According to Hideo Kojima, the creator of Metal Gear, Ground Zeroes will be a prologue to Metal Gear Solid 5. The sequel proper to 2008’s acclaimed Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has yet to see any sort of real announcement, so it is likely that Ground Zeroes will setup the background scenario. That isn’t to say that it is merely a fill-in or a stopgap, though. At PAX Prime in Seattle, Kojima presented a demo of the new game, and going by the reactions of fans and critics alike, they are excited to see the return of Snake. Well, a Snake, at any rate.
As with all good Metal Gear Solid games, extensive cutscenes are an integral part of the storytelling. The demo opens with a mysterious scarred man entering a heavily guarded military base. Ground Zeroes runs on the new proprietary Fox Engine, and it looks gorgeous. Lighting effects are absolutely amazing, and the weather effects pound every inch of the rain-swept, moonlit base. Character models are highly detailed, down to the wear-and-tear on an Uzi. Hell, even the guard dogs look pretty good. It’s pretty clear that Kojima Productions spared no expense on building their shiny new rendering engine.
As the demo continues, the scarred man pauses in front of a cage containing a lone child. Speculation on the Internet has been rampant as to the identity of the boy, ranging from a young Liquid Snake to a young Raiden, both protagonists of previous MGS games. It’s not made clear in the demo so fans will have to wait to learn why he is sitting in the middle of a prisoner camp, as well as why he appears to have a headphone jack in the middle of his chest. Maybe he’s just listening to his heartbeat?
After giving the kid a tape recording, the scarred man boards a helicopter and leaves. Moments later, the real star of the show enters the stage: Snake, climbing up a rain-slicked cliff to infiltrate the base. From the eye patch he’s rocking, it’s pretty clear what his identity is: this is Big Boss, otherwise known as Naked Snake, and the genetic template for both Solid and Liquid Snake. The gameplay portion of the demo starts here; Big Boss starts infiltrating the camp, sneaking around to avoid spotlights, killing a guard, driving a jeep for a bit, and eventually calling in a helicopter to facilitate his extraction. In a typical Kojima gameplay quirk, players can choose what song the heli plays as it flies in, but loud songs may alert enemies to Big Boss’s presence, potentially causing the chopper to be shot down. Apparently, a big, thunderous helicopter flying around isn’t enough to make people take notice, but once you add loudspeakers and Lady Gaga to the mix…
The helicopter won’t just be a canned mechanic at the beginning and end of missions. Players will be able to call it in to provide cover fire or transport them to other locations.For the first time in Metal Gear history, the game will be open world, allowing players to explore before committing to playing through a mission. Some of the in-game signage is in Spanish, while an American flag is also seen. According to Kojima, players will be able to travel to several different countries and, so far, it appears that at least two countries, Cuba and the United States, will be available as transit destinations.
According to spectators at the event, the demo was run entirely on a modern high-end PC, giving much credibility to the speculation that Ground Zeroes will be released on current-generation consoles. Kojima himself has insisted that this is an actual gameplay demo, not a tech demo, so chances are good that we’ll see a release before the end of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 lifecycles.
If you’ve been a diehard MGS fan since the days of the PSOne, this latest iteration looks like it’ll give you plenty more to be excited about. On the other hand, if you never really saw what the big deal was about the stealth gameplay, the new open world mechanics might be enough to change your mind. Despite the fact that the protagonist looks like he should be enjoying an Arnold Palmer in some retirement home in the Caribbean, the demo makes it abundantly clear that there are big plans for the franchise. MGS is famous for its convoluted plots, and this demo asks far more questions than it answers, but all will eventually be made clear when Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is released.