Metal Gear Survive Review Love Won’t Bloom on This Battlefield
After being out for a day and some change, the discourse I’ve seen so far on Metal Gear Survive has ping-ponged back and forth between, “Wait, it’s out?” and, “LOL, it doesn’t work.” This game launched with very little fanfare or marketing, and wouldn’t even function for the first several hours of its life due to a bizarre error that cut the game off from its servers, rendering it unplayable. But I eventually managed to dig in and found myself asking the same question everyone else is: “Why?” Why does Metal Gear Survive exist and, perhaps more importantly, what does it do to justify its existence regardless of politics and industry drama? While I won’t accuse the game of being a shameless cash-grab, I will point to its overwrought systems and banal microtransactions and call it cynical anyway.
Metal Gear Survive is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a survival game loosely tied to the Metal Gear series, built on the Fox Engine and peppered with occasional nods, references, and ultimately bizarre connections to the core narrative. The bulk of the game is spent scrambling from one mission objective to the other, with the player doing everything they can to keep their crucial meters above the red all the way there and back. Sometimes there’s combat, but the real enemy is staying full, hydrated, and healthy.
Metal Gear Survive ’s story, of sorts, starts roughly where Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes ends. Big Boss flees the Mother Base as it’s destroyed, leaving countless loyal bodies behind. You play as a custom avatar-slash-soldier under Big Boss who gets left behind, is sucked into a portal, but also dies and is brought back to life or something. You get sent into a different portal by a government agent that leads to an alternate dimension, where most of Earth has been ravaged by zombies with glowing red crystals for heads. This is honestly less weird in the context of Metal Gear than it sounds, but it’s still pretty obvious the whole deal is a wacky excuse to do something goofy with the license without upsetting the fans who care deeply about the lore and canon.
Once dropped off, it’s all about survival, both in sustenance and in not being murdered by “Wanderers.” You meet up with a generic, angry soldier man, and an AI device with two different personalities tells you how the game works and where to go next. The first several hours are spent on tutorials, introducing each system or part of the game one by one, stretching out the campaign as thinly as possible. It’s a drag, and a drag that compounds some serious problems Metal Gear Survive suffers from. Especially early on, while the core Metal Gear Solid V mechanics still feel pretty good and the piles of systems slapped on top of it for this game don’t.
Metal Gear Solid is, fundamentally, a stealth game. It’s about sneaking around, avoiding direct combat, and using your environment to outsmart your enemies. In Metal Gear Survive , you’re mostly dealing with mindless zombies, and the game is more concerned about you picking up materials and crafting things than doing traditional Metal Gear things. Most encounters with enemies are in groups that seem haphazardly grouped and placed, and it’s impossible to tell how the game wants you to approach them. Guns are meant to be conserved until critical moments, and to compensate there are now tons of melee options. But all of these offerings are sluggish at best, despite often being the most efficient way of dealing with Wanderers.
So much of Metal Gear Survive is spent trying to be stealthy, then herding groups of zombies into bottlenecks so you can poke at their heads awkwardly with a spear until they’re all dead. Then you have to loot their bodies for points you need to craft items and level up your skills. There isn’t really much of a sense of a play loop; the whole ordeal feels like you’re bumbling around and reacting to things, made all the more agonizing by the actual survival mechanics.
There are three major survival systems or meters in place here: hunger, thirst, and oxygen. The first two constantly deplete no matter what you’re doing, and affect maximum health and stamina respectively. Eating and drinking of course makes it better for a while, but if you don’t clean your water or cook your meat, you run the risk of getting sick. Of course Metal Gear Survive hates you and wants you to die, so it doesn’t give you what you need to be able to go out, get what you need, come back, and replenish/prepare to go back out again.
Metal Gear Survive Review
Instead, it’s a constant struggle between surviving, getting to the next objective, and not ever having sufficient information. Food sources are bizarrely scarce, you don’t gain the ability to clean water until hours into the game (which is quiet and easy to miss), and information on how things work and what you should expect is never as clear or accessible as it should be. In a game like Don’t Starve , I understand my objectives clearly, and the game gives me ways to get what I need to scrape by, leaving the rest up to strategy and a little bit of luck. In Metal Gear Survive , I felt at the mercy of forces I didn’t understand. Animals I could hunt rarely spawned on the map, and I would often starve to death on the way back from a mission after not encountering a single bit of food on the way. And then there’s oxygen.
Much of the map in Metal Gear Survive is covered in Dust, a poisonous substance. To get through it, you need an oxygen tank, and obviously there’s a countdown for how long you can use it. It makes sense, and you can find ways to replenish it in a pinch. But the dust itself obscures your vision and even kills your map waypoints. You can’t see anything but the lights on certain points of interest, and it’s super easy to get lost. Metal Gear Survive is often a game of dying on the way back to home base after finding an objective, unless you have a good enough memory to know exactly which way to go to blindly make your way back.
After searching through forums and other spots to see how other players were finding the game, I ran into similar frustrations. It got to the point where some players discovered that saving and quitting Metal Gear Survive forces the animals to respawn, which makes trudging through the early parts of the game much more bearable. Sure, survival games are supposed to be difficult. But they also need to be fair, especially when there are so many other options in the genre.
Of course, we can’t forget to talk about the online component of Metal Gear Survive . After all, an Internet connection is required to play, even in single-player. Co-op missions are essentially the game’s horde mode, where you have a few minutes in-between each wave of Wanderers to fortify your defenses around a certain target. It feels like a bonus arcade mode, rather than an integral part of the game, or something interchangeable with single-player. But of course, there is also a premium currency that can be purchased and used to make things easier on the player, which more than likely explains the online requirement better than anything else might.
Metal Gear Survive feels like a prototype, an idea on paper that was quickly turned into a game and strapped to a retail rocket without proper consideration of what the Metal Gear name means to people. Konami has every right to use the IP and FOX Engine tool of course, and frankly there’s no reason not to. Kojima didn’t make all the Metal Gear games by himself. But this feels like the team dumped a bunch of menu-based systems on top of the mechanics, without figuring out why and how they should all work together. It is like they were looking to other games in the genre for ideas, then adding extra complexity for the sake of standing out a bit. It’s part dull, part frustrating, and part utterly confusing. In short, Metal Gear Survive is just another middling survival game, with a name-drop that doesn’t do it any favors.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Fine in terms of fidelity, but there are dull environments and enemies, limited character options, and glitches. 3.0 Control
Core controls from Metal Gear Solid V remain solid, but all the additions, such as crafting, melee weapons, and base-building, feel awkward and stilted. 2.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music quietly hides in the background, voice acting is generic, and nothing stands out. 2.0 Play Value
Multiplayer doesn’t offer much extra novelty; there more modes to come in the future, but it’s hard to say if the game will last much longer than the story. 3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best