Metal Gear Ground Zeroes and its ‘Controversial length…’

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Who are you calling ‘short’?

Hideo Kojima‘s upcoming Metal Gear Solid V prologue, “Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes” has been derided in the press and by gamers recently after the news was revealed that the game could be cleared in around two hours. To some, this seemed ridiculously, offensively short – for a game that would cost around £30-40.

A spokesmen for Konami was quick to point out that this two hours referred to the ‘clear time’ not the ‘play time’. Kojima himself spoke out in defence of the game saying that he felt people would be satisfied with the game’s length and that, due to its non-linear nature, there is a lot more to do and different approaches to take – meaning that players are likely to experience the game more than once.

However, was this ‘2 hour clear time’ really all that controversial in the first place? Did it need defending? There is an odd assumption creeping up within media that ‘bigger is better.’ Twinstick Gaming recently ran an article on this subject with regard to online shooters. We came down on the, maybe cliche, side of things that size doesn’t matter – what you do with it is, by far, the more important.

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More controversial is the fact that Kiefer Sutherland replaces David Hayter as voice of Snake.

This is something that has bugged me since an early age. People hanging value on substantial length rather than substantial quality for years – and not just video games. The first time this concept bothered me was as a teen, getting into hip-hop. I recall arguing with my friends over the quality of The Roots – Do you want more?!!!??! album (which I thought – and still think – was awesome). A friend of mine told me that his recently purchased Jeru the Damaja album was superior – an argument I would have been willing to consider had it not been for the fact that the reasons he gave were: ‘It has more tracks and it’s longer’.

I was perplexed. How on Earth could the length or number of songs possibly have any influence over the quality held there within?

The same thing happened a few years later with movies. People citing the length of the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a reason why it was superior to another choice of movie (a harder argument as I actually hold the LOTR trilogy in much higher regard than Jeru the Damaja…). Again, it wasn’t the quality that left me befuddled – indeed I didn’t actually disagree that the films were awesome – just that the length had little – or nothing – to do with it. Peter Jackson merely took the time he felt was needed to tell the story.

One thing I have never felt compelled to question, is the quality of the games Kojima Productions puts out. In particular, the Metal Gear series has been as reliable as anything within the videogame universe.

Kojima is no stranger to controversy and this isn’t the first time Kojima has put out a Metal Gear Prologue of questionable length either. In 2001, Konami released Zone of the Enders for the PS2. It sold ridiculously well – the reason for the amazing sales is they packaged it with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty Trial Edition. As was observed at the time, most people shelled out the £40 to play MGS2 and considered Zone of the Enders a ‘free game’. Clever marketing on two counts: Firstly, it meant the new IP had fantastic sales numbers; secondly, no-one complained about the size of the MGS2 Trial Edition as it was being pitched as a freebie.

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A tiny section of the game, but untold hours of fun in MGS2: Trial Editon

The MGS2: Trial Edition was, at the time, beautiful and far better looking than anything else on the PS2 in 2001. It could also be cleared in a little over 2 minutes – if you knew what you were doing. However, this isn’t how everyone played it. Many people played the game time and time again, just to experience everything hidden within, or just to be in control of something that impressive (or in some cases, just to spend more time with Snake, the game’s hero – or so we thought in 2001).

All told, many people (myself included) spent more time learning the ins and outs of that trial edition, shaving precious seconds off that clear time – than they spent playing Zone of the Enders. And ZOE wasn’t bad either – just not as compelling as 2 minutes 20 seconds with Snake. Repeatedly.

(To see this in action watch the first 3 minutes of the video below – the Trial Edition ended the moment you took down Olga on the deck of the ship).

Compared with the 2 minutes of MGS2: Trial Edition, Ground Zeroes’ 2 hours seems pretty generous. When you factor in the hidden easter eggs that have a tendency to be all over Metal Gear games, an open world structure to explore and a variety of side quests to approach in different ways – Kojima Productions and Konami could have something pretty special for us.

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Keeping with tradition: Ground Zeroes is one of the best looking games on any platform.

However, until the gaming world remembers that a hell of a lot can be achieved in 2 hours and that in gaming (and entertainment media in general) its always quality that wins out over quantity – there could be a lot of people missing out on an awesome experience because of this – so called – controversial length.

 

 
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