Ground Zeroes: The first non-Metal Gear Metal Gear. Part Two.

One big issue I have with the story of Ground Zeroes is one of the most confounding to me: The new voice of Snake. After David Hayter was fired and Kiefer Sutherland was hired, it really wasn't easy for me to accept. It still isn't. The voice of the english version of Snake for over 15 years and let go without notice because they were shifting focus from voice acting to facial capture.

I need an adult
There exists an entire bible of conspiracy theories on David Hayter's involvement with Ground Zeroes, but it's been evident that he, as he says, is no longer under employment with Konami and will most likely not appear in The Phantom Pain in any shape.

The issue with this isn't over the messy breakup by Kojima and David, but rather the result of the new facial capture technology. One thing in particular is my love for David Hayter and him making Snake's voice as memorable as he has for the past 15 years. In the same way Kevin Conroy brought the Batman to new heights and Michael Ironside giving Sam FIsher the cold profile of a lifelong soldier and secret agent, David Hayter turned what should have been a one-and-done job into a 15 year long journey that helped cement Snake's gravelly, growly voice as an icon. The ship has sailed and while fans won't forget what David Hayter has done for Snake, it's tough to wonder exactly how Hideo Kojima planned to translate the iconic growl into subtle facial movements by an unfamiliar voice.

 I am a lifelong fan of Metal Gear Solid. I played the games when I was very young and I have been devoted ever since. To David Hayter, to Hideo Kojima, to everyone involved. It wasn't my intention to hate the new voice direction(Face direction?). Sure, they all but threw David Hayter in the dumpster when they fired him, but I was willing to see it through and hear what Kiefer Sutherland brought to the table, and, whil e I'm not a big fan of him, I am quite fond of his film career and I generally think positively of him. So the issues I have with the performance of Snake in Ground Zeroes is quite the predicament for me.

The most obvious of this is the major emphasis on facial expressions. In the words of Hideo Kojima himself, "In previous Metal Gears, Snake's emotions were expressed in phrases like, "Kaz? Are you okay?" But this time, all he says is, "Kaz?" I wanted everything else to be expressed to the player through Snake's facial expression & vocal performance."

While it sounds ambitious, especially seeing how intensive the face-scanning technology is in their behind the scenes videos, I found it very hard to be awed by playing through Ground Zeroes. Knowing that every single detail of Kiefer Sutherland's face was captured for the performance of Snake made every cutscene even more underwhelming than the last. Most of the time you don't even see Snake's face and when you do, you don't get a very good look at it. It was difficult for me to be immersed by this new technology when all of the faces look, well, typical and "video gamey". I should point out that they don't look bad, they just look average. If you would have told me that the faces in Ground Zeroes weren't captured and are just hand animated back in a studio, I wouldn't be surprised.

What is surprising is the lack of dialog by Kiefer Sutherland's Snake. As Kojima pushed for more focus on facial capture, he also pushed for a more "subdued performance" for Snake. So much change in the way of how you record and even who you hire to record, and there is less dialog spoken by him overall. And as Snake speaks less and less, so too must someone fill the empty space. And in doing so may have led to Ground Zeroes being a weaker experience overall with constant codec calls interrupting your every move.

Hell Master Kazuhira MacDonell Benedict Miller returns from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to carry the reigns as the active voice in Ground Zeroes and manages to get in the way of everything you will ever do. Trying to sneak next to a guard?

Trying to listen in on some guards talking about where an important prioner has been located?

How about just using simple mechanics such as climbing, crawling, or jumping over gaps?

You get the idea. He gets in the way, talking over everything, explaining everything over and over again and just generally never knowing when to stop talking. Thankfully Kojima Productions seem to be aware of the issue and are implementing a way to cancel him out to and properly enjoy The Phantom Pain. But this goes all the way back to my point in Part One of my blog, the game is loaded with bugs and glitches. It almost feels like there was little to no quality assurance on this project as consumers were aware of this overtalkative issue almost immediately, yet somehow the issue managed to sneak its way into the final release. This leads me to hope for a stronger quality assurance for The Phantom Pain, as Ground Zeroes seems to have a fair share of annoying hinderances that Metal Gear Solid is usually known for avoiding.

It was clear that Ground Zeroes was released to test the waters of a truly next generation Metal Gear Solid, but I can't help but feel burned by this decision has resulted in a less polished, overlooked and overall less important title in the franchise. They say it's not a demo, and in some way I agree with that, but it certainly doesn't feel like Metal Gear Solid either.

To be continued in Part 3.

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Ground Zeroes: The first non-Metal Gear Metal Gear. Part One.

With the release of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes we have witnessed the next entry in the Metal Gear Solid universe, but was it good, or was it bad? Once upon a time(Read: One month ago) I thought it was good, great even, but now I'm not so sure.

One reason is probably the most disappointing: The glitches. Metal Gear Solid often has little to no glitches found within its titles and the ones that are there are so small and trivial that it's not worth mentioning. Ground Zeroes is littered with bugs that make me question many things, particularly the FOX Engine's reliability.

One bug not particularly exciting were the disappearing bodies. On PS3 and PS4(And Xbone360, I'd wager) the bodies would disappear if there were a handful of them in the same area. One such occurance of this was during the Side Op: Rogue Threat Elmination, in which I had tranq'd one of the targets and he fell down invisible. The map showed he was still there but never the less, I had to return later to find his body laying there, as it was before.

Another issue I have with the FOX Engine is the draw distance. I played the game on PS3 but I've seen footage of the PS4 version where enemies "load in" at close approximation to the player. It ruins the experience when you use your binoculars to scout out the area, realize it's clear only to be surprised by entire groups of enemies all over the place. And no, they didn't change position, they just didn't load in right away.

It happens to marked enemies as well. Wait for them to load into the world, tag them and then go about your business. They disappear and load in depending on how far away you are. And if you are really far away, it might take upwards of a minute for them to load in.

This was very disappointing for me, as I was led to believe that the FOX Engine was very versatile and powerful, designed for games on current gen consoles and beyond beyond beyond.

As it stands, the FOX Engine reminds me more of a midly-weaker Unreal Engine 3 with all of the pop-in, both texture wise and character wise.

For the record, this is all within Ground Zeroes, a small bite sized taste of the other half of Metal Gear Solid V, titled The Phantom Pain, a much larger and expansive game in scale and scope according to Kojima Productions. If so many issues exist for such a small game, what will it be like when the maps are an upwards of 200 times bigger? So much bigger, in fact, Hideo Kojima says testers are having a hard time finishing it.

No miller, please go away.

The issue I have is this: PS3/Xbox 360 is holding back The Phantom Pain, just as it did Ground Zeroes. There is so little ram and processing power behind these machines and canceling development for them and moving onto the Playstation 4, XBone and PC would be a much smarter choice. The numbers are here and they can prove it.

In the United States, Ground Zeroes sold 278,000 copies with 204,000 of those being on PS4/Xbone. It's clear that if people want Ground Zeroes, they'd rather take it next-gen. Speaking of next gen, the Playstation 4 has recently sold 7 million consoles to the world.

The Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 may have a larger market share and install base, but with the next gen consoles picking up steam with hardware and software selling like hotcakes, it would be a no brainer. If Ground Zeroes handles so poorly with 512MB of ram holding it back, imagine what 8GB's can do for it.

But what they do is up to them. I just hope that The Phantom Pain is not held back creatively or mechanically. If Kojima Productions want to blow our minds, don't let hardware limitations get in our way.

What are you even talking about!?
Aside from the bugs and glitches holding the game back and spotting up a spotless glitch-free record for Kojima Productions, I have an issue with the story... or should I say, a lack of one.

When the game was announced, it was just Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. There was no roman numeral, it was supposed to be a sequel to Peace Walker and continue from there on a globe trotting adventure through 4 continents with Base Building and soldier recruiting and... well, you get the picture. The game that was announced was Ground Zeroes in title alone, as the features and mechanics they talked about at that point are now known to be from The Phantom Pain.

There were so many questions. "Ground Zeroes!? 4 continents? Is Outer Heaven finally getting up to no good and we're in control of it!? Wowee!" But the reality is a once-tech demo now-game is the result of this. I can't help but feel like the story was completely irrelevant. It wasn't important and seemed to be a bridge for The Phantom Pain than to exist on its on in any capacity. For Chrissakes, they spoiled the ENTIRE ending of Ground Zeroes in the red band trailer for The Phantom Pain.

Go ahead, take a look.

It's a fantastic trailer, one of which I have watched over 20 times since its release. I still get chills when I watch it, but if I had to say one thing about it: Not cool. Not cool in the slightest. Hideo Kojima, Captain of the HMS Ruse Cruise knows his fans will devour anything he gives them in the hopes of some hint or secret that will lead them onto other information. He knew that people will analyze every frame of that trailer in grand detail. That they would tell their friends, and their friends would tell their friends, and from zero to one, one to ten, ten to one hundred and one hundred back to zero again. And what does he do? He reveals the ending of another game entirely. Spoiling the ending of one completely different game a full 10 months(TEN MONTHS before its release.

We never knew it would contain a spoiler to the whole thing. We thought it may contain a few scenes that would last a second or so, but in a game that's completed in two hours, a few seconds is an uncomfortable amount of time.

I can't tell you my frustrations as I get to the end of the game and "START TALKIN BITCH. BITCH. BITCH BITCH BITCH FIDDLE." Roll credits. What's worst is after the game is over, we get a black screen with text over it explaining that "THE SMOKE WAS SEEN FROM MILES AWAY, THERE WERE NO SURVIVORS". I was almost expecting Patrick Duffysnake to wake up and reveal it was all a dream. No, not the ending of the game, but the last 10 months of hyping a hyping the game up only to spoil the ending before anyone could have possibly played it. Sure, we could have just not watched the trailer, but, who expects spoilers from one game in the trailer for another? Maybe I should watch out for the next Destiny trailer, it could very well spoil the ending to Watch_Dogs for all I know!

To be continued in Part 2

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On Ground Zeroes; Pricing, Length, and Entitlement

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes has drawn up a bit of controversy in these past few days. It started with a Game Informer article, which says they were able to finish the game in "about" two hours. That was shortly followed up with information that Kojima Productions speed-runners were able to finish the main mission(Of which there is only one. The rest being side missions.) in 5 minutes.

The controversy surrounding the game chalks it up to being a cash-grab for Konami, a clear plead for more money. They've hit a "roadblock" that Ground Zeroes could clear, people say. Konami needs money, and they are splitting this segment of the game from the rest of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, to earn it back, and that's not cool, people are saying.

The reality with this scenario is that The Phantom Pain is an unknown amount of time away and bears such a drastic change from the traditional Metal Gear Solid formula that it would benefit both the fanbase and Kojima Productions by easing players in with a tutorial. But it's not just a tutorial, there is a narrative that will lead players into the next game, The Phantom Pain.

This way, with as far out as The Phantom Pain could be, they can incorporate feedback right into the game and improve it even further. But for some people, this isn't good enough.

Let's look at the pricing for Ground Zeroes.

  • Retail PS3/360: $30.
  • Digital PS3/360: $20.
  • Retail PS4/Xbone: $40
  • Digital PS4/Xbone: $30.

Hmmm. It's actually quite pricey, isn't it? It may be quick to write off most people as "the internet" we all love to hate, but when you look at the numbers, for a game that can be potentially completed in 5(Read: FIVE) minutes, those higher numbers start to look worse and worse.

It's definitely interesting to see a reduced price for a small taste of the game, that definitely makes sense and it's nice to see publishers making such forward progression towards the realization that digital games are cheaper than retail games, due to no case, and less overall cost to them, the additional price on the PS4/Xbone versions are not so nice.

In practice, you could end up paying double the cost for one version of the game than the other. It's nice to think that Konami would be so progressive with its pricing for digital being less, but it forces me to think the opposite when you see next-gen versions are more expensive than their predecessors.

When you boil it down, what advantages does the PS4/Xbone versions really have to offer? Better graphics? Faster loading times? Is that worth paying twice the price for it?

When you boil it down to looking better and loading faster, under all of the grime and glitter, it's the same game. No additional content will be applied to the next-gen versions, no additional support is planned. When you buy the game, you get the game, whatever version it happens to be.

In my opinion, people have a right to be peeved about the situation with Ground Zeroes. In my boat, I have always planned on buying digitally for the PS3, which in my opinion, is the most appropriately priced version, $20. For $20 you get one short mission and 5 side missions, and a couple of cutscenes. You also get to play around with the brand new mechanics, weapons and world of Metal Gear Solid, which is the biggest selling point to me, but not many people would agree with me on that.

For a time, you could get a game titled Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag for around $40 when it was on sale. That game consists of at least 50 hours of content. For someone without a lot of money, that $40 commitment is a no-brainer. Assuming you like the Assassin's Creed formula, you are getting tons of content per dollar. A stark contrast to the content you will find in a game like Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, which is already the spark of debate around the net.

How much you spend vs. how much fun you have, that's something you'll have to figure out for yourself. But as Hideo Kojima and the rest of Kojima Productions have recently posted around their social media counterparts, they truly believe in the quality of their product and will proudly see the title on shelves next to games very much like Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.

Regardless, there are people out there that would probably pay even more.

On second thought, maybe $40 isn't so bad...

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The blog is now finalized

It's been months, and quite frankly I've forgotten all about this thing a few times, but it's finished. It's unfortunate that image Shack had to move to a premium model, as that's where I decided to host the images for this blog, so that probably won't end up backfiring or resulting in catastrophic failure.

I am excited. The world will hear my words(that kill) and I will be internet famous in no time, and dead by 30. The way it should be.

I hope you enjoy what I may potentially write in the near or far future, depending on when I forget this exists.


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