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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review

I hear Cuba's lovely this time of year.

The overriding question that continues to hang over Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is whether it can possible justify its price tag. On that front, I’m torn, as it really depends on the kind of player and how deeply invested in the series you are.

It’s something which hinges on a few points, one of which is the plot, set after the events of Peace Walker. Though there is a short written summary of the events from Metal Gear Solid 3 and Peace Walker, getting the most out of the story will require you to have played those games, so that you already know the characters and the events that led to this point.

In truth, the tightened scope of Ground Zeroes helps it to stand on its own. It’s bookended by some lenghty but impressively scripted and produced cutscenes, introducing XOF, Skull Face – who doesn’t appear outside of the cutscene – and some returning characters in the process, but even taking those into account, I finished the main mission in around 90 minutes. It is literally just the prologue and introduction to the grander scale of the upcoming Phantom Pain, setting events in motion for the plot of that game.


You take control of Big Boss – now jarringly voiced by Keifer Sutherland – on the edge of Camp Omega, a coastal US facility being run by the XOF organisation on the tip of Cuba. With Miller lending tactical support, he is tasked with a rescue mission that manages to pack several rather punchy twists within such a compact plot.

It all takes place within this sandbox military base and it’s really the ability infiltrate and explore this as you see fit which helps to elevate the game beyond the headline grabbing length of the main mission. Yes, you can just sneak through, going directly from one objective to another, but the real joy will come using this area as your personal playground.

With such a large area, there are a lot of watch towers with search lights, guards and patrols to evade, but it also opens up the possibilities, with multiple routes and options for getting from one place to another. It really lets you play it how you want, whether it’s trying to pass through completely undetected or being more combative in your approach. Similarly, exploration can reward you with more equipment and weaponry, but isn’t strictly necessary for completion.


I personally found it quite difficult to do that with pure stealth and was spotted several times when I was caught out by rather attentive guards or had worked my way into a tricky situation. I also wasn’t that great at hiding bodies.

Part of that is down to some fairly minor but important changes to the gameplay. Checking your map via the iDROID – just one example some thinly veiled modern day references – in game won’t pause the action and you no longer have a form of radar system but have to scout a situation and mark enemies with binoculars. As a consequence, there’s an emphasis on observing and scouting areas thoroughly and it’s easier to get caught by someone you didn’t see beforehand.

Having been spotted leads to the familiar fight or flight decision, the choice between shooting back or running off to a secluded hiding place for the alertness levels to decrease. However, it unintentionally led me to discover that you can essentially just run through the map with impunity, at least on normal difficulty.

You won’t be able to trigger certain objectives when guards are alerted, but feel free to break out a rocket launcher or hop into a vacant APC for a deliriously bombastic exfiltration.

It often comes down to your own self restraint and skill level or whether you’re chasing a high score and rating at the end of the level, but the side missions that you unlock after the main story mission do sometimes highlight a more intentional use of direct force.

Each side mission reuses the Camp Omega map, but shifts the time of day to give a very different feel and style to the game and stand in stark contrast to the rainy darkness of the main mission. It’s blazing sunshine as you go in to plant a series of explosives on some AA guns, or a beautiful dusk as you fly around the base in a helicopter and try to escort an operative to a suitable extraction zone. The latter example gets particularly messy.

For every side mission, there’s another small nugget of information that hints to the story of Phantom Pain, as well as collectibles and unlockable weapons that you can use to put another spin on proceedings. Then there’s the hard difficulty, which drastically ramps up how easily you can be detected by enemies and reduces the amount of damage you can take.

The real problem is that after a few hours, it’s up to you to go and search for the value in this standalone release. That’s where the personal investment in the franchise comes into play, whether you will find yourself returning to the game time and again to play in that sandbox environment.

What’s Good:

  • Fantastic graphical tour de force for the FOX Engine and PS4.
  • Sandbox environment adds real depth to the gameplay possibilities.
  • Side missions extend the game with new situations and twists.
  • Plenty of fan service, collectibles and back story, for those that want to find it.

What’s Bad:

  • There’s more than just the one mission, but this is still short on actual game time.
  • It’s too easy to just run and gun on normal difficulty.
  • Big Boss now just reminds me of Jack Bauer when speaking.
  • Calling a some fictional 1970s technology iDROID is just silly.

Splitting Ground Zeroes back into a separate release was always going to be contentious. Thankfully, there is a lot more gameplay and depth than the early reports of the main mission’s length suggested and it’s full of potential for exploration, fan service and Kojima’s particular brand of hackneyed allegories.

Unfortunately, there is still too little primary content to justify the £29.99 price tag or even the £19.99 digital pricing for PS3/360, so I can’t recommend this to anyone but a die hard MGS fan.

Score: 6/10

This review is based off time with the game at a dedicated review event.

Version tested: PS4

  1. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    To be fair even if this was getting 10s I wouldn’t be interested because I’m not into mgs at all but I’m glad it’s scoring fairly low, we really don’t want such short titles with little content selling for full retail.
    2 “big” releases this week in this and second son but sadly I’m not interested in either based on previous iterations of both series. I still await my ps4 “killer app”. Until it arrives, I’m sure I’ll remain addicted to warframe!

    Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 07:34.
    • NotSmartEnough
      Since: Sep 2013

      This isn’t selling for full retail; it’s £23.86 on Amazon.
      I’m struggling with the idea of how game length to price ratio gets factored into a review score: it’s right that it’s pointed out in the text but I don’t see how it can result in a couple of points being dropped off the score.
      Would Journey have scored higher if it had been an hour longer, or was it just the right length? How about if it had been 20% more expensive? Dock it one point out of ten?

      Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 07:52.
      • Lyts1985
        Since: Jan 2009

        You’re right, it’s likely to be a contentious issue, but I personally think it’s fair to penalise it for its completion time.

        The score should be a reflection of the overall product in the reviewers opinion and his enjoyment of it, not just how pretty it is or how well the game plays… If you spend £30 (RRP) on a game and are left feeling disappointed for whatever reason then is it worthy of higher scores? Turn it around… What if GTAV took 100hrs to complete the main story and the majority got bored or fed up half way through, never seeing the stories conclusion. Could you justify a 10\10?

        A high score is seen by most as a recommendation to buy, something the reviewer isn’t entirely comfortable with doing, for whatever reason, so I think a lower score is definitely justified.

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 08:37.
      • Stefan L
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        You’re right, in that games of all lengths and sizes sell at all sorts of price points. It’s rare that I would bring the subject of price up, but I felt it was necessary in the context of this release, because it has been such a focal point and does affect your expectations from it.

        As always, it’s just my opinion and the words and score need to be coloured by your own preferences and experiences. Regardless of the score, if you think that you’ll be able to get hours of enjoyment from it, then go for it.

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 09:00.
      • colmshan1990
        Since: Apr 2009

        Just curious- how would you score it if it wasn’t so expensive?

        The game certainly seems great apart from the length and Kiefer Sutherland.

        I’m looking forward to it- once the price drops.

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 14:32.
    • tonycawley
      Pint! Pint!
      Since: Feb 2009

      Yep you’re right it’s not quite full price but has an rrp of £29.99, which is a fair whack.
      There’s an interesting debate to be had on whether cost/duration should be factored into review scores.
      Would you be happy going into the cinema and paying full price to watch a 20 minute movie?

      Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 08:06.
      • BullyBurton
        Since: Feb 2013

        I paid a fiver to watch 3 hours of Titanic at the cinema! I paid nearly 3 quid to watch a HD Walking Dead episode, not as long but far more entertaining.

        On the flip – i can get around 10mins actual ride time at Alton Towers for 40quid or 40mins down the Trent on a boat for a tenner, i’ll drop the 40quid cheers.

        Hell, i paid 4quid for a PS1 magazine years ago just for the MGS demo on the cover disc, short demo but i had endless hours of fun with it.

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 08:32.
      • NotSmartEnough
        Since: Sep 2013

        It’s an interesting topic and there are some great points in the comments.
        I guess the opinion I’m forming is that the score should reflect the quality of the game, rather than value for money. Value for money will change over time as prices drop and titles appear on PS+, but that doesn’t affect the quality.

        I’m OK with dropping points if the game feels incomplete or the amount of content is disappointing. I am concerned about the use of ‘hours of gameplay’ as a metric in reviews or previews; I’m worried it will become a box-ticking exercise for devs.

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 10:50.
    • OneShotWook
      Since: Jun 2010

      Rhino prime submitted to cert this week!!Warframe is more addictive than my glue habit.

      Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 18:19.
  2. a inferior race
    I'm special
    Since: Jul 2009

    How necessary is it to have played peace walker as I have played mgs3?

    Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 07:48.
    • ron_mcphatty
      Since: Sep 2008

      Peace Walker has a fantastic story that starts to tie up the good and bad sides of Big Boss so even if you don’t have to know the plot for GZ I’d recommend sinking some time into it :)

      Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 08:46.
    • djhsecondnature
      Since: Forever

      Not at all. You’ll miss out on some context but it fills it in pretty well.

      Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 10:38.
  3. hornet1990
    Since: Mar 2011

    But is it worth £20 for the PS4 version? (Gameseek price) I can though see there being a glut of copies on the bay within a week if people don’t realise it’s so short, and aren’t bothered exploring past the main mission.

    Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 07:49.
  4. BullyBurton
    Since: Feb 2013

    20 quid for a rather polished taste of MGSV – Bargain!
    Never complained about dropping pounds on Dead Rising Case Zero or Gran Turismo Prologues, see it as another way of supporting top developers too.

    Could be worse, full RRP for a multiplayer only game selling itself on hype.

    Besides, this has PS+ written all over it for those with more patience.

    Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 08:20.
    • psychobudgie
      Since: Nov 2009

      It’s £29.99 for the PS4 version. In what universe is that a ‘Bargain’. The more people support publishers when they try crap like this the more preposterous schemes they will introduce and the more Dungeon Keeper onlines and disc locked content we will see.

      Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 09:03.
      • Tarbun84
        Since: Feb 2012

        As some others have stated. You can get it £10 cheaper if you shop around for PS4. Got mine for £23 from shopto.

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 09:23.
    • Starman
      Since: Jul 2011

      Pathetic dig at titanfall there.

      Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 10:36.
      • bunimomike
        Since: Jul 2009

        Agreed. Games will reveal their worth when people do (or don’t) buy them. Titanfall has had plenty of great reviews and is proving extremely popular online.

        MGS will have to prove that the price is justified in sales volume. Only then will they see if it’s been financially worth it.

        When it comes down to it, people can spend £15/head at the local Harvester or £35/head at a good quality restaurant. Both parties are having a meal and appetites are being satiated. Just depends on whether enough buy both options to see if the initial investment was worth creating each respective option.

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 11:35.
      • Pixel_nme
        Since: Mar 2014

        I’m actually having a great time on that full RRP multiplayer only game selling itself on hype,I’d rather pay proper full RRP for a multiplayer only game (like I did with Warhawk) that I can put hours upon hours into (again like i did with Warhawk) than near full price for an hours gameplay.

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 12:31.
      • BullyBurton
        Since: Feb 2013

        Don’t worry, my opinion isn’t exclusive to Titanfall. Elder Scrolls online won’t see a penny from me neither.
        But i am enjoying Forza and Dead Rising on my XB1, i simply don’t agree with paying for online only at full RRP especially when LIVE or PS+ is on top. I’ve played Titanfall and whilst not jaw dropping I did at least enjoy it, but I will wait for a price drop to a figure i’m comfortable paying.

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 14:24.
      • Starman
        Since: Jul 2011

        Surely if you play the game and enjoy it then it doesn’t matter if its online or single player? I think not having single player was a great idea and Cod & Battlefield should follow suit.

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 15:16.
      • BullyBurton
        Since: Feb 2013

        Titanfall, for me, offers nothing worth 50pounds when I can get just as entertaining MP experiences bolted on to a great SP (Halo, Gears, GTA etc) for the same price. If it was 20quid cheaper or better yet; a free-to-play model then I would snap it up. Or if there was a great campaign to play through too with a story ending on a cliff-hanger.
        If BF4 hadn’t a campaign i’d have waited for a price drop.
        Didn’t buy PvZ for the same reason, but that is just me.

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 15:59.
      • Pixel_nme
        Since: Mar 2014

        Obviously everyone doesn’t like the same things I’ve not bothered with the campaign of BF4 yet,and I’ve really been enjoying PvZ and I know I’ll get my £42 worth out of Titanfall so alls good ;)

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 16:38.
  5. Lyts1985
    Since: Jan 2009

    Screw the game time or the lack of content, there’s one major reason I’m not interested in this…

    Keifer Sutherland?! Sod that :-(

    Nice review though Tef, pretty much what I was expecting, verdict wise.

    Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 08:22.
    • BullyBurton
      Since: Feb 2013

      I felt the same when Ironside didnt voice Fisher in Blacklist. Fortunately it was still a great game, but a crime not to use him again.

      Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 08:35.
      • bunimomike
        Since: Jul 2009

        I was very glad to see Ironside out of it. His voice didn’t fit the character’s looks, physique or age. Don’t get me wrong, I like Michael Ironside… just think he was miscast from the off.

        Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 11:36.
    • three_leg_jake
      Since: Aug 2011

      I agree. The man who infers all emotions by whispering.

      Does anyone know why they changed the actor? Why? WHY!

      Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 09:33.
  6. psychobudgie
    Since: Nov 2009

    Considering the run time, it’s barely worth a tenner. Sounds more like an extended tech demo than a full game. The more publishers continue with crap like this, on-line passes and micro-transactions the more they will continue to erode the trust of the consumer.

    Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 09:00.
  7. ron_mcphatty
    Since: Sep 2008

    The length to price ratio is going to be disappointing for most, but Metal Gear fans who enjoyed sinking 80+ hours into Peace Walker and literally weeks into the rest of the series might see things differently. I’m encouraged and excited by Tefs review, despite the score. I get the impression that Kojima wanted to release the prologue chapter so that fans could enjoy the extra management and side mission aspects (like Peace Walker’s) uninhibited by the main game and whatever side mission that brings along. Ground Zeroes is very expensive, no argument there, but if the quality of gameplay and production values are anywhere near that of the rest of the series then I think that brief 90 minutes of sneaking and shooting could be worth the money for many of us. I’ll be picking this up on PS3 come payday and I can’t wait!

    Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 09:02.
  8. Taylor Made
    Since: Oct 2011

    This game is just like an indie title but bigger & prettier. If people can play & enjoy journey, flower, Thomas was alone, these are awful games I listed but people manage to enjoy them & the reviews was kind enough why not the same for GZ, it’s short like a indie but graphically beast, visually beautiful, open world, extra side missions, so it’s not a short game then, it’s only short if you not bothered by the side missions.

    As for the price, it’s £20 for PS4 version on amazon, so to even mention the price come on, there is a lot of games sold for 39/49.99 that get bad scores but no one mentions the price

    Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 09:25.
  9. bigchrissyc
    Since: Aug 2013

    Ive slowly fallen out of love with the Metal Gear franchise of late, finding the stories less and less interesting. I feel the score was justified, all things should be taken into account when reviewing a game, including price and length of the game, equally i feel if you are truly invested in a franchise then you will undoubtedly garner a great deal of time and joy from this game.
    As it was mentioned before, I also played the original MGS demo for hours and hours on end, so I feel some people will be surprised at how much they will actually get from this game. Great review Tef!

    Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 09:59.
  10. Adam Garrett
    Community Manager
    Since: Feb 2009

    Found it very interesting reading people’s thoughts on here :).

    I think they have done a bad job at communicating exactly what this game is.

    It’s a taster of MGSV that has been released separately as the main game (which is 200 times bigger) is still not due for at least a year. The fact that the game has a prologue to it set 9 years before the main event of the game seemed like a good fit to release it separately.

    For some people like me, that’s great as I want to be able to play some MGS ASAP and I don’t mind spending the £23 I spent on it. For others who aren’t as in to it as someone like me, it might be best to just wait for the full game next year.

    For me personally though, this is the game that has finally made me purchase a PS4 which says a lot to me about how much I love the series but also my opinion on the quality of games available for PS4 at launch, ha :P!

    Comment posted on 18/03/2014 at 12:10.