« Back home

How Ground Zeroes Made Me Simultaneously Excited and Worried for The Phantom Pain

This is Metal Gear Solid V, but not really.

Editorial by Ravi Singh, Posted on April 5, 2014

NOTE: The following contains major spoilers for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. It was written after playing through every mission multiple times on the PlayStation 3 version and listening to all of the in-game cassette tapes.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a strange Metal Gear title.

It is Metal Gear Solid V but it is actually just the prologue of Metal Gear Solid V. The full Metal Gear Solid V, The Phantom Pain, is coming out next year at the earliest. Ground Zeroes takes place immediately after Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker which oddly enough was at one time going to be titled Metal Gear Solid 5: Peace Walker. In short, Ground Zeroes is actually Metal Gear Solid 5: Peace Walker 2: Ground Zeroes – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Prologue. God damn.

This is Metal Gear Solid V, in cartridge form.

Has anything like this even been done before with fictional works? The split release of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 comes to mind, but that would be a bad comparison since both Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and its sister game Sonic & Knuckles were split about evenly from what was to be a whole product. Ground Zeroes on the other hand is short and The Phantom Pain will be huge. The two may have even been unrelated projects at one point. Ground Zeroes, as a sequel to Peace Walker, was pushed back in order to showcase what was then the next generation of gaming platforms.

“Honestly, I really wanted to release Ground Zeroes right after Peace Walker. Whether on PSP or PS3. But then we had development issues, some delays with Metal Gear Rising as well. And then we learned about next generation coming, so it ended up being the way it is now.”
- Hideo Kojima, via Kotaku.

Meanwhile, The Phantom Pain was intended to be released as launch titles for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One but Kojima Productions could not finish it in time. Ground Zeroes then became a prologue to The Phantom Pain, a mere crumb of the bigger pie that is “Metal Gear Solid V.” Thus we end up with Konami dealing with a public relations disaster because Ground Zeroes is “too short” and development of The Phantom Pain is taking “too long.”

The only good comparison I can think of is the first X-Files motion picture. It takes place between Seasons 5 and 6 in the television series and as a film it was significantly shorter than the running time of an entire season. It also set up the story arc of Season 6. In fact, the “PREVIOUSLY ON THE X-FILES” recap in Season 6′s premiere more or less summarized what happened in the film. The plot of the X-Files film relied on the series mythology to the point where I cannot imagine a newcomer giving a fuck about most of what was going on.


Season 5 was Peace Walker, the “Fight The Future” film is Ground Zeroes and Season 6 will be The Phantom Pain.

Ground Zeroes is supposedly setting up the events of The Phantom Pain which I cannot imagine without have a recap in some fashion of the events of Ground Zeroes. It relies on the plot of Peace Walker which I do not believe many have played. Luckily for those who have not played Peace Walker but do want to give a fuck about what is going on in Ground Zeroes, the key points are available in a summarized backstory as well as some cassette tapes, a few of which are directly from Peace Walker. Where this comparison to the X-Files motion picture fails is regarding how self-contained this “bridge” is. The X-Files motion picture managed to simply feel like a really short season. The plot of Ground Zeroes on the other hand feels like a demo.

I am not saying Ground Zeroes is a demo. It is not. Anyone who says so is simply using the term as a talking point. A valid conversation can be had regarding Ground Zeroes’ value and cost. However, to call the game itself a demo as an argument is akin to calling any of the Metal Gear titles a “movie” and then basing your argument on that falsity. But yes, the plot gives off the vibe of a demo. What about the gameplay though? Quite the opposite, actually.

XOF ENGINE

For the most part, Ground Zeroes is the best Metal Gear title in terms of gameplay. It is well balanced, allowing newcomers to slowly adapt and improve while rewarding those who become skilled. Based on Ground Zeroes I can say that The Phantom Pain will be what Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater promised with its jungle environment but could not deliver on due to technical limitations at the time. The gameplay of Ground Zeroes is what I expected from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots in terms of a modern stealth action title, but never quite received.

Calm down, cover system!

It is not perfect though and it suffers from the game not being able to figure out what to do in certain situations while simultaneously keeping them out of the player’s control for sake of automation. One of the most obnoxious things is probably the cover system. There were situations where the cover system failed me as the game wasn’t sure what Big Boss should be doing when I decided to aim my weapon while hiding behind something. Sometimes the camera angle decides to cooperate and sometimes it decides that I really just want to check out Snake’s sweet polygonal model instead. Moving around while in cover is also awkward in general. I rarely bother with the cover system voluntarily now, although since it is automatic the game will make Big Boss stick to walls like a god damn magnet at times.

Wow Kaz, thanks for telling me this again. Meanwhile I have no idea what the the guy I was interrogating just told me because he only speaks in subtitles.

I am so glad they did not remove first-person aiming like they did with Peace Walker—or crawling, for that matter. They did retain the marking of enemies from Peace Walker except here it works automatically. However unlike Peace Walker it is actually useful here so at least this automated mechanic is not a hindrance to enjoyability. Another thing that returned from Peace Walker is the radio being used in-game as opposed to a separate screen as was the case in titles prior to it (Guns of the Patriots did feature some in-game codec though). This is fine and all, but I remember being able to make Miller (Or Cecille or whoever the fuck was behind the other line) shut up by simply pushing the radio button again. In Ground Zeroes pushing the radio button while Miller is talking on the radio gives you a negative-toned sound effect that is the game’s way of saying, “No, you are fucking listening to this!” and we end up having to hear what “Glaz” and “Palitz” mean in English again for the 172,189th time.

The radio can demonstrate what I mean by the game being unable to properly judge priorities. Interrogating most enemies relies on the subtitles as they are not all voiced (another bummer in general). However, Miller might chime in on the radio either because he feels like it or because you accidentally hit the radio button at the wrong time since it is the same button used for interrogation. Then your iDroid swoops into all of this noise pollution (nicely voiced by Donna Burke) telling you that “THE MAP HAS BEEN UPDATED!” with what exactly you have no idea thanks to Miller interrupting the interrogation, unless you hide somewhere and look in your map and see if there’s anything interesting marked. Speaking of interesting things, are there weapons, bodies, and perhaps a cassette tape or XOF patch on the ground in the same place? Perhaps you are carrying a body around as well? It will take some moving around like an idiot to finally have the game set that specific thing as something to pick up using the context-sensitive action button. Want to jump over a fence or use the search light attached to it? Pick one, and hope the game knows which one you picked. These issues have been reported to Kojima Productions and I hope they fix them for The Phantom Pain.

To quote the intellectuals who dared to ask the real questions known as the Baha Men, “Who let the dogs out?”

Minor complaints? We see guard dogs in the prison camp at the beginning of the Ground Zeroes mission. They are never to be seen again. Did they all escape and disappear due to the game’s bugs leave the mission area? We had guard dogs in the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater so whats the deal, folks? Then there’s the first aid spray. I think those who have complained about regenerating health will understand why it is not actually a big deal in context of the the open-world style gameplay (especially at the “Hard” difficulty) but that first aid spray is absolutely ridiculous. How it works is silly and how Big Boss looks using it is comical.

I understand why it is a part of the gameplay but why not a ration, then? At least having Big Boss pull out a ration, opening it and eating it would have been a throwback to an item that has been a part of the series since its inception. The spray does no such thing since this is not the Resident Evil series. Having Big Boss use a needle with painkillers or patch himself up Snake Eater-style would have at least been more “realistic” if that was the reasoning behind it, though this is anything but.

Bringing that crap from San Hieronymo right up front.

Then there is just basic shit that was taken away from us, kind of like how crawling was taken away in Peace Walker except whereas we could excuse Peace Walker as an underpowered handheld title, Ground Zeroes is on home consoles including the latest ones. So why use a design element from Portable Ops and Snake’s Revenge to make the place look bigger than it really is with a million doors that don’t do anything? How come there are also a good amount of garbage bins, lockers and even portable toilets, but at most you can only climb them? Why is aiming on the rooftop not as well-designed as it was in Guns of the Patriots? How come Big Boss can not use his knife outside of CQC? Why has rolling been mostly replaced with diving? There are cardboard boxes in the back of several trucks and Snake cannot hide in one because it is not serious even though it will return in the also-serious Phantom Pain? Remember when Snake was able to knock on walls? Okay, I’m done with complaining about minor shit.

Overall though I was genuinely impressed. The feel of the game is similar to what sneaking around Groznyj Grad in Snake Eater felt like it could have been, although at least they actually had guard dogs. As a matter of fact, I can see this game style working with many previous Metal Gear titles. I am not an advocate of remaking any Metal Gear title at all and would much rather see Kojima Productions end the Metal Gear canon and work on new material. However, if previous titles have to be remade, or if we really need to see Solid Snake in action under Philanthropy or anything like that, it can definitely work with their locations being open-world style maps with this kind of gameplay only slightly tweaked to reflect the maps, timeline and overall-sneaking-style of the protagonists. That is how versatile and open-ended the gameplay here is.

Grozynj Grad would be so lucky.

There is one main mission, Ground Zeroes, with a story that is canon and a few side missions. All of these take place on Camp Omega. Despite this, while the title is obviously not going to take up as much of your time as, say, Peace Walker did or The Phantom Pain clearly will, there is a lot to do even if you are not the type to usually 100% a title such as myself. However when Kojima Productions’ Jordan Amaro compared Ground Zeroes to Voltaire’s Candide he was being just as misleading as those vigorously calling it a demo because quite frankly, Ground Zeroes as a story simply does not deliver on its own.

THE SEQUEL IS THE PREQUEL OF THE SEQUEL

Holy shit Kojima calm down on those effects.

First off, let me get this out of the way: the cutscenes are excellently done. The facial expressions, the very natural movement of the characters, the fact that many of them are dynamic and change based on how you go about your mission while keeping the flow of the game is superb. The fact that it keeps the series’ trend of real-time cutscenes just adds to the wonder of them all. I do think they go a bit overboard with the lens flare at times to the point where J.J. Abrams himself would cringe watching it. I mean, come on guys, that is not how lens flare even works! Asides from that, in terms of visuals and presentation, yes, this is top quality stuff.

Already saw this shit.

Fans of the series agree that the story of Metal Gear is important and it is in this department that Ground Zeroes is not only short but really nothing much at all. Part of the problem is that the promotional materials such as trailers gave so much away. Seeing Paz being ripped open without anesthesia to pull out a bomb would have been far more nerve-wracking if I had not seen it already in a “red band trailer” on Konami’s YouTube last year. Those who skip Ground Zeroes and jump straight into The Phantom Pain are not going to be missing out in terms of plot asides from a few minor details. I once have said that the plot of Portable Ops can be summarized in one page. Ground Zeroes’ major revelations that were not known prior to release can be summarized in a paragraph, maybe even less.

Sure, there is the “twist” that I would not have been able to guess regarding there being a second bomb. Then again that is probably because it is absurd and cartoonish as hell. In the end it is still a bomb that was put inside of Paz without consent that puts Big Boss into a coma. Perhaps it is not supposed to be important to the plot but to some sort of message to take away from all of this? If so, my question is, “What fucking message is there in Ground Zeroes anyways?”

Chico and Paz were basically tortured here, except magically back in the 1970s.

Despite the groundbreaking technology that is the iDroid that shits on Mei Ling’s 2005 Soliton Radar and everything in real-life 2014, Ground Zeroes takes place in 1975. What we know as “Gitmo” wasn’t really there outside of a small refugee camp until after 2001. One of the earliest of these post-911 camps, Camp X-ray, closed as the timeline mentions but the prisoners were simply transferred to the neighboring Camp Delta, which the timeline does not mention. Obama promised to close it in 2008 as the timeline mentions but as of 2014 it remains open, which the timeline does not mention. Peace Walker’s discussions on threat deterrence at least brought up a lot of historical relevancy to the topic with the obvious modern context of rising nuclear powers simply being suggested. Ground Zeroes simply throwing a couple of facts at us does not cut it. Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, a comedy about two stoners, did a better job at addressing the issue.

Skull Face gives Chico a tape and makes him believe Paz died because… lolwhythehellnot?

As far as I know, inserting bombs into vaginas (or inside a uterus, rectum, etc… they never specify where the second bomb actually is) has yet to be documented as being performed in any “black site” in general, and only a rectal bomb has been reported in a 2009 assassination attempt against a Saudi official, inserted by the assassin into himself nonetheless. Why was this done in Ground Zeroes? “Because it’s a twist, Skull Face knew Big Boss would never look there!” Okay, then why bother cutting Paz open and inserting the first bomb to begin with? To distract Big Boss from the real bomb… even though he would not have looked for the second bomb anyways? Why did Skull Face make Chico think that Paz was dead? How did Skull Face know that despite Chico believing that Paz was dead, Big Boss would look for her anyways? How did Skull Face know that upon finding Paz, Big Boss would attempt to extract her instead of putting her out of her misery? How did Skull Face predict the timing of all of this would work out in his favor? How did Skull Face predict that MSF’s medic would not have been able to notice some swelling or other oddity that should have disappeared after extracting the first bomb? Considering how many issues the second bomb brings up, is there really any substantial reason in the plot for the second bomb?

No, the second bomb is there just to make the audience more disturbed than they should have been by the first bomb. It is already disturbing to have people with foreign objects placed into them cut open. This practice however is a documented tragic reality. The cartels of South America for example have been known to take advantage of people–mostly women–by surgically inserting silicone bags filled with drugs. The extraction scene was already difficult for Kojima Productions to motion capture, with the staff brought to tears and requiring breaks. Japan’s video game ratings committee, the Computer Entertainment Rating Organization, had a problem with this scene and demanded that it be modified. I disagree with the censorship not only based on my personal beliefs regarding free speech but also for artistic purposes. It was indeed an unpleasant and dark scene but it made way for demonstrating the brutality of Skull Face’s organization and having the audience torn between Paz’s pain during the process and, well, getting rid of a bomb. Basically, it had a purpose.

Basically, Paz.

Yet after all of that we get another bomb as a “plot twist” that was once used before in fiction…. by South Park in the episode “The Snuke” (which oddly enough is a parody of the show 24 starring Keifer Sutherland). In this episode Cartman is prejudiced towards a new Muslim student at his elementary school and when Hillary Clinton is set to campaign in South Park he freaks out and gets the CIA gets involved. While the Muslim student’s innocent family are interrogated, a bomb is found at the Hillary Clinton event–a “snuke,” or a nuclear device that can fit inside a woman’s “snizz”–inside of Senator Clinton herself. The “snuke” in South Park was used for humor while the episode makes a good point about the war on terror’s bigotry which Cartman attributes to saving Hillary Clinton.

The “snuke” in Ground Zeroes on the other hand does nothing except make Skull Face even more of an asshole. I suppose it is a curve ball as everyone relaxes after Big Boss dumps the first bomb into the ocean but suddenly, right when Kaz is losing his shit and yelling about bitches and fiddles, “oh fuck there’s another one.” Except, well, this curve ball ends up adding nothing since once again, a bomb inside of Paz is still the cause of Big Boss’ nine-year coma. Then there is the cassette tape where we kind of listen to the procedure itself and Skull Face gives the “they would never look here” explanation, without answering all of the questions that come to mind at what I suppose was a mere diversion tactic.

Syyyymbolism… except it is the other bomb that kills it.

Fuck, I almost feel like I have a little more respect for the bare backstory given to the Beauty and the Beast Unit in Guns of the Patriots. After defeating each one, Drebin would call you with sob stories that were all essentially the same involving women who were victims of war but ended up perpetuating violence because it is all they knew. This, of course, after totally lame “sexy” photoshoots which made me roll my eyes. Still, at least there was a point to the stories. The death of Paz itself serves as a symbolic vehicle of the destruction of any hope and innocence from Peace Walker essentially dying–”peace” itself dies. But like this? The original script had Paz already dead by the time Big Boss infiltrates Camp Omega, with Chico traumatized by having to watch her body slowly decompose. That’s still dark and twisted, but it is at least based in reality.

KOJIMA PLAYED US LIKE A DAMN FIDDLE!

Worse yet, the actual ending is abrupt. We get an epilogue in the form of text, not unlike how the stories of the Snake Tales in Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance were depicted. Then there is the usual voice-over-with-the-logo-on-screen which finally reveals an actually interesting twist that will probably actually be explored in The Phantom Pain regarding Skull Face’s goal of killing Zero. This is followed by a “TO BE CONTINUED” screen which cheapens Ground Zeroes into looking like a demo for The Phantom Pain. “TO BE CONTINUED” should have been “SNAKE WILL RETURN IN…” The current-gen versions do throw in a trailer for The Phantom Pain although for some reason the last-gen versions subject this as DLC, but this trailer is still more or less telling the audience that they should pick up The Phantom Pain to see what happens next. Simply adding the cutscene shown in trailers in which Big Boss is declared comatose by medical professionals would have added a much-needed closing in what is sold and promoted as a stand-alone title. We all instead got a title that ends with text and a trailer for the next game. This is why the story feels like a demo.

RUBBING OUR NOSES IN BLOODY TABOO

On a positive note, the companion app was useful for when I wanted to listen to the tapes without my eight year-old PlayStation 3 sounding like a vacuum cleaner in the background.

Yes I am aware there are cassette tapes. I obtained and listened to all of them. The only one that has any interesting content in terms of plot development is the tape where Skull Face is torturing a prisoner and reveals his backstory. There is also Skull Face’s relationship with Cipher; the only new thing that Ground Zeroes reveals that will probably play a major role in The Phantom Pain. The tapes that are getting a lot of attention though are the ones depecting and implying severe sexual assault involving Paz and Chico. I get that Kojima wants to push storytelling in gaming. I also respect Kojima’s decision “prioritizing creativity over sales” as something like this can be a risky move for a producer. Quite honestly though, I found the methods of exploring such subjects in Ground Zeroes as uninventive.

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a 1995 adventure game. Issues like rape and Nazi experimentation were explored to make the story disturbing. This works as it is a psychological-horror title. Is MGSV intending to jump into this genre? Fine, but it is not groundbreaking.

Like the muffbomb it just feels cheap. Skull Face is an asshole and he is fine with torturing, raping and other inhumane treatment of people in order to get his way. Oh and he will not even bat an eye to torturing a mere child. Women makes him all the more cruel because he seems to be a misogynist, calling them “deceptive creatures.” I suppose it is an upgrade from the cartoonish villianry in Peace Walker. It’s just that this is not pushing the boundaries in storytelling, if that was what Kojima intended.

It is really just the same kind of thing you see in horror films. Throwing in a possible rape scenerio and coerced sexual assault involving a minor in the plot of a video game does not suddenly make the plot any more interesting. Don’t argue this is a case of the author “showing” and not “telling” because the “showing” is more or less telling the audience to feel sympathy for Paz and Chico and feel the utmost disgust for Skull Face. There is a difference between doing so to add something to a story being told and just doing it to make things “dark” and easily sway the audience reaction. This is where all of my hopes for the storytelling in The Phantom Pain crashes downward like the helicopter in the end of Ground Zeroes does as a result of a shitty plot twist.

If The Phantom Pain manages to flesh this all out as more than a simple stab at shock value then bring it on. Sensitive issues such as race and child soldiers will be brought up in The Phantom Pain. These are issues along with sexual assault that are unfortunately a part of war. Being that Metal Gear has always involved criticism of the military industrial complex, such issues can be something looked into. Unfortunately, based what I’ve seen from Ground Zeroes I’m not expecting anything more than it being used to disturb the player and making them objectively judge certain characters. Don’t agree with me? Consider the issues that Ground Zeroes did bring up and what it did with them.

“Don’t fight it.”

We already went through Ground Zeroes half-assing the Guantanamo Bay issue. Skull Face is clearly presented as a product of war but this sort of thing has been done in prior titles as well. Child soldiers? Not really touched upon outside of Chico although it will be explored in The Phantom Pain. Torture? Definitely looked at. And? We see the results and we hear it in the tapes. Chico freaks the fuck out when Big Boss arrives although I am not sure if this is due to trauma or Chico’s fear that Big Boss will not take kindly to his traitorous behavior. It is a very touching scene though, and it is the only “taboo” subject that is actually done well. So there is a glimmer of hope. Lets move on.

Sexual assault within the military is a huge ongoing issue. Military types to this day try to strike down any potential action to look into this issue. It was an issue depicted in the second season of House of Cards released this year. Sexual assault in detention is, once again, another wide spread issue. The Abu Ghraib incident in the early 2000′s is one that was heavily popularized and we still do not know the full extent of the cruelty and sexual assault soldiers inflicted on prisoners there under the banner of the United States. Just weeks after the release of Ground Zeroes there was news of guards in Guantanamo Bay sexually assaulting subordinate soldiers. So sweeping this subject under the rug in a game series that has criticized military culture is absolutely not what I’m advocating at all. I’d rather it be actually addressed as opposed to it being thrown at us make a villain “evil” and the game “edgier.”

The Phantom Pain will either be an interesting look at the true horrors of war or just a gimmick where the player has to fight child soldiers because, well, that is controversial and never done before and that is totally is all you need for gaming as a medium to be taken more seriously, right?

Ground Zeroes had its opportunity to address sexual assault and it just goes quiet. There has been instances in previous titles where these sensitive subjects were briefly brought up (Meryl’s torture in Metal Gear Solid and Volgin in Snake Eater come to mind) but they did not compose the core of the plot or themes of those titles. The seemingly pointlessness of the absurd grim actions depicted in Ground Zeroes’ plot both in the tapes and the ending may just be a symptom of its shortness. I sincerely hope this is the case and that themes and “taboo” issues are expressed in a more meaningful fashion in The Phantom Pain. Perhaps The Phantom Pain will even give meaning to the issues I had with Ground Zeroes. Regardless, Ground Zeroes is a stand-alone title and it suffers as a result of this.

Consider the themes and issues presented in every main Metal Gear title since Metal Gear Solid. Cold war politics. Post-cold war politics. Nuclear proliferation. Individuality in the face of genetics, memetics and surroundings. One world government. Government surveillance as a weapon. Leaving a legacy behind. Digitization of society. The intent and misunderstanding on an individual’s actions. Making amends to the next generation. Post-traumatic stress disorder. Nuclear deterrence. The conflict between peace and war. The list can go on if you go deep into each and every one of these titles. Fucking Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, all the way back in 1990, already explored child soldiers and race as consequences of various conflicts.

“I was half-white living in Vietnam… It was after the war, and half-whites were being sent into forced labor camps. He saved me from that living hell. Just like he saved all the children here…”
- Gray Fox, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.

What does Ground Zeroes have? Guantanamo Bay should maybe shut down but President Obama promised to do that so, uh, good enough? Oh and Skull Face is a huge asshole who does fucked up shit? This is why I am worried for the storytelling in The Phantom Pain. I do not just want more of the same, except with “Oh and now Big Boss/Kaz/whoever-else is an asshole.”

SIDE THOUGHTS

Calling Morpho
Don’t you be talkin’ ’bout my mother base!

The second-screen option is an interesting one but one that I found myself not using during gameplay. It was much easier to simply use the iDroid in-game than having to physically pull out my phone and use the app. Only when I had a friend over to call my helicopter for me or vice versa did it become useful. The app does have its own minigame of building a Virtual Reality Mother Base which is mildly amusing at best. The ability to listen to the cassette tapes and stats without the game running however is most welcome as is the ability to look at your gameplay statistics. I also appreciate being able to save screenshots from the game, although why this is not possible within the title for last-gen titles is beyond me.

No Cigar

Night vision goggles are the only selectable item available in Ground Zeroes. I won’t even get into how strange it is that they work well in daylight because at this point I am still confused by why they bothered with that first aid spray to think about this kind of shit. I remain unsure as to why they did not include the cardboard box outside of the main Ground Zeroes mission. It also takes quite a bit of effort to hit 100% completion (and I have only barely hit the half-way point myself) but those who have completed it report no bonuses. Nothing. Nada. Why was there no stealth camouflage or infinite-ammunition bandana thrown in? Even a cardboard box would have at least been a reward.

FOXDIE

There were some strange issues such as textures and objects appearing before my eyes; a somewhat noticeable fog of sorts. I once found, got inside of and drove an invisible truck. One of the red doors once was white but then reverted back to red after I opened it. I also managed to crash the game though prior to that I caused the entire sky to freak the fuck out, which I documented:

Luckily though the game’s auto-save feature made this a non-issue for the most part. Still, these sort of glitches seem out of place for a Metal Gear title; Ground Zeroes is the buggiest Metal Gear title I have ever played. Maybe I’m spoiled as I am playing the last-gen version which of course will not play as wonderfully as the current-gen versions. There is also always the possibility of things like these being fixed in patches.

CO-OP OUT?
Imagine the co-op gameplay possibilities!

Features from Peace Walker such as managing your base, recruiting soldiers and so forth will return in The Phantom Pain. As of now it is unknown if co-op mode will return. I really hope it does. While some missions would not make sense with co-op such as the main Ground Zeroes mission, others such as one where your objective is to destroy at least three of the anti-air emplacements in Camp Omega seemed perfect for co-op. The side-op where you have to basically save Hideo Kojima and provide him cover via helicopter felt like you were essentially covering for and rescuing your co-op friend. I’m not a gamer so my opinion does not really matter in this but I feel like we need less competitive multiplayer and more co-op multiplayer in general. Peace Walker was a good step forward. I hope The Phantom Pain doesn’t take a step back by soely including Metal Gear Online as its only multiplayer option.

Hayters Gonna Hayte

I am not sure how I feel about the voice acting. I’m not even talking about Snake here. Yes, it is a shame they more or less dumped David Hayter. I have always thought Big Boss should have had a different voice than Solid Snake and yet here we are with Snake’s voice suddenly changing in the few months that took place between the events of Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes. They should have had Hayter voice Snake for Ground Zeroes and then introduce Sutherland in The Phantom Pain but what the fuck can be done about this now? Regardless, Sutherland is actually alright. Certain lines from other performers just seem off. Skull Face telling Chico he’s a “real man now” sounds forced. “They played us like a damn fiddle” is the new “…we’ve managed to avoid drowning!” although it is a legitimate phrase and similar ones have been in the scripts for Guns of the Patriots and Peace Walker. It’s the delivery though that makes it funny, but I would not change it.

Left Behind
Why wasn’t this partially playable?

Exploring Camp Omega was fun and exciting. One thing I do wonder though is why there wasn’t more to explore. Mother Base is fully available in a real-time cutscene. It is literally then cast away, never to be used again in this title. Why? As a matter of fact, when I watched the cutscene of its destruction I wondered to myself, why isn’t a portion of this interactive? Could have even been played on-rails like the first part of the Intel Operative Rescue side-op. Reminded me of the time in Portable Ops where Big Boss, not I, took down the Intercontinental Ballistic Metal Gear. Here we go again with Big Boss, not the player, rescuing Kaz. It is not a major issue, but it is something that would have certainly made for a much more filling product than what we got.

FINAL LINE

Ground Zeroes has made me excited to play The Phantom Pain while simultaneously lowering my expectations for it “pushing the boundaries of storytelling” in video games. The gameplay is slightly flawed but overall provides an experience that would have been more than welcome in previous titles such as Snake Eater and Guns of the Patriots. Its downfall is the plot and the weak expression of taboo subjects that almost seem thrown in to purposely darken the mood instead of enriching a story. It also seems like the important parts of Ground Zeroes will simply be summarized in The Phantom Pain, and indeed it now appears that The Phantom Pain will still start in 1975, at least for the post-helicopter-crash hospital cutscene. I would summarize Ground Zeroes as a good amount of replay value in a a short fun game with a storyline that seems useless especially for a self-contained title. If The Phantom Pain keeps the fun and genuinely explores dark subjects it can quite possibly be one of the best installments in the entire series. I won’t hold my breath though.

There are 53 comments in our discussion thread.

« Back home