Tuesday, March 18, 2014

First impressions of Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes

It's hard to explain how much I like the Metal Gear Solid series, so just take my word for it: I really like it. I love the blending of American and Japanese. I love the kooky seriousness of an armless character who steps into a battle and, for lack of a better phrase, lends you a hand. I love purposely complicated plots and the plethora of characters, love the homages to American cinema so heavy they verge on rip-offs, and of course I love Tactical Espionage Action. God help me, I even love the cut scenes. Hell, that's probably the reason I enjoy the games more than most—they're movies you get to play. As for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, I loved that one, too.

well, I didn't see any daylight in my game

Having played MGS: Ground Zeroes, I cherish the previous games even more. It's apparent now that stuff is probably over. It's the end of an era and it ended so damn abruptly. I wasn't ready for it. I'm sure a lot of other fans weren't ready for it either. I can't help but feel Ground Zeroes' updates feel less like Hideo Kojima trying to serve his fans and more like him trying to expand his market.

Let me preface the rest by saying this is a good game. Perhaps it's currently my least favorite MGS game, but with a series so spectacular, that really isn't criticizing it much. Whether it's worth thirty dollars is up to you. Maybe this post will help you decide. We'll see.

Just imagine my perplexity when I finally get my hands on Ground Zeroes and, 150 minutes later, I beat the game. Yes, there have been plenty of advance reports that the game was short. And yes, I actually did get the memo that the game could be beaten in under two hours. You probably thought the same thing I did: surely that was only a player speeding through the game. That person obviously doesn't take the time to smell the roses. So I got the game and briefly wondered when it was going to feel like MGS.

Well, it only feels like MGS to me in the intro cinematic and in the one at the end. The stuff in between feels more like an ultra-refined Splinter Cell. Don't get me wrong: it's not a bad game. The engine is fantastic. The controls are smooth. The graphics are a notch above what you might expect.

Still, I'm not the most impressed guy out there at the moment. At the end of the day my two hours, I enjoyed the experience. I felt the story arc was solid despite the brevity and the lack of a firm conclusion. I wasn't as distracted by Kiefer Sutherland's voice acting as I expected, but maybe that's only because there's very little of it.

While we're on the subject of things I didn't like: Skullface's voice sucks. It's undeniable that it simply doesn't fit the badassness of the character we first heard voiced in Japanese. That there isn't some kind of encounter with him is disappointing as well. I'm not saying we should have gotten to kill him in the climax or anything, just that we should have been able to see more of him than we already saw in the previews.

But let's face it: we just paid $20-30 for a game that could have just as easily been inserted before Phantom Pain's opening credits. Maybe Hideo Kojima was experimenting, maybe it was a mistake, maybe he just wanted us to have an advance preview—that I'm not going to speculate on. In case it seems I'm dwelling on the length of the game, that's not what bothers me. What bothers me is I had a craving for classic espionage action, not to mention a shitload of characters leading me down an increasingly complex plot. Unfortunately that itch has yet to be scratched.

Yet that's why I plucked down the dough. So if you're coming from a similar angle, maybe you'd do better to avoid it. 

I say in the title of this post that these are my first impressions, despite beating the game, because I plan to give it some more time and hunt some of the collectibles. Perhaps I'll give it a proper review in the future.

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