First off, let me start by addressing the obvious controversy surrounding this game. Is it setting a dangerous precedent for developers to release a shortened preview of an anticipated full release 50+ hours games? In some ways, yes, but you have to look at the full package of what Ground Zeroes is:
Ground Zeroes features a main campaign in which you play as Big Boss. It teaches you the full mechanics of the game, gives you a bit of back-story to the Metal Gear Universe, and in the end, leaves you with a cliffhanger that will establish the opening to the Phantom Pain.
Game-play from previous Metal Gear games has been fundamentally changed. Marking enemies with a scope, seeing those marked enemies through walls, better CQC options and weapon mechanics gives you plenty of options for dispatching the enemy and completing the objectives.
Story is easily accessed. Cassette tapes and audio logs are available at the start of the game that introduce you to the universe and fill in some missing gaps prior to starting the game.
Ok. So that’s all the good stuff that Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zero’s does right. The main campaign I was able to complete in about 2 hours, once I learned where to go and properly planned out my attack. The game is open world, so there is plenty to do and secrets to find. Whether you take the time to find everything and explore all your options is up to you, but that process will probably prolong your experience to about 3 hours, tops. The side ops that unlock upon completing the main campaign are fun, but can be relatively short. My favorite of the side ops was to protect an operative from a helicopter and get him safely evacuated.
The game I felt was worth the $30 asking price, since I have been constantly playing it and replaying it in order to beat the time trials and get the other achievements. However, I say that as a huge Metal Gear Solid fan.
The problem myself and other reviewers see is the game is short compared to other retail full priced games and people are complaining that they aren’t getting the full bang for their buck. I get that. The problem people are stating is that other developers are going to follow Mr. Kojima’s example and do the same thing, releasing early previews of their games just like Metal Gear did to attract people’s attention in other games.
However, aren’t developers already doing that though? Not to sound like a cynical jack@$$, but there are these things called Demos and Betas that I seem to recall a ton of people playing and downloading long before Ground Zeroes came out. Ok, yes, Ground Zeroes was not billed to the public as a demo or Beta test for the Phantom Pain, and that is a problem, cause right now I can’t think of what Ground Zeros should actually be defined as being? It’s really to me a manual on how to play the Phantom Pain. It’s basically a test, stating hey, how do you like being able to do A, which will allow you to sneak up on B, to destroy and or cripple C. It’s a how to guide to playing a future release.
Kojima has already stated that the Phantom Pain’s open world will be 200% (or some ridiculous percentage) larger than that of Ground Zeros. Cool. I’m excited to run around the sands of Outer Heaven or Zanzibar Land or Afghanistan or wherever Punished Snake ends up.
What I think this fully comes down to, though, is time. What should be addressed is how long will it be now till the Phantom Pain comes out? This I think is key to whether Ground Zeroes will set a precedent or not.
If, for some reason or some crazy ray of luck, The Phantom Pain were to be released in 2014, the same year as Ground Zeroes, many people will probably brush off and forget about Ground Zeroes and the controversy over its length and value. People will say it was just the prequel to the main story, like the opening of sequence of a James Bond movie before the musical credits scroll.
However, if the Phantom Pain does not release till 2015, Metal Gear fans in particular just might get a little nerved. Some might think that Ground Zeroes was just a tech demo to show off the Fox Engine (which does make the game look beautiful by the way) and establish the story for the Phantom Pain.
Developers are still going to continue to release demos and betas to drive up the hype for their games. Its standard marketing in which you show off the game, give the players the chance to see the visuals and game play, and keep their interest in the game at a high peak. This practice is not going to change, and Ground Zeroes sets up the potential market for game previews of larger potentially longer games.
Regardless, I felt Ground Zeroes was a lot of fun to play, whether you consider it a demo, beta, or just a standard preview for the Phantom Pain.