Review: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

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As a Metal Gear fanatic, it feels like an eternity since the last installment came out. In 2008, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was a game that was so impactful it substantiated the PS3 library, proving that the series can thrive in a new generation of gaming. Unfortunately, Metal Gear games come out so infrequently that between their releases major evolution occurs in the gaming industry, evolution that summons Hideo Kojima and his meticulous attention to detail to rise to the challenge.

Kojima Productions is taking a long time to craft Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It's shown over the years that the wait is well worth it, but that doesn't make the lengthy waits any less painful. In the same way that Polyphony Digital shared its mid-development progress with Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is being delivered as an appetizer to extinguish some of the worldwide hunger pains for the next Metal Gear installment, and it achieves just that with no strings attached.

Metal Gear's gameplay has always been one with awkward character. Moving around in previous games, particularly before MGS4, had a learning curve. MGSV gets rid of that by making Big Boss' behavior exactly what you'd expect. Movement is sharp, whether you're in a prone position and trying to aim at someone to your side, or trying to transition from a standing to a prone position. Similarly, the animation work is astounding. Big Boss has been truly brought to life with the The Fox Engine.

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I really can't emphasize it enough, this is the first Metal Gear where gameplay is 100% on-point. Extracting information from enemies and knocking them out is as simple as it should be; so long are the days of fumbling with controls to perform time critical maneuvers. Perhaps even more important, when you're caught, and it's bound to happen, you won't be as quick to load from the last checkpoint. The shooting controls are cohesive and give great feedback, making the transition between stealth to action one that isn't the equivalent of a forced restart.

No matter which version you play, you're in for a visual treat. Playing the Xbox One version I was thoroughly impressed with how Metal Gear has made the transition to open world after more than two decades of linear levels. Given Camp Omega's desert environment, I had a few moments where I felt I was playing a next-gen Red Dead Redemption. That was further realized when I hopped into vehicles to take a joy ride around town. The guards didn't fancy that very much.

As usual for the series, the audio work is fantastic. The sound of Snake slithering through bushes can be heard faintly, and the score amplifies tension. You may also be wondering how Kiefer Sutherland has performed in his new role as Big Boss. As strange as it is to not year David Hayter when Big Boss opens his mouth, Sutherland is a class A talent. His work on 24 as the popular Jack Bauer translates remarkably well to Metal Gear where he plays a similar role. Whether or not Kojima's decision was a good one is yet to be determined, but I can't think of another voice actor that could take over such an iconic character after over a decade of history and nail it with perfection.

Ground Zeroes is set in a playground of sorts; this playground is called Camp Omega, and it's reasonably sized. The main mission will send you to extract Paz and Chico, two returning characters from Peace Walker (PSP). There are a couple of cinematic videos that demonstrate the impressive quality of MGSV's cutscenes, and they provide a mild amount of story development. The story here is quite limited, but is important in tying the events of Peace Walker and MGSV: The Phantom Pain together. 

Camp Omega is a richly detailed place where you can get lost for 5 to 10 hours while completing the story and its 6 additional missions provided you're a fan of Metal Gear. This is a game made specifically to give Metal Gear fans like myself something to enjoy while waiting for MGSV: The Phantom Pain. Unfortunately, that means that if you're not a fan of the series I have a hard time seeing what would draw you in. The gameplay is great, but there's so much fan service here that is critical in realizing its full value (i.e. audio logs, easter eggs, etc).

This is a prologue to a game I dreamed about as a kid, the first Metal Gear that sheds its clunky conventions and seeks freedom with open-world environments. It's a shame that all we get is a teaser for now, and one that doesn't include any boss fights or major story development. But it makes up for that by having hours of additional content and extras that give you as much as you need to enjoy the encapsulated scope of its game world to the fullest.

It's difficult to know exactly how you'll respond to this game as its value is factored on a case by case basis. Are you a Metal Gear fan who would like to get a taste of what's next for the franchise? If so, you're in for one delicious bite sized treat. Ground Zeroes is enough to have propelled MGSV: The Phantom Pain to the top of my list of most anticipated games. In that regard, its mission is accomplished. However, if you haven't played Metal Gear before and/or aren't dead set on getting MGSV: The Phantom Pain, this game will probably leave you wondering what all the fuss is about.

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Jonathan Leack is the Gaming Editor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @jleack.


Xbox One copy provided by publisher. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, and PS3 at an MSRP of $29.99. This price was taken into consideration during the review process.