Review: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS4)

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Title: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (3.6 GB)
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Kojima Productions
Original MSRP: $29.99
ESRB Rating: M
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Gameplay: 
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes takes place in the 1970s after the events of Peace Walker. Those events are explained in what can only be described as dense text screens accessible through the main menu. The main quest of Ground Zeroes does not have too much step-up in terms of story outside of a gorgeous opening cinematic that introduces the villain SKULLFACE and one of the prisoners in need of rescuing named Chico. After this introduction, we find Snake outside that base preparing to start his mission of rescuing Chico and another prisoner Paz. Not having too much information in terms of story, the game relies on audio recordings and dialogue from Snake to flesh out the details.

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The main quest takes place entirely on one military base which at first glance looks huge, but once navigated through a couple times actually feels small. Now this is not a problem as it is the perfect size for this single mission and gives you a couple of options to go about getting to objectives. The base is filled with soldiers on their various routes and in watch towers blanketed throughout the map. Being stealthy is the best option for getting though a mission since running and gunning, while possible, just becomes too overwhelming. Your best bet is to take enemies out with your tranquilizer gun or through a melee take-down as opposed to using your very loud assault rifle.

Sneaking around gives off a great sense of nail biting tension as you navigate in the shadows trying to avoid being spotted by the various guards, spotlights, and cameras.  If you’re spotted by an enemy the game goes into a slow motion sequence where Snake is given plenty time to take them out before they can alert the base. This little bit of wiggle room was a nice addition because with it being night time and raining, it is possible for you to miss an enemy lurking in the shadows out of sight. This slow down adds a cinematic touch to the situation as Snake moves like a badass to grapple or shoot this alerted enemy. If you fail at taking them down, the base begins to search for you based on your last known location. Hiding for a couple minutes is the best option as the search for Snake can make traversing the base extra difficult and shootouts tend not to end well.

Snake is equipped with binoculars and a device called an iDROID which can mark enemies when he sees them. These enemies will remain marked no matter where they go, even through walls and on the map. This mechanic makes scoping out areas vital and learning a soldier’s walking route much easier. Another trick the binoculars have is the ability to work as a microphone that picks up on conversations enemies are having from long distances which can help acquire information. These new mechanics added to the already tight Metal Gear Solid formula are welcome additions making the game slightly less intimidating than its predecessors.

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Now on to the the “controversy” of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. The main quest for the game only took me a little more than 70 minutes to complete. Now a lot of people find this very short and while it is, it doesn’t take into account the replay value. The mission is graded and ranked on leaderboards which can be a motivation to attempt it multiple times to get a better grade and to top the times and scores of your friends. Score chasing does not appeal to everyone, but it is something to take into account in terms replayability. As for the main mission itself, it does lack depth and while fun to play just doesn’t give enough story or variation and being contained to the one military base can make it feel like an extended demo.

In addition to the main quest there are five more missions unlocked which have you return to the same military base and play different scenarios. These range from an action-filled run-and-gun rescue mission to more stealth missions that involve assassinations or intel retrieval. These range in times, but hover in the 15-30 minute range to complete which is dependent on your play style. The game does feel small over time as you are always playing in the same area which can feel unsatisfying and boring as you finish all the missions.

Visuals:
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is flat out gorgeous on the PlayStation 4. The game is highly detailed with amazing lighting and weather effects. The Fox Engine really shines in the main mission with it being a rainy night level. The rain and wind blowing through the area really shows what this “next-gen” engine is capable of. The lighting effects are wonderful as the dark level is brightened any time spotlights from the various watchtowers and guards shine on an area and with a lot of the game being spent in the shadows, the lighting effects really pop when those spotlights hit. 

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Daytime missions don’t look as impressive because they are bright and do not rely on the impressive weather and nighttime lighting effects, but they still show off the beautifully detailed world. The only real knock on the daytime missions is that they do expose how small the base is, but it is still gorgeous nonetheless. Regardless, the game is definitely a showpiece for what the new systems are capable of.

Audio: 
Snake has a new voice actor and it is noticeable, but that is not a knock against the game as Kiefer Sutherland does a wonderful job as Snake. While he does not have a lot to say throughout the game he gives a great performance that should make fans feel okay with the voice actor switch. His distinct voice fits the character well and his performance is solid, no pun intended.

Being a stealth game, audio is very important and Ground Zeroes delivers as every little sound matters when trying to stay quiet or pinpoint an enemy’s location. The sound design is wonderfully executed as you know an enemy’s location based on their footsteps, voice, or conversation over a radio. Snake makes noise too and with a realistic sound design a guard close enough will notice sounds of footsteps in the shadows or crawling in the grass so being aware of the sounds you make as Snake is vital. Luckily the audio is excellent and a definite plus for the game.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only with online leaderboard integration for various in-game categories.

Conclusion: 
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is an excellent showpiece for the Fox Engine and a good experience for a couple of hours. The price point is a little on the high end and its small story setup makes the main quest feel like a vertical slice of a much bigger game. This does not feel like a demo with its 6 missions and replay hooks, but it is not fully satisfying either as more is wanted when it is all said and done.  

When going into a Metal Gear Solid game a lot is expected and while the gameplay has never been better, the amount of content is lacking unless replaying for a faster time is something that interests you as a player. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is something to hold fans of the series over until The Phantom Pain releases.

Score:
6.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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