When Metal Gear Solid 2 was released way back in 2001, it had a short, prologue mission, before the main mission began. This prologue was used as a demo in the time running up to the main games release, and was included on the final product as part of the story. Flash forward to 2014, where the first part of Metal Gear Solid 5, Ground Zeroes, of comparable length to that demo in some areas, is released as a separate product, albeit at a reduced price, but still as its own piece. Is this justifiable? In some ways yes, in some ways no.
In the extremely convoluted MGS storyline, Ground Zeroes picks up some time after Peace Walker. It does a good job of catching the player up on the pertinent facts, and even new players might not feel very out of depth, which is a remarkable achievement in its own right to have managed. The player controls Big Boss, who must infiltrate a US black ops base and rescue two targets for evac. There are minimal cut scenes, but what is there is all relevant to the story and hints at some of the larger points to be found later when the primary game is released.
What I can say as an immense positive point is that this is the first game that really feels like it’s getting its money’s worth out of the PS4. It looks good on the Xbox and PS3, but on the next gen consoles it looks spectacular. The primary mission takes place at night during rain, and to see those droplets fall, and the tarps blowing, and the guards moving around with all that technology in place is extremely enjoyable. In general, the game itself is very fun, and the same sneaking around action is as intuitive as always, as you plot various ways to maneuver the base more productively and quietly.
The main issue is length. There is of course a replayability option for collectables or score, but the main mission, first time through, can take you about 1-3 hours depending. After this, there are 5 smaller missions that are unrelated to the story, but they use the same environment, which you already know, so it’s mostly used for looking at the base in daylight. There’s an insane amount of details and small features in place, as one would expect from a Hideo Kojima production, but they are still on the level of a demo, rather than a full product.
Ground Zeroes mostly serves as a hype machine for The Phantom Pain next year, and it does a remarkable job at that, I now cannot wait for more MGS action on the next gen consoles. But its value depends on how much you want to explore every nook and cranny, if you are the type to do so, it is worth its asking price, if you usually just do the campaign, don’t buy it full price. This is the primary point to remember, above the review score in play here.