When “Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes’” length was announced, practically every video game media outlet poo-pooed Konami’s decision to release a game, (or in this case, a prologue for the upcoming “Metal Gear Solid V”) that could be completed in less than an hour for what was originally $40 at retail. The outcry was so resounding, Konami decided to release the game for $10 less, but the damage had been done as evidenced by the 75 Metacritic score for the flagship PS4 version — the lowest score yet for a “Metal Gear Solid” console release.
As of this writing, the game has been out just shy of a month, and despite the fact that there are dozens of speed run videos where players complete the main story mission in under 10 minutes, the playtime for an average “Ground Zeroes” player with an average rank probably hovers around an hour or two.
And ranking, as it turns out, is a major part of the game. Director Hideo Kojima emphasized that the game was made to be experimented with and replayed numerous times to try different strategies and try to obtain the highest score, but many critics said they found this claim was little more than a disingenuous rationalization for what amounted to a cash-grab.
After spending approximately 17 hours playing through the main mission as well as the four additional bonus missions, I can say that for certain types of “Metal Gear” players, “Ground Zeroes” is definitely worth the price of admission — with a few caveats. I’ve obtained the coveted “S” rank on both hard and regular difficulties for the majority of the missions, and I intend to follow suit on the remaining two missions. While this may sound obsessive to some, there is a tremendous rush to be had from playing through the tense stealth title perfectly.
The game rewards you for not killing anybody, for not putting the enemies into alert, and other conditions like rescuing the handful of detainees scattered across the game’s not-so-subtle simulacrum of Guantanamo Bay. What’s more, the people you rescue will serve you as allies in the upcoming, feature-length “Metal Gear Solid 5,” concretizing the benefits of success substantially.
But in order to play the game at this high level, you are going to be replaying the missions repeatedly. And I do mean repeatedly. In fact, for every 10-minute speed run or “S” rank video posted online, I’ll wager the person who posted it replayed the same level for at least 3 hours prior to recording. Multiply that by the 5 available mission variants, and all the sudden you’re looking at a 15-hour game — a far cry from the 10 minutes that turned off the critics.
Sure, not every “Metal Gear” fan is a perfectionist, and so this prologue may be the most polarizing game in the series, but with the ability to pass the long months of waiting for the full-blown release by honing my skills with the new controls and mulling over the story revelations was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss. Then again, if all you want to do is watch the new cuts scenes, YouTube has you covered free of charge.
In addition to being a hard-core video game enthusiast for more than 30 years, David Keating has a master’s degree in counseling and enjoys cooking, writing and imagining just how much better the “Star Wars” movies can be now that George Lucas isn’t going to be running them into the ground.