wanting more, and not in a good way.
Let’s rip the band-aid off quickly. I have to grudgingly admit Kiefer Sutherland replacing David Hayter, the long time voice of Snake, doesn’t bother me in the slightest. There’s a harsh, guttural, almost gravel-ish tone to his voice which feels completely in place here. I may not be the most die-hard fan of the franchise, but I don’t really see what the fuss is about. New console, new technology, new start, new voice. With that out of the way why don’t we move on to the actual game itself.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a teaser. It’s a taste. It’s an almost satisfying, albeit short, bit of foreplay which leaves you hanging for more as you walk away with your pants around your ankles. It consists of a solitary main mission, which even a stealth novice such as myself could knock out falteringly in a few hours, and a handful of side missions which almost justify a price-tag. Almost, and herein lies one of my gripes with Ground Zeroes.
Kojima has been adamant this is for the fans. Kudos. We all love a bit of fan service, but the $50 slug for a physical copy (or digital download for $30) is a bit rich. I’m all for Kojima throwing fans a bone, but if it really was for the fans and not a grab for cash why not offer it as a pre-order bonus for the collector’s edition? Hitman: Absolution did something similar with the Hitman: Sniper Challenge and it’s hard to shake the feeling Ground Zeroes is little more than a test to gauge interest and line pockets.
So what do you get for your hard earned dosh? You get to play through an infiltration mission through a compound littered with 40 or so guards. You can either stick to sneaky sneakiness and ghost your way through, avoiding patrols and reinforcements, the way the developers intended. Or, you can run and gun it “Dave” style leaving a pile of bodies in your wake. I’m not going to elaborate any more on the actual mission parameters for those of you who are itching to grab a copy, and also because, you know, spoilers.
I played through the PS4 version and the new Fox engine brings the goods. It looks gorgeous. The lighting hues, tones and reflections are spectacular. There’s been much talk of the dynamic weather, but seeing as this was a single night mission I didn’t really get to experience all that much.
All the franchise staples are there with ground dives, rolls while prone, body carrying mechanics for downed guards and the ever so recognisable exclamation marks when spotted. The twist on this is once you are noticed you have a second to zero in (bazinga!) on the guard in question and shoot them with your silenced weapon before they can raise the alarm. It’s a neat idea which will transfer rather nicely into the Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain for those of us less inclined to take the stealthy path.
The contextual combat works a treat. There’s a real sense of visceral satisfaction when you smash a guard’s face into a wall to take him out. Those looking for less lethal alternatives can sneak up behind and interrogate for information or judo chop them out cold. A more permanent solution is to slit throats to be on the safe side, and it quickly became my go-to manoeuvre.
So it looks sweet, has solid combat, where’s the beef then Davo? Well, I found the stealth elements to be a bit imprecise and clunky. You snap to cover easily enough, but peering around corners is unwieldy and arduous. It made it difficult to see clearly and often lead to discovery and me stacking bodies. Given that clipping to cover with a peek mechanic isn’t exactly a new thing, I was hoping for something a bit more polished. It made me almost entirely abandon the quieter, less volatile routes, even when I wanted to give them a go.
With its launch a week or so away there’s no time for any adjustment. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes feels more like a beta test for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and I don’t begrudge Kojima Productions for it, but at this point they’re going to be hard pressed getting me to pay for it. I’ll be playing through the completed version next week and tagteaming the review with Josh, our Metal Gear Solid fanatic, for those of you after an alternative look from an enthusiast’s perspective. Stay tuned.