Pictured: Me, after playing this game.
Hi, hello! I'd like to discuss with you a bit of disappointment I've had with Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
If you're a frequent visitor of N4G, and/or a Metal Gear Solid fan - oh hell, the fact you're reading this at all - means you're aware of the Ground Zeroes "Debacle", as some have put it. Ground Zeroes is a stand-alone prologue to the much bigger "Phantom Pain". Just about every reviewer who's opinion I value has praised the game's gameplay, graphics and overall quality. Thanks to RedBox, I was given an opportunity to experience the game for myself. Ground Zeroes is indeed a game that's quality cannot be put into words; unlike earlier entries, this a Metal Gear that's actually fun to PLAY, not just experience.
Ever since it was known that the game was incredibly short, though, we've seen explosions of comments fired from all over, some of which from Konami and Kojima, himself. But those aren't the ones I'm going to be discussing with you. No, I'm going to be looking over the ones that have come from the fanbase itself:
"Ground Zeroes is highly replayable! I've played it for 18 hours and I'm only at %22 completion! This game was made for the fans! If you're a fan, then it's money well spent!"
I'm sure we've all heard this before, at least a dozen times. This one quote perfectly sums up the only four defenses you'll see when some someone tries to justify their purchase of Ground Zeroes. I can agree that Ground Zeroes's appeal comes from experimentation, exploration, and collection. That just about sums up the lasting appeal of the Metal Gear Solid series as a whole. Oh wait, but it doesn't. Metal Gear Solid was never just about high-replayabilty.
That argument completely disregards and slaps away the fans who find enjoyment in Metal Gear's lengthy, cinematic adventure quality. I hear a lot that the game "was made for the fans", but believe it or not, Gents, there are hardcore Metal Gear Solid fans who don't chronically replay the games over and over for the gameplay. I know, utterly breathtaking. A lot of fans get their enjoyment from the game's quirky story, lengthy cinematics, and unique visuals. by the end of every game, you feel like you've just got done with a huge, earth-shattering adventure! You feel accomplished, satisfied even. So why is this the first game in the series to ever need the replayability defense?
In fact, the series never had a problem before with length vs. content, so why is it now that fans need to argue that Metal Gear has always been solely about replayability? Konami should have set that precedent with earlier games. They cant just up and decide when Metal gear is going to be a short story, yet highly replayable game. That only serves to alienate the other fans who've been playing the series for nearly 20 years, the fans who replay Metal Gear Solid for the game's story and characters, not its gameplay. Gameplay is only half of what makes Metal Gear Solid such an enduring series.
"Oh, but there's tons of story, you just have to listen to all the audio files."
What? F***ING WHAT? That's not the same. You can't compare the presentation, visuals, and story of Metal Gear Solid to audio files that are designed to be used as story filler and in-game hints (and music, if you're into that). Last I checked, Metal Gear Solid wasn't remembered as a radio drama (...even though it is more often than not). Ground Zeroes wants to bank almost entirely off of hardcore replay-value, while simultaneously doing away with the experience that other fans have come to expect when they walk home after spending such a ridiculous amount of money.
pictured: the epic story of Ground Zeroes.
"What about the backstory thing? Go give that a good read."
Reading? Look, I've thoroughly enjoyed those adventure novels that Metal Gear Solid 2 included, but when reading a "previously on..." segment is supposed to pad out the story, we've got a problem.
"Then why don't you just watch the cutscenes on youtube or something and save your money?"
Okay, but for reals. At least half of Metal Gear Solid's appeal lies in its story. And not just the story, but in how Kojima involves the player in that crazy story. Remember the famous Psycho Mantis boss fight? Getting Codec calls from a robot telling you to turn the game off? How about being forced to shoot the boss in the face? (oops, hipster spoilers). These are not things that one simply watches, you need to experience these things in an interactive format. Metal Gear Solid is a story that not only requires the medium of interactive entertainment, it justifies the uniqueness of story-telling within it with each new major release. That's something special.
"But they told us it would be a short game with lot's of stuff to do in it!"
Pardon my language, but that sad excuse doesn't do diddly squat for me. When you expect me to go out and purchase a thirty dollar Metal Gear Solid, the last thing I'm going to expect is less than an hour of storytelling. Ground Zeroes was almost going to be the same retail price as Peace Walker. That's disgraceful. And you know what's funny? This whole fiasco could've easily been avoided had Konami simply stuck to tradition and made Ground Zeroes a packed-in demo with another game. No one complained about the brief story in the Tanker Mission because the Tanker mission came free with an entirely different game! It was a free demo that satisfied those who wanted a teaser for the story, and gave the explorers something to experiment with for months!
"Then they only made it for some of the fans."
Yup, sounds about right. Again, no one would complain or feel cheated if Konami didn't ask so much to what amounts to a demo in terms of the actual storytelling experience. No complete game ends an hour in with "to be continued in the next one".
They could've made it a pre-order bonus. They could've made it a $10 download. They could've shot copies of Ground Zeroes out of air cannons atop Konami headquarters and it would make more sense than a $30 cash grab. So the real question remains, why did Konami do something they bloody well knew would get them in so much hot water?
"Ground Zeroes is an investment to make sure Phantom Pain gets released. Like Kickstarter."
Oh bollocks to that! You do realize how silly that sounds right? You know MGS5 is too big a deal for Konami to just up and trash it because their cash grab didn't sucker enough people, yeah? Phantom Pain is going to happen regardless of how well Ground Zeroes sells. Ground Zeroes is not an "investment" in terms of funding (although it is in terms of carry-over unlockables... if you're into that sort of thing).
"Konami put A LOT of money into Phantom Pain. That's why Ground Zeroes is such a blatant cash grab. They need to recoup losses."
Eh, uh, hmm. That... that's the smartest thing you've said all day, Internet. To think that Konami are just incredibly greedy and anti-consumer is easy, but the idea that Ground Zeroes was just a means for them to re-line their corporate pockets in order to make up for some of the costs of a game that wasn't going to be seeing the light of day for a long, LONG time makes more rational sense. THAT'S why Ground Zeroes is a standalone product. THAT'S why they were happy to swear up and down that it wont be included with Phantom Pain. And THAT'S why they made it so expensive. They couldn't wait another 2 to 3 years for Kojima Productions to pop Phantom Pain out of the oven to do it. Also, take into account that they must still be funding the game, so they need to turn an immediate profit to make sure that... oh God no. That would mean the Kickstarter argument actually holds merit.
Now take that theory with a grain of salt, as there's no telling for sure until someone (be it from Konami or Kojima Productions) inevitably tells us the true reason sometime in the future to give the whole fiasco closure. But regardless of how you try to explain Konami's actions concerning Ground Zeroes's pricing, we're still left with a game that gave Konami the perfect opportunity to make a quick buck. At the end of the day, whether to recoup losses or make a little extra during the waiting period, their cash grab paid off. It worked. And if that doesn't make you worry for the overall industry, it sure as crap makes me worried for the future of this beloved series.