With a main mission that clocks in around two hours, the third-person stealth action game Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes — which Kojima Productions has made for the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4 — might seem like just a glorified demo, not worth the money. But with numerous reasons why you’ll want to play this really fun game more than once, the real question isn’t “if” you should buy Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, but “when.”
Set in 1975, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes tasks you, as the original Snake, with infiltrating Guantanamo Bay to rescue a couple of kids. Sneaking in under cover of night and rain, you have to all your skills as a sneaky spy to figure out where they’re being held so you get to them to the extraction point without alerting the trigger-happy guards.
Unlike previous Metal Gear Solid games, though, the version of Guantanamo Bay you sneak around in Ground Zeroes isn’t a series of narrow corridors. Instead, it’s a wide-open battlefield…that, admittedly, has a couple narrow corridors. Granted, it isn’t as big as one you’d find in other open world games, nor does it have lots of side quests to distract you from your objective. This isn’t Snake’s Row after all. But by setting it in a big, open space, it makes sneaking around that much harder, since you never know when a guard might spot you from far away.
Which is not to say you should go in guns blazing. Quite the contrary. If you do, you’ll quickly be out numbered, and thus outgunned. At its core, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is decidedly a stealth action game, emphasis on the stealth. Those trigger-happy guards? They’re good shots, and they’ve also got good hearing, so if the first one doesn’t kill you, his pals who come runnin’ when they hear all the shootin’ certainly will.
That said, if you do get into a gunfight with someone, you’ll notice that there’s a slight aim assist helping you out, one that’s more aggressive than the one in the Halo games but less than in Call Of Duty. Though be warned: like the bad guys in C.O.D., the ones in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes will sometimes go down without going out, and can thus still shoot you when wounded.
Thankfully, the one thing you won’t have to fight in this game are the controls and the player-controlled camera, since they’re smooth and intuitive. In fact, both make Ground Zeroes kind of feel a lot like Splinter Cell: Blacklist.
Which is apt since Ground Zeroes is as just engrossing as Blacklist. The open world really makes this challenging, though it also gives you options you’ve never had before, not just in a Metal Gear Solid game, but in any stealth action game.
As much fun as the main mission may be in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, there’s no denying that it’s short. Including all of the cutscenes at the beginning and the ending, it took me a little less than two hours to finish the mission. But it was not an easy two hours. I died a lot in those two hours, and not just because I’m clumsy.
Admittedly, two hours isn’t a lot for a game. But the two hour playtime is also a bit misleading. For starters, like all Metal Gear Solid games, there are many different ways you can complete each mission. Which means you might want to play this two or three times so you can see what happens if, for example, you rescue the kids in reverse order.
There are also badges hidden in the world, and they’re so hard to find that it will easily double, even triple your playtime to find them all.
But the biggest reason you’ll play Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes more than once is because it’s actually the first chapter of Metal Gear Solid V; the rest of the game is slated to come out later this year as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (which, according to Metal Gear Solid mastermind Hideo Kojima, is considerably longer than Zeroes). So even if you only play it once now, you’ll want to play it a second time when Pain comes out.
In addition, you also, by playing Zeroes (and, of course, keeping your save file), you can unlock things in Pain, including any weapons you find, and any kids, other than the main two, that you rescue; they will reportedly turn up as soldiers in your army in Pain, which is set nine years after Zeroes.
As if replaying the main mission multiple times wasn’t enough, there’s also a handful of alternate missions that, together, add another two or three hours to your playtime (even more if you find all the aforementioned badges, which unlocks a special alternative mission). In one, for instance, you have to assassinate two high value targets who are quite squirrely, while another has you trying to destroy three anti-aircraft guns. Which may seem easier than finding two little brats, especially since you’ll already have the lay of the land, but with you returning to Guantanamo Bay on a sunny day when the guards are feeling particularly jumpy, as opposed to on a rainy night, it makes that much harder to sneak around.
All of which is why, as I said earlier, the question isn’t “if” you should get Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, but “when.” Especially when you consider that, when The Phantom Pain does come out, there will probably be a bundle with both games, and if not, Zeroes will probably be a lot cheaper than it is now. But answering “when” you buy Zeroes isn’t a question I can answer for you. Can you wait to play it? Can you afford to buy it now? That’s between you, your trigger fingers, and your wallet. All I can tell you is that when you do get it — and you should — it’s a lot of fun. And a lot longer than two hours. Which is a whole lot more than a glorified demo.