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How MGS 5: Ground Zeroes tells its story like a TV series

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes will be the first game in the 15-year-old Metal Gear Solid franchise with open-world elements, and will serve as the prologue to the fully open-world title known as Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. But that doesn't mean Ground Zeroes is an extreme departure from the existing Metal Gear Solid games, at least not in the eyes of series creator Hideo Kojima. The way Kojima sees it is that with Ground Zeroes, he and developer Kojima Productions are bringing the franchise's hallmark of stealth action into the next generation.

"It is a stealth-action game, and I don't think that we are making any radical changes. Because I believe that we are making just the natural evolution of what stealth action is," said Kojima, director of Ground Zeroes, through a translator in an interview with members of the media earlier this week.

In Kojima's eyes, the open-world nature of Ground Zeroes is less significant than the idea that it's a more realistic infiltration game than its predecessors. As Kojima Productions has shown in previous demos, players will have much more freedom to plan and execute infiltration missions.

One element of Metal Gear Solid that will change as the series goes open-world in Ground Zeroes is its tendency to contain long cutscenes that break up gameplay sequences. According to Kojima, the developers of Ground Zeroes "try to stay away from any cutscenes that would take away the freedom the players would have."

And although the game will contain fewer cutscenes, Kojima compared it to one of the traditional mediums that cutscenes emulate: television. Instead of conveying the tale of Ground Zeroes through cutscenes, Kojima Productions is letting the infiltration missions — the stealth action gameplay itself — tell the story.

"Throughout one season, let's think of one mission as one episode. When you put all the episodes together — all the missions together — you'll find the main plot," Kojima explained to Polygon. "In a TV series, you'll always find one episode that is focused on sub-characters or whatnot, but when you put all that together, you'll [be able to] tell the main plot as well as several information elements that are scattered within each mission."

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes will be available next spring on PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The PS3 and PS4 versions will offer exclusive content, publisher Konami announced today. That comes in the form of a mission called "Déjà Vu," so named because it recreates a mission from 1998's original Metal Gear Solid. In addition, the add-on will allow users to play as pixelated PSOne-era Solid Snake in the 1080p Ground Zeroes universe.

You can check out four Déjà Vu screenshots in the gallery above and see a trailer below, as well as a 13-minute video containing the same Ground Zeroes footage we saw this week — it's an English version of the Tokyo Game Show 2013 demo.

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