I wish I could say this was a badass reunion of CRN's HOTT GAME BOYZ (after our last co-op reviews of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and The Last of Us), but we have a guest star this time (so it's really a badass reunion plus one)! Crunchyroll Newsletter writer Onymous--Peter Fobian--joins us as we talk about Big Boss' prison-break prologue, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes!
But what is Ground Zeroes? How does it tie into the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain? Why does it cost thirty dollars for what's basically a glorified tech demo? These questions and more are answered in this co-op review!
NATE MING: All right, it's great having you guys here. Now, it's been a while since we did this--for starters, can we introduce ourselves?
JOSEPH LUSTER: Sure! I'm Joseph Luster, Associate News Editor at Crunchyroll. I play games and draw stuff.
PETER FOBIAN: My name's Peter Fobian, and I'm a Crunchyroll Newsletter Contributor, as well as an eSports writer. I spend most of my time either playing games or writing about them.
N: So how familiar are you with the series? I did the Revengeance review a while back with Joseph and we discussed our histories there, but Peter, you said you've played every console game since Solid? (For the record, I started with the original Metal Gear on NES, then my real interest in the series picked up with Metal Gear Solid on PS1--I've played almost every game in the series since then, including handheld versions).
P: Yep, including Revengeance. I missed out on the handheld games--couldn't really justify the purchases back in the day.
J: I've played Metal Gear on NES, all the Solid games, Revengeance, maybe thirty minutes of AC!D, and a few hours of Peace Walker.
N: But AC!D is so wonderful! Actually, on second thought, maybe I shouldn't use that exact phrase in the review...
J: I hate card games, though!
N: YOU MONSTER!
J: I know, I know.
N: And out of everything you've played, what are your favorites in the franchise? It's a pretty easy answer for me: Metal Gear Solid 3, followed by Revengeance and Peace Walker.
J: Hmm, it's tough. I like Metal Gear Solid and MGS3 (and Revengeance, of course) the best, I think, but I also love MGS2, and really dug MGS4 despite having fuzzy memories of the whole thing. I think my favorite moment in the whole series is the boss fight with The End in MGS3, so maybe that sums up how I feel about the games.
P: I would have to say MGS3. I think it was the most interesting, and also brought some of the real world into the story. The whole game was probably the best execution of the series' strengths. After that, probably MGS4--Revengeance was great, but I personally don't think you can put it on a "favorite MGS" list.
J: Yeah, MGS3 is fantastic. Whenever I look back, I can't help but remember this one time where a friend and I were late to an appointment because one of the cutscenes took a half-hour, but it's good stuff.
N: Now, I personally liked being able to play and finish Peace Walker before Ground Zeroes, but I don't think it's 100% necessary.
P: I got the gist from you when you were doing your playthrough, I think.
J: It certainly would help, but yeah, it's not required. Even the few hours of it I played did prime me for who a couple of the characters are in GZ, but they explain it well enough.
N: Yeah, they explain enough in-game. And they also have a more in-depth written file that tells the whole story.
J: I don't know what's going on half the time in the series anyway.
N: Nanomachines. That's what's going on.
J: I will say, though, that Ground Zeroes makes the tone quite a bit darker than previous entries in the series, which I think is worth mentioning.
P: Ha! Guess I'm not alone. I gotta say, despite all of the horrible things that happen in the series, I have never thought of the setting as very tragic, but Ground Zeroes had some pretty dark tones.
N: Yeah, I guess if there's one really bad thing we can say about the story and atmosphere, it's that it doesn't have much of the fun of previous entries.
J: Yeah. Even the darkest moments of MGS are offset by, say, a guy who is full of bees or something, but there's a much more generally-bleak tone about Ground Zeroes.
N: It's a grim military game where you break into Guantanamo Bay Camp Omega.
J: And that's your playground for this installment.
N: What a freakin' playground it is, too. It's actually--in my opinion--the best playground they give you in the series to date. It's this huge, interconnected place that feels real and lived-in and worked-in, and it really rewards you for knowing every corner of it. What part's under construction, what part gets very little guard coverage.
J: Despite its tone, I really had some of the most ridiculously goofy playthroughs and mistakes in this game, like getting spotted and hopping in a jeep and desperately running over soldiers during my escape.
P: One of the natural results of a sandbox is some ridiculous situations since large, populated areas add a huge potential for chaos. Well, that... and I think the story you described in Peace Walker was a lot more personal. MGS4 involved a huge war that was pretty faceless, but Peace Walker introduces these kids who are part of a resistance movement--
J: --which makes for lots of flowery, cheerful stuff like child torture.
P: Then Ground Zeroes brings you back to their story which, despite your earlier involvement, they are worse off than when you began. It makes Snake's/Big Boss' efforts seem very futile. Futility seems to be a new theme that Kojima is really focusing on with the new story.
N: Ever since MGS3, really. Even though you "won" in MGS and MGS2, it was really just to further Ocelot's plans. So you're like "yeah, I won!" and then after the credits you're like "shit, it was all part of the bad guys' plans!" Then in MGS3, you get that giant gut-punch with The Boss, and it all just goes downhill from there.
P: Yeah, but Ocelot, was, well... I'm not sure what he was trying to accomplish, other than fighting The Patriots.
N: The people who understand Kingdom Hearts' story know what he was trying to accomplish.
J: While there's a ton of story to connect--especially for those who haven't been keeping up with it well--I'm thankful that Ground Zeroes keeps the cutscenes to a minimum, and I hope it's something of a trend toward a more gameplay-focused design in The Phantom Pain.
N: Peace Walker was good about the cutscenes, too. It seems like Kojima listened to a lot of people since MGS4.
J: I know it's like a running joke of the MGS series, but I think Kojima needs to grow a little more and get an editor, or the balls to kill his babies when he has too much fat in a story, or a series of scenes.
P: Going back to the playground thing, I think that's just going to happen with a sandbox environment. I think it's really good for the MGS series, though--ingenuity was always rewarded. Removing the linear focus of the game allows you to get really creative with how you play, with how you fight, and how you approach your objectives.
J: Yeah, I'm interested to see how it's expanded in even larger areas in The Phantom Pain. But that's the thing--this really is just a demo. It's like I Kickstarted MGS V.
N: I was satisfied with what I got, but yeah, that's a good way to look at it.
J: I ended up going with the option of getting the $20 current-gen download on PS3, and I think that's the limit.
N: Joseph, you and I were talking earlier, and it's not really fair to compare this to the previous demos of MGS2, MGS3, and Revengeance--those were like a half-hour each, and packed free with other games. This was more like Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, which was how much again?
J: Five bucks.
N: They charged $30 for this because they could.
J: On the other hand, I don't feel too ripped off. It's just a bit more than going to see a movie in a NYC theater, but I do think it's misleading to the average consumer.
N: It's not a fully-fledged game at thirty bucks. It's a very solid tech demo that plays very well, with a surprising amount of content for thirty bucks.
P: Honestly, I didn't really understand that it was sort of a one-area story introduction to The Phantom Pain until we were already playing.
N: I mean, Ground Zeroes is its own story--I don't think we're getting this story (playable, anyway) in The Phantom Pain.
P: A really short story. Given the ending, though, I can understand why they would want separation--it would be a bit jarring as the prologue of a normal game, given the nine-year timeskip between Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain.
J: It's fun for MGS fans, and I would say they won't regret playing it, but I do think products like this should have more information on it for more casual people who don't read every game site in the world. Imagine if you haven't played Metal Gear since, say MGS2 or something. Now, you just got a PS4/Xbox One to get back into gaming, and you look at the shelf--"Oh wow, there's a new Metal Gear already on this new system!" WOKKA WOKKA!
J: That said, Ground Zeroes is its own thing, and does have plenty of content to warrant replays, if that's your thing. I can't say it's necessarily mine, or that I'm very inclined to try and perfect my game here, but the option is there.
N: The extra content is pretty good, letting you play through the map with different objectives and weather effects, like hunting two targets in the day instead of at night in the rain.
J: Did you guys play on the Sony or MS systems?
N: We played on PS4.
J: PS3 for me--I'm behind the times.
N: How does it look on a current-gen system?
J: Good! Better than MGS4... maybe? (laughs) It's tough to recall.
P: It was pretty insane on PS4.
N: The level of detail was ridiculous. Water droplets from the rain, Snake's hair moving as almost-individual strands--hell, his beard has hair physics from the wind.
J: I'm sure it looked much better. It's too bad this didn't come out later, when publishers aren't forcing everyone to make cross-gen games.
P: Snake really needs to exfoliate.
N: Yeah, he needs to get some Dove Men + Care.
J: I have to know what you guys thought of Kiefer Sutherland as Snake.
N: It was weird at first, but I got used to it. He's a good Snake. I think because Big Boss is a very different person from Solid Snake, it's kinda nice to see him grow and change in his own way.
J: I love him, but it's taking me out of the experience a bit. He just doesn't seem to share any of the personality traits when speaking. Like, I don't think Snake ever yelled like Jack Bauer--"GET A MEDIC! GET A DAMN MEDIC IN HERE! WHERE'S THE BOMB?!"
P: I've never watched 24. I honesty like (original Solid Snake VA) David Hayter a bit more, but I don't really have a huge problem with Sutherland.
J: Yeah, it's not a dealbreaker. It's probably just because I watched all of 24.
N: 24 is Gurren Lagann with live actors--it gets pretty insane.
J: Yeah, it's nutty.
N: Although I don't think Jack Bauer has fought a terrorist in space.
N: But who knows what's gonna happen in The Phantom Pain?
J: I think Ground Zeroes is a great setup for the full game, but that's all it is. It's a fun little night's worth of gaming or so, unless you get hardcore about it like a kid with an NES and only one game to play.
N: Funny that, we have a PS4 and only one game to play. So I mean, it's safe to say that we're excited for The Phantom Pain, but we all have some reservations about Ground Zeroes.
J: Yeah, I think Metal Gear fans should definitely play it, but everyone else should read up on it first.
N: I'm a huge MGS fan, and I enjoyed it. But people who aren't as hardcore about Snake's adventures should be more cautious. Although, if you have a next-gen system, I think it's the first must-have addition to your library, and it's at a very competitive price point, too.
P: I wonder what they're going to do in The Phantom Pain--include a recap of Ground Zeroes, or just assume that you played it?
N: I think a recap. A "Previously on Metal Gear Solid" or something like that.
J: Oh yeah, it's still a high-caliber game in comparison to almost everything else that's out on next-gen consoles. And believe me, I don't really like evaluating price points, but I think it's unavoidable here.
P: It feels like DLC that was released before the game.
N: That's a really good way of looking at it.
J: Basically, the complete package of Metal Gear Solid V (Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain) are likely astronomically expensive. So what's a good way to soften the blow a bit? Split it up with a prologue you can sell.
N: That about wraps it up--thanks, guys, for your help with this! But there's just one thing left...
+ Great open-world playground with the MGS style that we know and love (N/J/P)
+ Phenomenal visuals on next-gen, but the current-gen versions aren't slacking either (N/P)
+ Tight, streamlined controls and gameplay that practically stole Far Cry 3's stealth system (N)
+ Despite the short length, plenty of extra content to keep things moving after the credits roll (N/J)
+ Reasonable cutscene length allows for story progression without turning the whole thing into a movie (P)
+/- Get a sampling of the Metal Gear Solid V experience NOW--but that's all it is, a sample (N/J/P)
- We haven't always had to pay so much for something like this (J)
- No cardboard boxes! (P)