Sneaking around in cardboard boxes, smoking cigars and rocking a great mullet; Big Boss looks set to make a major comeback in the newest addition to the  franchise: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. The prequel looks to shake up the Metal Gear formula with a lot of new features such as a day/night cycle, an open-world structure as well as a brand new photo-realistic engine called the Fox Engine. Big Boss’s next adventure marks the first return to classic stealth on the next-generation consoles and is one of OnlySP’s most anticipated games of 2014.

The Vision

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes was revealed in 2012 at PAX Prime but the anticipation for the game was already sky-high long before that. In late 2011, Hideo Kojima, game director and creator of Metal Gear franchise, tweeted a picture of the brand new Fox engine running an unknown game (which was later revealed to be Ground Zeroes).  Kojima said to his eager fans that “I am working on something that I think will become the shining moment”, both for the Metal Gear series and his own career. As well as praising the new engine for its lighting and impressive visuals, Kojima stated the next game will be more open than previous entries and will grant a lot more freedom.   Kojima wanted to let players have the power to play the mission how they like but also “the power to decide how they get there, what time they arrive, what kind of path they use to sneak“. The reason being that “it creates even more drama“. Player choice certainly seems like a key factor for Kojima.

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is the first game of the series to feature on next-generation consoles and will also be available for download. The game will be available to buy for a surprisingly cheap price as the download version for PS4/Xbox One will cost $30 and the download version for PS3/Xbox 360 will cost $20. Meanwhile, the physical copies will cost $30 for PS3/Xbox 360 and $40 for PS4/Xbox One. The game has been suggested to be in development for PC but has not yet been officially confirmed.

The Gameplay

Much of the mechanics that can be expected of a “Metal Gear Solid” game will be present in Ground Zeroes. This includes using stealth tactics to infiltrate locations undetected, performing close quarters combat (CQC) on enemies and finally and using weapons and various gadgets and gizmos to help you remain undetected or eliminate any threats should your stealth be compromised.  So, what’s new this time around?

Big Boss/Snake will have access to something the MGS series has been solely lacking for quite some time: vehicles. Ground Zeroes will the first game to implement use of vehicles from the standard jeep to handling the machine gun of a helicopter. They can be used to help you escape from the enemy or as a method of travelling around the brand-new open-world structure. Oh and did I forget to mention the game will allow you to play your own custom soundtracks via both the helicopter and through Snake’s Walkman? That’s right. You will finally get the chance to escape from your enemies in a not-so-subtle fashion by having your favourite song blare from the chopper as you make your daring escape. That’s very cool.

In terms of changes to the “classic” feel of a Metal Gear Solid game, it seems that the structure of the game has been turned on its head entirely. The player progress through the game in a portion-to-portion manner but the entire game is open world now. This feature was used to some extent in Metal Gear Solid 4 but feel more like being an illusion of an open-world, rather than actually behaving like one. Nonetheless, Ground Zeroes is the first game to “ease players  into the new open world environment and its potential”;  you could view Ground Zeroes as almost like a beta for the series.. to some extent.

The stealth aspect of the game has also undergone a few changes. When an enemy guard spots Snake, time will slow to a crawl; giving Snake the opportunity to eliminate his target before his cover is blown. The moment has been regarded as rather “off” with the series and felt more like a Call Of Duty slo-mo breach than anything but Kojima insisted that it would be necessary once the player gets into the open-world style of the game. Snake can also use his binoculars to “tag” his enemies à la Far Cry 3 to help keep track of the guards positions. Again, this hasn’t been really implemented in the MGS series before but it’s good to see some tried-and-tested stealth mechanics that we know work being added to the mix.

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The Story

The story of Metal Gear Solid is a long and winding tale full of bizarre twists, crazy vampires and blonde cyborgs. Thankfully, Ground Zeroes is a prequel and deals with the simpler story of Big Boss, the father of Solid Snake. Big Boss was a renowned soldier who was top in his field and saved America and Russia from a nuclear war but became jaded after being forced to kill his mentor, who he shared a deep connection with. Fast forward to the 70’s and Big Boss has amassed a massive PMC called Militaires Sans Frontières/Outer Heaven but has discovered that some of his old friend’s have been kidnapped in Cuba. Big Boss takes on the mission himself to rescue his friends (one of which may be a double agent for an old rival) and this is where Ground Zeroes  begins. Got it? Good.

Kojima has regarded Ground Zeroes as the “tutorial” to Metal Gear Solid V. Both Ground Zeroes and another game entitled The Phantom Pain make up Metal Gear Solid V with Ground Zeroes considered as Part 1 and The Phantom Pain is Part 2. The reason behind splitting up the games is to allow players to become familiar with the new open-world mechanics and Fox Engine of the new chapter in the franchise. Ground Zeroes is considered a sample taste of what The Phantom Pain will achieve, which is meant to be 100 times bigger.

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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes marks the return of one of the greatest stealth characters to the next-generation and we can’t wait to see what espionage adventures Big Boss gets up to this time. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is available on March 18th, 2014 for the PS3, Xbox 360 and next-generation consoles.