Next year, gamers will be diving into a brand new Metal Gear Solid game that is going by the name of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which looks to be ushering in a new era for the Metal Gear Solid series. New gameplay mechanics, an open-world environment and even a change of voice actor from David Hayter to Kiefer Sutherland for the protagonist, which has many wondering where The Phantom Pain will lead to in the future.
However, before all of that we have a game called Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. What is Ground Zeroes, you may be asking? Well, it is a prologue to the events of The Phantom Pain, taking place 9 years prior. This makes it more of quick appetizer and warm-up for what will be coming in the full-game sometime next year, but to dismiss it as simply an optional intro to The Phantom Pain would discredit what has been able to accomplish with this game.
Ground Zeroes takes place in a relatively small complex area called Camp Omega and you find our protagonist Big Boss on a mission to rescue two prisoners. The entire game takes place here as you navigate the site and find clues of the prisoners’ whereabouts. Like any Metal Gear Solid game worth its salts, an emphasis is placed on stealth, but this time you have a much more open environment with more options from getting from point A to point B. Big Boss can crawl, tip-toe and run around the environment while utilizing the game’s terrain for stealth or even some buildings and vehicles.
The key to navigating this area successfully is with the use of Big Boss’ iDroid. The iDroid is an in-game map that shows your location, your target location and even the location of enemies if you have properly scanned them with your binoculars. It’s up to the player to use the iDroid effectively to get a better idea of the areas ahead and to plan out the best course of action.
This is what makes Ground Zeroes a breath of fresh air, because there are so many different ways that you can tackle the game. If you want to go in there and rescue the hostages without anyone even knowing you were there, you can do that. However, if you want to go in there with guns blazing like Rambo, you sure as hell can do that, too. Each little area of the map offers a different scenario that makes you consider the different alternatives that you can take in the situation, and no matter which method you choose you have the opportunity for success.
Now, even though there isn’t much of a story with the main game being only a couple of hours long, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t completely enthralled. It has such a beautifully-cinematic feeling, and the conflicts and tragedies that are witnessed in the short amount of time left me anxious for what lies in store next. Ground Zeroes is definitely essential to what will be coming ahead in The Phantom Pain.
Apart from the main singleplayer campaign you have the option of completing four additional Side Ops missions. These missions have you return to Camp Omega and complete certain objectives; which consist of killing heavily-guarded targets, rescuing allies in need and acquiring classified information. These missions are also brief, but the level design is so strong and the gameplay so smooth that I ended up playing each mission multiple times, which is something I rarely do.
What helps the replayability of these side-missions is not only the engaging gameplay, but also the fact that you get a rank at the end of the mission. Your rank is determined by how long you took to complete the mission as well as how many times you alerted enemies or killed them. This invites you to replay missions multiple times and attempt different ways of reaching your goal. Once you feel you have mastered a particular mission, you then have higher difficulty settings that throw in more obstacles to make the missions more intense and all the more rewarding.
In the end, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a brief but intense little game. The price tag is a bit steep for the little amount of content that is on display here, but the game is so much fun to play that I ended up playing much longer than I really had any right to. The story doesn’t have enough time to really introduce the typical multi-layered intrigue that a main game would, but that is made up for by its urgency and sheer wow-factor. Ground Zeroes is a prime example of doing a lot with a little.