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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

R16: violence and offensive language

Spoiler alert

This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this game.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes poster

Date registered: 15/12/2013

About the game

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is the latest in a long series of games that debuted in 1987. The game is set in Cuba in 1975.

The player controls a soldier named Big Boss whose mission is to rescue comrades from a US military detention facility using a combination of stealth and military combat. The game is predominantly played in third-person perspective with an adjustment to first-person perspective when looking down the scope of a weapon when killing opponents. In contrast to earlier games in the series that were linear, this game engages the player in an open world environment allowing for a lot more flexibility when completing missions.

Gameplay - Big Boss gets a look at the detention facility

Classification criteria: Horror

The game briefly deals with matters of horror in regard to a scene in which Big Boss and his associates open a young woman's stomach in order to remove a bomb that was previously planted inside her.

Gameplay - torturing a female character

Classification criteria: Violence

The game deals with the infliction of serious physical harm and acts of significant cruelty to a high extent but moderate degree. The game's main premise is killing the enemy using a degree of strategy while avoiding being killed. It requires the player to engage in close quarter combat against enemy soldiers and the use of weapons to kill them at greater distances.

Close quarter combat requires the player to creep up behind enemy soldiers to either interrogate, knockout or kill them. If the player chooses to kill the soldier, Big Boss stabs the man in the throat. Other means of killing include the player breaking the neck of an opponent with a rear choke hold or slitting their throat.

Gameplay - breaking the neck of an opponent

Classification criteria: Highly offensive language

The game contains a low extent of highly offensive language. The limited use of this language in the context of a combat game is not likely to have much impact on mature game players, but is another reason why the game would be harmful to younger players.

Gameplay - Big Boss and his comrades

Decision summary

The dominant effect of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a big-budget, sophisticated stealth combat game. The unrestricted availability of the console game is likely to be injurious to the public good because of its treatment of violence and, to a lesser extent, cruelty.

The game's emphasis on killing enemy soldiers with the use of CQC and modern weaponry is likely to shock or disturb children and younger teens. The game has the effect of trivialising violence through presenting it as entertaining and exciting. Constant exposure to these killings, in which the player is rewarded as an active participant, has the potential in children and younger teens to lead to a desensitisation towards violent behaviour in real life. Older teenagers and adults are more able to put this kind of material in the context of an entertaining combat game.

Consideration of the game's highly offensive language also leads to the conclusion that a restriction of the availability of the publication to older teenagers and adults is required.

Balancing these harms against the right to freedom of expression as set out in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, a restriction on the availability of the publication to older teenage and adult players would be the lowest reasonable restriction which could be applied in order to prevent injury to the public good.

Contact the Information Unit if you require further information on a classification decision.

R16 label
R16: violence and offensive language