Tim (McDonald): For what is possibly the first time in a Port Impressions piece, we’re doing a joint piece. Gosh.
We’d like to do this more often than we actually do – it’d be nice to post up how games run on multiple systems, not least because Peter has an AMD card and I run Nvidia – but it usually doesn’t happen, because of time or limited code or other such reasons. For Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, though, Peter and I are working together to give you multiple opinions.
There are reasons for this. For one thing, Ground Zeroes is only a tenner and I was planning on buying it anyway, so it wasn’t exactly a huge financial investment. For another, Peter is a Metal Gear virgin while I know that love can bloom even on the battlefield. For a third, I’ve already played Ground Zeroes on one of the Dirty Consoles. So between us, you’re getting the full gamut: a newbie and a veteran, an AMD machine and an Nvidia machine, and two entire sets of opinions and experiences.
Peter (Parrish): I have played some Metal Gear! The very first Metal Gear Solid, ’round a friend’s house when I was about 16. Which I guess means I’ve held hands with it or something. Basically I know who Solid Snake is and that’s about it. Anyway, before this metaphor gets any weirder we should rattle off our PC specs.
Here’s me: i3-2100 / 8GB / 2GB 7870HD. I will be representing somewhat lower end machines in this Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes port impressions piece. Also giving a vague idea how AMD cards hold up, since the Steam specs page for the game doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of AMD GPUs. For extra reference, I’m using the new Omega drivers.
Tim: And here’s me: i7-3820 / 16GB / GTX 670. I can’t actually remember how much memory my videocard has, which is quite embarrassing. Lots, probably!
Moving swiftly along so everybody forgets about that by the time they get to the comments… As is tradition, let’s start with a look at the options.
Peter: Go and look up your VRAM, you monster.
Tim: It’s 4GB. Happy now?
Peter: Yes. But more importantly the readers respect you again.
I didn’t take any screenshots from the options because for some reason Steam’s overlay was misbehaving in this game and F12 was utterly refusing to take screencaps. No idea why, and I didn’t yet manage to fix it. However, I did use FRAPS to get some later so we can see what things look like on medium-high settings.
Do you have a graphics options screen we can look at? That’s probably the most important one.
Tim: I actually had the same issue, sort of. It worked fine the first time I ran the game, and then broke. And then I restarted Steam and it worked fine again. So… it’s a mystery. But yes, I have screenshots aplenty.
Tim: That one there shows the range of options available, and a few of them are worth some extra words. The one you’re really interested in, though, is probably this one:
Tim: I’m always confused by some games having “Extra High” options when they don’t actually have “Low” options. Which, if memory serves, is the case for a few of them here.
Anyway, yes, I threw everything onto the absolute maximum. I don’t think there are any options particularly out of the ordinary there, although it’s interesting that Frame Rate can either be set to auto or locked to 30 – as far as I could see, there was no way to lock it to 60. So, “auto” it is. Lots of options to fiddle with, anyway, which is nice.
Anyway, I shoved everything up to EXTRA HIGH because I figured… well, why not?
Peter: I actually went back in and took a shot of my own graphics options, for later reference. This is what the game defaulted to for me and, as we shall see later, it seems to have chosen pretty well. Although maybe it just defaults to that for everybody, I don’t know.
As the FRAPS counter in the corner rather gives away, the game seems to be capped at 60fps (in the game too, not just the menus.) That doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but if you have a 120hz monitor and a monster-beast PC you’ll probably want to know such things.
Also, you’ll notice there aren’t really any separate Anti-Aliasing options. I’m fairly sure those are part of “Screen Filtering” – but so is Depth of Field, so you can’t set those to individual levels of your choosing. The AA seems a bit lax all round, really.
Peter: Should we talk about control options for a bit? There are a couple of different default gamepad layouts to choose from, or you can opt for mouse and keyboard. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes was not at all happy with my slightly off-brand 360 pad (but fine when I tested it with the real thing,) so possibly beware if you have some kind of third party device.
Tim, I’m sure you have some lovely control-based screenshots to share.
Tim: I do, but first I want to show off the most pointless sub-menu in the world. This is the Game Settings menu:
Tim: I’m sure they could’ve found another menu to put that one option into. Anyway, here are the Control Settings and Control Type menus:
Tim: Interesting fact #1: I didn’t have a 360 controller plugged in when I took those screenshots. Interesting fact #2: can you see how to change the keybinds? No, neither can I. That’s because the keybinds aren’t in either of the menu options containing the word “Controls”.
Initially, I thought you actually had to use a gamepad to play the game itself. It turns out that, no, it actually works fine with mouse and keyboard – it’s just that the control menus, barring the Mouse Sensitivity option, don’t really give you any indication of this at all.
It’s the option labelled as “Key Assigments” in the graphics/game/everything settings list. Having it listed separate from “control type” and “control settings” is a bit weird though. Anyway, good news, you can redefine and reassign most of the keys (I don’t think you can alter the interrogation option prompts) in this menu.
Tim: It’s not that hard to spot, truthfully, but you would honestly think it’d be put in with one of the “control” menus rather than, y’know, being an entirely separate option. A minor complaint, but it’s still a wee bit irritating.
Anyway! I actually found Ground Zeroes entirely playable with mouse and keyboard. It’s definitely a port rather than having controls redefined for the PC, insofar as there’s still a reliance on holding buttons down to do different things rather than just mapping them to something else – you still hold crouch to go prone, for instance. Reload is R, and pick up a gun is R, and pick up a body is R, and drop a body is R, when – again – you could almost certainly have shifted at least some of those around to a different “interact” button. That’s not really a big issue, though.
Tim: It functions about as well as any third-person game does, which is to say that it’s perhaps not quite as tuned for mouse and keyboard as it is for gamepads, but in return you get more precise aiming and camera movement. Speaking as someone who has exclusively played the PC version on mouse and keyboard I’d suggest that gamepad is probably the “better” way to play, but unlike something like Dark Souls, the native PC controls are totally serviceable.
Peter: Doing interrogations of guards is especially awkward on mouse and keys, because you first have to hold down the left mouse to get into the choke-hold “do you want to knock this guy out, kill them or interrogate?” then press Q to get to the interrogation options. At this point it brings up a couple of options you can only select by pressing one of the cursor-arrow keys. To do that you pretty much need to let go of the mouse entirely, because you still need to be holding down Q and nobody has hands that large.
I mean, you get used to it, but it’s a bit annoying. Like you though, I found it pretty playable on keys.
Tim: According to the key assignments, the interrogation options (Spit it out, Call ’em, etc) are actually also bound to 1, 2, and 3 along the top of the keyboard. So that’s not too bad. That’s also where the weapon selections are, but again, that’s slightly odd – you cycle through them by pressing those buttons, so if you want to use a hand grenade, or a flare, or throw an empty magazine, you have to tap 3 repeatedly. It’s not a terrible system (I mean, Half-Life did the same thing!) but there’s no quick indication of how many presses you need to get to any given option.
Peter: Fair enough, using 1, 2, and 3 does work better – although you then have to remember which button corresponds to which command, because it won’t show you a prompt. Minor problem, but hey.
The controls are pleasingly quite tight overall, except when Snake/Big Boss/Whoever is dashing about. Then he gets quite … flighty about being maneuvered around the place or into cover. That may be intentional though, replicating the momentum of a dash or whatever.
But enough of this for now, the people want to know if Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes can hold 60fps and stuff. How does your PC fare at mega-max settings?
No, that’s actually not an exaggeration. I can’t honestly fault it. I skipped over the opening cutscene because I’ve seen it a couple of times before, so I have no idea whether that was running at 30FPS or 60FPS or what, but the game itself was pretty much running at a constant 60.
It started off at 50FPS when you first get control of Big Boss, but whenever I checked thereafter it was at 60, no matter what was going on or what massive view I was trying to take in. I’m assuming it was just loading a few bits and pieces in at the very start.
Before we get into what I actually think of what I’ve played so far, though, how did things fare on yours?
Peter: I did watch the opening scene (since I hadn’t seen it,) and those are at 60.
The rest of the game actually ran really well. Remember, I was using the medium-high mix in the screencap higher up this article, but it would hold 60 in more remote parts of the base and, at worst, dip to about 45 when inside and looking at busier parts. The dips were also pretty … smooth, if that makes sense. I don’t know if the Fox Engine is doing something clever with frame management or what, but it was never especially jarring when it lost 60fps (which it can be in other games.) I haven’t yet messed about with other settings to attempt a solid 60 everywhere, because I’ve honestly not really felt the need to do so.
Out of interest I stuck everything on “Extra High” and found I could do that fine with the frame-rate locked at 30. So with Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes it really is a straight case of whether I’d prefer the higher frame-rate or the slightly nicer graphics (personally, I favour the former.)
Actually, here’s a bit of a comparison of med-high vs extra high in roughly the same location from the opening of the game’s main mission.
Peter: I’ve even read people with fairly modest laptops reporting that the game runs surprisingly well (albeit at 1280×720) for them. It seems very well optimised, which should indicate great things for The Phantom Pain.
Tim: So I think we’re largely agreed that it’s a pretty solid port – no pun intended. Runs well on a variety of systems, has a number of fiddly options, and is entirely playable without a gamepad. It doesn’t exactly look phenomenal (particularly either in close-ups where you can really see the textures, or in some distance shots where – for instance – the ground textures look a bit off) but it’s certainly no slouch in that department. I mean, you’d be hard pressed to say it looks bad.
I’ve had a pretty good time playing it, too. I burned through the “game” in about 40 minutes, but then I’ve done it before, and there are plenty of side-missions and replayability. Whether or not that’s enough is something we’ll talk about in the full review, but…
Okay, look, when I went through on the console, I was all sneaky and stealthy. On the PC, I was trying to figure out the keyboard controls and got spotted almost immediately. What followed was a ridiculous 10-minute chase around pretty much the entire map, which culminated in my putting Flight of the Valkyries on the in-game cassette player, hijacking an AA gun, and blasting at everything in sight until a grenade took me down.
In (ostensibly) a stealth game.
Peter: This ended up happening in my play-through:
Peter: I was being stealthy before that point.
Yeah, I have plenty of praise and not too many complaints about this port at all. I’d prefer Depth of Field and AA to be separate options, and for the DoF to be a little bit less insane (sometimes it seems to blur out Big Boss in the foreground for no particular reason) but beyond that and some of the slight idiosyncrasies of the keyboard controls it feels and plays like a fine piece of work. I’m especially impressed with how it performs on my PC, relative to the suggested specs.
It even makes a pretty good effort to fill newbies like me in on the Metal Gear Solid back-story (or … future story, in some cases, since this is based in 1975.) That’s basically an impossible task, but I appreciate the attempt.
Tim: Don’t feel bad. Literally nobody understands Metal Gear Solid 2.
Peter: If it had been released a couple of weeks earlier, I think Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes would’ve been a solid nomination in our “Best PC Port” Reader Awards. Well done, Konami.