Steam Cleaning #11: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

I wanted to like Metal Gear Solid V. In the past, I’d already tried and bounced off of The Phantom Pain, but it’s been a while. Maybe this time would be different.

It was not.

MGSV is an amazing game. Graphics are phenomenal, the stealth gameplay works perfectly, and I never feel like I’m fighting the game to do what I want to do. The free-form approach to missions is novel (even if Ground Zeroes only has the one main mission) and the cutscenes feel like an R-Rated action movie. It’s stylistic, bombastic, and the gameplay is tense yet rewarding.

In my single mission playthrough, I managed to extract one prisoner stealthily, but with the second, I hijacked a truck and drove through the middle of an alerted base to get free. The game allows the player to play with audacious abandon or careful stealth, and so long as the player performs well, it can work out.

I have nothing but praise for the game. Why don’t I enjoy playing it? It all boils down to the fact that this is, at its core, a stealth-based game.

Stealth gameplay frustrates me. I don’t like waiting for an opportunity. I don’t like scouring the area for viewpoints or juggling multiple sightlines and cameras. I don’t like the slow pace of the gameplay, or the feeling that all my hard work could fall to pieces just because I didn’t notice one guy. There are other ways to approach MGSV, but failing stealth makes me feel like I’m failing the game and ruining the immersion of the mission. It just doesn’t sit right with me.

I am fully aware that this is a me problem. In more abstract games like Monaco, I can grok the stealth mechanics, especially while playing with friends. I have to admit, I would also prefer a game where failing stealth just means restarting, not hiding and waiting for alarms to wear off or shooting my way out. If my solution to being caught is ever to throw myself into gunfire so I can try again, something has gone wrong. Again, not a Metal Gear Solid problem. It’s a me problem. I’m not a good fit for this game.

My only other criticism is that the movie-worthy cutscenes are extremely long and extremely gory at times. That may be good for other people, but I’m here to play a game, not watch a graphic quick-and-dirty gut surgery on a conscious woman. At least pan away, sheesh.

Verdict: Because this was only the prologue for MGSV: The Phantom Pain, I did technically complete the single story mission in the hour and a half I played the game.

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