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bry159 avatar 4:38 PM on 04.24.2014  (server time)
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

First impressions of MGSV are wholly positive.  The game, viewed within the context of its own series, has evolved.  The title screen features a grim-looking Snake/(Boss) looking out at you, so different to the weary salutes of Old Snake in the predecessor title.  Get past that and you're given a brief introduction to the game before you're near a cliff edge creeping into a darkened military base late at night. Fantastic! Nothing like the ten minute or near half-hour introductions of the past.

Elsewhere, controls and essential game mechanics are significantly tighter and quicker.  Codec calls, once a screen you might be drawn into and stuck at for minutes at a time, have transformed into one-button radio calls, delivered live.  You can even point your scope and request information about what you've targeted.  A small, but wonderful evolution.  You are now able to sprint, dive to cover (a la Call of Duty: Black Ops), lay down and fire at an enemy whilst on your back.  The manoeuvrability of Boss/Snake has improved significantly.

What else has changed? The controls and stealth elements are heavily reminiscent of both the original Splinter Cell and Far Cry 3: enemies can be tagged then seen through walls or other solid objects, and there is an importance on light sources being key to your stealthy success.  Gun battles are frenetic but now feel difficult enough: what I mean by this is that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots made it too easy to mow down tens of soldiers with an assault rifle, mimicking a death match/first person shooter action experience well, but not really feeling true to what one expects of Metal Gear.  If it's something I respect about Japanese game design, regardless of genre, it's that gun battles are difficult, either because you face difficult enemies or lack ammunition, or are easily and quickly overwhelmed by superior forces.  This is what you now have with Metal Gear Solid V.  Granted, the tranquilizer gun is still a standard tool, but you're now spotted and rounded upon by angry soldiers far more rapidly that before, partly because the "cone of vision" has gone, and because the AI has improved, too.

I have seen other writers point out that it may have been a mistake to let the credits roll after the Ground Zeroes mission, and in some respects, they're right.  The side missions are actually quite fruitful, varying the objectives, times of day and starting points in addition to giving you new objectives within the same play-space.  It follows on from the same, arcade-like, addictive principles Call of Duty, Battlefield, and others follow: mastery of a limited space using the same skills repeatedly.  Kojima-san and his team really should be commended for scouring other franchises for what I can only call "The Modernisation of Metal Gear." Long may it continue.

Context: I am quite a thorough and committed Metal Gear Solid fan, having played and completed 1-5 of the "Solid" series, and love #3, then 1, and consider 2 and 4 equal for different reasons.  I have dabbled in the 2D games, but do need to re-visit them at some stage.

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