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Why Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes isn't really Metal Gear Solid
Posted on Thursday, April 24 2014 @ 14:17:25 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.
Metal Gear Solid was a watershed moment in gaming for me. The graphics, at the time, were phenomenal; the story was winding and engaging; the gameplay was sharp and not above breaking the fourth wall when appropriate. It’s one of the few titles where the number of times I’ve completed it is close to double digits (I’m not a huge fan of repetition) and I’d be hard pressed to think of any major flaws. So much of what makes the Metal Gear series great appears in every game but a lot of these overarching themes are nowhere to be found in the latest installment, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.

The first thing I noticed about Ground Zeroes was obviously the graphics. Metal Gear games have a well-deserved reputation for squeezing ridiculously good graphics out of hardware and Ground Zeroes is no exception. The second thing I noticed was the totally overhauled menu system. Gone are the weapons/items menus brought up by holding L2 or R2; these have been replaced by a severely cut down D-pad selection brought about, no doubt, due to our hero no longer having bottomless pants.



We’re also missing a staple of the series: the codec. This radio has made it into every Metal Gear game I can think of in some form or another and the closest we get now is tapping L1 which will trigger a line or two of advice based on whatever you’re looking at. These changes may make things feel more immediate but Metal Gear was never about immediacy. It’s a series based around 90 minute cut scenes and convoluted plots. Bringing the gameplay in line with modern action games breaks Ground Zeroes into something it should never be: an action game.

Something else I noticed quite quickly was the total absence of cardboard boxes and the almost complete lack of vents. Boxes are a steadfast element in Metal Gear to the extent that there’s a t-shirt for them. I know there’s a t-shirt because I’ve got it and it’s awesome. As for vents, one of the first things you do in the first MGS and the second is crawl through a vent. It’s one of those things that fits perfectly with the scene and feels unmistakably Metal Gear and now, for Ground Zeroes at least, has been whittled down to a couple that can be easily missed.

Speaking of guard responses (check the writing on the t-shirt), another thing which is completely and totally Metal Gear, proclamations like “it’s just a box”, “what was that?”, and “whose footprints are these?” have only one meaning for those of us who have played Metal Gear Solid and that meaning is nostalgia. I didn’t hear much of this during my MGSV: GZ playthrough. Granted, I couldn’t hear a guard say it was just a box because there were no boxes for me to inhabit but I never really heard any guard wonder out loud who footprints belonged to either. I’m not saying that the guards don’t have audio or the ability to question what just happened (in fact, a very nice touch is that they radio HQ before investigating a noise and after concluding it was nothing), I’m just saying it feels like a generic action game which is antithetical to the Metal Gear Solid I know and love.



Of course there are fewer opportunities for a guard to ask “what was that?” or “what was that noise?” because there are fewer ways to lure them to where you want them. The player still has infinite magazines to throw to their heart’s content but for some reason can’t knock on cover. Maybe this is being pedantic but to me this dumbs down a franchise I love. It hurts almost as much as it did when I found out that I couldn’t stand on tiptoes by holding L2 and R2 at the same time.
Standing up a couple more inches or easing up out of the mud while prone wasn’t in the first game but it embodies Kojima's approach to gaming; these are details no other developer gives a crap about but actually serve a purpose. Can a game function without these elements? Of course, hundreds of stealth and action games do just fine without allowing the protagonist to knock or peek higher than his standing height allows but hundreds of games aren’t Metal Gear, and it’s looking like neither is Ground Zeroes.

I think there’s a real cause for worry that Ground Zeroes will be a generic action game dipped in Metal Gear lore. Even locking to cover, a mechanism not specifically distinct to Metal Gear, is gone and replaced with a far more fluid ‘slide’ which can be broken too easily. It feels like The Last Of Us–a fantastic game in its own right–but this fluidity is unsuitable for Ground Zeroes. I found myself far too often sliding out of cover and having to run back. This single mechanism embodies the problems I found in Ground Zeroes, a title inspired by modern games, ill-fitting within the series ethos, but good looking nonetheless.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of GameRevolution, but it is a blog written by one of our community. This article, posted originally on April 15th, 2014, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. Write a blog by clicking "Add New Entry" on your GR profile page for a chance to be featured on GameRevolution's home page.
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