Xbox 360 review: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

To tide fans over until the proper release of the fifth numbered entry in the Metal Gear Solid series, Konami released Ground Zeroes in both physical and digital formats. Intended as a teaser for all that is to come in the open-world Phantom Pain, Ground Zeroes runs on the Fox Engine, and even on the now-last generation Xbox 360, the graphics are damn impressive. The rainstorm that shrouds Big Boss’ mission excels at highlighting raindrops streaming down textures and assets like tarps flapping in the wind in highly realistic fashion. While Kiefer Sutherland’s takeover as the voice of Snake does reveal a noticeable difference to what fans have come to know and love from the efforts of veteran David Hayter, the experience is not a massive upset to the familiar, as Snake/Big Boss does very little talking for the duration of Ground Zeroes.

In short, Ground Zeroes does not feel the part of a Metal Gear game in gameplay or spirit. The heads-up display, while simplified, is highly unspecific and does little to give players any real indication of where enemy troops are or how many of them are patrolling an area. This is something that would not be terribly difficult to keep track of, given the tiny size of the map the main mission takes place on, were it not for the fact that there are so many structures of varying heights and widths. This results not only in enemies being difficult to keep track of, but also a degree of uncertainty with how well-hidden Snake is. And the slow-down sequences when Snake is given a few brief seconds to respond to his being spotted do virtually nothing but incite panic in the player, as Snake is most frequently spotted from a distance, and firing upon foes will alert anyone nearby, putting the whole area on alert status.

Because the main story requires no more than two hours to complete, it lacks any time necessary to develop Snake, Chico, or Paz, much less give players a reason to care about the supposed ‘high-risk mission’ or the brief appearance of Skull Face, whose voice actor provides deadpan efforts that imply he has as little interest in the character as most anyone else who will play through this glorified demo. The weird and goofy factors that make a Metal Gear experience so endearing and one-of-a-kind are gone – Ground Zeroes is gritty and serious, building off the Snake Eater and Peace Walker formulas, but lacking almost any creative end. While the finale does sufficiently set the stage for The Phantom Pain, there is only one moment at the end that will prove particularly exciting, or give fans of previous Metal Gear installments any real sense of fulfillment.

There are bonus missions to take on, and collectible cassette tapes and XOF badges littered around the environment that extend the lifespan of Ground Zeroes, if only as a thinly-veiled fetch-quest. The dialogue on the cassette tapes themselves reveal far more about any of the characters than the in-game actions do, and are overall better-scripted than the couple of action-heavy cutscenes. If Ground Zeroes is a genuine taste of Phantom Pain, I for one am extremely wary, due to just how bare an experience this is, and how much it appears to be adjusted for mainstream audiences.

My rating: 4.5 (out of 10)

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