MGS: Ground Zeroes is a remarkable entry into the Metal Gear Solid franchise for several reasons, both good and not so good. Most importantly though – it appears to be a big step forward for the series in terms of both gameplay and technology and is worth your attention for that reason alone.
In the months leading up to the game’s release however, it was most controversial for the claim that gamers would be able to get through the campaign in a mere two hours. After a price drop was announced, fears grew that the next big installment in the celebrated MGS universe would turn out to be nothing more than an extended demo or prelude for things to come. To a degree, the skeptics are right – but Ground Zeroes certainly does succeed in getting us excited in whatever follows next.
Pretty much the entire game unfolds within a prison camp, where you are tasked with the rescue of two prisoners – successfully escaping unharmed. Of course there are side missions and getting the right amount of collective items even gets you platform-exclusive content, but the core gameplay experience really does take up less than two hours. For those not interested in replayability, this is understandably a large issue, but Kojima and his team have managed to squeeze a lot of depth into the game that fans of the series will find easy to appreciate.
All the missions you undertake and complete are rated according to your play style, and pushing the score up using new and more effient methods is a big draw here. This is partly due to the game’s open structure, despite taking place in a relatively confined space. There are always several ways to approach a mission using stealth techniques, but the game also gives you the option to run and gun through some of the sections. This is likely to get you a low score for that particular mission, but offers up a change in gameplay pace that may appeal to fans of less stealth-oriented approaches. For maximum enjoyment (and scoring, for that matter), stealth is definitely the way to go though.
As it stands, the game offers a more open, almost sandbox-like world that is still familiar to MGS veterans. This is partly made possible by the new Fox engine, which renders the entire game world without any noticeable load times and manages to squeeze a level of detail out of the X360/PS3 that we didn’t see in previous MGS games for the system. Considering the engine is likely to scale up for subsequent games, we could be in for a treat. Production levels are excellent as well, partly due to Kiefer Sutherland’s excellent voiceover work (though it is more sparsely used than you’d expect in a Kojima game).
Still, no matter how much we like Ground Zeroes for what it is – it left us wanting for more. This is just as much a sign of feeling like we’re not getting enough here as it is a sign that everything we’ve seen so far has been top quality. Konami has been clear about the fact that the full experience won’t come until Phantom Pain releases, and what Ground Zeroes manages exceptionally well is making sure we’re eagerly anticipating that moment.