Ground Zeroes is, quite literally, the first chapter in Hideo Kojima’s monumental vision for Metal Gear Solid 5, acting as a prologue to the events that will occur in the sequel proper when it’s released next year. And while it makes for a perfectly rousing and polished return for Snake (now voiced by Kiefer Sutherland), it’s hard not to feel short-changed by its obvious brevity.
The game takes place completely inside Camp Omega, a prisoner internment site not unlike Guantanamo Bay, where two of Snake’s compatriots are being held captive. This is one mission – rescuing a couple of kids – which can realistically be completed in under an hour, but the meticulously crafted design is flexible enough to support multiple strategies that can span several more.
It’s a superb introduction to the world and systems of Metal Gear Solid 5, stripping back some technological advantages – instead placing an emphasis on utilising the environment – while introducing new gadgets that effectively streamline play – binoculars can tag enemies and also feed Snake information on targets. Less linear than previous Metal Gear games and an acute focus on gameplay rather than drawn-out cinematics – this has more in common with the Hitman series than any of Snake’s previous adventures – there’s a newfound depth and relevance found in its fresh approach to suggest that a game changer has arrived.
Yet, despite the accomplished mechanics and the pliability of the world, this is frustratingly abridged and falls far short of a complete experience. While a handful of Side Ops missions (an enjoyable selection of one-note objectives) try to add some longevity, this is a mere precursor to what promises to be something quite special; an elegantly refined and thrilling return of a classic stealth franchise. A hugely inviting taster of things to come then but Ground Zeroes is, in essence, a very expensive advert.