Metal Gear Solid on PC!
FOX Engine is astonishingly well-optimized.
Lots of replayability.
The main mission is a tad short.
Issues with ALT-TABing
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review
Few games have ever resonated with me as well as the Metal Gear Solid titles have. Granted, I played only the original MGS and its immediate successor, while only dabbling in MGS4 on my friend’s PS3, but the lore, the characters, the overall atmosphere of this legendary universe is unique, and has intrigued me ever since taking control over Snake for the first time on his way to Shadow Moses. I can name only one other game that has captivated me so – Shadow of Chernobyl, so you know it’s a special relationship I developed playing the first two Metal Gear Solid games. Sadly, the newer titles (Revengeance aside) never got a proper PC release and I haven’t had the time to fiddle with a proper emulator – with all that in mind, imagine my face when the editor told me I’ll be reviewing Ground Zeroes on PC. Fanboyism aside, I was fairly sceptical. Console ports have only rarely been properly handled in the past, and FOX engine hasn’t really had a long run on PC yet. While I never doubted the game itself would be great – gameplay systems and all that- I couldn’t help but be sceptical about the optimization, controls and such. Eager to see how the series has evolved, I punched my game code in and downloaded the bugger immediately.
The beginning was promising, with the game fully loaded in seconds and set up on high settings, looking just a tad nicer than it did on the consoles. Sadly, the mouse doesn’t do anything in the menus, so we’re stuck with WASD/arrow keys this time around. Navigating through the neatly organized menus with Big Boss smoking a cigar in the background, easily I found the graphics options. A whole bunch of graphics options, if I might add. Naturally, I switched everything up to Extra High just to see how it would run and, surprisingly enough, the game ran quite nicely for me even at its highest settings and at 1080p resolution. For all of us PC gamers, this is a huge relief. Not only does Ground Zeroes look absolutely astonishing on this platform, but it’s also nigh-on perfectly optimized. FOX Engine is awesome, with only a single speck on it, as far as I can tell. I was seemingly unable to ALT-TAB out of the game while it was full screen, so I had to play it in a borderless window instead. Not a huge problem, but perhaps it could be looked into further down the road.
Visually, Ground Zeroes is a real marvel. I keep getting surprised by how awesome these next-gen titles look on screenshots, but they pale compared to seeing the game in motion. The amount of detail on each character is astonishing, with Big Boss looking like an actual human being in virtually all situations. Not until he starts prowling about, evading/incapacitating the guards and interacting with the environment, however, will you truly appreciate the technical achievement that this game really is. The guards’ trenchcoats flutter realistically as strong gusts of wind sweep through Camp Omega, and virtually all of the clothing found on maps is affected by the game’s physics engine. During night missions, light reflects on the muddy ground, providing numerous visual pleasures along the way. Granted, some textures are disappointingly ugly, but these are found on the fringes of the map anyway, so don’t bother with them. Compared to the consoles, everything related to the visuals seems to be bumped up by a fair amount if you’re playing on the game’s highest settings, although the difference isn’t all that obvious. The shadows, for example, are much better defined – as is the volumetric lightning that embraces the game’s single -albeit considerably large- level.
Control-wise, this game has a phenomenally refined scheme. Every single function can be freely redefined according to your own preferences, from the basic movement controls to the highly situational interrogation options. Even the weapon modification system is on offer here. In fact, seeing all these options embedded and ready for tinkering made me wonder why the hell don’t all games have this many features available at all times. No, instead we’re forced to select presets and look at dumbed down graphical settings in every newer AAA release. It sucks. Do what FOX Engine does, please.
As far as gameplay goes, this is the same game we’ve had the chance to play several months ago on the consoles. Seeing it perform nicely on a mouse/keyboard combo warms my heart to say the least. Assuming control over Big Boss feels empowering once you get the hang of his movements and abilities, and the addition of vaulting/climbing adds huge amounts of versatility to what was once a fairly horizontal game series. Every single function is but a button press away, and while the game does require a bit of getting used to it, once you master all of the protagonist’s skills and gadgets you’re going to feel just as badass as Big Boss actually is. While the focus certainly is not on the firearms, there’s a fair few available in Ground Zeroes and they all feel equally powerful. Especially the rocket launcher – that one’s a real boomstick. Most importantly, the enemies react quite realistically to being shot at, quickly taking cover and firing potshots once they have your location. They move in groups, are dangerous and can easily take the protagonist out if the player isn’t careful. Quite interestingly, Ground Zeroes (and Phantom Pain, I take it) can be played as a shooter also – which I tried. And the game does feel just as good when it comes to firefights as it does when you’re crawling across the rooftops. The first person viewpoint helps a lot in close quarters and is always available, while you can also rely on Boss’s CQC abilities in a pinch. During its original release, the game’s main critique was that its main mission is painfully short, and while I do agree with the sentiment (clocking it in just under seventy minutes), you have to consider the fact that Ground Zeroes is absolutely packed with additional missions too. Some of these are a stealth revamp requiring you to blow up anti-air guns or assassinate targets, while others will have you covering Hideo Kojima himself while trying to outrun the enemy. All of them are a blast, however, so rest assured that your money will be well-spent should you invest in Ground Zeroes.
I’ve skipped the story on purpose, because while the game certainly has been available for quite a while on on consoles, if you’re anything like me you’ve steered clear of the spoilers. It’s heart-wrecking and brutal, but also painfully realistic. This is Metal Gear Solid, just much more terrifying. I hope you’ve got a good stomach too, because some tapes and sequences require a fair amount of teeth-gritting to get through. Of course, all of this is handled masterfully and will leave you wanting for more storyline, which we will get with Phantom Pain once it’s out.
In the end, one thing’s for sure – Metal Gear Solid is back on PC and it kicks ass.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review
Filip "Gale" Galekovic
Konami Digital Entertainment
18th December 2014