Friday, July 18, 2014

The Biggest Tease in Metal Gear to Date

Quick Note: Ground Zeroes is fun and has gotten me excited for Phantom Pain, but with the lack of any real depth outside the combat system, I still can't help but feel a bit disappointed. If you are a fan of the franchise, don't miss it on a sale; Otherwise, you might be better off skipping this one.

Unlike most fans of the series, I hadn't played a Metal Gear Solid game until PS3. My first was Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and I was terrible at it. I would constantly get caught. I couldn't aim or shoot worth a damn. I could not stand the Crying Wolf boss fight. But I could not put the game down. I played through it in a week, getting all the way to the end with more questions than when I started. Since then, I have been hooked.

I went back and played the games all out of order, but my questions have been answered and my love for the series has only grown, so I really want to love Ground Zeroes, but it's hard. The combat is great and the game is up to par with what I want in a next gen Metal Gear, but the lack of content is glaringly apparent. 

Ground Zeroes puts players back in the shoes of Big Boss. Taking place after Peace Walker, Boss has to infiltrate a US Military base in Cuba to rescue Chico and Paz after Paz was captured and Chico tried to sneak in and bring her back. And that's about it story wise, at least without spoiling anything. This is the biggest fault to the game, which should have just been shipped with the full game rather than separated like this.The set up is interesting and it is definitely meant to prep the big story that is Phantom Pain, but man is there nothing to really make you feel like this is Metal Gear Solid. If you had taken all of the characters, renamed them and given them different character skins, I don't think you would be able to tell this was a Metal Gear Solid game. That has to be the biggest disappointment behind this release: despite carrying the name, the soul is missing within the narrative.

The gameplay, however, has never been better. Big Boss enters the fray with his tranquilizer gun, a silenced machine gun, his binoculars and his knife, and that is all. Once again players find themselves slinking passed guards, hiding bodies in the bushes and lurking in the shadows, but everything is so much smoother. No more tank like controls of the past because Snake moves, well, like a snake, with a full range of movement, compared to before where he felt rigid while running or moving quickly.
Getting caught is less of a struggle as well, as the game now gives players a few seconds of slowed time to take down whoever has seen Snake, making it less likely the alarm will be sound. Snake can also tag enemies with his binoculars, allowing him to follow their movements, even through walls or other barriers, which gives players more information to plan what to do next.

With all of these additions, the game made me feel closer to Batman in the sense that, yes, I need to stick to the shadows and hide, but if I'm caught, I can take on anything. I felt powerful. It's a feeling that is important and kind of necessary for Metal Gear as the franchise continues, especially since we are growing with Big Boss as he becomes the best. Snake is still only one man and it is still easy to set off alerts and get killed, but the new additions make it easier to feel more powerful to handle these scenarios.

Other small changes also help to add to the game in various ways. For instance, there is no more 'alarm meter' to tell the player how much time is left on an alert. Instead, players have to sit and listen to the enemy radio to determine when it is safe enough to leave or not. Though the mission took place on one map, the island is completely open to player to explore, allowing so many more options to get to the objective than before. Vehicles can now be driven as well, offering even more options for traveling around the map and taking on the objective. Missions are also more in depth in how the objective is handed out. For instance, to rescue Paz, Snake gets a cassette tape from Chico and must use the sounds from the cassette tape to find her location. Past Metal Gear games tried a similar technique, but the execution is far more polished here than ever before.

All of these little things add up to a great package, gameplay wise. And despite all of the accounts that this game can be beaten in roughly 2 hours, there are plenty of side missions and objectives to add the hours on. It's just hard to swallow a $30 price point for something that feels so unfinished and abruptly cut off. I enjoyed my time with the game and am craving more, but that craving can't be appeased anytime soon, seeing as Phantom Pain won't be out until 2015. If you are a hardcore Metal Gear fan, this is worth the play through. If you enjoy the series but don't care enough about the complex story and/or just want something small to tide you over, this game is for you.

7.5 out of 10

Here Are a Few Links:
Wiki Page
Game Site
IGN Review
Metacritic Page 

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