Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes releases later this month, giving players a taste of the FOX Engine's capabilities, a storyline teaser and insight into Snake's new abilities. However, many gamers are desperately concerned about its value, following a report that the campaign can be completed in less than two hours.
Now that I've spent several hours with Ground Zeroes' 95% preview build, I'm finally in a position to confirm or deny these allegations firsthand.
Or, more accurately, tell you that they're absolutely correct... and completely misleading.
Ground Zeroes' story mission, which involves the stealthy infiltration of a sprawling military base to rescue a character previously thought dead, does indeed take less than two hours to complete. My play time clocked in at 110 minutes in all, which included several minutes driving an APC around the base for the sheer fun of it, and a rocket launcher-fuelled rampage that I found stashed in a supply bunker. Players can choose their own way to infiltrate the objectives, using both pure stealth, brute force and guile, but its a slender proposition even if you take your time exploring locked rooms and messing about with the mechanics.
So, somewhat disheartened, I watched the lengthy final cutscene, rolled the credits and returned to the main menu.
At which point Ground Zeroes informed me that I'd only managed to complete 9% of the game. See, your first playthrough is just the tip of an immensely replayable iceberg that contains a surprsing amount of extra content.
On a basic level, completing the campaign grants you new gear and toys to mess about with in subsequent playthroughs, such as a silenced SMG and sniper rifle. The base is absolutely stuffed full of optional areas to explore and locked rooms to break into, providing you with new ways of going about your objective. Optional objectives are also up for grabs, such as securing XOF tags and audio tapes scattered around the facility, the locations of which you'll discover by extracting POWs and interrogating subdued guards.
More importantly, though, you'll unlock five 'Side Ops' - non-canonical missions that take place at different times of day, and allowing you to play about with Ground Zeroes' mechanics further. Brilliantly, each has been curated with their own cutscenes and self-contained storyline down to end credits and post-credit denouements. One tasks you with quietly assassinating two rogue marine snipers without raising the alarm, another involves destroying several AA guns and vehicles, while a surprisingly complex inteliigence gathering operation requires you to locate and interrogate a double agent while keeping your own involvement quiet. Again, completion grants you new weapons and gadgets.
Will this be enough gameplay to justify the price tag? Perhaps. You'll have to wait for our full review to find out (we'll naturally need to test the platform-exclusive missions too!), but be in no doubt: there's more to Ground Zeroes than meets the eye.