Game review: Ground Zeroes

Joe Camp, Staff Writer

“Ground Zeroes” recalls the opening moments of a good Bond movie. Like the boxcar scramble in “Skyfall” or jetpack getaway in “Thunderball,” this Metal Gear sprints full tilt to the credits. Then it stops cold.

The “Ground Zeroes’” story could fill a dinner napkin, if written in crayon. Big Boss, fan-favorite villain protagonist, must infiltrate the heavily fortified Camp Omega and retrieve two missing operatives, Paz and Chico, from a mysterious captor. Although short, these events are impactful to the Metal Gear fiction and required viewing for fans.

This installment plays more like a demo than a game. A prologue to the forthcoming MGSV: The Phantom Pain, it doubles as a tutorial for open-world stealth, introducing fresh concepts and systems. The Metal Gear backbone is intact as you watch patrol routes, create distractions and slip by unnoticed. But the simulated world does promote new tactics like bellying through gravel as a jeep rolls past or you can stowaway in a cargo truck and call in a helicopter. In the handful of moments where old and new ideas mesh, “Ground Zeroes” is distilled joy: real franchise evolution beneath decades of layered paint.

As a tactical espionage simulator, “Ground Zeroes” tastes undercooked. Camp Omega is huge, so it’s easy to overlook a distant guard or stumble into a patrol. You can tag enemies, which tracks their outline through walls, much like eagle vision in “Assassin’s Creed.” Tagging works well in open spaces, where enemies are easy to spot, but indoor stealth can become a monotonous game of corner-peekaboo. The overall stealth mechanic feels embryonic: a few gadgets from slick.

“Ground Zeroes” is shooter-friendly. The AI is smart and ruthless, but it isn’t exactly piloting elite shock troops. Run, gun, nab human shields, raid armories, hijack tanks and you can hot knife this butter soft level with minimal sneaking.

The spanking-new Fox engine delivers impressive scale and fidelity. The PlayStation 4 manages a respectable draw distance with minimal pop-in, and its 1080p textures look great up close. Dark, rainy environs showcase glossy next-gen lighting, fluid dynamics and fabric physics.

“Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes” is a tease. A two-hour sandbox lined with cut-scenes and tutorials. Even with five nifty side-ops, numerous skill trials and collectibles, it’s shorter than the price tag might suggest. Budget aside, “Ground Zeroes” is a great prologue and a better appetizer: a tasty Snake-snack for rookies and enthusiasts alike.