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Lower your expectations for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes has officially been announced as a standalone title in the Metal Gear Solid V story.

Originally unveiled back in 2012 without the “V” in the moniker, the hype train has since picked up momentum, most recently at the PlayStation 4 launch event. Even though Ground Zeroes carries the weight of a numbered title in the Metal Gear franchise, fans should lower their expectations. In fact, with every new release of information regarding Ground Zeroes, the more skeptical I become.


When the trailer originally released back in August 2012, I was ecstatic. Even though Ground Zeroes looked too good to be released for the current generation and was looking to be a next generation title only, I couldn’t wait. Later that year during the VGAs, The Phantom Pain was announced. It didn’t take long at all for fans to surmise it as another Metal Gear Solid game. We were getting two Metal Gear games for the next generation and possibly in the same year. Two! However, what was shown in the trailer for The Phantom Pain didn’t make much sense and kept many awaiting its next press release, but that didn’t help.

GDC 2013 only added confusion when Kojima stated that Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain would not be separate titles but were one in the same, and that the final title would be Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. And then all the air left the room. It made sense I guess; Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will feature two parts much like how MGS2 began with the “Tanker Incident” and later “The Big Shell Incident” or how MGS3 had “The Virtuous Mission” and “Operation Snake Eater”… but I was wrong.

mgs2 two parts metal gear

Two parts, one package.

With the recent announcement that Ground Zeroes will release separately from The Phantom Pain, as well getting a “V” added to the title, I can’t help but think it’s solely for that sake of sales. It could be worse, remember that Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty demo in Zone of the Enders? Finding the right format for your title in order to maximize profit can be tricky, especially for a Metal Gear game that might not even be a full game by Metal Gear standards. Kojima has been adamant to say that Ground Zeroes will be 1/300 the size of The Phantom Pain with the former serving more as a prologue, likening it to the first 10-15 minutes of a Hollywood movie. In case you didn’t know, Kojima is a huge fan of the 007 films and is one of the main influences for the Metal Gear series. We all know the Hollywood movie Kojima’s referring to is a James Bond film which features an opening sequence that leads into the main arc of the film. Snake Eater utilized this formula by the book and did it exceptionally well, and one of the reasons why MGS3 is my favorite Metal Gear title to date. So why not recycle that formula for Metal Gear Solid V?

In an interview with Kotaku, Kojima stated that he originally wanted Ground Zeroes to release right after Peace Walker, whether on PS3 or PSP, but was delayed due to development issues and another project getting in the way. He further explained that “given that [The Phantom Pain] is a rather big game and still in development, it will take a little bit more time to get it out. We decided to listen to the fans and put at least the prologue out there so people will get the experience.”

kept you waiting huh metal gear solid v ground zeroes

Take your time Snake. No, really.

So how much longer will we have to wait to see The Phantom Pain after Ground Zeroes releases? According to a tweet by a Senior Research Analyst David Gibson, Konami will release MGSV depending on how Ground Zeroes does first, then decide if 2014 or 2015. I’m not sure how much reliable this information could be so take it with a grain of salt. Still, with Ground Zeroes releasing in Spring 2014, the earliest we could potentially see The Phantom Pain would be in October or November 2014, that’s at most 8 months between releases. I rather wait 8 months for a complete MGSV package if there’s a possibility that the story might suffer due to the separate releases. From what I’ve seen of the games though, a separate release could work better for the game design.

The very first trailer of The Phantom Pain shows Snake waking up from his coma being guided by a mysterious man, Ishmael. Based on what I first saw in this scene I presumed this could very well be MGSV’s tutorial stage, but how could it be if Ground Zeroes came before it? With the games now being separate releases, two tutorial stages could be implemented. Then again, if The Phantom Pain introduced new game mechanics post-coma it would make sense to reintroduce a tutorial stage. The main differences I can think of between Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain are the open-world aspects, passage of time, and weather simulation. With both games featuring an open-world environment, though Ground Zeroes on a much smaller scale, the only downside I can see to Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain being in the same package would be that prologue is too big to be a prologue but still smaller than a full feature Metal Gear.

Konami has been clear that Ground Zeroes will usher players into the next generation of gaming. With that being said, I think Ground Zeroes will be great for what it is, a transitional game to get players accustomed to the changes in the MGS franchise. It would be interesting to see if Ground Zeroes receives a platinum trophy for the PlayStation platform. I’m sure it will due to it being a Metal Gear title, kind of a big deal. I just hope no one expects the main story to last longer than a couple of hours or stretch outside the US facility camp that we’ve seen all seen one too many times.

The most recent exciting news came in the form of a Side-Ops mission, woot…

The following excerpt on Ground Zeroes‘ introduction can be found on Metal Gear Solid V‘s official website:

“Several months after the events of METAL GEAR SOLID: PEACE WALKER, METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES takes place at a US facility in Cuba in 1975, Aside from the main story mission, the game also features several sub-missions known as Side-Ops, as well as multiple “trials” that can be attempted for extra challenge and a chance to compete in community Rankings and Leaderboards. Second screen device support also planned.”

So far Ground Zeroes is shaping to be a lot like Peace Walker, which had a similar formula featuring a MAIN OPS story and EXTRA OPS side missions. Unlike Peace Walker, Ground Zeroes’ main story wont be as in-depth. The Phantom Pain synopsis sounds much more promising:

“Takes place in Afghanistan 9 years after the events of GROUND ZEROES in 1984. THE PHANTOM PAIN will be the first MGS to feature a fully open world along with realistic passage of time and weather simulation. Players can look forward to unparalleled levels of strategic freedom and depth in the world’s first true-to-life “Infiltration Simulator.”

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way they’re supposed to. In a recent interview with Siliconera, Kojima says, “It would’ve actually been better to release it all at once, but by the way things are going, it appears likely that Phantom Pain will be coming out around the time the PlayStation 4 becomes more spread out. That means we would’ve had to make people wait a while longer.”

Has Kojima forgotten his game release on Xbox One as well? With interviews like this, I still can’t help but think that sales is a big part of the reason for the separate releases. I know Kojima wants to “please” MGS fans by having separate releases so we get into the action faster. Whether that will benefit or harm the story is still up in the air and one of the main reasons I think fans shouldn’t expect Ground Zeroes to be more than what it is. As a die-hard fan of the series myself, I know I would much rather wait and have the game in one package if that’s what was originally intended, for the quality and cohesiveness of the story’s sake alone.

This can’t be the entire map, can it?

Back in the day, I might have preferred to having the game out as soon as possible. But Metal Gear is such a phenomenal series and an exception to that rule, the wait is worth it. I’m not sure how other fans feel, but I doubt the folks over at Konami even brought this up with fans and chose the one more financially beneficial to the firm, which makes sense. For a game such as Metal Gear though, I’m more captivated by the quality over the quantity. And that’s really a problem with the video game industry as a whole, quality vs quantity, but that’s a whole other bag of issues and deserves its own piece. Having sold over 2 million units as of December, even if PlayStation 4 reaches 4 million by the end of 2014 I don’t think that will cause The Phantom Pain to release any sooner. Here’s hoping though.

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