Shocking, underwhelming, and confusing at the same time, where does one begin to discuss Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes?  I’m not sure, so I’ve decided to divide my commentary into a few different aspects.  This part deals with core thematic gameplay.

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Ground Zeroes @ TGS 2013

Ground Zeroes was shown off at TGS this year, with a night and day demonstration.  Now we’re getting a much more clear idea of how the game will work, and even how its mission selection screen will look.

The amount of negative reaction is surprising to me, but I think it has a lot to do with the way Kojima has been showing us the game.  For some reason, Kojima must think we don’t understand the concept of an open-world MGS game, or he thinks the world will be stunned by the innovation happening, so he wants to play through scenarios and do commentary the whole time.  Unfortunately, this breaks the “story immersion” that makes Metal Gear games feel so damn intriguing, and thus it feels like just another stealth game.  Maybe that’s the real reason people are comparing it to Splinter Cell.

Confusion is another issue.  The Ground Zeroes demo is looking more and more like a standalone prologue that will be released independently from MGSV.  It’s frustrating that Kojima isn’t making it clear, and also doesn’t seem characteristic of his marketing style.  The gameplay is nice, but it would be a lot better if we knew we could pay $15 for it in two months, or $30 in five months, or something!  Maybe it’ll be free to play, who knows.

Anyway, equally interesting is the performance of Kiefer Sutherland, reading the same lines we saw in the original trailer.  I’ve always liked Kiefer Sutherland and I believe he should be an amazing fit for this role, but I don’t care for his performance here at all.  This is bad news.  I can only hope that its not indicative of what the rest of the game and The Phantom Pain will be like.  I have to wonder if Sutherland was uncomfortable with his working environment, and if the other “on-screen” actors will have similar issues: no doubt staring at a strange camera while wearing little dots on his face, self-conscious of his expression being captured and trying to match the timing demanded by the cutscenes, while delivering lines written as quick banter between old friends, but no doubt acting by himself.  Or maybe the doubters were right and he simply doesn’t care.  That would be a crying shame.

The gameplay itself looks very fast and responsive, with flexible options at every turn.  Diving to the dirt, swiveling, hopping, sprinting, climbing, it’s all very sharp and immediate.  Clearly this is not your slow, plodding, wait-for-animation-to-finish type of Metal Gear, which means that a skilled player should be able to deal with threats and get out of messy situations if they can prioritize and think on their feet.

The anti-air guns, armored personal vehicle, and rocket launchers all spoke to the need for this increased agility.  Big Boss is going to have to kick some serious ass in this game, as well as doing some serious running.  It makes me wonder about some things.  Like having a limited numbers of enemies in a base, and the option to kill all of them and run around freely.  The question of how different enemy groups in different parts of the world react to alarms, too.  Will the African rebels have a different strategy than the Russian mercenaries?  Variety is the spice of life.

Questions abound, and I’ll admit there’s a lot of key details missing, but I am optimistic.  No doubt the camp we’ve been shown is the most “basic” example of an enemy base in the game, with some of the most straightforward solutions for dealing with it too.  Who knows what kind of madness awaits in the full MGSV.  Let’s not forget who we’re dealing with here.

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