Wednesday, March 19, 2014


For a series as old as I am, it is a monumental task to reinvent itself while still retaining the core mechanics and entertainment value that has kept fans intrigued and coming back for more. From Snake Eater's survival mechanics to Guns of the Patriots' run and gun addition to Portable Ops and Peace Walker's home base and deployment features, Hideo Kojima has always been on step ahead of the fans and the technology he uses to bring his acclaimed series to life with.

In what is essentially a prologue to the highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, the $30 Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes may seem like a glorified DLC at face value but that would do this innovative game a dishonor.

Ground Zeroes doesn't get bogged down by the lengthy cut scenes that the series is known for electing to instead throw the player right into the fray as Snake, aka Big Boss, attempts to infiltrate a base holding Chico and Paz, essential characters from Peace Walker. And therein lies the innovation that was promised. Kojima's FOX engine has been highly touted as the new standard for third person games. This new engine, even on the PS3 which is what I played it on, showcases the depth and detail attainable by modern gaming systems. When approaching the base you use you binoculars to reach across the entire length of the base to tag enemies and map your infiltration.
Once inside the true nature of Metal Gear Solid 5 is revealed. The once static and linear gameplay now pulls back and leaves the player in a veritable sandbox where anything can happen. Metal GEar Solid 4 attempted to do this very thing with its slogan "Nowhere to hide" but never truly achieved the same level of helplessness. Where once guards only had a cone of vision, they now are equipped with what feels like 20/20 vision capable of spotting you from what feels like yards away. In essence this more realistic approach brings a inherit suspense that the player feels while sneaking through the base. Players now can find themselves trapped in their own attempt at infiltrating scheme leaving the only way out through the barrel of a gun.

That being said, there is still the elements of sneaking that are essential to the gameplay, even rewarding players who go unseen throughout the entire mission. Much like Deus Ex and Hitman, there is not one "right" way to approach any given situation. There even isn't always a way through leaving the player helplessly searching for a vantage point while evading guards.

Perhaps the coolest/most forgiving new mechanic added was the last ditch save from being spotted. Once the all to familiar ! sound hits you have a few seconds as you draw your weapon in slow motion automatically aiming at the alerted guard to deliver a lethal or non lethal takedown. The experience is exhilarating and is a convenient out for players getting used to the new system to keep the story moving and the experience entertaining.

While the story only clocks in around two hours, no one really should expect going into this "game" with much more in mind. There are side missions yes but for $30 the visuals, mechanics, and welcome familiarity of being Snake again should be sufficient for die-hard fans of the series and new fans alike. The only downside of Ground Zeroes is that it leaves you wanting more. With  The Phantom Pain seemingly a year away, I can't wait to see what the full game on PS4 has in store.

Score: 9 out of 10

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