Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
When Metal Gear Survive was first revealed, it really marked the significant change that Konami would be making to the series. It was no longer going to be Hideo Kojima’s pride and joy, but rather a series that would be doing things a bit differently, and perhaps not necessarily in a good way. I would be lying if I said that I was enamoured by the game’s reveal, and I certainly would’ve rather seen another sneaking mission. We got a survival-sim instead – it was destined to fail, right?
Actually, no. It works, and it shows that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’s gameplay perfectly complements the survival aspects that are so popular in gaming right now. Don’t get me wrong, it has its flaws, but those who give Metal Gear Survive a try might find themselves pleasantly surprised by the whole experience.
Remember at the end of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes when the Motherbase is attacked and nearly all of Big Boss’ army is killed? Well, did you know that those soldiers aren’t actually dead, but instead got sucked into a wormhole and sent to another dimension in the strange world of Dite? That’s the concept of Metal Gear Survive, and figuring out what’s going on and how to get back home is the goal. It’s better than being burned to ashes and rubbed over Big Boss’ face, I suppose…
So the story is weird as hell, but a different kind of weird to that which we’ve seen in the Metal Gear series in the past. Kojima seemed to have a method to his madness, whereas Metal Gear Survive’s whole ‘different dimension’ thing is just ridiculously bizarre, almost for the sake of it. Perhaps it’s a good bizarre though; the whole concept of the game is incredibly out there, so having it take place in an alternate world where it doesn’t affect (or isn’t shackled by) the tales of Big Boss and Les Enfants Terribles is almost a redeeming factor. At the same time though, knowing it’s a bit of nothing and that it’s insignificant in the grand scheme of Metal Gear’s lore made it the first entry in the series where I’ve not found myself invested in the narrative at all.
At least the game itself is enjoyable though. As if the name wasn’t a clue, Metal Gear Survive plays more like a survival-sim than one of ‘tactical espionage action’ – you’ll be gathering items and resources, crafting, keeping your thirst and hunger regulated, and constantly improving your base in order to survive.
The crafting itself is solid, with a myriad of defensive units and weaponry to put together. Nearly everything in the game needs to be crafted, whether it the countless melee weapons you’ll be using to take down your foes, the ranged weapons, or even items to keep you safe. Resource gathering plays a big role in improving your base too, and believe me – it’s vital when trying to get through some of the game’s tough later sections.
There are RPG-like mechanics in place too, with the player able to level up their character and improve their skillset as they work through the game. Metal Gear Survive can be an incredibly tough game, with it bordering on being completely unforgiving during the opening hours, so adapting your character’s abilities with the aspects of the game that you struggle with most is an absolute must if you want to see it through to its conclusion.
You’re going to die a lot in Metal Gear Survive either way though, whether it’s because of the onslaught of enemies that come your way or due to the scarcity of resources. The worst thing is, it’s most common whilst you’re learning the ins-and-outs of the game and all of its intricate survival mechanics – seriously, you probably won’t properly adjust to the game until you’ve spent at least five hours or so with it, and you would’ve met your end a lot during that time. There’s no hand holding here, and that ruthless touch demands patience and perseverance from the player – the problem is, it demands this before it gets a chance to show off all of the good elements of the game properly. I wouldn’t be surprised if a ton of players started playing, had a tough time, and just gave up on it completely.
It doesn’t help that each death is punished severely. You have a base of operations in the game that acts like a spot of solace, but it’s also essentially a checkpoint – if you head out adventuring and die, you’ll lose all of your progress from when you last stopped by the base. Whilst this might not always be a large amount of time, there were occasions where I’d lose hours of play. It’s frustrating, incredibly punishing, and, as mentioned, it’s something you’ll witness a lot of during your early time with the game.
As you progress and get used to the game though (as well as becoming properly equipped), you’ll find it a lot easier. That death count will drop a lot, and whilst it’s still punishing, it’s not as common an occurrence – in fact, the threat of losing everything actually emphasises the ‘survive’ part of Metal Gear Survive and almost betters the whole thing. Improving your skillset, equipment, and base of operations sees the game become a hell of a lot easier to play, and in turn more enjoyable. It just takes a fair bit of time (and a lot of perseverance) to get to that point to begin with.
The thing is, once you do get stuck in you’ll get to experience a lot of the core gameplay that made Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain so brilliant. Metal Gear Survive is built with the FOX Engine, so the visuals, gunplay, sneaking elements and gameplay in general feel just the same. Sure, there are plenty of changes in place thanks to the game’s shift to a survival-style experience, but a lot of the hallmarks of what made the last game so great are present throughout. On a personal note, I was a big fan of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain so I’m still riding high on it a bit anyway, but I genuinely think that the gameplay elements that made it such an enjoyable game lend themselves perfectly to Metal Gear Survive’s style of play.
Being in the bizarre world of Dite, you can expect to see a different kind of foe to Metal Gear’s typical selection of military or PMC soldiers – instead, your prime foe are strange zombie creatures with crystal-like mutations known as Wanderers. They attack in the dozens, and believe me, if they catch you in a bad spot and outnumber you you’re as good as dead. As you progress through the game you’ll encounter a larger range of enemies too, and in fairness they live up to the creativity found in foes of the series’ past. They’re deadly, clever, and utilise the weird and wonderful as they look to bring your life to a swift end.
Unfortunately, whilst the enemies are typically a deadly threat, they can also be incredibly dumb. I mean, REALLY dumb. Since they focus on melee based attacks, it’s easy to exploit enemies by standing slightly out of reach of them. Do this, and they’ll constantly run into a wall or object with no means of actually reaching out at you – they just aimlessly run on the spot and leave themselves vulnerable to the prod of a melee attack from the player. It happened on plenty of occasions in-game for me, and whilst I wouldn’t normally want to take advantage of such a cheap exploit, the dire consequences of death often made it the best approach to take. Of course, it’s not always the case and as mentioned, if cornered your enemies can absolutely annihilate you – just know that it’s definitively case of ‘brawn over brains’ as far as their intellect is concerned.
As long as you’re in your base, you’re typically safe from any enemies. However, as soon as you venture out into ‘The Dust’ you’ll find yourself in incredibly deadly territory. It’s in The Dust where most of the action takes place, with the main story missions as well as resource-gathering expeditions found in the hazardous area. Besides the enemies you encounter though, you’re a lot more vulnerable there anyway; visibility is much lower, whilst you’ll also need to maintain your oxygen to go along with your hunger and thirst. Metal Gear Survive simply pulls no punches in giving the player a hard time.
The missions themselves are good though and there’s plenty of variety and story progression to be found in them. It’d have been easy to think that Metal Gear Survive was primarily a multiplayer experience given how Konami promoted it, but you’ll quickly find that the bulk of the gameplay is based around solo play. Other players can join you at any time, of course, but it’s certainly possible to play through the entire game without having to be joined by anyone else.
Playing in co-op does have some solid perks though. The missions mainly take on a wave-based shooting form, with players working together to defend a point from an onslaught of incoming enemies. It’s a simple set up and its fun enough, but it’s with the rewards where you’ll get the most satisfaction. It’s a great way to improve your inventory, which is perfect given how tough the single player experience can be. Even if you think you prefer playing on your own, I’d definitely recommend giving the co-op side of Metal Gear Survive a try.
One of the things about Metal Gear Survive that I really appreciated was the horror vibe that the game has throughout. The series has tinkered with frightening elements in the past, but at times this is more in-line with the likes of Konami’s Silent Hill than anything else. The locations you explore all have an unsettling presence to them thanks to their constant array of noises and strange sights to keep you on the edge of your seat – the fact that you’re constantly worried about dying and losing your progress adds to the tense atmosphere too, and when partnered with a genuinely creepy world it really makes for a daunting yet thoroughly satisfying experience.