|Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes|
North American box art
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes[a] is an action-adventure stealth video game developed by Kojima Productions and published by Konami. It was released for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One in March 2014, and for Microsoft Windows via Steam in December 2014. It is the eighth game in the Metal Gear series directed, written and designed by Hideo Kojima, and serves as a prologue to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which was released the following year.
Set in 1975, a few months after the events of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, the story follows Snake[b] a.k.a. "Big Boss" as he infiltrates an American black site in Cuba called Camp Omega, attempting to rescue Cipher agent Paz Ortega Andrade and former Sandinista child soldier Ricardo "Chico" Valenciano Libre. The game offers players new sneaking and traversal methods as well as the choice in what order the story events take place by selecting missions in any order they chose.
Ground Zeroes was originally developed as a mission for The Phantom Pain but an extended development time resulted in director Hideo Kojima splitting the specific portion of the game as a stand-alone product so that players could get early access to Metal Gear Solid V. Critical reception to the game was generally positive, with praise aimed towards its mechanics, voice acting, story, and graphics, while the majority of the criticism was aimed towards its short length. Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience, a bundle that includes both Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain, along with all additional content for both games, was released in October 2016.
Players control Snake through the game map and attempt to complete missions while avoiding being spotted by the enemy. The threat detection system is revamped, with the removal of the onscreen meter or gauge to indicate the player that they are in the 'alert/evasion/caution' state as in previous games, which have instead been replaced by visual and audio representations. Snake's binoculars have also been revamped; instead of selecting the binoculars as an item, the binoculars are hot keyed to a button. The player is able to mark enemies and be aware of their locations in the iDroid's holographic display. There are directional cues to help players when an enemy sees them from a distance and gets closer to them. A new "Reflex Mode" is activated when an enemy finds Snake and the player only has a short window of time to take out the enemy before he fully sounds the alarm. Lights can be shot out to further aid the player's stealth efforts.
Ground Zeroes features seven missions in total, locked at individual levels. After completing the main mission the player will unlock four subsequent missions (referred to as "Side Ops") set at different points in the day, all set in Camp Omega. These missions involve specific tasks, such as eliminating certain targets or obtaining classified information. After achieving a certain objective in the main mission, the player may unlock two additional "Extra Op" missions.
As the game is introductory in nature, being a prologue, the core story mission can be completed in a very short time frame. However, the game has many additional challenges, missions and alternative methods of play. A companion app for iOS or Android was made to help players access the in-game map and other iDroid functions on their smartphones. Console versions of the game have community features that allows a player to look at other players' performance in the game, even showing where they were killed on the map.
Atmospheric weather and lighting in Ground Zeroes is mission-proprietary, meaning that the setting of the game depends on the individual mission being played. A real-time day and night cycle was originally planned for the game, but left out in favor of fully utilizing it in The Phantom Pain. Kojima has spoken about the restrictive nature of previous Metal Gear titles, saying that they "set [the player] on one rail to get from point A to point B, with a certain amount of freedom between". In contrast, Kojima's team instead offered the player new ways of traversal and sneaking methods, such as taking a jeep, a car, or a helicopter around the mission area. This was in order for Kojima to accomplish a "true open world experience" with Ground Zeroes.
Set in March 1975, a few months after the events of Peace Walker, players control returning protagonist Snake, also known as Big Boss (Akio Ōtsuka/Kiefer Sutherland), as he works with Militaires Sans Frontières (MSF) to infiltrate an American black site on Cuban soil called Camp Omega. Once used as a refugee camp for people fleeing Cuba and Haiti, Camp Omega is home to an old prison that is being used for extraordinary rendition as it has no legal recognition under the United States Constitution. Snake's main objectives are the extraction of Paz Ortega Andrade (Tara Strong/Nana Mizuki), who has information regarding the whereabouts of the person or persons known as Cipher; and Ricardo "Chico" Valenciano Libre (Antony Del Rio/Kikuko Inoue), a Sandinista and former child soldier who was captured by Skull Face (James Horan/Takaya Hashi), the commander of paramilitary force XOF, who are in control of Camp Omega. Snake's mission is supported by Kazuhira "Kaz" Miller (Robin Atkin Downes/Tomokazu Sugita) and Dr. "Huey" Emmerich (Christopher Randolph/Hideyuki Tanaka) from MSF's Mother Base in the Caribbean Sea.
In the aftermath of the Peace Walker incident, Paz Ortega Andrade is missing and presumed to be dead. Under the direction of Kazuhira Miller and Huey, Militaires Sans Frontières turn their attention to an upcoming inspection by the UN amid suspicions that they possess a nuclear weapon, which MSF believe to be an attempt by the Cipher organization to stifle them. Their preparations are interrupted when MSF agents in Cuba investigate reports that Paz survived and has been detained at Camp Omega. The situation is complicated when Ricardo "Chico" Valenciano Libre attempts to rescue her and is also captured. Believing that both of them could compromise MSF, Snake is sent to infiltrate Camp Omega and extract them if they are alive, or confirm that they are dead and if so, determine what they revealed to their captors. Snake also recognizes the value in rescuing Paz, as he believes doing so will convince Cipher to stand down while Paz will be more willing to discuss Cipher's activities with MSF.
Snake infiltrates Camp Omega as a mysterious Special Forces unit known as XOF departs. He locates and extracts Chico, who claims Paz is dead. Using a recording that Chico gives him, Snake and Miller deduce that Paz is alive, and was moved deeper into the camp. He sneaks into Camp Omega and manages to rescue Paz as well, with the group escaping via an MSF helicopter designated Morpho One. However, on the way back to Mother Base, Chico discovers that Paz was surgically implanted with a bomb, prompting Snake and an MSF medic to remove it by hand. They then arrive to Mother Base to see it in flames as XOF forces attack. Morpho One lands long enough for Snake to rescue whatever staff they can, including Miller, who claims that the UN inspection was nothing but a ruse for the XOF ambush, which destroys Mother Base. As they attempt to escape XOF, Paz regains consciousness and warns everybody that there is a second bomb inside her body. Knowing that she is about to die, she jumps out, trying to throw herself clear of the helicopter. She succeeds, but the explosion causes Morpho to spiral out of control and collide with a pursuing XOF helicopter.
The epilogue reveals that the United States government downplayed MSF's destruction and attempted to cover up their dealings with the organization, as do many of MSF's clients. There are no known survivors of the assault, apart from Snake, Miller, and Huey. In a post-credits scene, set prior to Snake's arrival at Camp Omega, Paz is being interrogated by Skull Face, the commander of XOF, who demands the whereabouts of Cipher / Zero, as Paz had met Zero in person. Paz eventually gives in and agrees to tell him Zero's location before the scene ends. By collecting audio cassette tapes around the base, it is revealed that Huey arranged for the United Nations to come to Mother Base against both Snake's and Miller's objections, prompting them to hide the nuclear equipped Metal Gear ZEKE underwater. Other recordings reveal that Paz and Chico were tortured, physically and psychologically, for information about the MSF base. Chico, after being tortured and forced to sexually assault Paz, tells Skull Face the location of the base and what defenses there are. In a later recording, Paz is heard calling Chico a "Coward" and "Traitor" for giving up the information, however in the final tape she records herself saying she forgives Chico and would not have made it through the torturous interrogations without him.
Ground Zeroes also contains four additional missions, known as Side Ops, that take place in the weeks before the events of the main storyline. In the game's universe, they are labelled "pseudo-historical recreations". In the first mission, Snake is sent to a U.S. naval prison facility in Cuba to eliminate or extract a Marine Corps sniper team hiding at the facility to avoid extradition to Laos, where they stand accused of war crimes. Suspicious about the facility's purpose, MSF stations a spy—revealed to be the series' creator, Hideo Kojima, reprising a similar cameo in Peace Walker—in the camp, who requests an emergency evacuation. Snake provides support from the air long enough for him to escape. Unable to plant another agent of their own, MSF send Snake in to make contact with an undercover informant posing as a guard. He discovers that the informant has set a trap for him, but is able to secure a recording made by the guard. Finally, with evidence that the base is an illegal black site, Snake returns in advance of an airborne assault to sabotage the facility's anti-aircraft defences. Although he is successful, the promised assault is replaced by an airstrike, leaving him stranded in the middle of the base with fighter jets inbound. After escaping, he and Kaz Miller speculate that the entire affair—from the camp's conversion to a black site to the aborted assault—were a series of plots orchestrated by Cipher, first to establish a compound outside any legal jurisdiction and later to disrupt Militaires Sans Frontières' operations.
In February 2012, a site named "Development Without Borders" owned by Konami was uploaded promoting development for a new Metal Gear title, which was titled "The 'next' MGS". The site was recruiting staff for the 2012 GDC pavilion in March, and requested applications for several positions for the latest Metal Gear Solid targeted for "high-end consoles and PC" and "next-gen Fox engine". As the year went on, screenshots and videos of the newly announced Fox Engine were unveiled by the team. This media demonstrated a range of settings and characters, none explicitly related to the Metal Gear series. Certain screenshots, however, were noted to feature a character who resembled the Big Boss character of Metal Gear, walking up to a Stryker AFV, previously seen in Metal Gear Solid 4.
The game was later announced on August 30, 2012, originally under the name of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. It was revealed at a private function celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Metal Gear series, and made its public debut two days later at the 2012 Penny Arcade Expo. Director Hideo Kojima confirmed that Big Boss would return as the game's protagonist, and that the story would serve as a prologue to another game in the series. It was the second game to utilize the Fox Engine, after Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 the year before. The Japanese version of the game features an English text option, rendering in-game menus and subtitled dialogue in full English. This makes it possible to play the game with the Japanese voice cast accompanied by English text. Ground Zeroes was also the first title in the series subtitled in Arabic, a feature the team had originally planned for previous games. In addition, he also confirmed that the length of the cutscenes would be reduced, as he believes that long cutscenes have become outdated. According to Famitsu, real dogs were used for motion capture during the development of the game's opening scenes, in addition to Konami confirming that part of Kojima's direction was influenced by AKB48 music videos, most notably the usage of sideways lens flares.
Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain were originally supposed to be released together, but The Phantom Pain's long development time resulted in Kojima splitting the project into two parts to allow players to experience the gameplay of Metal Gear Solid V prior to the full game's release. Kojima compared Ground Zeroes with the pre-title sequence in a Hollywood movie due to how it will build up the plot from The Phantom Pain. Kojima claimed that his aim was to target taboos and mature themes, which he considered to be "quite risky", adding that his roles as creator and producer were in conflict with one another; as creator, Kojima wanted to take the risk of exploring themes that might alienate audiences, but as producer, he had to be able to tone down the content in order to sell as many copies of the game as possible. Ultimately, the role of creator won out, and Kojima described his approach as "prioritising creativity over sales". Kojima has described the connections and differences between Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain, stating that "the advanced capabilities of the Fox Engine have allowed me to tell the new story in a new way", and that "there will be a significant difference in what The Phantom Pain brings to the series, so we want to ease players into the new open world environment and its potential", hoping to achieve that with Ground Zeroes. The game also breaks away from the franchise's tradition of using licensed firearms and other military technology; instead, players use fictional weapons that bear little resemblance to real-life counterparts, such as the Marines' Type 69 rifle being reminiscent of the M-16.
A physical release was initially announced only for PS3 and Xbox 360, while the PS4 and Xbox One versions would be released as digital downloads only. This later changed when retail versions for the PS4 and Xbox One were announced on December 10, 2013. The cover artwork was changed between regional releases. Whereas the Japanese cover artwork depicts Snake and Miller, the western versions only feature Snake. Kojima explained that the decision to change the cover art for the western versions came from Konami's foreign marketing department, as they did not believe that consumers would recognize Miller due to the unpopularity of Peace Walker in the west when it was initially released for the PlayStation Portable.
As part of a dual-exclusivity deal, the initial release of the two Extra Ops were locked between the PlayStation and Xbox platforms. The PlayStation versions featured the "Deja Vu" mission, in which the player must recreate scenes or events from the original Metal Gear Solid, while the Xbox versions featured the "Jamais Vu" mission, in which player controls the cyborg version of Raiden from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, as he is tasked with eliminating a group of bioroids who have infiltrated the base disguised as human soldiers (a homage to Kojima's earlier game Snatcher). Both Extra Ops were made available on all platforms as a part of the Version 1.02 update patch on May 1, 2014.
Ground Zeroes was released in Japan for the PS4, PS3 and Xbox 360 on March 20, 2014. Because of the late launch of the Xbox One in the region, its version was released several months later on September 4 as a digital download only. As with previous Metal Gear Solid installments, a limited "Premium Package" edition was produced and sold exclusively by Amazon Japan. This edition was sold in a box featuring hand-drawn artwork by Yoji Shinkawa, which contained the game itself, a Revoltech Yamaguchi action figure of Snake in his Ground Zeroes garb, and a special edition of the Peace Walker novelization written by Hitori Nojima featuring exclusive artwork not in the stand-alone edition. The Australian and New Zealand release of Ground Zeroes was delayed to March 27. It was reported that various New Zealand retailers had delayed their release dates and contacted Konami, who confirmed the situation. On August 13, 2014, Konami announced that Ground Zeroes, along with The Phantom Pain, would be released for Microsoft Windows via Steam. Ground Zeroes was released on December 18, 2014, while The Phantom Pain was released on Steam on September 1, 2015.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience, a complete edition that includes Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain in one bundle, was released for the PS4, Xbox One and Steam in 2016. It includes both Extra Ops on all three platforms, as well as the option to immediately start The Phantom Pain after completing the main mission.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes received "generally favorable" reviews from critics on all platforms except on PS3 which received "mixed or average" reviews, according to review aggregator Metacritic.
GameSpot felt that the new stealth mechanics in Ground Zeroes, such as the replacement of the radar and other indicators with binoculars and radio communication, made its overall gameplay more "immersive" than previous installments, noting that "nothing is simply handed to you, and Ground Zeroes is a far more tense and rewarding experience for it". Its open world format and side missions were also praised for adding a large amount of flexibility and replay value to the game, concluding that "though it's unusual for everything to take place in a single location, there's so much to do and see, and whether you take a stealthy or head-on approach, infiltrating Camp Omega is a thrilling experience that shouldn't be missed". IGN shared similar praise, describing it as a "stripped down" game which "avoids lengthy cutscenes, climactic boss fights, and the usual frayed and tangled plot strands in favour of smart, tactical gameplay". The length of the main campaign was noted as being short, but it was acknowledged that while the array of side missions and bonus objectives may only appeal to "score-chasers", "there's certainly plenty of content here to satisfy". Robert Rath, a columnist at The Escapist, praised the game's emphasis on collecting information over gunfights and combat, saying "Ground Zeroes is the first MGS game to live up to its subtitle and actually allow you to conduct tactical espionage operations." Jim Sterling of The Escapist praised the gameplay and expressed anticipation for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but was highly critical of its length, describing it as a game demo and expressing shock that Konami had seen fit to sell.
Polygon was more critical, considering it "staggeringly short and unsatisfying, feeling more like a cash grab than an honest-to-goodness installment in a beloved franchise". Although praising its overall audiovisual design and attention to detail, Ground Zeroes was criticized for the changes made to its stealth mechanics, its "half-baked" action sequences, and the extremely short length of the game's main campaign, which was further criticized for being "dull" and "underwhelming". Ben Croshaw of Zero Punctuation called it a "$40 demo" with "half an hour of gameplay", but noted that he "enjoyed what little game there was".
While giving the game a high score in her review for IGN, Lucy O'Brien was also highly critical of the use of sexual violence as a plot device. Collectible tapes in the game describe how Paz is sexually assaulted and tortured, including the insertion of a second bomb into her vagina or anus, and how underage boy Chico is forced to have sex with her. O'Brien described how the introduction of this part of the plot through collectibles effectively also made them a reward for players. Several other writers also criticized the use of sexual violence, describing it as a failure to portray rape in a meaningful way, as an example of acceptance of sexualized violence in video games, or as a reinforcement of rape culture.
During the first week of release in Japan, the PS3 version of the game sold 119,615 physical retail copies, ranking third place amongst all Japanese software sales within that week, whilst the PS4 version sold 91,903 physical retail copies. On 25 April 2014, Konami announced that the game shipped one million copies worldwide. The PS4 version has sold three times more than the Xbox One version. No official numbers were given on the sales of the Steam version; however, Konami has stated that sales of Ground Zeroes were "solid" on the PC platform.
- Known in Japan as Metaru Gia Soriddo Faibu Guraundo Zerozu (メタルギアソリッドV グラウンド・ゼロズ, "Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes")
- Within the series' continuity, the character is recognised as having adopted the name "Big Boss". Pertaining to the games that depict the continuity where he's the protagonist/playable character, he is primarily referred to as "Snake" by the game and the characters throughout, even after adopting the name "Big Boss". Characters also refer to him as "Boss".
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