Rewind back to 1998 and you’ll find a game that broke the gaming blueprint; offering something fresh, unique and incredibly well designed. Its release inspired countless titles thereafter – alongside many sequels – and even today the original is considered one of the best in the series. Metal Gear Solid (or MGS for short), centred around third-person tactical espionage action, accompanied by spectacular gameplay and multi-layered characters. Though the traditional gameplay formula was fabled back then, over the years we’ve seen a far less rigid approach, giving players more flexibility in every aspect of its gameplay. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes marks the beginning of a bold new era for the series, since not only has its overall structure evolved, the iconic voice actor who portrayed the main character ever since the 1998 original has now been replaced. The time for change is now and I’d recommend embracing it.
Just a taste.
Essentially focusing on one mission in an open-ended environment, Ground Zeroe’s aim is to get you familiar with the series’ new play style, ensuring your ready for its main act, The Phantom Pain. For aficionados of the series, Zeroes takes place between the events of Peace Walker (first seen on the PSP) and the first Metal Gear (on the MSX). Phantom Pain will expand on the story and has been described as being two hundred times the size of the map found here in Ground Zeroes. Though there’s been criticism surrounding the game’s length, the critics aren’t wrong, the game is criminally short. I’d go as far as saying the game is an elaborate demo, but once you take into account the extra side-missions and hidden secrets, I’d say placing down twenty to thirty pounds is justifiable.
One thing’s for sure, the game looks stunning. It would have been hard to imagine back in the square-faced character days, that I’d be playing this level of realism sixteen years later. Developed with Kojima Production’s fabled Fox Engine, the goal of the developers was to try and match photorealism. Though I’d say they don’t meet that all the time, they certainly give it a run for its money. I only hope that come the release of the Phantom Pain we’ll see even bigger improvements, especially on PS4 or Xbox One. I had a chance to play the PS3 version of the game, and though it still looked good, you get even shinier textures and much better lightning on Next-Gen.
What I enjoyed most about my time with the game is that I could play exactly how I wanted. Whichever angle you wish to take it from, Zeroes’ map will give you countless opportunities to take out the enemy or bypass them completely. For instance, there was an enemy blocking a door way, but instead of trying to coerce him out with a well placed bullet, I instead decided to jump in a truck and crash it nearby. As expected this caused enough of a diversion for him to leave his post, which left me time to sneak past and get back into hiding.
If you do end up getting caught by the opposition, then you’ll have a small amount of time to deal with them before the alarm is raised. As soon as the enemy notices that you’re intruding, the typical MGS alert noise will sound before slowing down time and giving you a few moments to locate the enemy that saw you and take him down. I thoroughly enjoyed using this slow motion to my advantage, lining up multiple enemies and watching my bullets glide through the air to their designated target, which in most cases, were their heads.
All this talk about history and shooting thugs and I’ve hardly got down to story. For those of you who haven’t played much of the series, the timeline of Metal Gear is rather confusing. All I’ll simply say is that your main objective in Ground Zeroes is to rescue two young agents, previously seen in the portable entry, Peace Walker. After acquiring both subjects (alongside any POWs you’d like to have join you), you can air lift them out and finish in one fell swoop, Or for those who want to explore and discover secrets, stay on the base and finish up. What follows thereafter is a cutscene furthering the story, ending with a rather uncomfortable situation. It’s definitely got the punchy MGS feel, but this time it’s almost, dare I say, serious.
Should you buy it? If so, which platform?
I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to complete the main mission in less than twenty minutes, but is that necessarily a bad thing? It depends on your point of view. However short the game is, it’s more about spending time honing your skills and experimenting in the small sandbox area available. Along with leaderboards being made available, it will provide even the most skilled player with something to aim towards, should they feel the need to be number one.
In regards to platform, I’m going push for either PS4 or Xbox One, especially once you consider the extra graphical enhancements. But at the end of the day it all rests on your love for the series, given that if you play on Playstation, the extra Deja Vu content might make the decision easy for you. On Xbox you still gain a special mission, but it’s not quite a special as what’s been tailored for Playstation fans. If you’re stuck on Xbox 360 or PS3, then you won’t be missing out on content, but rest assured that your time with the game won’t have quite as much of a sheen as its Next-Gen counterparts.
As you’ll be able to catch on my playthrough above, there is a particularly special treat for Playstation owners. While anyone on Xbox will get the chance to play as Raiden in their copy of the game, there’s something even more elaborate for owners of either Playstation version. Once you manage to collect all of the X.O.F. badges littered around the base in the main mission, you’ll unlock an extra side-mission, aimed at bringing back memories of the 1998 original through recreating particular moments from that game.
Everything from the spotting of a surveillance camera to the end chase scene of MGS on PS1 has been referenced here, with even quirkier moments being realised too. How about a visit from Psycho Mantis? If that wasn’t enough, there’s even the ability to play with the original retro skin of Snake, alongside soldiers in original white uniform and snow filtering down from the sky. I found this extra mission to be the ultimate level of fan service and I would probably buy the title just for this feature.
- + The gameplay is fluid and precise
- + Flexible options on how to complete a mission
- + References to the original games provide the ultimate fan service
- - An elaborate demo that comes with a high price tag