Why MGS V Ground Zeroes is Awesome

‘At £25 for a short prologue is Hideo Kojima trying to have his snake and eat it?’

Finally, the Playstation 4 has a game worthy of being called next gen…or, rather, a prologue to said game. That old snake in the grass (see what I did there?) Hideo Kojima has come out of hiding and begun wetting the taste buds of Sony gamers around the world with his latest (semi) instalment of the Metal Gear Solid series, Ground Zeroes.

MGS V: Ground Zeroes offers an immersive – if short – foray into a beautifully crafted sandbox of visual and gameplay delights. We play as Naked Snake who - without wanting to delve into the dense and frankly convoluted world of the Metal Gear series - is the antagonist of the first and second Metal Gear games, and hero of the third, otherwise known as Big Boss. If at this point you’re feeling slightly lost and confused, then consider yourself formally indoctrinated into the world of MGS.

The game begins with a typical Kojima directed cut scene that establishes the premise of the prologues story, namely that you must sneak into a US military base and break out two prisoners who’re being held there. As you’d expect from Kojima, the cut scene is very dramatic, with a strong pinch of mystery surrounding the character’s motivations and allegiances, aspects which we can only hope will become clearer once we get our hands on the finished game. Although never explicitly revealing its time frame - unless I missed something - we can assume the prologue (and subsequent game) is set somewhere between the mid-70s to 80’s. We can guess this firstly through one of the characters, whom we’re ordered to rescue, having a fixation with their handheld cassette player and secondly by Naked Snake’s ever-greying hair.

‘That battle-scarred and grizzled façade has never looked so beautiful’

Ground Zeroes, as well as showcasing the so far untouched power of the PS4, provides an insight into the  future direction of Konami’s most famous son. While MGS has always given the player a choice in terms of how they approach missions and objectives, Ground Zeroes certainly expands upon this premise; players are given an unprecedented level of freedom as they are presented with a multitude of ways to approach and complete the prologue. How this translates into the final game, MGS V: Phantom Pain, remains to be seen – however the sheer variety of approaches in just this small sample map suggests a more open world approach to the MGS series than we’ve ever seen before.

In terms of gameplay the mechanics remain largely the same as what we’re accustomed to in the Metal Gear series; the biggest change or addition to the gameplay that we see in Ground Zeroes is the inclusion of an environment based tagging system. This allows you - when equipping the binoculars – to survey the landscape ahead and tag certain aspects by hovering over them. For example, fixing an enemy with your binoculars makes them become visible even when out of plain sight. This gameplay mechanic is reminiscent of the Crysis series, which also allowed you to approach its maps in a variety of ways, also using a tagging system. This is a welcome addition to the series and one that lends itself to a more strategic and tactically orientated approach to gameplay.

While the gameplay itself is smooth, responsive and fits like an old piece of well-worn clothing, some of its mapping onto the new PS4 controller seems slightly illogical. During the game you can access a menu/hub of information that doesn’t pause the game, but rather appears like a hologram in front of the players vision. Instead of allowing you to navigate this from the new touch screen pad, it’s accessed via the Options button (which replaced Start) and the touch screen is simply used to open the game’s paused menu; still, as stressed several times throughout this review, logic and common sense have never been prevailing concerns of Kojima or the Metal Gear series.

‘Indeed it was, indeed it was….’

Despite this one small technical gripe, the prologue is still a pleasure to play and offers a unique and exciting experience. Whilst this short game does struggle to justify its high price, the game is filled with replay value incentives, like the aforementioned variety of ways to engage with and complete the game’s objectives. Once you’ve completed the game you unlock a series of rewards that offer new items and new ‘side ops’ aimed at tempting you to go back into the game to play some more. While I completed the main mission in a spritely hour and twenty minutes, replaying the game just to discover the different ways each objective could have been approached would at least double this time, and that’s before you’ve unlocked these added rewards. Still, I’d struggle to recommend anyone part with 25 of their hard earned pounds for such a short game even if it may just have been my favourite gaming experience of the next gen so far.

So, do you buy it now, wait for a price drop, or wait for the full game (which will likely include the prologue anyway)? I don’t know. While the experience is fantastic it comes at a price, which may be just too high to justify. But beware you’ll be missing out on a great slice of Sony exclusive action, which so far I believe has no peers on the next gen scene. I’ll leave you with those contradictory and unresolved thoughts – an ending Hideo Kojima would be proud of.

Final Score: 9/10

This has been Tomby, writing for The Awesome Update.

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