Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review: Get Out What You Put In

A lot has been said about the length of the newest installment in the Metal Gear franchise. The main story mission in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes can be finished in under two hours, and at the time of this writing, someone has actually finished it in under 10 minutes.

But if you boot up to play only the main mission and that’s all, you are doing it all wrong. That is the equivalent of playing Nintendo’s Mario Kart and stopping after the first race. To put it bluntly, you will get out what you put in to Ground Zeroes.

The main mission picks up in 1975, after the events of the PSP classic, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. The traitorous Paz and child Sandinista, Chico, are being held prisoner at Omega Base, a U.S. Military compound on Cuba, and Snake/Big Boss decides to go in to rescue them. What makes Ground Zeroes so different is that there is no one way to pull this off. Sure, in the past, series’ creator Hideo Kojima has given players the option of stealth vs. action, but here, those options become sandbox. You know the mission goal. You figure out how to pull it off.

And Kojima has offered plenty of options on how to do this. There is no perfect way, but know going in that every decision made is tied to the end score. Kills versus knock outs, discovery versus total stealth; you can even choose which prisoner (or prisoners, there are others on the base) to go after first is completely up to you.

I, myself, ran the op with a mixture of early stealth, where I interrogated every enemy soldier on the base, and then killed them, which is a score-killing no-no in past Metal Gear games. It was my choice, and that was how I chose to play it. Near the end of the mission, I went straight up Rambo and brought hell down on the base with explosions and open gunfire. It took me over three satisfying hours to finish, but my D ranking all but ensures I will do it again and again until I get the coveted S ranking.

After the main mission ends–with a beautiful, brutal ending that takes the story right up to what we already know about the next installment, The Phantom Pain–four additional side quests, or ops, open up with their own set of objectives, and still utilizing the sandbox, open-world game style to pull them off. Each console manufacturer also has a specific extra op. For the Sony systems, the extra op is called Deja Vu, and the mission is played much like the original assault on Shadow Moses Island from Metal Gear Solid. For the Microsoft systems, the extra op is called Jamais Vu and it involves Raiden and a re-visit to the Revengence storyline. So, as you can see, there is plenty of content in the Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes package.

The vaunted Fox Engine, built from the ground up for this generation of Metal Gear games, is a powerful, stunningly beautiful engine that really flexes the biceps of the next-gen systems. I played this on a PS4, and was in awe for most of the game. Raindrops falling in front of spotlights at night looked incredibly real, and the sunlight shining on the rocky, Cuban terrain was breathtaking. Character models and movement was smooth and life-like, and even belly crawling through tall grass, which was always an ugly, pixelated mess is now crisp and realistic. To put it bluntly, Ground Zeroes looks and plays fantastic.

Harry Gregson-Williams returns to score the soundtrack, and an Ennio Morricone and Joan Baez song is used throughout. Gregson-Williams has been scoring the series since 2001’s Sons of Liberty, and to hear the same basic theme used throughout the series is a welcome reminder that this is all part of one world, one story told for over 50 years.

One major issue I have is in the voice acting. Keifer Sutherland (TV’s 24, Lost Boys) steps in to replace long-time Snake actor, David Hayter, and the end result is very mixed. Sutherland cannot, and does not, pull off the role, and many times, his voice sounds silly delivering some of these lines. Sutherland is a decent voice actor, and his turn in Call of Duty: World at War was one of the bright spots of that game.

In Ground Zeroes, it doesn’t make sense as to why the voice was changed, and it is definitely noticeable. Now, when The Phantom Pain starts, Snake/Big Boss has been in a coma for nine years, so a change in voice could be explained away here, but this version of Big Boss is the same from Peace Walker, which was voiced by Hayter. This may just be me splitting hairs, here, but it does matter. Hayter created the character, and I’ve been playing with that voice as Snake since 1998. He is sorely missed.

To call Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes short, or less of a game, because of one mission is wrong. The whole package, which is five fully realized missions, and one extra op–in addition to side content like building up and running Mother Base, and a second screen companion app on iOs and Android–fully flesh out the title.

Kojima has always said that Ground Zeroes was the prologue to the bigger Phantom Pain, coming in 2015, and to stock that prologue with this much content at a decent retail price is a good move on his–and Konami’s part. This is the same creator and publisher that essentially sold a demo to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty with a short, three hour game called Zone of the Enders at full price back in 2000. There is historical precedence here.

If gamers can get past the misconception that Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is too short and a “cash grab,” they will find a spectacular game that looks and plays wonderfully and is the perfect appetizer for the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Score hunters and Trophy/Achievement completists will also play it over and over to unlock all that is offered, and maybe that was the plan all along.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a copy purchased at retail. It released for PS4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360 on March 18, 2014.

Shop for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes for a discounted price at

out of 5

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