Thanks to the invisible handcuffs of the dreaded embargo, I'm not allowed to give you our score for Ground Zeroes yet. That comes in two weeks.
With that said, MGS: Ground Zeroes is one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I've had for a while. After using – and coming to rely on – the camouflage systems of MGS 3 and 4, it's interesting to get back to some old-school infiltration, and the open-ended nature of Ground Zeroes make doing so a joy.
In a lot of ways, GZ plays similarly to Far Cry 3, thanks to the prevalence of hostiles, the open nature of the stage, and your available choices within it. Your mission - well, one of them, which we'll get to in a minute - is to infiltrate a Guantanamo-style US blacksite, rescue your buddies from torture, and then get out.
To do so, you've got to navigate both the environment (there are far more options for exploiting vertical spaces, with rock faces and climbable buildings to hide on top of) and the guards themselves. There's no Soliton radar: instead, you tag enemies with binoculars. From then on you can see their movements just by looking in their direction, even through walls. There's also a 'Reflex' mode, whereupon getting spotted slows time and gives you a precious few seconds
Despite these new toys, the mission itself isn't overly simple or easy. The differences in both natural terrain and the buildings (encompassing simple tents to underground bunkers and massive control towers) need care and attention paid to them when executing your sneaking mission. You may be able to recover from being seen with Reflex, but with guards often working their (expansive) routes in pairs you'll probably not get both of them down before backup is called, especially if you're using a tranquiliser gun, an unsilenced weapon, or are seen just as you round a corner.
Besides, the actual stealth is as engaging as it always has been, made moreso by the superb engine that powers the game. The initial Ground Zeroes mission takes place at night, in the rain, and Snake is so beautifully animated, the world so well-realised - lovely weather effects tie in with exceptional sound design, superb texture work, and a solid framerate - that going loud feels rude.
It's a world that wants you to spend time working it out, and you won't need much encouragement to do so. Comparing it to earlier games in the series, it feels like the original two games' stealth via MGS3's more open play areas, navigated via an improved take on part 4's controls. Hiding in flatbed trucks, diving to cover in some bushes, calling in helicopter airvacs while hiding out from ever-advancing enemy patrol states: you'll do all this and more, and slight fiddliness of control and frustration at getting spotted aside, you'll enjoy every minute.