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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes review: A stealth sandbox, a glorified demo, an hour and a half

Hayden Dingman | Jan. 20, 2015
Would you pay for a TV show's pilot episode? What if it were written by Hideo Kojima?

First, let's pause and take a moment to appreciate that a full-blown Metal Gear Solid game came to PC. Did you ever expect to see Metal Gear Solid reviews on PC-centric sites? Yeah, me neither. But here I am, slinking around warehouses with Snake's butt in all its HD glory on my monitor.

Okay, finished with your quiet word of thanks to Hideo Kojima? Time to dig in then.

Metal Gear Solid 5.1.1
I think the prevailing question when it comes to Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is "What is it?" And for once I don't mean that in the sense that the MGS canon is a miasma of Kojima-brand crazy. I quite literally mean "What is this thing called Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes?"

It's an intriguing thought experiment from a taxonomic stance. Ground Zeroes is sold as a stand-alone product, and thus there's a reasonable expectation that it, you know, stands on its own.

But Ground Zeroes doesn't. Not in the least. Kojima and Co. have referred to Ground Zeroes as a "prologue" for the larger Metal Gear Solid V, which is more appropriate. How do you judge a prologue though? And how do you judge the overall merit of said prologue without knowing its importance to the rest of the overarching story?

Similar questions arise with episodic games--Dreamfall: Chapters, all of Telltale's games, Broken Age--but they're largely mitigated by two factors. 1) The games are packaged and sold as episodes. 2) All of the titles listed are (by game standards) fairly cheap, coming in under thirty dollars for probably ten or so hours of content each. (For each entire season, not each episode.)

Ground Zeroes is a standalone product priced at $20, with the real Metal Gear Solid V presumably priced at a standard $60 whenever it releases. Furthermore, the rumors are true: You can complete Ground Zeroes in about an hour and a half.

I know, Ground Zeroes fans--I can already hear your objections. "If you do all the side missions there's ten, twenty, even thirty hours of content available!"

Here's how Ground Zeroes is laid out though: When you boot the game, there's a single mission available. It's the titular "Ground Zeroes" mission, and can be completed in an hour and a half. Also--and this is important--nearly all of the relevant story information you're going to glean about the MGS storyline is contained within that ninety minute segment.

It's a hell of a tale! It's all sorts of Kojima-crazy, with more twists and turns plugged into its diminutive script than most games manage in ten times the length. It's 1975 and you (Snake) are dropped into a Cuban prison camp, tasked with rescuing old buddies Paz and Chico.


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