Gamefly Reviews, Part 1 – Grand Theft Auto 5 and Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes

Welcome to part 1 of my Gamely Reviews segment, where I review all the games I burn through thanks to my Gamefly membership (which you can read about to see if it’s worth it for you here).

After getting some killer free deals through Gamefly for the summer, I’ve gotten the chance to play a ton of games that I’ve been interested in, but not enough to actually pony up the cash for. In some cases, the games just didn’t quite pique my interest enough – others might have been great, but offered campaigns that were too short.

Making the most of my membership, I’ve decided to write up the reviews here. Read my thoughts and reviews through the perspective of a man who spent the summer binging through random rental titles.

Grand Theft Auto V

Mini-review: So Watch Dogs just came out, and all anyone can seem to do is compare it to Grand Theft Auto V…and more accurately, explain how GTA V is the golden standard, and how Watch Dogs doesn’t stack up.

Personally, I don’t get it – after finally playing through the title, GTA V is…good. It’s a very good game, and the second best in the series after San Andreas. But the gold standard? The best game of the generation? One of the best games ever? How? I don’t understand.

The story was decent and engaging, but it’s not even the best story Rockstar has put out, let alone one of the gaming’s all time masterpieces – Red Dead Redemption delivered a far deeper, more compelling story than GTA V.

The mechanics, specifically the driving mechanics, are still great, but the shooting mechanics never elevate beyond ho-hum at best. And while no one designs better sandbox city playgrounds than Rockstar, I can only play around for so long before I get bored and need story to carry me through.

This all sounds negative, but again, it’s only a symptom of the expectations. I was told GTA V was a masterpiece, so I expected a masterpiece. And while the heists and the story and the characters were enjoyable, there was nothing that really stood out to me, compelled me to finish the game, or left me thinking about it afterwards.

GTA V was not the best game of the generation. It wasn’t even the best game of the year (hello, Fire Emblem: Awakening). But it was an enjoyable romp through what is probably the most realized sandbox city ever created.

Rating: 4.0 pulled teeth out of 5

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Mini-review: As you (hopefully) just read, high expectations marred my experience with GTA V. On the flip side, low expectations helped me thoroughly enjoy Ground Zeroes.

Now, the main criticism I’ve heard from people is that it’s short. And they’re right, it is – I completed Ground Zeroes main mission in less than an hour, without rushing. There are a total of five extra missions that provide some fun, but the main, story driven, canon mission can be very short.

The problem that I have, however, is with the marketing – if Konami had been upfront from the beginning with what Ground Zeroes was, and PRICED IT ACCORDINGLY, I think people would have seen this game for what it was – a brilliant prologue for what’s shaping up to be a masterpiece game. Unfortunately, people expected a purchase worth the money they put in, and this game is not that.

Thankfully, however, because of Gamefly, I was able to enjoy Ground Zeroes for what it actually was without the nagging insistence of my brain that I wasted money on a purchase. And because of that, I loved it.

The first Xbox One game that I’ve played, Ground Zeroes looks absolutely fantastic. I was blown away by not only the character models, but the environment visuals and the physics as well. There was so much attention to detail, and it finally felt like I was playing next gen.

From a gameplay standpoint, it’s easily the best in the series, to the point that it will be hard to go back to earlier entries in the series. Controlling Snake is fast and fluid, the over the shoulder shooting mechanics are tight, the stealth feels responsive, and cool new features like Reflex Mode, which slows down time when you’re discovered and allows you one brief chance to take out your spotter, make this the best Metal Gear Solid gameplay yet.

After hearing mixed things, I was also surprised to find the story engaging. It’s only the prologue chapter, but the tone is noticeably darker and more serious, and the tale has the potential to go in some really interesting places. The voice acting is also excellent, and while it did take some getting used to the iconic David Hayter not voicing Snake anymore, I’m not going to fault Kiefer Sutherland for doing a great job.

The controversial end shares the same problem with many forms of media, unfortunately, in its reliance on sexual assault as a gimmick to serve as inspiration for the male protagonist and not as an element that can stand on its own, and thus probably should not have been included, but thankfully, is not thrown in your face too badly. Hopefully the rest of the game will tackle mature subject matter more gracefully.

However, the ending did leave on a substantial cliff-hanger, and I can’t wait to dive back in. If the rest of the game capitalizes on what was established in the prologue, I expect Metal Gear Solid V to surpass Guns of the Patriots and become the best installment in this storied franchise.

Rating: 4 Jack Bauer Snakes out of 5

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