The Metal Gear games are usually filled with tight gameplay, wackadoo characters and plotlines, and some of the most emotionally resonant and mature moments I’ve ever had in gaming. Metal Gear 3 and 4 are two of my favorite games and their characters and story have resonated with me years after I played them. Ground Zeroes is a prequel of sorts to the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain in that it sets ups where we should expect to find Snake/Big Boss in that game. As for this game, it’s mostly a series of missions that involve him running around the exact same map trying to accomplish different things. Near as I can tell, the most important mission is the rescue of two of Snake’s comrades, Paz and Chico, two child soldiers that Snake has taken under his wing and given refuge to. The other missions are fun, but I don’t think they have any real story significance, either for this game or the upcoming one.
The gameplay is extremely well done in this game. Konami has taken the stealth mechanics of the series and evolved them in a way that feels natural and true to the series as a whole. I enjoyed not having my mini map function in the way it usually has and having to rely on what I could actually see around me in the game. It was challenging, but it never felt unfair or cheap, just difficult. Finding my way through the military base felt frustrating, but in a way that makes sense; it shouldn’t be easy to infiltrate a black site after all. The enemy AI is smart and uses tactics well. They will gladly call in for support and will investigate even the slightest thing that seems wrong. You can run and gun it if you want, but I always enjoyed the slow and steady pace of Metal Gear so I never did that. I usually try to play games in a way that reflects how the designers wanted the game to be played, and Metal Gear is still usually about stealth and subtly. The game also looks stunning. The main mission, where Big Boss rescues his comrades, takes place during inclement weather and the rain and storm effects are gorgeous. The environment looks about as real as a video game can.
The story barely exists, but there are really good character moments at least. I don’t know Paz or Chico, apparently they are from a Vita game I never played, but their character work is well done and heartfelt. The Ultimate fate of Paz is brutal and really surprising. I remember hearing how controversial the final cut scene with her is, but that definitely didn’t prepare me. I’ve rarely been grossed out by a video game, but this one came pretty close. One thing I did not like one bit is that they changed the English voice actor for Big Boss. Keifer Sutherland does a fine job, but for me, David Hayter embodied the role of Big Boss/Solid Snake as much as any actor ever has for a role. It was hard to hear somebody else voice a character I so much associate with a different voice and speech patterns. Hopefully I will get used to it, but it’s a tough pill to swallow.
I don’t usually think about the price of video games in relation to how much enjoyment I get out of them. I always look for deals, and I tend to wait for price drops almost no matter what, but that doesn’t equal the same thing. A full priced, sixty-dollar game can be ten hours long, forty hours long or even hundreds of hours long and they all feel equally fulfilling. Price point, beyond your personal budget, is not a good way to rate the fun factor of a game. But this game made me think about that. I don’t remember the full price when it came out but I know it was a lot more than the twenty I pushed out for it. And even at that price, it just didn’t feel worth it. I felt that I was playing a demo and nothing more. The simplicity of the missions, the quickness with which I beat them, and the single map all leave a half finished aftertaste that really soured my enjoyment of the game. I had plenty of fun while I was playing, but than things wrapped up and I was taken aback by how little time had passed. I don’t feel ripped off, just underwhelmed.
So after all of that, I don’t know if I could recommend this game to people. If you are a fan of the series you already bought it so this doesn’t matter, but if you are a person looking to try out Metal Gear for the first time, this game is both a great place and a terrible place to get in. It’s a fantastic showcase of the atmosphere and gameplay of the series, but at the same time, it tells you nothing about who Big Boss is or what’s going on so why would you buy the next one? That being said, I’m really looking forward to the next game.