This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.
The Metal Gear series is the video game equivalent of Lennie from Of Mice and Men: A huge lovable idiot, who discovers things that ordinary people figured out years ago, like hovering the third person camera behind the player character instead of nailing it to passing seagulls, and we applaud it for overcoming its disadvantages. And when it fucks up I can’t stay mad at it because it doesn’t fuck up out of malice.
Hey Metal Gear? Why did you pretend MGS 2 would be about Solid Snake then replace him twenty minutes in with a cross between an albino Barbie doll and Wesley Crusher? “Duh, I’m sorry. I just wanted everyone to meet this cool new character I made up. He’s a cyborg and his nipples turn into shurikens!”
With MGSV Ground Zeroes, I worry that he’s fallen in with a bad influence. Why did you chop the intro off your upcoming game and release it for forty bucks, Metal Gear? “Duh, I’m sorry. Mr. Konami says I have to pay him back for all the Fizzy Gummy bears he gave me.” Did I ever tell you about the rabbits Metal Gear? “Are they down that shotgun barrel?” Yes Metal Gear, have a closer look.
Understand my problem, viewer. I’m a man of routine and strict scheduling: Wake up, Breakfast, Exercise, light the brazier underneath the dwarf. I’d already scheduled out Ground Zeroes to be reviewed this week. I’d heard it was short but I figured "Hey! Kane and Lynch 2 only made two wheezing inept thrusts before rolling over and going back to sleep and I got plenty of mileage out of that." Turns out, Ground Zeroes didn’t even get as far as the thrusting! I bought it dinner, we watched Dances with Wolves, it rubbed its dick on my cheek for a second and then it ran off to catch the last bus! It didn’t even make me feel like a whore, just the victim of a practical joke! And I didn’t have anything else to play that week besides poke the dancing dwarf, so I guess this is where we’re at. I’m going to review half an hour of gameplay. Consider this a sneak preview of the future world the games industry eventually wants to create, in which we pay a hundred bucks for ten minutes on the Candy Crush machine in between mining for polygons on one of the Microsoft slave planets.
So there’s this guy who’s sometimes called ‘Snake’ and sometimes called ‘Big Boss’ and he’s the best soldier ever; He’s got a an eyepatch and he’s a martial arts expert and no really he’s just so cool you guys. And he runs a sort of mobile party bus service for mercenaries, but there’s these two kids who hang around his place, either by the same principle as those two kids who used to hang out with the Superfriends, or because it’s like those little birds that live in crocodile's mouths and he hires them to pick bits of Corn Flake out of his beard. And they’ve been captured and imprisoned in an evil American detention center by a bloke called Mr. Skull Face, who’s called that because he has a face that looks like a skull. Metal Gear, your writing has officially graduated to the level of a bad Saturday morning cartoon. “Thanks! my favourite one is G.I.Joe.”
Anyway, Mr. Bigsnake has to go in alone and rescue his two underage slave children before their captors can interrogate them and find out what their favourite milkshakes are. And he’s now being voiced by Kiefer Sutherland which was a bit of a lurch; I’ve gotten so used to David Hayter's silly gravelly voice constantly repeating the last two words of the previous speaker’s sentence as a question, but when someone else does it, now it makes the dialogue seem really badly written.
The prison camp represents the entirety of Ground Zeroes. I should probably promise to stop harping on about the length issue...except I won’t! I’m gonna harp like an angel with Parkinson’s disease! At the outset, the title menu had the one mission and then like five or six locked ones, so I thought, "Okay that’s a healthy enough size for forty smackaroos." Turned out that the first mission is the only one with any story and there’s an end credits sequence afterwards that accounts for about forty percent of the total run time. The rest of the missions are just bonus objectives on the same map, which felt like continuing to suck on a lolly stick after the lolly has been depleted. It is quite a large and sprawling map which can be fairly fruitfully reused, but variations in light and weather effects won’t go far to stop it from getting a wee bit samey. Unless you’re one of those "emergent gameplay" types who can get hours of fun from arranging unconscious bodies in to the shape of a swastika. But you’d probably be equally amused by enacting thrilling shipwreck survival dramas with a plate of beans on toast.
What’s frustrating is that I enjoyed what little game there was. I can’t decide if that softens the blow or makes it worse, like a man I respect has offered his hand to shake only to pull it away at the last second while his friend yanks my trousers down. It controls well. There’s a button I extracted much amusement from that makes Snake gaily fling himself at the ground like he means to impregnate the earth itself. You can kick the door down and shoot the place up against a chorus of a blaring alarms, or you can find the vantage point and organically recon the area ahead...before you kick the door down and shoot the place up against a chorus of blaring alarms.
I like that the game doesn’t let you wimp out. "Rescued the prisoner! Is the mission over yet?", one might ask. "If you mean, 'after you’ve carried them through enemy territory to the extraction point by a route you’re gonna have to figure out by yourself', then yes!" It shows its improvement without losing its identity as a Metal Gear Solid game, so you can still crawl up to someone then stick a knife in their ear until they tell you about their favourite milkshakes. And the requisite radio talk is mercifully brief and the game doesn’t lock you in a cupboard until it’s finished.
And there’s the usual Metal Gear inconsistent tone and leaning a bit too hard on the fence around creepy land. To illustrate how evil Mr. Skull face is (if the skull for a face wasn’t doing it for you), we find out on the chopper home that the girl we rescued has a bomb in her gut, so we must watch it being extracted with unflinching detail. Man, the PS4’s good at rendering a screaming girl’s guts! Although I doubt they’ll be putting that in the marketing packages. But then the girl wakes up and goes, "Woops I just remembered there were two bombs! Coh, what a scatterbrain I am. Explode!" It wasn’t dull, I’ll give it that, but if she’s gonna blow up anyway, the scene seems a bit wanton. Metal Gear, Are you being weird about female characters again? “No!” What’s that behind your back, Metal Gear? “It’s a...female character who wears bikini tops and never speaks.” Oh, Metal Gear!
On the whole though, if this had been a free demo it might have left me enthused for MGSV. Instead I loathe it. Because I remember entire thirds of games were given away for free and I object to having to pay forty dollars for a demo just 'cause someone’s been too liberal with the fizzy gummy bears! Leave me out it or, for fuck's sake, switch to Kola Kubes!
- Also has dangerous hardware just under his stomach: Ben "Yahztee" Croshaw
- Still, I have a feeling that going out with Hideo Kojima would leave you with quite a few stories to tell
- The rejected name for 'quiet' was 'darling the men are talking'
Extra: Webby Awards Announcement
Hi, people who watch after the credits! The Escapist is up for a People's Choice Webby Award for Games Related Website voted by the general public! I think you know what you have to do now: Annex the Sudetenland. Oh, sorry, I got that wrong. I mean, vote for us! Then annex the Sudetenland.