Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (Xbox 360) Review

Holy fucking shit. If the wait for Ground Zeroes was bad, then the wait for The Phantom Pain will be unbearable. Ground Zeroes is like Peace Walker and Splinter Cell: Conviction fucked and their baby was early 2000s Lindsay Lohan. That $30 (disc) or $20 (digital) price tag? Pay it. The main mission is short (I finished it in about an hour), but this game is an experience, and I can already tell I'll be going back to it repeatedly. There are additional missions and collectibles, and I'm looking forward to those, but the main mission alone is worth it. My completion percentage after the main mission is 10%, so if it holds steady then there's about 9 more hours of game here. 10 hours of game is about twice as long as most games anymore anyways.

Japanese box art because Kaz is awesome.

Where past MGS games were about war, MGSV is the war. The awkward animations for Snake are gone, the controls are no longer an obtuse clusterfuck, and the stealth aspect finally feels like stealth. The early MGS games were pretty light on being stealth; if you were behind a box (or under one), you were hidden. MGSV takes a more Splinter Cell approach to stealth where you have to actually make sure you're hidden. Light and dark play more of a part with searchlights trying to pick you out, and enemies who take out flashlights if they spot something.

And lens flare. Who the fuck directed this, JJ Abrams?

There are two additions to the game that really change up the pace of the gameplay and make it more interesting. The first addition is a full-on sprint, which is something that most stealth games had overlooked. You'll quickly learn to love the sprint and wonder why it wasn't an integral aspect of stealth games before. It only makes sense to have a sprint since your window of opportunity for making a stealthy move may be small. The other move is a dive to the ground, which can be used in tandem with the sprint to quickly hide in the event that you're about to be spotted. These two additional moves give you a way better feeling of control over Snake.

The control over your movement and the improved stealth aspects actually makes stealth incredibly rewarding. As much as I enjoy stealth games, it's not unusual for me to get impatient and take risks. MGSV's design compels you to do better. There's clearly a couple solutions to everything, and it can take a few tries to figure out the best one. This is another reason that I'll be going back to the game, just to see how different play-throughs pan out. One part I'm particularly interested in comes after accomplishing one of your objectives in the main mission. I saw a truck and climbed into the back of it. I was able to ride the truck to my next objective, and avoid a ton of enemies in the process. What if I hadn't gotten to the truck in time to ride in it? What if I had gone after the other objective first? If I did something different, would the alarms still have gone off, or was it scripted? It's things like this that makes me want to go back to the game.

The graphics are beautiful

The game's graphics are also a thing of beauty. The water effects don't look overdone, the graphics are realistic while managing to be stylized, and the lighting is incredible. The voice work goes right along with the graphics, with Kiefer Sutherland providing a much more believable Snake. David Hayter putting on his best gruff voice for the past 14 or so years was getting a little bit silly. Ground Zeroes doesn't have a huge amount of story for Sutherland to really bring a lot to the role, but when Snake does speak, it just feels right. He sounds more like a real human than a caricature of a video game tough guy. The story that is in Ground Zeroes is brutal, which adds to my feeling that Ground Zeroes is the war, where the other MGS games were only about it. The worst parts aren't immediately obvious; you have to come across them, but the traumas are clearly there once you've put the pieces together.

Besides the newfound overt brutality to the story (past games would only really heavily imply at horrible things), the characters are actually seen interacting with each other. This is a really, really odd departure for MGS and it works well. Hopefully this isn't a one off thing for the ending cutscene, but judging by the trailers for The Phantom Pain, there'll be more face to face interaction with other characters, instead of boring codec calls. Also, if you haven't seen the trailer for The Phantom Pain, check it out. I kept waiting for that Garbage song to kick in while I was playing Ground Zeroes. It doesn't. That trailer also genuinely is being rendered in game. Several of those scenes are from Ground Zeroes, and while it doesn't look as good on 360, it's still incredibly impressive.

Ground Zeroes is probably the most fun I've had playing a modern video game in a long time. A lot of recent video games have gotten one aspect right, but not another. A great story, but poor gameplay. Great graphics, shitty everything else. Something along those lines. Ground Zeroes ties it all together into a satisfying whole. If you're not a fan of MGS, then Ground Zeroes may not be worth it due to its length. Get the digital version and save yourself $10. If you are a fan, spend whatever amount you want; it's worth it. Just don't expect a manual with the disc version. I guess manuals are a thing of the past now.

Kept you waiting, huh?

Ground Zeroes is everything Metal Gear Solid ever hinted it could be. The themes of the story are things that I thought video games probably would never seriously touch on without being met with a shitstorm of controversy. If The Phantom Pain keeps this level of quality, it could very well be one of the greatest gaming experiences of all time.

I haven't even played anything except the main mission yet, but...


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