Before we begin, yes – Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes can be played through in a matter of minutes (I completed my first play-through in 63 minutes).
That said, Ground Zeroes (GZ) is far more than just a ‘one mission preview’ of the coming Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain. It is a showcase of sorts for a franchise that has grown over the last few decades. Not only is it graphically superior (even on PS3) to its predecessors, but it has also taken major steps in gameplay and control.
Metal Gear Solid has been a rather clunky handling game since its inception on PS1. The side menus for sorting all of the items are gone. Replaced by a relatively simple D-Pad navigation system for equipped weapons and items. Other actions can be taken with the new ‘iDroid’ which is basically a quasi-3D PDA that Snake carries around for navigation, cassette and music functionality. It is a less ‘high tech’ and attached (don’t forget you are supposed to be in the year 1975) Mk2 from MGS 4.
The real improvements to this game are noticed in the actual gameplay. While MGS3: Subsistence and MGS4 both used the rotatable camera, they still had the clunky gunplay that most MGS fans (and haters) might recall. For those that don’t know this reference – you basically had to play Twister with your fingers on the controller if you wanted to take out enemies quickly and precisely. While it became more fluid as you played the game it usually fell short of expectations that games like Splinter Cell pushed for in handling (especially aiming and shooting firearms).
Ground Zeroes doesn’t have that problem anymore. You now have the ability to handle weapons in a way that is closer to Splinter Cell than ever before. For some of the MGS ‘purists’ I am sure they will try to raise hell over this new move, but really it is an improvement to the gameplay. While it may seem to some to be a ‘dumbing down’ of the controls, it is far from that as the challenge is still there – just in a more organic fashion.
The aspect of the game I was most worried about going into this new MGS title was the new voice of Snake. With the news that David Hayter was no longer the voice of our reluctant hero I became skeptical that anyone could take over the role with the same quality. Then it was announced that Kiefer Sutherland would be the voice of Snake (aka – Big Boss). Simply said – he does not disappoint. At first when Snake says his typical “Kept you waiting, huh?” your reaction will probably feel like when you accidentally called the wrong number and a voice you don’t know says ‘Hello’. Fear not. By the time you get to the final part of the game you will see and hear why Sutherland is a welcome addition and change in Snake.
Not only does this game make improvements, but it is also full of other side-missions and other minutia that will keep you busy until The Phantom Pain comes out. Also, the availability of this title on PS3/360 makes it a joy for those of us that have yet to buy into the next-Gen consoles as we bide our time for the better developed games and the inevitable hardware malfunctions/bugs to seep out and get fixed like last gen consoles (RROD/YLOD).
If you are a fan of the MGS franchise or trying to decide whether to jump into the series – this is worth a purchase. Not only will you enjoy the additions, but chances are that it won’t leave your system until The Phantom Pain comes out.