Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is the 10th canon instalment of the popular, genre-defining franchise. Clouded with controversy amid speculations of game length, retail pricing, and the direction of this particular game in general, Ground Zeroes rises above it all and delivers another fresh perspective on the stealth-action genre granting the player a completely new way to control Big Boss’ actions more precisely.
Although just a prologue to the full length sequel, this game serves to provide players with an experience of what is to come and aims to prepare everyone for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Metal Gear Solid has been my favourite game for the past thirteen years of my life and yet, after all that time, it still continues to provide new experiences with the gameplay and varying methods of storytelling. I am most excited for the new storyline and am looking forward to the controversial nature of it.
Developer: Kojima Productions
Genre: Action-Adventure, Stealth
Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One.
Release Date: 18th March, 2014 (US); 20th March, 2014 (JP); 21st March, 2014 (EU)
Set one year after the Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker incident, MSF (Militaires Sans Frontieres) remains operational with Metal Gear Zeke and sparks the interest of the UN, prompting an inspection into the base to substantiate rumours that the private army houses a nuclear bi-pedal tank. The entire premise of Ground Zeroes is the destruction of MSF by the mysterious XOF unit via implementation of Operation Trojan Horse. Mysterious antagonist Skull Face has Chico (Anthony Del Rio) and Paz (Tara Strong) imprisoned at the blacksite, Camp Omega, in order to draw Big Boss (Keifer Sutherland) away from Motherbase for the perfect opportunity to launch an offensive under the guise of the UN inspection team, and cripple MSF successfully.
As Ground Zeroes is the prologue to the full length, canonical instalment to the franchise; The Phantom Pain, it serves as a preparatory tool for players to learn how to control Big Boss and be ready for The Phantom Pain as the controls will presumably carry over.
Visually, the game offers beautiful aesthetics and the lighting has been utilised ingeniously, with the use of the blue-tinted lens flares to highlight the enemies’ attention to the player. Brighter and bigger lens flares indicate a greater chance of being spotted by the enemy, working as an aid to players, similar to the threat ring that oscillated around players depending on enemy direction in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
The attention to detail with the lighting creates a more detailed atmosphere with everything from the lettering on the signs around the base, to the seemingly grey hair on Big Boss’ head due to the lighting effect produced with thanks to the Fox Engine (don’t worry though, he still has a full head of brown hair). The downpour in-game only adds to the detail as the sneaking suit visually looks more damp, and seems to cling to Big Boss as it gets wetter, just like your clothes would in reality. This helps to increase the immersion for the player and really delve into the sneaking part of this game, bringing more emphasis to paying attention to your surroundings as the HUD has been minimised.
Players no longer have the health, stamina bar, and camouflage index, or any form of radar on-screen. Instead, equipment such as the binoculars will see heavier usage as the ability to tag enemies is more enthusiastically introduced (tagging was possible in Peace Walker, but Ground Zeroes aims to provide a more tactical purpose to the mechanic). With the reduction in HUD elements, players will be focusing on their own skills to spot the enemy and plan their infiltrations accordingly.
Perhaps the biggest change in Ground Zeroes is the exclusion of the traditional ‘Alert Phase’ mechanic that players will remember from previous Metal Gear games. Instead, the enemy will utilise flanking manoeuvres and call-outs to notify their squad of your location. Immediately noticeable is the aggression of the enemy AI and their relentless efforts to hunt down the player. To avoid getting spotted by the odd patrol man at every junction, the iDroid device is the saving grace for Metal Gear veterans and newbies, alike.
This handheld device allows players to get a clearer idea of what is going on in their surroundings–highlighting enemies that have been tagged, objectives, and helicopter drop points. More can be added to the iDroid map by interrogating enemy personnel to obtain tactical intel on the whereabouts of enemies, or even the location of collectibles and prisoners.
The most exciting feature of this iDroid device is the interaction it yields between players and the in-game universe itself. Players can download the iDroid app on their iPhones or Android devices, hence the moniker – iDroid. This allows you to utilise your phone, or tablet as a radar, check leaderboard rankings, and customise Motherbase. Not much more is known about this interesting app, but more will be detailed as it is released.
In addition to all the changes made to the series with this latest instalment. The controls have been remapped, with some new features such as the dash and the ability to jump. Players will find the dash most useful when evading gunfire and moving from cover to cover, and the jump feature will help with increasing the distance on a leap off a high ledge, or clambering to greater altitudes. As mentioned previously, the dive is also a new feature, also fitting in with the theme of evading gunfire and moving into cover.
Handling weapons feels a little rigid in-game, however they have a much deadlier precision than in prior Metal Gear Solid games. The main issue players may have with the aiming mechanic is just how precise you have to be sometimes. Bullet drop is featured, however it isn’t too extreme and can be managed with enough experience playing the game.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how the final, full release shapes up.