It’s no secret by now that Ground Zeroes is causing a stir in the gaming world due to the games insanely short length. Journalists everywhere are opening their review with the statement “It’s short, but…” before going on to praise the game, and many people are arguing that the game is just a glorified demo that costs 30 pounds. We’ve sat down and played through the game multiple times, and after much deliberation, we’re still a little confused on what to say.
Let’s get this out of the way, Ground Zeroes is short. Really short. During our first playthrough, we managed to finish the main story in 47 minutes. That’s a ridiculously short amount of time! Granted, the games cutscenes add another 25 minutes or so, but the overall gameplay lasts about an hour. We know that you should never judge a game by its length (just look at fantastic games like Journey and Brothers), but it’s hard to believe that something that costs nearly five times as much as those games lasts only 40 minutes.
This wasn’t 47 minutes of knowing what to do and being a ninja assassin. The majority of the time we were goofing around, driving around in jeeps, attaching C4 to guards, and saving all of the prisoners. But even after all that, after doing all that we could to prolong our game time, the game still managed to be a scarily short game. Buyers be warned, there’s not a lot of bang for your buck.
Right, enough with the complaining, let’s get to the good stuff.
The game feels like Peace Walker with better controls, so now the gunplay really works in first person. Snake controls with ease, and making him perform actions is a lot more streamlined then it was in prior games. Now (for better or for worse) there stamina bar is gone, and Snake can keep running for as long as he wants. While diehards will cry with outrage, its removal allows newcomers to be able to escape situations and try again, making Ground Zeroes a great deal less punishing than past games.
Another new feature appears when Snake is spotted. If caught, time will slow down for a brief moment and give Snake time to take out the enemy. Much like the removal of the stamina bar, massive fans of the franchise may swell with anger at the very idea of being able to slow down time to take out enemies, but its addition keeps the game at a constantly fast pace, as well as making you feel like a bad-ass when you kill three guards in quick succession.
The game tries a first for the Metal Gear series, making it free-roam. The game takes place in a compact outdoor military base, anything you can see, you can get to. At first this seems overwhelming, with hundreds of ways to get to the objective, but it works surprisingly well, with lots of areas all connecting via doors or hatches. The game encourages exploration from the moment it starts, inviting you to run around the complex to collect all of the XOF tags, as well as secret weapons and vehicles can be found scattered around the map that can assist in the mission. There are also POWs that can be saved. If you don’t, they will call out to you if they hear you moving about, getting the attention the guards. And with the games intelligent AI, you really want to avoid the guards at all costs.
We played the PS3 version of Ground Zeroes, and while it looked very nice, it wasn’t anything too amazing. The textures all looked nice from afar, but up close they looked quite pixilated. While everything else looks fine, there is a large amount of pop in, and for a stealth game that involves using a pair of binoculars. However, the most noticeable graphical flaw was with the characters hair. All of the characters look like their hair came out of a PS1 game, and it’s incredibly jarring to see a highly detailed face clash with horribly rendered hair. But other than that, it’s lovely!
Ground Zeroes is a tricky one to decide on. Despite the complaints with length, Ground Zeroes is fun, maybe not 30 pounds worth of fun, but still really fun. All of the games missions are meant to be replayed multiple times, and the scoring system may encourage friends to try and best each other. But overall, Ground Zeroes feels like an overpriced demo to show off the new tech and gameplay mechanics. If you really love Metal Gear and just have to own this game, wait a few weeks, you’re bound to find a load of pre-owned copies on sale.