I’d love to say that I held off buying Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes because I’m a patient gamer. Truth is, it’s been sitting in my Steam library for years.
I know… I’m sorry.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes was released on March 18, 2014, as a prologue for The Phantom Pain which would follow on September 1, 2015. Interestingly, it was originally supposed to release as early as 2010, following the release of Peace Walker for the PSP.
Ground Zeroes received generally favourable reviews on release, though many criticised the short length of the story and the stripped-down gameplay mechanics. Given that it was $40 on release, these criticisms were amplified.
But, how does Ground Zeroes fare today? Pretty well, actually.
First things first, the visuals. The graphics are still incredible, which is commendable when you consider that it is approaching 3 years old. The cutscenes are nothing short of breathtaking and Big Boss looks as rugged as ever.
The story is decent though short. Set in 1975, it immediately follows the events of Peace Walker. Big Boss is called into action to infiltrate a US naval base in Cuba to rescue familiar faces Paz and Chico.
The level design is exemplary. The oppressive sandbox for Big Boss’ mission is Camp Omega. It is essentially an exceptionally well-realised reimagining of Guantanamo Bay. Sneaking around under the cloak of darkness feels both tense and exhilarating.
The sound design is strong across the board, but the voice acting is mixed at best. There is some stellar work here, but some of the script writing and guard voice acting leaves a lot to be desired.
Ground Zeroes story takes around an hour and a half to complete, though additional side missions and rewards are unlocked after the first playthrough. Given that Ground Zeroes was released to whet the appetite for The Phantom Pain, replayability was very important on release. Today this is less important. I didn’t have the urge to dive into the side missions and instead moved onto The Phantom Pain. You may feel differently.
Interestingly, Ground Zeroes felt less like a Metal Gear game and more like Splinter Cell: Blacklist with the replayability of Hitman. This is by no means a bad thing and shows the evolution of the Metal Gear franchise, but is interesting nonetheless.
If anything, I would say that Ground Zeroes is more appealing today than it was on release. In 2014 it was essentially a $40 demo. Recently it has featured in a handful of sales for less than $5, making it a much more reasonable offering. In my opinion, it is a must buy for fans of the franchise and players who aren’t sure if they should pick up The Phantom Pain.