Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes review: Good, but a little short on content

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
PS4 (reviewed), PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Kojima...

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
PS4 (reviewed), PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Kojima Productions/Konami
Rating: Mature

Rating

3 Stars3/5

Steve Tilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:44 PM ET

Oh, Snake. You’ve always had a way of messing with people’s minds. But this time you might have gone a bit too far.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is about as divisive a mainstream video game as we’re likely to see this year. In part because it’s not so much a game as an expensive demo, acting as a short prologue to the upcoming, full-length Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

And in part because it skirts some very dark subject matter that it doesn’t have the emotional maturity to back up.

In the labyrinthine chronology of the Metal Gear franchise, Ground Zeroes takes place in 1975, after the events of 2010’s Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Big Boss, aka Naked Snake (voiced for the first time by Canada’s own Kiefer Sutherland) must infiltrate a military base to rescue a pair of detainees. The full backstory would take pages to explain, and only devotees of the series will be able to follow it anyway, so let’s leave it at that.

Strictly based on its gameplay, Ground Zeroes is very good. It manages to balance the familiar stealthy action that has always been the series’ hallmark with some new innovations, like Snake’s Splinter Cell-style ability to mark enemies and track their movements. Snake has never had more tools and tactics at his disposal, and while its always more satisfying (and earns you a better post-mission score) to get through challenges using pure stealth, sometimes it’s fun to go full Rambo, driving an armoured personnel carrier around and blowing the crap out of baddies.

But Ground Zeroes has just one environment – the sprawling Camp Omega, a U.S. military base situated on Cuban soil – and one story-based chapter, plus four or five side missions that offer different, shorter challenges (assassinate a sniper team, rescue a high-value target, destroy anti-air guns) set during a different times of the day.

Unless you’re the kind of player who obsessively replays missions to try new tactics or get a better score, it’s not a lot of content for the $35 price. That’s one strike against Ground Zeroes.

The other is what happens to Paz, the captured female double agent who Snake must rescue. If players fully explore the base and complete various challenges, they unlock a series of audio tapes that fill in Paz’s treatment by her captors, including strong implications of torture, rape and a bomb implanted in her vagina (and that’s in addition to the one surgically planted in her stomach, which we witness being ripped out in graphic detail.)

Granted, only the most meticulous players will uncover this content. And yes, we should welcome and encourage provocative subjects being tackled in video games.

But Kojima and company have bitten off more than they can chew here. If you’re going to have rape as part of your game’s backstory, it better be there for more than shock value. Kojima’s games have always been complex and dark, but they have a sophomoric, soap operatic quality that makes it difficult to take anything they say or do seriously. And this is one time when seriousness is truly called for. Otherwise, it just comes off as fiendish.

Ground Zeroes probably won’t alienate fans of the series, and in terms of giving players a taste of what to expect in the as-yet-undated Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, it delivers. But between its poor value proposition and its jarring darkness, it’s not likely to make Snake and company any new friends.

 

 


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