When Metal Gear Survive was first announced, it was hard not to roll my eyes. At the time, Survival games had arguably hit their peak, with games like RUST and Conan Exiles and even ARK all dominating the space. While trends are arguably stepping away from the Survival genre, Metal Gear Survive now exists. It’s unfortunate though, as while there is some potential to be realised with the concept of Survive, it ultimately falls flat. In this game you’ll spend a majority of your time poking dead things with a stick. Metal Gear Survive is essentially Konami doing the same to a series that has lost its way.Metal Gear Survive picks up right after Big Boss’ base is destroyed at the end of Ground Zeroes. Once the man himself leaves the site, a wormhole opens above the base and sucks everything into it. As a random soldier from the base, you narrowly escape, but fall unconscious. Six months later, a shady research organization sends you to the place the wormhole took everything. A hellish alternate to MGS5’s Afghanistan populated by strange creatures, called Dite. Eventually, you’ll discover how they became that way and what the cause of all of this is.
Which is where my main complaints about Metal Gear Survive lies. The story doesn’t really need to go the places that it goes, but it does, and with little apology. It’s hard to talk about the plot without downright spoiling the entire experience, but the twists you’ll encounter towards the end of the story are so unexpected because they’re so outlandish to the point where it’s nonsense. We now know that Metal Gear Solid plays the king of retcons, but Survive is the jester, performing to an audience of joyless faces. As you’d expect from the name, Metal Gear Survive is an open world survival game. You’ll be thrown into a massive map, given a few missions to embark on here and there, and be tasked with micro-managing a multitude of metrics like thirst, hunger and even oxygen depending on where you are heading. The map is largely covered by “Dust”, a shady area where your radar doesn’t work properly, your map is near useless and enemies are more aggressive and higher levelled. Essentially, the gameplay loop has you preparing to enter the dust, completing some missions, getting back to your base and then repeating the process to earn higher level materials and defeat higher level enemies.
I must commend Metal Gear Survive for trying to be more than that though. When it was first revealed I thought it’d be a mindless battle royale style game with survival mechanics tacked on without care for balance. While the latter is still true, it’s slightly refreshing to see that Survive has a full story mode with set piece style boss battles and a conclusion that’s bound to be divisive. It’s just a bit of a shame that there’s so many systems to learn about here that the tutorial is very long and poorly paced. Essentially, the opening hours of Metal Gear Survive are slow and the few who do enjoy it will struggle to find their groove with the game initially.But if you’ll persist, you’ll discover that guns and sometimes combat in general is the wrong way to approach things. From the get-go you’ll be armed with a melee weapon that does a great job at defeating enemies through defense fortifications like fences and gates. Later, you’ll be introduced to creatures that can completely bypass these fortifications, requiring you to change up your strategy. A smart player in Survive will quickly realise just how worthless guns are, instead opting for a stealth approach. They’re just not cost-effective when weighing up everything else you could craft instead.
What’s most frustrating about Metal Gear Survive is that there is a decent game underneath it all. And why wouldn’t there be – it’s (ironically) salvaged from the corpse of it’s predecessor, The Phantom Pain. Everything that was great about Metal Gear Solid V is buried under an unsalvageable pile of junk. Junk that you’ll spend hours sifting through, systems that the game will constantly be demanding you attend to, objectives that you’ve completed a dozen times prior. It’s just a little bit too repetitive to be truly enjoyable. Once more, I acknowledge that some people absolutely love this kind of gameplay loop but Survive felt like more of a steady set of chores to complete rather than a fulfilling set of tasks.When you’re not playing the game solo through the story mode (though still, for some reason, required to be connected online) you can tackle salvage missions with friends online. These parts of the game were perhaps the most enjoyable for me as the survival aspects were slightly scaled back than in the main game. In them, you’ll fight wave after wave of enemies while collecting components you can take back with you to your main game. I was surprised to discover just how little the multiplayer mattered in Survive, though it seems like an experience ripe for expansion later down the track. Right now, it is a little bit barebones.
From a presentation standpoint, it’s hard to see Survives own accomplishments without comparing them to what came before it. Major characters in this game are merely retooled background NPCs from the previous game. The world of Dite is a repurposed version of Afghanistan, but somehow even less colourful. Repurposing assets for a spin-off can work at times (ie. Majora’s Mask) but here it just comes across as a little bit uninspired. There are some great aspects though, the way the wanderers animate and can literally topple a fence is great. Similarly, their macabre looking glowing crystals lodged in their skulls absolutely pop when playing in HDR. These minor strengths aside, Survive is a very barren and dull looking game.
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Metal Gear Survive had the potential to grow into something unique but now it’s just an uninspired mish-mash of poorly balanced systems that translates to an experience that feels like a chore. The story is frustrating, the only aspects that are great are the ones carried over from Metal Gear Solid 5 and the overall gameplay loop is monotonous. Metal Gear Survive ironically won’t survive the test of time, though in several years’ time you’ll probably not be able to play it anyway.