Here's to you, Kojima-san.
“Huh…? What was that…? CP, come in CP, this is Zulu 7. I heard a suspicious noise just now, I’m gonna go check it out.”
“CP – understood. Don’t let your guard down. Out.”
“Roger that, CP.”
“CP, this is Zulu 7, come in CP!”
“CP here. What’s wrong, Zulu 7?!”
“I’m not sure. I’ve approached a room. It sounds like there’s a distressed elephant trumpeting inside. What should I do, CP?”
“Understood, Zulu 7. Proceed with caution. This elephant could be dangerous.”
“Roger that CP, proceeding with caution…
“CP, I’ve made contact with the elephant. He’s not in a good way. Apparently, he says you can complete Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes in just over an hour. In fact, a friend of his said it took him 30 minutes to complete the main mission on one particular playthrough. What’s the sit rep, CP? This can’t be true, surely? The game costs between £19.99 and £29.99 for crying out loud!”
“Calm down, Zulu 7, the elephant is only telling you one side of the story. Am I right in thinking you’re a huge Metal Gear Solid fan?”
“You know I am, CP.”
“Good. Then believe me when I say this may very well be the best Metal Gear Solid game ever created. But there’s a caveat. It’s a prologue, an introduction to the new mechanics you’ll encounter in the full sequel, The Phantom Pain. The reworked controls and open-world setting – all of these elements will be present in The Phantom Pain, but that game still doesn’t have a release date. As far as I’m concerned, this will do nicely.”
“But I don’t understand, CP. The elephant is adamant that Ground Zeroes should have been a demo. The game is so short that it’s absurd they are charging for what could be a two hour experience for some.”
“Roger that, Zulu 7. But he’s wrong. The production values that have gone into to this game are phenomenal, almost breathtaking at times. Seeing the FOX engine running at 60 frames per second on the next-generation of hardware is a sight to behold. It verges on photo-realistic visuals. The way the rain convincingly soaks Big Boss in a slippery sheen, the tarp tents blowing in the wind, the intelligence of the guards and the way they interact with the world; the sheer number of solutions and possibilities to completing each operation is staggering. I’m still uncovering new ways to get through the game today. You can even drive around in vehicles!”
“Ok, CP, that sounds like something I’d like to witness. Huh? What’s that? Oh, ok. CP, the elephant insists that this game is nothing more than a shameless cash-in. After all, he remembers playing the Tanker segment on Metal Gear Solid 2 and even the iconic opening in the PlayStation original, Metal Gear Solid. There was plenty to do in those demos – and they were completely free. I don’t know, CP… The elephant’s got a point. I feel like I’ve been held up at gunpoint and someone’s pointing it at my privates, asking me to shake until my wallet drops out. This is humiliating.”
“I can sympathise with what the elephant’s saying, Zulu 7, but hold on. While the demos for both of those games did offer a lot of scope, and arguably served as an introduction to the main event, they were extracted straight out of the games themselves. Ground Zeroes is a standalone story and setting – and I’m certain that even the gameplay will be expanded upon come The Phantom Pain.”
“What’s the story about, then, CP?”
“Big Boss (formerly known as Naked Snake) is sent on a rescue mission to save two prisoners, Chico and Paz, from a Cuban facility located on a lone island. There’s lots of subtle references to Guantanamo Bay, and the base itself is rife with places to experiment and secrets to uncover. Chico and Paz’s personal backstories are fleshed out with cassette tapes you can discover, there are XOF patches scattered across the base and, if you’ve played Peace Walker, the PSP title, you’ll be right up to speed with what can admittedly be a daunting and often convoluted story. Luckily, Ground Zeroes cuts the fluff and delivers a teasing glimpse at what the future holds. Even the awe-inspiring cutscenes benefit greatly from their succinct delivery.”
“Hmmm, I see… but wait a minute! The elephant says Ground Zeroes is essentially DLC, then. An over-priced expansion which should be treated as such. I’m so confused, CP. This elephant has a point. I just can’t get over the fact this game is so damn short.”
“On paper, yes, it is a short game, Zulu 7. But there’s so much scope to each side-op and the main mission itself that you could potentially get more than 20 hours out of this game. For example, will you attempt to make it through completely unseen, without killing a soul? Perhaps you need to mark all the enemies with your binoculars, or extract a particular prisoner. Can you obtain an S rank on every stage and topple your friends in the online leaderboards? I haven’t been able to stop myself from giving each mission another go. It’s surprisingly addictive.”
“But it’s just one area, isn’t it? The elephant says that alone is a huge problem. Why play the same area over and over again? Does it not get boring?”
“Yeah, it’s a shame you’re confined to one area, but the side-ops and objectives within them, not to mention your starting point on the map, keeps the challenge fresh each time. Also, many of the missions take place at different times of day – morning, dusk and night; this affects the vision of the guards and forces you to rethink your strategy. There are also two difficulty levels to select. For a game so short, it more than makes up for it in depth. If I was to criticise anything it would be the camera. It can be quite erratic depending on your situation, but it’s a minor inconvenience most of the time.”
“Argh, I don’t know, CP. I know it sounds great, but… b-b-b-but the elephant. He… he’s got a horribly stern, judgemental glare! I can’t escape his sound logic!”
“Get out of there, Zulu 7! The elephant hasn’t mentioned that it’s the most accessible Metal Gear Solid game yet thanks to the Reflex ability, which slows down time and grants you a small window to subdue a guard who may have spotted you; the interrogation option, which helps you uncover key areas of the map; the incredible fidelity of each weapon, and how, if you choose, you can tackle the game all guns blazing!”
“Wait, listen to me, Zulu 7! There’s some unforgettable hidden easter eggs, one including Hideo Kojima himself! Ok, it walks a fine a line, but Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a delectable appetiser meant to whet the palate for The Phantom Pain. It’s also a really great game! Trust me, there’s plenty to do! Don’t be put off by that trunk touting cynicist!”
“No, CP! I won’t accept that. The elephant’s right! Why have they done this? Why do they want me to pay for a glorified demo? How can they charge for a product so bereft of content? Those… bastards! I won’t be part of this… David Hayter isn’t even a part of this… I… I don’t know if I can go on. The elephant’s agreed to sit on my head and put me out of misery. I think it’s for the best… Goodbye, CP.”
“ZULU 7! COME IN, ZULU 7!? Kiefer Sutherland does a surprisingly fine job at playing Snake! Zulu 7?! Jesus Christ… Everyone, be on full alert – there’s an elephant in the room. Do not go in there. I repeat: THERE’S AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM!”
A review copy of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes was provided courtesy of Konami. The game was reviewed on Xbox One.
Zulu 7? Zulu 7? Zuuuuuluuuuuu 7!!!!!!!
An excellent showcase of what fans can expect from The Phantom Pain, Ground Zeroes is an accomplished albeit brief encounter with gaming’s iconic, still suitably gruff-voiced hero. Remarkable visuals, open-ended gameplay and layers of hidden depth are waiting be discovered, with genuine replayability on offer. Ignore the elephant in the room – let’s not keep Big Boss waiting, huh?