Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes: Early DLC or paying for the demo?

Posted: March 19, 2014 by ryanlecocq in Features
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The majority of the coverage I’ve seen about this game has focused on the short length of the included content.  Although every review tries to act like they are keeping the fact that it doesn’t cost $60 in mind, mostly what I’m seeing is “I want my MGS5 wah wah wah.”  Being realistic, what you have is the option to see the new game engine and features a year early, for the fairly reasonable sum of $20.  Now considering that many DLCs that offer even less entertainment can cost as much, I don’t think it’s all that unreasonable.  Rather than viewing it as Kojima copping out with a partial release, I’m choosing to view this as DLC released in reverse order.  If you think $20 is too steep, then don’t buy it.  Nobody is forcing you to pay for a sneak peak at MGS5 and it’s not like Mass Effect where if you don’t have a completed save from the first part, you are missing out.  Honestly, if the Dark Souls 2 network test had cost $20, but I would have been able to play it every day until release, I would have said TAKE MY FUCKING MONEY NOW.  So with that out of the way, let’s talk about how this is $20 well spent.


More than two ways to tango

If you’ve ever played a Metal Gear game before, you probably know that there are really only two ways to play.  Either A: you try to sneak through clean and hide all evidence of your passing.  Or B: you kill all of the guards until they stop sending more and then accomplish the objectives at your leisure.  Any attempt to be more creative will generally end with a “fission mailed.”  This is because in past games, the enemy AI seemed to have this amazing psychic ability to interpret a single gunshot into a full idea of where you are, why you fired and what you were trying to accomplish overall.  Guards would generally pop up out of plentiful “spawn closets” and search the areas you need to get to, regardless of if that is what they logically should have done.  While this really hammered home the fact that this is a stealth game, I always felt confined by the strict gameplay of MGS, even as I enjoyed it.

All of that has changed.

Now if you shoot a guard, the reaction of nearby guards will realistically be surprise and momentary panic.  They will look around wildly for an explanation of what is going on, rather than instantaneously realizing where you fired from and what you are likely trying to do.  They will then search that area and do realistic things, like assuming you are still out there sniping and keeping behind cover.  They will also take the time to check on and move out the way their wounded ally.  Finally that wounded ally will not just shake off a gunshot wound and help the search.  He will lay there grunting and groaning, becoming a liability to his allies.  All of this is like a godsend to a tactical player that wants to finally have the freedom to pick a strategy besides fight or flight.  For example I found myself shooting a guard or a camera in an area away from me, just to create a distraction or redistribute the guards so I could sneak past them.  This is something I never would have done in past games, because setting the alarm off generally just meant running around until I lost them and then starting over when they forgot my existence.


How much do you get for your $20?

The basic plot mission is just as short as people have reported.  It took me a little less than 90 minutes, but I rescued the extra POWs and did a few other side tasks while I was at it.  You could complete it in about 15 minutes if you just ran between objectives and created no unnecessary chaos.  Personally I saved my chaos for the end and raised the alarm as I stood on the beach with an unconscious Paz behind me, waiting for the chopper.  I then held off the enemy army while the chopper made it’s way to me and climbed aboard under a hail of gunfire.  I was pretty pleased with the Ground Zeroes mission overall, regardless of it’s short length.  My only real gripe is that after completing it, you are shown a totally awesome in-engine cutscene of Mother Base falling and Snake doing lots of badass shit.  Since the game is already so short and the scene is already in-engine, I see no reason why we couldn’t just play through this part as well.  Even as a rail gunning sequence it would have been something.

Besides Ground Zeroes, the experience is balanced out with a handful of bonus missions.  These take place in the same environment as the main mission, but at different times of day and/or weather conditions and with different enemy placements.  Overall it makes for a solid weekend of gameplay and more if you replay it repeatedly for the scores and unlocks.  Since I remember playing the demos for past MGS games for months until the games released, I could easily see myself taking several runs through these missions to prepare myself for The Phantom Pain next year.


Snake Bauer?

Although this may not seem important to newer fans, those of us who have been playing Metal Gear games for a long time are pretty used to David Hayter being the voice of Snake/Big Boss.  This has changed for this installment as Kiefer Sutherland is now voicing the gruff infiltrator.  Although it was tough to adapt in the first few moments of the game, I quickly got used to Kiefer’s more subdued Snake.  I suspect that in the past games, Hideo Kojima told David Hayter to sound angrier each game to the point where in MGS4 and Peace Walker, he sounds like he’s screaming even when he’s whispering (think Christian Bale’s cringe-inducing Batman voice).  Since Solid Snake and Jack Bauer are really very similar characters, I think Sutherland is a good fit and comes with a lot of star appeal that will add to the game’s hype.


Should you buy to try?

It’s hard for me to say for the average gamer, as I am a huge Metal Gear fan.  I am one of those people that bought Zone of the Enders so I could use it as a beverage coaster while I played it’s included MGS2 demo.  I played that demo so much, that my friends and I have in-jokes about the guards’ hilarious Japana-Russian screams to this day.  So for me Ground Zeroes is a no-brainer.  I do think it’s an incredibly tantalizing taste of what the full MGS5 will be and it offers a lot of bonus content to keep you busy.  If you are looking for plot revelations though, you will be disappointed.  Everything ‘revealed’ in Ground Zeroes could easily be guessed by playing games that take place later in the timeline and will likely be described anyway in the beginning of The Phantom Pain.  So base your investment on how much you enjoy spending hours experimenting with guard awareness and infiltration strategies.  If the answer to that is “A LOT!” then you should go buy this new mini sandbox without delay and start honing your skills for the next generation of Metal Gear gameplay.


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