Welcome to the Metal Gear Noob Diaries. This is the recounting of my experience through the MGS series from MGS2: Sons of Liberty all the way to MGSV: Ground Zeroes. I’ll be updating every so often with new thoughts on sections of the games and taking a look back at memorable and enjoyable moments. I’ve never played the series before, so for the fans out there it could be an amusing tale of one noob’s journey, while those as green as myself could well learn a little about the mad world of MGS. Enjoy!
All of the games, all of the silly storylines, all of the emotion, all of the sneaking, all of the awesomeness, has built up to this. It was the trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain that intrigued me so much I decided to play the (mostly) whole series. While it’s obviously impossible for me to have played that particular game just yet, I have now played the set-up, the prologue-thingy, Ground Zeroes. Indeed, playing the game on PS4 felt as though all of the mechanics and all of the techniques from the previous games had come together into a package that really does them justice.
It probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve been playing a lot of rather old games as a spoilt modern gamer. I mean, it didn’t stop me loving MGS3 with a passion, but playing Ground Zeroes just feels right. The game looks stunning, the controls and associated animation feel incredibly natural, and the combat and general action is better than it has ever been in an MGS game. I really, really enjoyed my short time with the prelude - in case you didn’t realise.
I think part of the fun was the small ‘open-world’ style. The previous MGS titles have allowed for a degree of freedom and creativity, but they tend to push the player down a certain path. Ground Zeroes opened up the playground and let me choose my own path through the various missions on offer. I dare say I’ll prefer the ‘contained space’ of Ground Zeroes over the huge open world of The Phantom Pain - large areas have a tendency to be lacking in personality and overall content, but containing the open world style to a smaller space negates these down sides. I could write about this for pages, so I won’t dwell on it anymore, but safe to say I loved the general formula of the game. So much so that I’m a little worried I won’t like the layout of The Phantom Pain quite as much.
For some reason, I was thinking the game would be focused pretty much entirely on gameplay, but it contained some fantastic cutscenes that bring a new cinematic level to the series. Ground Zeroes is set just a little after Peace Walker; following the events of that game, the UN are all suspicious of MSF and their nuclear capabilities, so order an inspection of Mother Base. But before that, a cool first sequence introduces the new baddie of MGS (for now at least), the freaky Skullface. He’s the chief of the paramilitary group XOF (that’s FOX backwards, in case you missed it), and has a serious case of the ‘full-frontal Harvey Dent’.
Well it turns out that he, in some sort of allegiance with the US Military, has captured both Paz and Chico - turns out they’re both madly in love with one another, so when Paz went missing at the end of Peace Walker, he tried to find her. So it’s obviously up to Snake to rescue both of them from the US base in Cuba and get back home in time for the UN inspection (and supper).
The gameplay itself is pleasantly familiar but has been updated terrifically to fit in with more modern control and play styles. The once rather cluttered HUD is swapped out for more intuitive gameplay-focused mechanics. For instance, while you can’t see enemies on an on-screen map anymore, you’re given a short moment of slow-mo to take down any unexpected guards who spot you. That’s a really neat little idea, and frankly the game is littered with them.
The AI is also a lot more responsive than in the other games; initially, they’re a lot harder to deal with purely because they’re much more difficult to sneak past. The ability to drive vehicles freely is a little odd to begin with, but it’s clear that this will be something that works very well in the full version of MGSV. OK, it’s difficult not to treat this piece as a mini-review, especially considering I’ve already played everything the game has to offer, but I’ll stop listing all the cool features now.
So yes, I’ve ‘played’ everything, but that’s not to say I’ve finished playing it, certainly not. I’ve only played the main campaign and the four side-ops once each, so I’ve got a lot more stuff to collect and secrets to discover (plus, completing them all on hard). The main story mode ended with a spectacular cutscene in which Snake evacuates Paz and Chico, only for the team to discover that Paz has a bomb implanted in her stomach. So ensues a horrific scene in which a doctor forcibly removes the bomb from Paz - actual cringeworthy stuff.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, they arrive back at Mother Base to discover that the off-sea platform is being attacked by XOF and Skullface (I think so, at least). The UN inspection was a ploy, and now Mother Base and the MSF is burning. Snake jumps into the scene to rescue Kaz and other MSF members, going full-on Rambo, showing his soldiering skills. But it’s not enough, so they have to take off, leaving the facility to burn.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Paz then decides to make the announcement that there’s another freakin’ bomb inside of her. She says, “it’s in my....” but doesn’t say. Womb? I’m going to go with womb. Which is ikky. So she jumps off the helicopter, but not quite quickly enough. The explosion knocks the chopper off course, blowing debris in Snake’s face and ditching the whole team into the ocean.
That’s how the cutscene ends, but the post-credits scene is a doozy. It depicts Snake/Big Boss awaking from a NINE YEAR COMA! I’ve been wondering how they’d fill the gap between Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain, but a giant coma was not one of my expectations. It feels a little cheap, although I’m intrigued to learn how Big Boss deals with the huge chunk of missing time. Oh, the missing hand too.
Just as a ridiculous side note (you didn’t think I could get through an MGS game without one, did you?), one of the side-ops tasked me with rescuing a VIP from the US base - a VIP who turns out to be a fully-rendered and weirdly realistic cameo of Hideo Kojima himself. So silly. But so cool.
I’ll have my final entry to my MGS diaries up soon. Which is both relieving and sad. It’s been a long journey, but man has it been fun.
Time: 55: 21:862