Monday, April 21, 2014

Metal Gear Rip-Off V: Ground Zeroes

So what horrible thing happened behind the scenes at Konami that resulted in this turd getting shat out?  Is everybody at that company okay?  Should I be worried for their health?  Should I send Hideo Kojima a 'Get Well Soon' card?

Was this game some kind of bureaucratic mistake?  Somebody misfiled a form, and a demo accidentally wound up on the shelves for thirty dollars?  Then the mindless machinery of a corporation takes over, every individual actor blaming this nebulous group-think.  I can see the hypothetical situation already taking shape:  Says Kojima off-the-record, "Oh, I didn't want to release it as a game, this came from 'the higher ups'."  And the higher-ups blame the game developers.  The game devs blame the marketing guys..  And the marketing guys blame one Shiro in the mail room, who accidentally spilled coffee on a memo from Hideo, which was then photocopied and sent around the company, making everybody believe this game had to be released in this woeful state.  What do you do with Shiro?  Fire him?  Nah.  Give him a promotion.  Look at the scam Konami got away with.

"Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes"* is without a doubt the very worst Metal Gear Solid game ever made.  And already I feel as though I'm doing my readers a disservice by calling this thing a "game".  It is definitely interactive media, that much is clear.  There is a goal, there are penalties for failing the challenges set up by the game and rewards for succeeding them, and your physical actions on the controller result in direct feedback on screen, so it certainly looks like a game.  But once you actually play it, you'll realize that no, "Ground Zeroes" is not a game.  It's an ad.  It is a teaser.  You could not call "Ground Zeroes" a game any more than you could call a trailer a movie.  Yeah, it is indeed technically a motion picture with sight and sound simulating real people acting out a story, but that is not a movie.  It is the taste of a larger movie.

The difference though is that a trailer is free.  "Ground Zeroes" is not.  This was sold in stores - it still is being sold in stores right now.  Somebody played through this game and said "yup, this is a product I am shameless enough that I am willing to offer this in exchange of monetary funds".  The "game" is only two hours long - and that's assuming you're playing terribly.  A second playthrough could complete the entire experience in a half hour.  A speedrunner could be done in five minutes all without any kind of cheats or hacks.  As soon as you become accustomed to the controls and adjust to the strategy of the gameplay, "Ground Zeroes" is over.  The game is all warmup and stretching, no exercise.  You finish the foreplay, then as soon as you're ready to have sex, "Ground Zeroes" is out the door with your money ready to fail to please more clients.  I sure hope you were not attached to those thirty dollars, jackass.  But don't worry - there is a real "Metal Gear Solid V" coming in the near future.  But it is not this one.

So first allow me to describe - in detail - the entirety of my "Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes" experience.  This will not take very long:

Having heard all of the controversy surrounding this title, I rented "Ground Zeroes" for one day from Redbox for two dollars and a bit of tax.  "Ground Zeroes" is the first video game I have rented since Blockbuster went bust.  I think the last game I rented was "Metroid Other M", which doesn't exaclty put "Ground Zeroes" in exalted company, now does it?  Anyway, I booted up the game on my PlayStation 3 and discovered depressingly that it demanded a full download from the disc in order to play it.  Yes, the world's smallest PS3 game cannot run off the disc, it needs to be on the harddrive.  Recently I had run out of space, so I needed to delete a bloated waste of space that I had no intentions to ever play again.  Luckily "Metal Gear Solid 4" fit the bill exactly.  With 8,000 MB of space finally open, I could then load "Ground Zeroes".  So now I was ready to play.

Oh wait, PS3 system update first.  Dammit.  Remember when you could just put a cartridge into your Nintendo 64 and start playing a game immediately?  I guess that was too easy and convenient - we need to make gaming needlessly complicated and frustrating.

I hope you like rainy dark gray military bases.  Because that's the whole game.
Hideo Kojima describes the purpose of "Ground Zeroes" as a way to get players used to the new control scheme he has devised for the real next Metal Gear game, "The Phantom Pain".  Annoyingly he didn't bother getting players used to the control scheme in "Ground Zeroes", because I was just dumped into the gray sands of Guantanamo Bay, without any real sense of how to play this game.  Maybe I shouldn't give Kojima any ideas or else he'd try to sell me the tutorial mode of "Ground Zeroes" as a thirty dollar twelve minute title.  It has been about six months since I've played a Metal Gear game, so I mostly forgot the intricacies of the controls.  The Redbox rental came with no instruction manual, and it wasn't until I fought through both of "Ground Zeroes"' in-game menus (one actually pauses the game, the other doesn't) that I discovered the goddamn button layout.  This was an hour deep after I had assumed crouch was L3.  Turns out L3 only makes Snake pull himself up, it doesn't make him crouch.  I still do not know what L3 really does.  When finally I had realized the crouch button was X, and which button was shoot, I finally stopped dying over and over again.

Ten minutes later I stumbled onto my objective by assuming correctly that an evil military base would hide an important person in the basement.  I stole a tank, killed a bunch of people until the alarms stopped, and rode a helicopter to victory.  THE END.  Total playtime:  two hours.  Half of which was spent cursing at the TV because I didn't know how to control the game.  A quarter of which was spent with the game on pause as I walked my cousin home because he had grown bored of watching me play the game.  Ten minutes had to be cutscenes.  Yup, Hideo Kojima put in so little work into "Ground Zeroes" that he couldn't even muster the enthusiasm to force us to watch a half hour of cutscenes.  So... twenty minutes.  I paid two dollars to rent this game - and I still fucking feel ripped-off.

To run across the entire game would take you two minutes.. at walking speed.
Now to be fair, there is optional content.  You go back to the same miniscule base during the day and complete some mindless task, like "destroy anti-aircraft batteries", "knock down a dude", etc.  These take about ten minutes to finish.  I couldn't even care enough to try them.  They have no relevance story-wise, this is busywork gameplay.  Empty timesinks to pad out an already anemic Blu-ray disc.  Assuming you went for the maximum amount of gametime, in order to stretch your thirty dollars to the very limit on "Ground Zeroes", you might get seven hours of gameplay here.  That's assuming you went for every unlockable, listened to every conversation, and got an S-rank in every mission.  I got a C in the main storyline.  And a C is passing.  Kojima, get me my hat and gown, I'm graduating, bitch!

Really though, time is not how you measure the worth of a video game.  You could conceivably make a game that lasts about two hours and make it interesting, creative, and innovative.  "Portal" is not much longer than this, and that's a masterpiece.  Most classic platformers take a few hours to beat - Hell, I could finish "Super Mario Bros" in five minutes using the Warp Pipes.  Time and length and content is not really how you measure a video game's completeness.  "Ground Zeroes" is not complete, by any standard.  You start off with a small collection of tools, there is a brief learning curve, not really of mastering skill but just of learning controls, and after that's done you have basically conquered the entire game.  There is no later twist or trick beyond that.  It is simply walking all the way to the conclusion.  All you do in "Ground Zeroes" is either stealth around enemies, or shoot them and then run away.  There's nothing more sophisticated than that.

"Ground Zeroes" is so skimpy with its content that the main story concludes with Snake landing on his base fighting off bad guys and shooting down a helicopter - that is entirely non-playable.  No no no, there was TOO MUCH ACTION in "Ground Zeroes", we couldn't possibly let the player take part in that fight.  It had to be a cutscene!  Fuck you.

Immediately my mind goes back to the Tanker chapter of "Metal Gear Solid 2", which I do not believe was all that much longer than "Ground Zeroes".  It was definitely shorter if you throw in all the optional side-content.  It came with the main game, you did not need to pay an extra thirty dollars to get the privilege of playing it.  But even when I compare the gameplay to "Ground Zeroes", "Ground Zeroes" fails in comparison.  "MGS2"'s Tanker chapter had:  puzzles, exploration, a boss fight, a silly stealth minigame, the picture taking minigame.  There was a lot going on there, a lot of different tones, a lot of different kinds of gameplay.  Much more story, with twists and turns, and surprises.  "Ground Zeroes" is just this sad little empty playground, this bare-bones thing that can only do the stealth stuff, and has nothing else to offer.

Snake has definitely seen better days.
The gameplay is definitely an improvement over older clunkier Metal Gear systems.  I like the ability to jump into bullet time when spotted by a guard, allowing you to take them out before the alarms get sounded.  You can belly crawl, walk hunched over, and shoot in all three modes.  They finally managed to replace the minimap by giving you an ability to tag enemies using your binoculars, letting you know where the guards are hiding for your stealthing needs.  This is the most fluid this series has ever been.

But strangely the gameplay is there - what little there is - but the story isn't.  The mood is all wrong.  "Ground Zeroes" barely even feels like a Metal Gear anymore.  And I'm not talking about how David Hayter has been replaced by Keifer Sutherland**, there's something more fundamental that is missing.

What happened to the cola-drinking monkeys?  The codec conversations where Agent Zero would squee his fangirl love for James Bond?  Where are the wacky group of bosses with insane magical powers?  All those things are gone.  There's no maniacal villain with a ridiculous SciFi plan to conquer the world with memes on the Internet or a giant robot with a dick made out of nuclear weapons.  Instead we have what is basically just a horrible little story where Snake rescues two children who have been kidnapped by the US government.  Those kids have also been raped and tortured repeatedly by a psychopath who is basically the Joker without a sense of humor.  Then everybody explodes.  The final twist, by the way, is simply gross***.  That is going way too far.  There are stories that can accommodate details like that, Metal Gear is not the one.  Need I remind anybody of that "Metal Gear Solid 2" happened to feature bad guys such as a vampire and a fat bald explosives expert on roller skates?  Remember "I need scissors! 61!"?  Now that's gone to bring on this sick George R. R. Martin wanna-be shit?

Seriously, what in the fuck?
But back to the skimpy nature of just about everything in this game, "Ground Zeroes" really explains next to nothing.  If you've seen the trailer for this game, you know as much as I do about what is going on with the larger "Metal Gear Solid V" storyline.  I don't know who these XOF guys are, I don't know what the deal with the crazy man with a burned face is, I have no idea who wants Snake dead or why, I don't know how the La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo fit in, or why Snake goes to Afghanistan after this.  Almost no characters are introduced, the plot barely develops except to burn everything down to the status quo before "Peace Walker" (which, God help you if you haven't played, because "Ground Zeroes" will not bother to tell you who the people you're trying to save are or why).  Again, this isn't really a complete story, its a fucking ad.  If you want to know what's going on, buy the real game.  Not this.

I know Hideo Kojima has made a career out of shocking swerves and messing with audience expectations.  He's created a mystique for himself that everything is a grand insane plan, and gamers actually believe it.  But "Ground Zeroes" is not some meta-twist.  This isn't a clever switch-around like with Snake being replaced by Raiden.  This is trash, frankly.  You cannot simply release the intro to your bigger title and expect it to stand alone as a video game.  If you released the first level to any video game, it wouldn't make sense.  Imagine paying thirty dollars to play the first dungeon of "Final Fantasy VII".

I know some people are going to convince themselves that "Ground Zeroes" is well-worth the money because the gameplay is good.  There are some people who have even less standards than that and will like the game just because it happens to be called "Metal Gear".  Here's the thing:  gameplay is not really the end-all of a video game experience.  Gameplay is simply a tool, like any other, to telling a great effective storyline, and creating a narrative for the player.  The narrative in "Ground Zeroes" is unfinished, that's the fact.  You have these fantastic tools at your disposal, this generally good game system and gameplay, but they are not being used correctly.  There is no narrative being completed, there is no accomplishments being reached, there is nothing to enjoy here.  Just a few minutes of decent gameplay without a purpose.  It could be a great game.  In fact, one day I think this will be a great game.  And that game will be known as "Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain". 

Until then, all we have is this.  Momma BH didn't raise no dummies, I can see a scam when one is in front of me.  This kind of crap is not acceptable.

* Confusingly this is not the real "Metal Gear Solid V", that's "The Phantom Pain".  This game is just a part of "Metal Gear Solid V".  Um.. what?

** If anything, Sutherland is an improvement.  At least I can close my eyes and pretend I'm playing "24: The Game".

*** SPOILERS with a capital everything:  Paz, the girl you're supposed to be saving, actually has a bomb implanted within her abdominal cavity.  You remove that in a really gross cutscene.  Is everything safe?  No, the bad guys hid another bomb up her pussy.  BOOM!  DEAD!  By the way, in "Peace Walker", this character had a bubblegum J-Pop theme song.  Listen to that music and watch her little skinny body get ripped apart from the sexual organs.  Nice, Kojima, real nice.


  1. Alright here we go. I'm gonna have to nut up for this.....

    Gameplay wise....I think it's pretty good.

    Crowd:"Boooooo! I hate you! I hate you with a burning hatred that rivals the heat from the burning shit pits of Hell!!!"

    Now before I continue I will go on record and say that everything to do with the story is shit. ESPECIALLY the tapes, which I will get to in a moment. Now gameplay is pretty damn good. Once you get pass the stupid control scheme, I feel that I could do anything & everything that the game could do. There were no delays in the button inputs. And the graphics? Now I'm not a graphics whore, but Jesus Christ are the graphics fuckin' beautiful. I found myself getting lost in the details it took longer then it should have to do some of the missions.

    Now as for the length, usually I don't complain about the game length. You $60 for a shooter, you know that it's a 6-10 hour campaign at most. You have no one else, but yourself to blame if you felt like you've been cheated. But this? A 2 hour, for the casual gamer, rump through a military base for 30 bucks? Hell to the fucking no. This should have been 10 maybe 15 dollars at most and even then I would still feel ripped off.

    But you know what pissed me off the most? The story. Now look, I understand that MGS solid aren't the most ground breaking uber drama that revolutionize a industry. But you know what they were? Fun. At the very least this the one thing I could expect out of a MGS story it's that I know I will enjoy it in the silliest and coolest way possible and Ground Zero took what little fun that was left in the series and buries it under several tons of Christopher Nolan's jizz tissues. They take past characters and mutilate them to try to rustle your jimmes. There was a GODDAMN rape tape of one of villains raping a woman, then a child, then making the child rape said woman, then vice versa. WHY DID IT GO THERE?!?! There is a time and a place for something like and you don't just throw that kind of subject around just to show how messed up and crazy a villain is. This game was a disappointment, not just money-wise, but story wise. I'm thoroughly disappointed with Hideo Kojima. Mr.Kojima if this was your way of saying you're serious about wanting to quit the MGS, then bravo sir, you have truly convince me.

    I would be more angry, but it was my friend who actually brought the game. :3

  2. The Biggest problem with this game is you can easily just grab a tank and blow everyone in your way. i personally stealthed my way and beat the game in 33 minutes. i gotta A. wish my grades were as high. however i personally found finding the tapes fun. the tapes themselves ranged from okay to awful. Anyway on the Story yeah it's awful but i couldn't take Paz's death seriously. i blame south park. i kept asking myself: why? what's the point of making the series DARK AND EDGY!!!! may i remind you the next game after phantom pain has a boss called Dirty Duck? why do we need a terrible Joker rip-off as a Metal Gear Villain?

    But you have to admit the only good part of the Story is when Kaz/Miller yells out '' THEY PLAYED US LIKE A DAMN FIDDLE!!!!! I fell on the ground laughing.

    1. Yes, that was goddamn hilarious. Why did it have to be a fiddle?

    2. gift horse. It's the only thing vaguely Metal gear in this game besides the gameplay. Then you realize that was our reaction after being ripped off.