Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes - Extra Op: Jamais Vu

When Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes first came out on March 18, 2014, it was a big deal that the PlayStation and Xbox versions of the game would both be getting exclusive content in the form of an Extra Op. For the former it would be Déjà Vu and for the latter it would be Jamais Vu. During my review, I covered what goes on in the Déjà Vu mission, with Big Boss recreating moments from Metal Gear Solid on Camp Omega, as well as find logos for the other games and make them disappear with a special light. It was unknown at the time if the exclusive missions would make it to the other consoles until on May 1, 2014, where the missions were finally patched into the other version. More recently, I finally found out how that worked and popped in my PS3 copy of the game to find out just what Jamais Vu was like. For the most part I’m glad I finally got to play it, but I’m not sure I missed too much of anything.

Before I begin, I also want to point out that this will count as a DLC review, since, as far as I know, this content did not originally exist on the disc.

During the loading screen, the player is treated to a text narration discussing possibilities within our universe. Our galaxy consists of about 300 billion stars; about half of these are orbited by planets and on average two planets per star have the conditions to support life, so it is entirely possible that the universe is home to a myriad of life forms. The sorts of intelligence that might develop on these worlds are beyond our imagination, but we also cannot say that our universe is the only one. At the quantum level, Schrodinger’s Cat, where the cat is simultaneously alive and dead, is in effect until a wavefunction collapses under observation. During this observation, these two possibilities branch off into new worlds until the universe splits infinitely. If the universe continues to split into infinity, it is possible that it will eventually recreate scenes from the past, and if it played out differently, then our reality wouldn’t be negated, but a new future would be created out of that paradox. This is one possible story in one possible universe, born of paradox, after paradox, after paradox…

After that justification of this non-canon Extra Op, the mains story is thus: A soviet commuter jet crashed near Camp Omega and something came out of the wreckage before telecommunications blacked out for 24 hours. After this period of time, their report was a suspicious “conditions normal” before ceasing communication. It was confirmed later that the base had been taken over by body-snatchers, referred to as “Snatchers”, who killed most of the soldiers there and stole their identities. Due to their suspicions, the CIA hires the Militaires Sans Frontières (MSF) to investigate and eliminate the Snatchers on the base. As explained by Kazuhira Miller, the mission is too great for Big Boss to handle, so they end up hiring a time-travelling cyborg named Raiden to take care of the Snatchers, as his body would be immune to their abilitites. In exchange, MSF will give Raiden all of the XOF patches that they have previously collected (the mission, like Déjà Vu, becomes available upon getting all nine XOF badges in the main game). Thus, on the day of XX/XX/XXXX at 00:01, Raiden is dropped into Camp Omega to begin his mission.

How you know you've found a Snatcher.

What I like about this story is that while it does end up amounting to “it’s an alternate universe”, the narration goes out of its way to explain exactly how something like this would be plausible in the world of Metal Gear trough the application of real world science. It’s fascinating really, since one aspect I love about the series in general is how detail-oriented it is (despite the occasional retcons of course). I find the idea fascinating in general though that Raiden, as he appears in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, can even be in the same place and time as Big Boss. Not only that, but the plot being inspired by both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and a previous Hideo Kojima game, Snatcher, also isn’t that bad of a concept, since in a military base it would be terrifying to not know if you can trust someone you work with all of the time. So, as far as concepts go, this premise is very creative and out there (in a good way), although the execution would be difficult to discuss since after being dropped into Camp Omega, the gameplay takes over.

Between the parent game and this Extra Op, the gameplay is largely the same, with Raiden capable of greater stealth than in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. However, Raiden also retains his Ninja Run technique from his own game, making it easier to run away and reload when necessary (although you can still totally die if you’re not careful). Also, rather than use his sword, Raiden instead uses guns in order to lethally take care of the Snatchers. This ties in pretty well with the gameplay of Ground Zeroes and allows Raiden access to relevant weaponry, although I couldn’t help but feel that it would have been more interesting in a way if Raiden could use his skills from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, including the Zandatsu, or if the mission was more geared towards his type of action. It felt in some ways like playing as Snake but with Raiden’s body and Ninja Run ability, so some more variety would have been welcome. I also didn’t like that the mission ends in a drawn out firefight, but this would have been the perfect opportunity to introduce more of Raiden’s abilities (then again, Miller does tell Raiden that while he does have regenerative fuel cells, the soldiers of Camp Omega wouldn’t have any more) or take more advantage of him being a separate character.

Raiden takes the stealth approach this time around.

Beyond this though, I found that some small touches made the mission more fun overall. The first time you aim at a soldier and identify that he is a Snatcher, for instance, the MSX version of “Creeping Silence” from Snatcher will play. In addition, there are plenty of references to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, including the appearance of specific tracks from that game being a part of the mission’s soundtrack and the chopper that drops Raiden down bearing the Platinum Games logo on the fuselage. This is one of those cases where the little touches help sell an idea.

I’d also like to bring up something about the voice acting. There’s nothing really wrong with the performances, but I did find it odd what they did with Raiden. After the ending, one of the credits listed is Keifer Sutherland for Snake, even though Snake doesn’t even speak during the whole mission. It seems that what they did for Raiden was they took voice clips from Snake related to interrogation and applied heavy filters to make it sound robotic so that it nearly matches the voice Quinton Flynn had in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, but I honestly feel it would have been more authentic, and believable, if they actually got Quinton Flynn to record those lines himself.

Having not been able to play the Jamais Vu mission until now, I feel satisfied in my knowledge of what the previously Xbox-exclusive Extra Op entailed. Being able to play as Raiden is a neat incentive and the non-canon story actually has a fascinating idea and explanation behind it. While the references to other games are fun and it’s interesting to play as Raiden in Camp Omega, it might have benefitted from going all the way with the character, down to having Quinton Flynn voicing him. In any case, I’d encourage PlayStation users to give this mission a try, since now some additional replay value has been added to the main game. In the end, it’s a flawed, but still pretty fun addition to an already great game.

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