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News  20, Mar 2014

Critic’s Corner: Metal Gear Solid V – Ground Zeroes

Does size matter, especially when it comes to a revered tactical espionage action franchise? We delve into a number of international reviews to find out

Around 2013, when stealth action game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain made its gameplay debut, people were wondering how its counterpart Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes tied in together. Turns out that Ground Zeroes is just a prologue to Phantom Pain, like how a short web series ties in to a feature movie production.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is out now, costs about S$33.60, and is reportedly about an hour long. Do reviewers all over the world see Konami’s effort as a ludicrous cash-in, or is there some merit in releasing a part of a full-length adventure as a taste of things to come?

Well, opinions have been half-positive and half-mixed. A few outlets like Eurogamer and GameSpot may not have taken issue with the length, and even so, they felt that the sandbox gameplay was enough to justify its price and value. Eurogamer’s Martin Robinson said that the very best thing about it is how the series casted away many of its cinematic pretensions and fell in love with being a video game again. GameSpot’s Peter Brown said that the stealth mechanics are challenging and engrossing, though the narrative opens up more questions than answers.

Sites like Polygon and The Escapist weren’t so forgiving for its shortcomings. Polygon’s Russ Frushtick said that even if it offered a sampling of enhanced gameplay mechanics, the game isn’t worthy of the franchise moniker due to its length and barebones content. The Escapist’s Jim Sterling said that he did not need to spend US$30 for a teaser to Phantom Pain. He added that even though Ground Zeroes is full of good stealth mechanics and design, it did not hide the fact that its existence was unnecessary.

We live in an insane time where what used to be demos can now be sold as full-fledged appetizer-style products. We do hope that this practice isn’t commonplace in the future, despite the quality of Ground Zeroes, according to some.

Here is a reviews graph chart:

 

Eurogamer
“It’s slim and slightly inconsequential, with a villain who’s all but absent and with threads left dangling throughout as it tees up the events of Phantom Pain. Yet still it manages to spin together a solemn, clumsily conscientious tale that pulls together heavy-handed swipes at US foreign policy, allusions to wrongly convicted Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti and one particular lunge well beyond the realms of taste and decency.

Thankfully, its more wayward moments are left in the background, ferreted away for those in tune with Metal Gear Solid’s twisted lore to discover for themselves. For everyone else, the very best thing about Ground Zeroes is how the series has cast away so many of its cinematic pretensions and fallen in love with being a video game all over again. As a precursor to Phantom Pain, it suggests that greatness awaits, but even on its own terms Ground Zeroes is something special. In the purity of its systems and the focus of its action, it’s not just an antidote to the glut that had begun to weigh down Metal Gear Solid but also to the bloat that weighs down so many of the series’ big-budget peers.”

Destructoid
“Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is not for everyone. I can’t stress how underwhelming the game will be if you aren’t a huge fan of the series, or you can’t see yourself playing in the same sandbox enough to really get your money’s worth. But for everyone else that can’t wait to get even a taste of Phantom Pain, it’s worth the budget price of entry — especially on a current-gen console.”

GameSpot
“[The game's] dichotomy between stealth- and action-oriented gameplay lends itself to fear, tension, and excitement. One moment you can hear a pin drop, and the next, you’re bolting across a chaotic military base with bullets whizzing by your head and desperation clouding your focus. If this were a more linear experience, perhaps the allure of this contrast would wear thin, but there are so many ways to tackle individual missions, be it the path you take or the weaponry you choose, that there’s almost never a shortage of new tactics to explore. When your only playground is a military base, it’s easy to find new ways to entertain yourself in Ground Zeroes.

Unfortunately, if you hope to be entertained by an equal helping of Metal Gear’s typically perplexing and intriguing narrative, you’ll most certainly be disappointed. There’s some fat to savor here, hints of what’s to come in the next chapter of Metal Gear Solid V, but once you’ve digested the cutscenes that bookend the main mission, it’s a pure gameplay-driven experience from then on out. Though it’s unusual for everything to take place in a single location, there’s so much to do and see, and whether you take a stealthy or head-on approach, infiltrating Camp Omega is a thrilling experience that shouldn’t be missed.”

US Gamer
“The story, brief as it is, has its share of shocking (and gruesome) moments, which are made all the more powerful if you’ve previously played Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. The mission itself likewise does a good job of taking you all over Omega Base and forcing you to puzzle out prisoner locations before appropriately ending with a bang.

It’s a decent little package, and I enjoyed hunting assassins and blowing up AA batteries in the subsequent side missions, despite my slight disappointment at their reusing the Omega Base setting. But though there was plenty more to unlock, I didn’t really feel like playing through the complete mission a second time. Instead, I ended up tooling around the base a bit more, trying out the new guns, and putting it away. In a way, Ground Zeroes has done its job a little too well. With my appetite whetted, I’m definitely ready for more Metal Gear Solid. But I think I’m done with the appetizer. Time to bring on the main course.”

Polygon
“Devotees may get enjoyment out of replaying these missions over and over again, getting higher scores, unlocking new weapons or finding hidden Moai statues, but after just a couple hours, I was tired of walking the same dirt roads over and over again.

It’s admirable that developer Kojima Productions was willing to toss long-held franchise tenets out the window in favor of re-imagined Metal Gear Solid gameplay. And it’s possible that in a more complete game, these additions might shine more brightly. But Ground Zeroes is hardly the right venue to demonstrate the future of the franchise. It’s staggeringly short and unsatisfying, feeling more like a cash grab than an honest-to-goodness installment in a beloved franchise.”

The Escapist
“I could talk more about the finer points of Ground Zeroes’ gameplay. I could tell you about its impressive graphics, I could further detail its controls, but why? I’ll be repeating myself a little later in the year when The Phantom Pain launches. I have little doubt that the full MGS is one that’ll be worth paying for, and I anticipate its launch excitedly. This release, however, does not tide me over. It only makes me disappointed. I could have bought at least three real, fulfilling games with this money, but instead I have an interactive billboard on my PS4 hard drive.

Even if you’re a die hard fan of Metal Gear Solid, you could skip this. Narratively, there’s nothing here that a cursory scanning of Wikipedia won’t tell you. The story, as told here, is glancing and vague, nothing but teaser material that you just don’t need to experience firsthand. As a purchasable product, this is as unnecessary as unnecessary gets.

It’s a shame, too, because Ground Zeroes is full of good things – distinct elements that are beautifully well made. It’s just sad that Zone of the Enders 3 didn’t come out sooner, and have this packed in with it.”

Jonathan Toyad

Jonathan Toyad

If you want an elaborate answer on who would win in a fight between Ultraman and Godzilla, Jonathan Toyad is your man. A six-year veteran in the game journalism industry, he did words and videos for outlets such as GameSpot, GameAxis, IGN and Stuff.TV. Fears coyotes and scorched earths.

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