What’s Killing My Social Life This Week – Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Metal Gear Solid V Logo

This game is not remarkably new. I’m obligated, and just a bit saddened, to admit by virtue of that fact that I am woefully out of touch with the world of video games. I can’t really use the excuse that I’m a grown-ass man, because I know many such men who still have their fingers pressed firmly upon the pulse of the video gaming world, but I lost my grip on it some time ago.

But there are still certain little corners on which I like to keep an eye. I buy Nintendo systems when they release new Zelda games for those systems, I anxiously await another Star Wars: Battlefront title.

And until recently, I maintained a dull, loveless marriage to the Metal Gear Solid series. I suppose it all started in my early years, when this advertisement showed up on the back of practically every Marvel comic.

Metal Gear NES Ad

I didn’t have a clear idea of who Michael Biehn was at that time, and even if I did I wouldn’t have noticed that Solid Snake was just a traced drawing of James Cameron’s favorite actor. Why would a four year old’s eyes even wander from that gorgeous assortment of gear.

But truth be told, I never did get my hands on that game until I was a good deal older. Frankly, I know I would have been disappointed if I had tried to play Metal Gear as a four-year-old, because I was disappointed as a ten-year-old. I’ve learned to appreciate it as I’ve gotten older, but when I first played that poorly translated, frighteningly difficult tactical espionage game I set the controller down after a few short minutes, and forgot about the franchise for a couple of years.

Metal Gear Feel Asleep

But then came the Playstation, and a few years later,  a demo disc featuring a playable preview of Metal Gear: Solid. I played the hell out of that demo and was in awe of the sheer amount of content contained in just that tiny slice of the game. Here’s the thing, though: I had no idea when the game came out and only a 1998 internet with which to work. Looking back at the release date, I think it was actually out when I started playing the demo! So, on Christmas morning, 1998 when I was feeling those teenage Christmas blues, my mother and father blew my fucking mind by somehow knowing that I would want this game (and by knowing that Playstation was a thing).

Metal Gear Solid 1999 Front

I played the ever-living hell out of that game, and for years to come I hungrily gobbled up every game in the series. Until that is, Metal Gear Sold 4: Guns of the Patriots came out and I couldn’t manage to make myself give a shit. I’d loved the third one and played it perhaps more than any other game to that point, but the gap was so long, and I really stopped caring. I held out and bought it a few months later, and it was definitely enjoyable but it took my chief complaint about the series (the labyrinthine nonsensical plot) to an all-time high. It was, and I realize this wasn’t accidental, at times almost a parody of the rest of the series.


I still played the hell out of it.

Flash forward to Christmas Day, 2014. My girlfriend and I head over to my parents’ house at the childishly enthusiastic hour of 7:30 AM, and first among the generous (considering that I, as previously mentioned, am a grown-ass man) amount of presents waiting for me there was a copy of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.

Now, the majesty and the mystery had faded a bit since 1998, because I’m entirely sure that my girlfriend selected my parents’ presents to me at their request, and I had recently been talking about eventually picking the game up… but it’s still a fun sort of symmetry.

Here’s the thing, though. I had read reviews of this game in the nine months since its release that had left me sort of underwhelmed. The kind of people who write Amazon reviews hated it, not for any sort of quality concerns, but rather because it was too short. Well, I waited nearly a year for the price to drop (and didn’t pay for it, anyway) so perhaps that’s why I loved this game so goddamned much.

People criticized the game, calling it a glorified demo for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Well, what in the goddamn fuck is wrong with a Metal Gear demo? Weren’t these people paying attention to the article I had not yet written expressing my undying love for Metal Gear demos? And all the same, a two hour (that really is an average length for the first playthrough) demo of a Metal Gear game has more substance to it than any just about any other game on the shelf.  Sure, I beat the main story in less time than it takes to watch a modern motion picture, but I’ve booked another 20 hours in bonus content in the last few days. The game is intensely replayable and it has me sopping wet for the “real” fifth installment.

Metal Gear Solid V Rear Cover

I particularly loved this little throwback; As part of the “Deja Vu” mission, you recreated various moments from the original Metal Gear Solid within the map of the new game. There’s a hidden scene you can recreate, and your only hint (without cheating) is located on the back of the game’s box. In this day and age, there’s no sense in trying to include copy protection by including necessary information with registered copies, since all an unregistered user would have to do is Google the information (or Bing it, if they’re in Marc Webb’s Spider-Man movies). This was done solely as a nod to this little gem on the back of the PS1 jewel case for Metal Gear Solid.

Metal Gear Solid 1999 Back Cover

That’s exactly the kind of outside-of-the-box (pun not entirely intended, but I caught it and included it anyway so you be the judge) thinking that makes these games so fantastic. Playing Metal Gear Solid and being stumped until you either got the notion or bothered your radio contacts enough to think to check the packaging? It’s a total dick move, and I loved it anyway.

The engine for the game is different, but not entirely so, and I think it’s unarguably an improvement on the old one. It’s not a huge departure, but it fixes a lot of the old problems that could get you into serious jams when combat arose and generally makes the game a lot more fluid. The graphics are out of this world, and you certainly notice it when the game quickly flashes back to scenes from the PS1 game, and you have a moment to compare the rendering. How far we have come, my friends.

If you’re like me, and you had fallen out of love with this series of games, get back on board so you have time to enjoy this one before the new game comes out. They are finally bridging the gap between the two timelines in these games, with an aging Big Boss/Naked Snake/Venom Snake/Punished Snake/Whatever the Fuck You Wanna Call Him But Let’s Go With Big Boss After All  approaching the age where he should be mentoring his clone/protege Solid Snake, and there’s definitely a part of me that hopes the fact that Kiefer Sutherland took over as the voice of Big Boss was, in part, to avoid confusion when David Hayter shows up as Solid Snake in this game.  But I’d be equally happy if that didn’t happen, because the storyline in the new game thus far seems entirely manageable, and I’d like it to stay that way.

That being said, I’ll take any Frank Jaeger/Gray Fox appearances being offered.

Red Ninja

Even when they palette-swapped him to red, and he looked a little more like Deadpool than I’m comfortable with.

Oh, I also got Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, but I haven’t even taken Ground Zeroes out of my Playstation since Christmas. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

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Posted on December 31, 2014, in Features, Video Games, What's Killing My Social Life This Week and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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