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Following the events of Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker, Hideo Kojima rebounds one of the greatest video game series of all time with a bite-size prequel to the highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a welcome back tactical espionage invitation for fans looking to get back in the saddle as Snake. Only this time, as fans experienced in Peacewalker, not only are they Big Boss once again, the lead voice acting has been cast as none other than Keifer Sutherland. A choice I believe was the right one, establishing a unique change of authenticity to the series and exploits of the legendary soldier.

While MGSV: Ground Zeroes is a prequel and a very short one to say the least, this glorified demo definitely packs an impressive punch. As Metal Gear fan have come to love about the series, the Hideo Kojima seal of approval is stamped all over this one placing players in some very capable hands with a refreshing new controller mechanics, gorgeous visuals and tons of Easter eggs just waiting to be discovered.

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For the first time Snake feels more flexible and accessible, inviting both fans and newcomers to the party with smooth ergonomics. With the ability to quickly perform sprint, crouch, go prone and or other distinct combat maneuvers while on his back, from the outset the undiscovered is exciting…and visually stunning. MGSV: Ground Zeroes is a multiplatform title playable across the Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360 and PS3 and I’m pleased to express that each version of the game looks mighty impressive for its respective hardware. Of course the next-gen versions played on the PS4 and Xbox One are the superior versions, which are to be expected. However, what’s going on under the hood is what you’ll remember most. Yet if you’re a graphics junky and desire to only play the version flexing the most visual bang for your buck, running at 1080p/60 fps will only be found on the PS4. The Xbox One version sports 720p resolution also at 60 fps, however experiencing both version side-by-side proves there is an undeniable fact that the PS4 version is the showpiece version.

Both versions express incredible lighting and rain particle effects for the games main mission objective(s) as well as for the other mission types which are played during the day time setting. Tarps move realistically from strong winds, wet surfaces appear slick and moist, even the blended sound effects perfectly compliment the games specific settings and overall eye-pleasing presentation. Again, the game is a sure head turner no matter the platform and for this critic it is easily one of the best looking games available today.

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For MGSV: Ground Zeroes, Kojima Productions has streamlined the gameplay experience for the better, stepping away the classic alarm indicator process which left most players looking for a place to hide until the counter was lowered and eventually the enemies hot on your trail were ordered to get back to their normal standard guarding procedures. Now the experience promotes chaos, without the veteran MGS player feeling as though they’ve betrayed the true philosophy of the series. This synergized approach of stealth and action to the gameplay is a breath of fresh air, allowing players to engage the enemy and objective as they see fit.

Understanding the games mantra is simple. MGSV: Ground Zeroes drops you into a simulator like setting behind enemy line, where you must free specific hostages (play MGS Peacewalker for more on who these prisoners are) and almost every nook and cranny has been finely combed with a unique flair of REAL. All of those classic trademarks to the series are back and improved – sneak up on an enemy soldier with your weapon drawn and begin your interrogation, kill them or choke them out.

Unlike previous games in the series where enemies would actually give you items off their person, through the interrogation process now enemies give you intel on mission specifics which are immediately added to your map via your iDroid, again making for a more life-like encounter. In fact, as you MGS veteran know almost everything that can be killed in real life can be killed in the game, for example the rats which scurry past you as you crawl through hidden vents or the birds which occasionally can be spotted can all be eliminated. Performing these irrelevant yet fun duties does not go unnoticed by the developers.

To speak more of the new iDroid device, it allows Snake to be conveniently well-informed at all times. The iDroid main menu offers mission info keeping players on task filled with specific data update, a log which archives mission specifics for radio and conversation logs and so on. The iDroid also allows Snake to call in a helicopter for pick up at key location throughout the map and of course the iDroid doubles a stylish tape cassette player. Don’t ask about mp3, the game is based in the 70’s and can feel quite technologically advance without losing it old-school retro seasoning.

Out the gate players are encouraged to identify as many enemies as possible with your binocular locator device giving Snake a battlefield advantage which certainly comes in handy when you’re in a tight spot. Walk close to a wall and snake automatically takes a soft cover, remaining hidden from the enemy. A few times depending on how you would position Snake against a tent or wall, the camera does fail to give the player the proper visual perspective as though Snake is in the way. This is a minor concern but certainly an error which should be addressed before the release of Phantom Pain. Weapons are accurately represented for the timeframe with classic weapons taken from MGS: Peacewalker, handling very well with some new additions that can be acquired through specific game objectives.

Eliminate everyone on the map or kill no one, the choice is yours, just as long as you get the objectives completed. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes does not hold your hand. It forces you to experiment and discover for yourself what is possible according to your imagination as you tackle the intimate encampment. Understanding that the world over may have not have played previous games in the series, Kojima Productions has also added the ‘Backstory’ option using a stylish black and white comic art effect with detailed explanations on past events bringing you up to date on the mission at hand.

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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a well developed title doing a convincing job of promoting the excitement and anticipation for Phantom Pain with its impressive cinematic conclusion.

Looking at Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes as only a two hour affair only does the player a disservice as the meat on this bone is plenty when you tackle all it has to offer. For 29.99 across the PS4 and Xbox One and only $19.99 for the PS3 and Xbox 360, fans of the series will be glad they made the investment.

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