Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes – Review


Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes puts you in the shoes of Big Boss, a renowned special forces operative that founded an idealistic mercenary company, Militaires Sans Frontières or Soldiers Without Borders. A formidable force which offers a range of specialised military services, they’ve begun attracting enemies for their capabilities and for expressing no loyalty to any nation state.


The Ground Zeroes mission has Big Boss infiltrating Camp Omega, an analogue of  Guantanamo Bay’s Camp X-Ray which housed enemy combatants after the September 11 attacks. Under the cover of darkness and rain, Big Boss’s objectives are to rescue Chico and Paz, two characters from the Peace Walker game, to avoid critical intelligence falling into the wrong hands. In keeping with Ground Zeroes darker realism a number of changes have been made to the series tactical espionage gameplay and story.


The most controversial change was to relieve voice acting veteran David Hayter in favour of Keifer Sutherland, best known for playing Jack Bauer in TV series 24. Keifer’s voice suits the darker tone of Ground Zeroes, delivering a gruff menace to his performance. The subtlety and nuance in his voice has the unfortunate effect of amplifying some of the pantomime elements in other actor’s performances. Some of the characters feel incongruous with the grounded characterisation that Kiefer delivers.


Ground Zeroes other most notable shift is its move towards an open world structure. Rather than the shorter, interconnecting gameplay vignettes that defined Peace Walker, you will be controlling Big Boss in a single, expansive location. Camp Omega’s layout and attention to detail become apparent when you’re sneaking around, avoiding detection. Marines live in mud caked tents only meters from where hooded prisoners are kept in cages. Guard outposts with blinding search lights dot the perimeter, while sealed roads lead up to a helipad and a heavily fortified building. Character models are rendered in detail and there is realistic environmental lighting throughout the level, which all culminates to give Camp Omega an expansive feel with many, intricate moving parts.

Even on the PlayStation 3, Ground Zeroes visuals impress.
Even on the PlayStation 3, Ground Zeroes impresses.


Ground Zeroes is a visual marvel on the PlayStation 4. The PS4 version is the most technically impressive of the different versions running at full HD resolution with a smooth and consistent frame rate. Ground Zeroes visuals also scales surprisingly well on older hardware like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, giving players a choice of which console platform they’d rather use.


The open world structure also benefits players by allowing them to design their own plan of attack. You’ll find a variety of pathways to your objectives either on foot or by hijacking a vehicle. During one side op, I escaped an area that was being actively searched, by concealing myself in the back of a truck. Big Boss hitched that ride all the way to his extraction point. In another mission, after a successful assassination, I patrolled undetected in an armoured vehicle looking for the final target. Provided you’re not sticking to the same routes through each play through, Ground Zeroes feels open and flexible to your demands.


There is also the flexibility to change the environment for optimal stealth, including the tried and true shooting out lights and cameras. However, in Ground Zeroes you can go beyond these stealth tropes and shut down power to parts of the camp, allowing you to infiltrate in the dark for the main mission. Unfortunately, it is very easy to miss these opportunities for sabotage, not every door or console you pass is interactive. These different tricks often revealing themselves through repeated play throughs.


Information gathering is now critical in Ground Zeroes. The mini map radar has been done away with, meaning you will no longer see the position of nearby soldiers and their field of view. Instead, you must now mark enemies by observing them through your binoculars. Working out the distance from which a soldier will not notice you, is a matter of trial and error, but environmental effects like darkness and inclement weather will reduce your visibility.


You can also glean important intelligence by eavesdropping on conversations and interrogating soldiers. On my first play through, I found the best way to learn about significant landmarks was by interrogating soldiers. By sneaking up on soldiers and putting them into a hold, I was quickly offered up enemy positions and weapon caches that then get marked on your map. Occasionally, the contextual hand-to-hand combat cues will get confused with contextual actions and you’ll fumble and blow your cover entirely.


Later on in the main mission you’ll need to rescue a prisoner by listening to a tape. I had to listen carefully to the audio cues and environmental sounds, like the sound of a flag flapping against a pole, to get a sense of where they might be imprisoned. I also dropped in on a conversation between two guards discussing new special guard rotations for a high value prisoner. By putting all the information together and studying the map, I made an educated guess of where I needed to go. Gathering information about your mission objectives undetected is one of the most striking things about Ground Zeroes.


The main mission, which takes roughly two hours to complete, is accompanied by four additional side ops that become unlocked and it is about here where the wheels start to buckle on this otherwise fine machine.
As a fan of the Metal Gear Solid series, I initially found myself disappointed with the offering here. At first glance, the story felt far too short, with too little detail about some events and even the side ops lacked depth. However, through repeated play throughs I’ve found the game really growing on me. Hidden tapes recorded by Chico reveal more detail about his experiences at the hands of his captors and Paz’s audio diaries give more insight into her state of mind during Peace Walker. For fans, the extra content is welcome but exposes how brief the experience turns out to be.


Ground Zeroes is a difficult proposition to justify, even the less expensive digital only options sit unfavourably next to more fully realised standalone DLC like Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry. By comparison, Ground Zeroes delivers a very solid demonstration of what the Phantom Pain will be for a price, while Freedom Cry is a chunky slice of everything you can do in Black Flag told from a different point of view.


Ultimately, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes serves its purpose as a prologue for a much longer and more satisfying game to come. However, as it stands it’s really difficult to recommend to newcomers, even if there is an included backstory to leaf through. If you can’t simply wait until Phantom Pain drops, Ground Zeroes does stand up to repeated play sessions and experimentation, just track down the more keenly priced digital store versions.


Review score: 7.0/10


Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

DeveloperKojima Productions

Publishers: Konami

Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Xbox One. (We reviewed Ground Zeroes on PS3 and PS4)

Price: Physical copies are $49.95 on all platforms. PS3 Digital Copy $24.95, PS4 Digital Copy $39.95,  Xbox 360: $29.95, Xbox One $49.45.

Rated: MA15+ (Strong Themes, Strong Violence)