When I first sat down months ago to play Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes I was excited. I love Metal Gear Solid. I’ve loved it from the first time I met Snake on the original Playstation. The ability to distract guards and move around cameras was something special and I was hooked. I loved the sequel and even purchased a PS3 specifically to play Metal Gear Solid 4. When news of Ground Zeroes came, so too did feelings of elation.
Ground Zeroes was launching at a time when there wasn’t much in the way of “next-generation” games on any of our newest consoles and it felt like this could be the one that set a standard. I immersed myself in previews, played older games on my Vita, and read anything I could find on Metal Gear.
Then the game launched.
I purchased the game digital, sure that I was going to love it. I had every confidence in the world that I would prepare myself to be a master of tactical stealth espionage once again. Except that, I wasn’t. I found the controls to be wonky, the intensity of the game’s forced “realism” juxtapose the extraordinary plot made me frustrated, and I couldn’t get past the frustration of my stealth requiring so much effort.
Perhaps I was accustomed to the distinctive hand-holding and checkpoint-ridden gameplay of so many other modern games. Perhaps I simply wasn’t at a time when I wanted to slow down and check every corner because for some reason Hideo Kojima had refused me a radar. Either way, I could not get over my extreme frustration with the game. Consistently I’d set my mind to being full stealth mode or full non-lethal, but my silencers would fail, the tranquilizers would wear off, and for some reason these guards figured out that cameras don’t just go out and end up with bullet holes for no reason.
I was not having fun and so I did what any disgruntled gamer would do: I turned to the internet.
Mixed reactions on the user front, high praise critically but near-universal frustration with the game’s length. I got caught up in it. I read too many reviews, participated in too many rant sessions, and swore myself against Ground Zeroes and the eventual release of The Phantom Pain. Who did Konami think they were? They charged me $30 for a glorified demo that not only wasn’t exciting, but it made me downright angry.
So I left it in the past. I deleted the game from my hard drive and vowed to not look back. However, as the release of The Phantom Pain approached, I couldn’t keep my head tucked into the sand. Consistent praise of the game poured in. Visuals were lauded by old and new Metal Gear fans alike. Remarkable freedom in the open world genre, and new gameplay mechanics that defined tactical stealth espionage were consistently being brought up. I was excited. I even pre-ordered it, which I rarely do for any game now.
Ground Zeroes showed back up. It was there with Games With Gold and Playstation Plus. I decided to give it another chance. After all, I needed to prepare myself properly. I dove back into the world of Ground Zeroes and something felt different. I knew I’d encounter the same frustrations and they were there, but I had changed. I expected that patience would be required. I knew that surveying the land and planning my actions three steps ahead would be the norm. I accepted that I’d simply need to learn the controls (which I maintain are unintuitive, particularly in the wake of some great releases in the open world genre). Most importantly, this was my training ground and I needed to rise to the occasion.
Oddly enough, I’ve found myself enjoying the outing. The game is ripe with quality level design in a way that I was too immature to see before. There IS a story to be told if one is willing to look for it. The gameplay is far more consistent and fair than I had given it credit for before. Problems have far more than one solution and exploring those options has become exciting. I’ll be spending more time in this world before I boot up Phantom Pain…and that’s saying something.
It’s strange how time off from a game can change your perspective. Ground Zeroes had and has plenty wrong with it, but it’s not nearly the trainwreck I originally considered it to be. Replaying it again was a good idea and I’m glad I did it. I can now only look forward to being more prepared to handle the challenges of The Phantom Pain. When Ground Zeroes launched, many of the complaints were (and still are) justified. Nonetheless, I downright crucified the game in conversations and now wish I could impart a bit of wisdom on myself from that first time I zeroed in on the ground.