‘Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes’
Sony PlayStation 3 (Xbox 360)
ESRB rating: Mature
Review rating: 4.0 stars
I started losing interest in the Metal Gear Solid franchise when it became obvious that more effort was put into creating the cut scenes than actual game play. I prefer playing video games rather than interactive stories, so I was delighted to discover that game play takes precedence in “Metal Gear Solid V.”
Unfortunately, “MGSV: The Phantom Pain” won’t be available for at least another year, so Konami has released an extended demo of sorts in the form of “Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.” This game is extremely short if you only play the main mission, but several side missions become available after the main mission is completed.
Replay value is the name of this open-world stealth game, and I hope other developers take notice. Adding side missions that unlock after the game is completed isn’t groundbreaking, but unlocking new gear and other cool features when these missions are completed gives even more incentive to explore the open world. As a result, this is the first stealth game where I wanted to explore the environment as much as complete the missions.
And what an impressive environment the U.S. Naval prison known as Omega Base is! In addition to the main complex, this sprawling locale features a wide variety of buildings and holding cages to investigate. Natural dips and small peaks help players navigate certain areas unnoticed, but the open flat areas are much more of a challenge.
Infiltrating a military base in previous “MGS” games was difficult, but now players have to contend with advanced A.I. that notices inconsistencies and responds when soldiers don’t check in. Soldiers follow obvious routes, but they can change their behavior at any time and frequently check over their shoulder.
Add several new features along with solid gun play, and “Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes” makes me anxious to play the full game!
‘Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z’
Microsoft Xbox 360 (PS3)
ESRB rating: Mature
Review rating: 1.5 stars
“Ninja Gaiden” is one of my all-time favorite action adventure series, thanks to extremely advanced combat, gorgeous visuals and challenging enemies. Unfortunately, “Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z” is a reboot of the series that only got the challenge part right. I guess that’s what happens when a series creator leaves and the company tries to cash in on the brand name.
The only thing that ties this game to previous “Ninja Gaiden” titles is the inclusion of Ryu Hyabusa in the story. Ryu disappears after slicing another ninja named Yaiba Kamikaze in half, and the slain enemy is reborn as a cyborg ninja who vows revenge. Then the entire game takes an abrupt turn and revolves around fighting a seemingly endless supply of zombies, but what do you expect when the title contains the standalone letter “Z?”
I really like the cel-shaded visuals that look great and make me feel like I’m playing a comic book. The action is fast and fluid, and by “fluid” I mean crimson body fluids splatter the surroundings, especially when appendages are removed. It’s intentionally over the top and juvenile, much like the constant f-bombs dropped by Yaiba himself. I wouldn’t be surprised if the idea for this game came from a drunken fraternity brainstorming session.
Sadly, the combat doesn’t make up for the linear game play and boring zombie-slayer premise. It isn’t even remotely as elaborate as what’s found in previous “Ninja Gaiden” entries, and much of the time it devolves into button mashing and executions to power up special moves. However, Yaiba’s robotic arm does provide some variety in the form of cool moves such as rocket punches.
If more effort had been focused on interesting combat rather than attempting to make the grittiest reboot possible, “Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z” might have actually been fun.