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Myth: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a two-hour game

Big Boss does not like people questioning his length!

Fact: Just one of the five missions may take you around two hours to complete on your first run.

By Ravi Singh, Posted on March 24, 2014

Whether or not Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is worth the $19.99 – $29.99 asking price range is subjective and ultimately decided on what you as a consumer consider as value in a video game. Video games as a medium require interactivity and due to this it is understandable why there are concerns regarding the amount of gameplay within Ground Zeroes. The claims that this is even a “two-hour” game are incorrect though, let alone nearly all of the other short times given by detractors.

This myth started and is continuously perpetuated due to a misunderstanding of how one plays Ground Zeroes. It began with a hands-on impression from Game Informer.

“Judged just by the core story mission, Ground Zeroes is short. We completed it in just less than two hours.”
Game Informer, March 2014 issue (via Kotaku).

Unintentionally, Game Informer caused everyone to deride Ground Zeroes as an easy cash-in for what would essentially be a game only slightly longer than most demos–and that’s assuming the cutscenes did not take up the bulk of those two hours, considering how long Metal Gear Solid cutscenes are known to be. Game Informer tried to clear things up but at that point it was too late and Konami had to deal with a social media disaster. Suddenly instead of talking about the amazing motion capture or open-world-style stealth gameplay, they were talking about replayability and completion percentages.

The first quote used in this advertisement is about the play-time and amount of content in the title.

The confusion arrives from the structure of the title. You see, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is mission-based. This is carrying on the structure of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker which was a departure from the linear structure of previous major installments to the series. Ground Zeroes contains a mission called “Ground Zeroes.” This Ground Zeroes mission—not the game Ground Zeroes—on average, seems to take around two-hours for a newcomer to complete. I hit around an hour and a half on my first time, personally. Not only does the Ground Zeroes mission include within itself challenges, hidden items and a higher difficulty, but there are five other missions as well. These missions are smaller and on average take forty-five minutes each. Like Ground Zeroes, these mission also have their own challenges, hidden items and higher difficulties.

Further fuel is added to the fires of this myth by the speedruns being posted online. This confusion is bizarre to me though as speedruns have always been a fun challenge among gamers and I would have thought this would be widely understood. Typing the title of any video game along with “speedrun” on YouTube tends to bring up a bunch of results of people clearing a game in part or full as fast as they can. For some titles its outright competitive… and with Ground Zeroes featuring ranking boards you can count it as one of them.

Perfect Stealth’s speedrun for the Ground Zeroes mission was made more impressive as he turned off Reflex Mode, triggered no alerts and did not kill anyone. It was also done in Hard mode. It’s not supposed to be easily replicated.

Nobody who has clocked even twenty minutes for the Ground Zeroes mission did so at first try unless, perhaps, they have watched someone else play through it. Even then it seems unlikely as there are more elements involved to completing the mission than simply knowing the locations of the targets. If you were to watch any of these speedruns you will see that these players understand the gameplay mechanics, correctly predict or have memorized enemy positions, take advantage of the checkpoint system and overall utilize their skills. Unless you are experienced with the Ground Zeroes mission, you are not going to be able to finish it anywhere near these record times. It is completely casuistical to define the amount of gameplay a title has based on its speedruns.

Using similar logic being proposed by the myth, Super Mario Bros is a five-minute game and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater simply clocks at an hour-and-a-half in European Extreme difficulty. Of course that is not true; these times were achieved by experience, skill and occasionally taking advantage of certain exploits. Its not a realistic representation of how one actually plays a video game. Consider speedruns the equivalent of using Photoshop on celebrities and models in magazines, except instead in this case instead of looks its play time.

So even if we forget about all of the extra content such as the unlockables, challenges, ranking boards, cassette tapes that expand the story and hidden items (although you need to find and collect some items in order to unlock one of the side-ops) we still have a game that will demand much more time than two-hours. Throw everything I mentioned, along with the higher difficulty mode, and you got yourself something that is still not as lengthy as a full-priced title, but hardly short enough to be considered a simple “demo” with nothing new to see after two hours, or even four.

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