Andi: So, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, then? What a fucking interesting little thing Hideo Kojima has delivered this time. Controversial in terms of not only some of its content, but also because of its length and price. What do you guys have to say about this latest Metal Gear thing?
Owen: I have some mixed feelings about this game. Clearly The Phantom Pain is going to be the best Metal Gear Solid game ever, but it's also notably darker in tone than the others. I like that videogames are tackling serious issues like how shite torture is, but I'm not sure they should be doing it in a series full of enemies that shoot bees, nanomachine-powered vampires and time-travelling cyborg ninjas.
Sean: It’s interesting because Metal Gear Solid has always been about war being shite, but you can’t help but feel that Ground Zeroes is a reaction to the way torture has been creeping into games lately, with Splinter Cell giving it all that ‘wahey twist the knife in this cunt’s neck’.
Andi: At least it doesn’t shy away from it. It isn’t glamourised. Bees and Ninjas aside, I definitely feel Kojima could bring topics as controversial as the ones shown in Ground Zeroes to the table and explore them without them being completely awful and ham-fisted. We’re snookered if all gaming ever is about is bee shooting men. And I love me some bee shooting men.
Owen: All the previous MGS games have had torture scenes in them, but always in an 80's action movie sort of way - a 'tap O to resist the electric shocks' sort of thing. And they've dealt with serious issues before, like all the anti-nuke stuff in MGS, but it was never this graphic - just some cutscene dialogue about how shite war is. There are some really nasty moments in the main GZ mission, and the undercover tapes you get as rewards for meeting certain objectives include audio recordings of prisoners being tortured and raped. But yeah, I wouldn't say it was glamourised - it's always very clearly depicted as A Bad Thing.
Sean: I think we’re avoiding spoilers here, but it tackles things that other games have touched upon and been met with a full-on NO YOU ARE NOT THE GAME TO BE EXPLORING THIS PLEASE STOP. But as unpleasant as Ground Zeroes is, it pulls it off because it is so clearly intended to be upsetting and to highlight awful real-life shit that goes on. Or maybe it’s just a case of us actually having faith in the creators this time.
Andi: Yeah. I recall the Hotline Miami 2/Rape controversy from last year. Obviously a difficult, upsetting and extremely controversial subject but one that has appeared in various other forms of media over the years. Is Hotline Miami 2 THE game to tackle something like that? God, I’m the last person on Earth who should be telling people what they should or shouldn’t find offensive, but I’m really not sure it is. It seemed played for shocks, which is in poor taste and a bit fucking childish. At no point does Ground Zeroes feel like it is doing this for a cheap pop. It is grim, it makes you feel uncomfortable but that’s the point. Not all media should make you feel like Master Chief McDuty - you’re hardly supposed to be laughing it up during ‘Irreversable’. I’m incredibly interested in how this is expanded on in The Phantom Pain.
Andi: WHAT ABOUT THE LENGTH, lads? I’ve personally gotten my money’s worth out of it, but then I am a huge Metal Gear Solid mark.
Sean: I am alright with the length. I’m not staggeringly wealthy, but I’m getting my 25 quid’s worth. I do feel like there’s an issue with the way it’s presented, though. People will definitely see it in the shops and think it’s METAL GEAR SOLID FIVE.
Owen: Yeah, I didn't mind the price, but then I too am a massive MGS nerd - it is basically a demo, but a demo for a game that probably won't be out for 18 months. It bridges the story between Peace Walker and The Phantom Pain, but if you aren't a MGS fan it would take a hell of a lot more to explain what's going on anyway - even if you listened to all the backstory tapes. They make tons of references to Cipher, and I think they've only appeared in the PSP games until now.
Sean: I have witnessed people saying they’re picking Ground Zeroes up with little knowledge of the series, which is legitimately upsetting to me. That said, I never finished Peace Walker and the game does a nice precis of that. But it doesn’t explain much else!
Owen: I love flexible it is, compared to earlier games. Peace Walker was designed in a weird, non-linear way, in part because of the hardware limitations of the PSP (like putting in side-missions where you revisit old locations with strange new objectives), and Ground Zeroes feels like they've brought that philosophy of replayability back onto a more powerful platform. Like, having to extract people via helicopter feels like a right chore compared to tying a Fulton balloon to their belt for an instant airlift, but the whole experience of balancing when and where to call in a chopper when things are starting to kick off around you is fantastic. You wouldn't get that sense of openness on a handheld.
Andi: Yeah, I’m never going to do an ‘Owen Grieve patented pacifism run’ but I’m still finding different ways to approach the mission even within my limited, rubbish-at-stealth-games abilities. It is short - that much is undeniable - but is incredibly dense! There’s so many little things to find, weapons, the Chico tapes etc. There’s definitely a lot more content here than what it immediately seems like and it is so highly polished it really does feel a cut above the other games I have played on PS4 to date.
Andi: What about the most controversial thing, though - No David Hayter, replaced by Jack Bauer himself, Kiefer Sutherland?
Sean: Must admit I’m not totally sold on Kiefer yet, although he doesn’t actually say a huge amount in Ground Zeroes.
Andi: I quite like it! I always thought when I was first watching 24 that if they ever did a MGS movie Kiefer would be a good fit as Snake, so this isn’t too much of a shocker to me.
Owen: I am holding on to the hope that they are playing us like a damn fiddle and David Hayter will be back in the Phantom Pain. Kiefer Sutherland seems alright, but he's just not Snake.
Sean: Yeah, it would be perfect if it turned out Solid Snake was in Phantom Pain, voiced by Hayter. I don’t think that’s too unfeasible, given the timeline? Ground Zeroes ends with Big Boss falling into an eight-year coma, and I think Les Enfants Terribles has already been and gone at this point?
Andi: There’s no fucking way they’re paying the Kief’s rates for three lines in Ground Zeroes just to swerve us for David ‘The Guyver’ Hayter!
Sean: Yeah, but just fucking imagine it! A young Solid Snake appears in Phantom Pain, and it’s Hayter. Spine chills.
Owen: Am I the only person who sometimes repeats Kiefer Sutherland's lines in a David Hayter voice?
Sean: Yes. I’m sorry.
Sean: Right, let’s finish up. What have been your favourite moments in Ground Zeroes? Mine had to be calling the chopper into a ‘hot LZ’ with Paz hanging off my shoulder, throwing her onto the chopper and then sprinting to a nearby anti-air gun to cover her escape. Blasting the absolute piss out of everything as tanks and soldiers came at me from all angles, alarms blaring all over the place. Amazing.
Andi: My first escape was breathtaking. I got hilariously lost trying to find Paz, but on my travels I did stumble across a shotgun, which I kept for close encounters. I found her and began carrying her to the extraction point, but I got spotted and it kicked right off. I spotted a jeep, darted to it through a hail of gunfire and threw Paz in the back. I then started shotgunning everything that moved before getting in the jeep and absolutely bombing it through the base to get to the coastal extraction point. “Get to the choppa”, indeed.
Owen: Sounds barbaric. All my favourite bits come from messing around with things during careful, stealthy pacifist runs. Did you know guards have no way of knowing where you are if you just lie down in the back of a truck? Or that you can set custom music to play when the helicopter arrives? Or that you can extract the two mercenary targets during that side-mission, instead of killing them? I had to devise a Hitman style 'solution' to that mission in which I left sleeping guards lying in the middle of the road as bait, instead of just sniping them. I suppose my version of the EXCITING HOT LZ ESCAPE story is when I called in a chopper and had about one minute to pacify all the nearby guards before it arrived.
Andi: God, The Phantom Pain is going to be incredible.