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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?

Camp Omega is basically an immense stealth sandbox. You're told where you need to go, but how you get there is entirely up to you. Take out all the guards silently, sneak into the armory and come out ready for a full-frontal assault, or just ghost your way through the camp. Unlike most games that say this, in Ground Zeroes it really is entirely up to you how you accomplish your goals.

Really, it feels like one massive Far Cry outpost liberation, and that's one of the biggest compliments I can pay. You even have a pair of binoculars with which you can tag guards as they patrol the camp, helping you take them out later or simply avoid their routes. Imagine a third-person Far Cry outpost designed with more care towards stealth mechanics, and you've got Ground Zeroes.

Great! Fantastic!

Now back to the length thing. See, when the credits roll on the "Ground Zeroes" mission after ninety minutes, that's basically it. There are four side missions (Side Ops) that give you alternate objectives, of the "Take out the anti-air guns" variety, but they take place on the same map and add very little to the story, and they're accessed separately from the main menu. You don't just stumble onto them in the course of playing the main mission.

Are you here playing Ground Zeroes because you just want to play around with the stealth mechanics in a big ol' stealth sandbox? There are certainly some of you who will take that stance, and that's fantastic. They're good stealth mechanics. Satisfying stealth mechanics. I haven't been as happy with a stealth game since Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

But if you're here because of the writing, ninety minutes is basically all you get. That's the problem with Ground Zeroes. It's all first act. It's all set-up and no payoff. There are some indie titles where I've paid similar prices for two or three hours worth of content, but at least when it was done I felt I'd gotten a full experience.

Ground Zeroes is like paying for the first episode of Lost. Sure, you could sit down and watch the first episode of Lost (or insert your favorite serial television show) and get something out of it. "Beautiful setting," you'd say, or, "I like that Jack dude."

It's not satisfying on its own though, and it's clearly meant to be part of something bigger. Which would also be fine if it weren't twenty damn dollars to be held hostage by a demo.

It's interesting because when Ground Zeroes initially released for consoles last spring there was nothing to compare it to. But with the PC release there is something to compare it to, and ironically it's another Kojima title also published by Konami--the PS4-exclusive P.T., which came out last summer and was an elaborate teaser for a new Silent Hill game.


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