It would be careless of me not to mention the circus surrounding the announcements of Metal Gear Solid V — A fake trailer, from a fake studio, with a bandaged face lead who’s first name happens to be an anagram for Kojima. All this buffoonery points to some of my major issues with the Metal Gear Solid series, and moreover, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes; Kojima seems equally bored and enamored with something he created twenty-odd years ago, and is now imprisoned by.
It takes eleven pages of back-story to explain what is happening in the main mission of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Comparatively, I was able to complete said mission in ninety-eight minutes. Now, I am not quite sure how they break a story at Kojima Productions, but I imagine it involves Kojima defecating on a table, and his co-writers playing in it with ungloved hands whilst calling him a genius. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes takes place after Peace Walker, but leads directly into Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Snake’s main objective is to break into the Camp Omega and extract Chico and Paz. Why? I don’t know, however, I am sure it is buried somewhere in the Metal Gear Solid snore — I mean, lore. The game throws you into this situation where, presumably, I am supposed to care about the well-being of Chico and Paz, but never once gives me a reason to; outside of the assumption I know Guantanamo Bay is a pretty bad place, or I read the eleven pages of back-story.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes tries to make some poignant statement on the ills of Guantanamo Bay. Prisoners in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes even dawn the same garb a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay would. Unfortunately, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes farts mid-statement, and that fart takes the form of several lackluster characters. Often, Kojima Productions confuses gimmick with character. Characters are layered, and have distinctive personalities, or traits, that define them. A gimmick? Well, a gimmick is a boy named Chico who plugs ear-buds into his chest. The studios attraction to gimmicks is also apparent with the game’s antagonist, Skull Face — who happens to have a skull for a face.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes has one female character, Paz. Paz is a presumptively a double agent, and that is narrative reason enough to cut her mid-section open twice. At one point in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes a surgeon is digging through the intestines of Paz for no other reason but to say, “yo, look how well the Fox engine renders a child’s intestines!” And in attempt to not spoil a crucial plot point, I’ll just say the way things end up for Paz is just plain ol’ dumb.
Kojima Productions still have a flare for cinematics. The opening cut-scene has the same flair you would expect from any Metal Gear game. The closing cinematic is especially well crafted, but Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a video game, and fancy cinematics are pretty low on the totem pole. The conclusion of the game consists of Snake rescuing a certain individual from Mother Base, but does not let you partake in any of it; because why play when you can watch, right?
Even though, they don’t let you take part in the games dramatic conclusion Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes has some really satisfying stealth. However, for the Metal Gear Solid elite there are some caveats. Firstly, rations are gone and replaced with regenerating health. The Codec is gone, and replaced with a radio. Knocking on walls to attract guards is gone. The humor of the other games is gone, too. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is very self-serious.
Stealth is hinged on two interactions: Spotting and interrogation. Spotting borrows a lot from Far Cry 3, and works by the player finding an advantageous spot on the map and scooping the area through a pair of binoculars. Any guard that is spotted will stay marked on Snake’s map. This is also when the radio comes in handy, and I forget the Codec ever existed. When Snake is dropped into Camp Omega he is given a very vague area of where his main objective is located. Radioing in on spotted guards will tell Snake if that particular guard has any additional information that would be of use, thus, narrowing the target area of the main objective.
I’ve always had an issue with the CQC in Metal Gear games. In Metal Gear Solid 4, specifically, I opted to take the route less traveled, and blast my way through situations instead of attempting the dodgy CQC. Alternatively, in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes I felt like the Snake I always wanted to be. Guards become prisoners with the press of a button in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, and the range at which you can use CQC is appropriately forgiving. Simplifying these actions let me focus more on being “stealthy”, rather than making sure I am the appropriate amount of space from an enemy, and pressing the right button in order to perform CQC.
Being a stealth game, it’s natural for some of the players enjoyment to be dependent on the AI of the guards. Spotting does alleviate some of the trial and error that goes along with learning a specific route a guard takes. The AI seems to be painfully intelligent in some spots, while in others it is fodder for Snake’s choke-hold. It’s an inconsistency that exists, but doesn’t hamper the otherwise satisfying stealth.
When Snake is inevitably spotted Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes introduces “Reflex Mode” which slows down time, and give players a moment to think about the course of action they would like to take. Personally, this meant that any guard that spotted me was promptly shot in the head and hidden. In addition to the “Reflex Mode”, several other things have been added to Snake’s tool-belt. Sprinting is an option for the first time in the series, also, driving gives Snake a range of mobility never before seen. One of my favorite things about the game is sprinting from cover-to-cover, and quick diving as to not alert any guard. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is the stealth game I’ve always wanted in the series.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes shines with its nipped and tucked mechanics. It feels like a step forward, and away from the Metal Gear series that I’ve grown tired of, but the bloated, preposterous narrative is in desperate need of liposuction.
[+ The Fox Engine is gorgeous] [+ Satisfying stealth] [+ Interrogation is fun every time] [+ Snake’s mobility] [-Terrible Metal Gear back-story bullshit needs to go away] [- Characters are gimmicky]