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Metal Gear: Ground Zeroes review
Way back before the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the Sons of Aryas, in the year 2001, there was a teaser demo for a game called Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. This teaser allowed you to play as Solid Snake on an oil tanker which was secretly carrying a Metal Gear for the United States government.
Solid Snake, the avowed enemy of all things Metal Gear, was going to take some pictures of it in order to expose the government's violation of international treaty. Things went pear shaped and fans eagerly bought up the demo (even if they had to pay full-price for Zone of the Enders to get it) and were disappointed when they found out the main game was about newcomer Raiden rather than Solid Snake.
I am reminded of this story when I play Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, which is the hour to two hour long first mission of Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain snipped away from the main game and released as an independent $30 release.
This is actually half of what the original price was intended to be and only at the bidding of Hideo Kojima the developers. This, despite the fact that most of these sorts of demos are free and the equally long Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, only cost $5.
Now, there's reason to argue that selling this two-hour-preview is worth more than Case Zero. The graphics are top-notch, Metal Gear is a much-much bigger franchise than Dead Rising, and the gameplay is far more intricate. You could even argue with rising Triple A game costs, it's necessary to release DLC and separate discs in order to defer costs.
I agree, which is why this game should have probably cost $15. Either that or they should have thrown in enough levels to make it a four to five hour experience and charged the same. As is, the game is incredibly overpriced and better as a rental or "buy and return" from Gamestop.
The later which, honestly, I consider crooked. So, fans of the game, I suggest you pick it up used or when the price goes down if you want your money's worth. Still, I've wasted 15 bucks before on much stupider things than this so you CAN buy it if you want. I'm just saying the price is an issue.
The premise of Metal Gear: Ground Zeroes is that it is about a month or so after the events of Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker. Paz Ortega, the seemingly peace-loving teenage co-star, has been captured by a Freddy Krueger-looking American soldier nicknamed Skullface.
Worse, Chico, Big Boss' surrogate son and conscience tried to rescue her and ended up getting himself captured. Skullface is the leader of a group called XOF (Fox spelled backwards) and he's apparently tortured both of them as well as performed all manner of gross medical experiments.
Yeah, nice guy.
Big Boss, being the honorable guy that he is, decides he's going to recover Chico at any cost. He's not so concerned about Paz and first suggests putting a bullet in her head to silence her. Those who played Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker shouldn't be surprised by this. Big Boss is convinced to rescue them both, though, and heads to US-run black site "Camp Omega" in Cuba. Gee, I wonder what location inspired this place? There's also something about Big Boss' mercenary company getting investigated by the U.N.
Anyway, the plot is surprisingly complex for a game which lasts a little under an hour for the main story. There's even a lengthy 11 page explanation of Peacewalker's plot available from the start screen. I love Hideo Kojima's work as much as the next man but he's learned nothing from the 9 hours of cutscenes in Metal Gear Solid IV has he? I also think anyone who hasn't watched a Let's Play of Peacewalker or completed the game is going to be somewhat lost as to who Paz is and why they should care.
The gameplay is what everyone really wants to talk about, however. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is probably the most user-friendly and multi-gamestyle capable entry into the franchise yet. After years of finding it punishingly hard to complete these games, I completed Ground Zeroes both as a "run and gun" character as well as through stealth.
There's forty or so Marines in Camp Omega and it's quite possible to kill them all. The fact the game allows you a few seconds to shoot them in a "bullet time" effect when they first spot you is a great gift for those of us who lack godlike stealth abilities. Unlike in previous entries, if you kill them, they can't call for help and gunfire doesn't automatically inform the military of where you are. I'd say this adds replay value but it's, literally, possible to complete the game in seven minutes once you know where Paz and Chico are.
Artificial means of extending the game's length include trying to rescue all of the prisoners in Camp Omega and a number of side quests you gain by retrieving XOF patches. While I feel emotionally compelled to do the former, the latter doesn't really interest me. Sadly, I think there's several more side missions which could have been performed in Camp Omega which would have made the game more interesting.
You could have also lengthened out the existing missions by putting a few necessary steps in-between. Rescue Chico>Recover evidence about the torture going on in Camp Omega>Kill the Scientist conducting the experiments>Capture the Base Commander to find out where Paz is>Rescue Paz. Some of this is touched on in the side missions but they could have all formed a coherent main narrative.
Graphically, Ground Zeroes' Camp Omega is one of the most beautiful settings I've ever played in. The dreary, dark, and foreboding location combined with its stormy atmosphere makes it a wonderful setting for a rescue mission. The Fox Engine even allows you to "wait out" the storm so it can be daylight when you explore, though it loses some of its feel thereafter. The contrast of modern military equipment to dog kennel-like conditions for the prisoners is also a real kick in the gut.
One final warning, the treatment of Chico and Paz by the forces of XOF goes beyond the bounds of good taste. Kojima wishes to make a point about the sadistic treatment of prisoners by torturers and includes the potential triggers of sexual abuse along with a sickening placement of explosives. If you are easily offended, you should probably avoid this game. Thankfully, the worst of it is never alluded to beyond the audio tapes.
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