Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeros
If you’ve heard anything about MGSV: Ground Zeros then you likely heard it is a very brief game. I’m not going to dwell on this aspect for too long nor devote a lot time on the review – there something else considerably creepier that I want to talk about, but…
Ground Zeroes took me 3 hours to complete. This includes a few side missions and also time spent listening to the back story cassette tapes (which add up to about 30 minutes of recordings).
It was an engaging 3 hours however; GZ is well designed in most gameplay aspects and more accessible (mechanically) than any other previous Metal Gear Solid Game. It looks gorgeous and the surprisingly dark tone delivered a genuinely intriguing experience.
I paid €4.99 for this on the last Steam sale, If I had paid the original price of €40 – €50 then I would have felt completely screwed. So in short – purchase this game when it is really really cheap, otherwise you could be paying €20 (current price) for a game whose running time is less than a Lord of the Rings film.
Around the clock Misery!
I really want to take a moment to talk about GZ’s tone, especially compared to that of previous Metal Gear Solid games.
But before making that comparison though, let me make another: Metal Gear Solid games to Bollywood movies.
High budget Bollywood movies tend to switch tones completely where (in)appropriate. So drama will be filmed incredibly intensely in one scene but may switch to all out action where cars will fly and explode from a mild breeze in another. The next scene may be slapstick humor with clumsy characters falling down stairs, potentially followed by gritty thriller a la The Departed.
Well, the Metal Gear Solid games are almost a perfect mirror this. One moment in MGS2 had a camp, overweight bomb expert in roller-skates theatrically delivering dialogue while drinking a glass of wine, while in another a young girl is held at knife point and stabbed to death.
In MGS4, Snake must kill brainwashed soldier-slave women in order to survive, whereas in a previous scene another character experiences diarrhea and clownishly relieves himself in a barrel.
Though tonally inconsistent, it certainly generates a feeling of ‘Anything could happen’.
This isn’t the case in Ground Zeros. Ground Zeroes’ tone is disturbing and rarely anything else. It still manages to evoke the feeling of ‘anything could happen’ but also the certainty that it will not be pleasant.
There are essentially 2 cut-scenes, the introduction and the ending and both haunted me for days afterwards.
The introduction sets up the Prison in which the game takes place, with a song composed by Ennio Morricone playing over the events. If you are familiar with Ennio Morricone then you will understand how he can make absolutely haunting music. Take this piece from Once upon a Time in the West: (Volume warning, song starts in high pitch)
During the introduction a facially disfigured man interacts with a caged child held conditions unsuitable for a dog. After some disturbing comments and jeers, the disfigured man leaves the compound with a group of intense and determined looking solders.
There were moments during the ending whereby I winched and crossed my legs from the sheer horror of what I was seeing. I possess no over-sensitivity to violence, but there is nothing left to the imagination and gore is shown in all it’s high definition glory.
It wasn’t the gore that disturbed me so much as what the gore implied. The overwhelming trauma inflicted on one of the characters is an attempt to fix the previous overwhelming trauma that put them there in the first place. Trauma that was inflicted only to trick the main character into being in a specific place. The victim and other prisoners were seen as absolute tools to achieve this goal.
It isn’t entirely grim and dark – which makes it worse. The people that suffer most are the ones for which the game provides backstory. Learning how they feel about each other (through audio logs) creates empathy – even for one character you haven’t even seen yet. They dictate they angers and fears but also their humor. There are even rare moments of levity and joking.
The shock I experienced during the closing moments was considerably amplified – purely because I had warmed up to the victims.
This is how GZs differed to me from the other Metal gear solid games. No slapstick cartoon villains. No comical amounts of blood or wacky devices. No good guys. Even your character and his organisation are also incredibly ruthless – just the lesser of evils. No one is dictating morals or fights for justice. Just cold action from cold people to achieve agendas. The only people that show emotion and sympathy are the ones that get it the worst.
I guess I’m fine with all this. It wasn’t a pleasant experience but it certainly made me think. The game wasn’t long enough for me to be depressed into quitting. If it was hours and hours of pure human misery then I would’ve probably not continued unless there was some levity or overall good for which to aim.
Instead it is only about 2 hours of pure human misery, which is just enough to get the point across. There was action and intense stealth moments but it was the bad taste in my mouth I remember. Hopefully The follow up ‘The Phantom Pain’ can keep the same seriousness but at least break it up a bit – I’m genuinely looking forward to it. It can’t all be further human misery.
Played on PC for review (Steam Version).