Metal Gear Survive Review
Metal Gear Survive Cover Art
System: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Dev: Konami
Pub: Konami
Release: February 20, 2018
Players: 1-4 Player
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Violence, Blood, Language
Love Won’t Bloom on This Battlefield
by Lucas White

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 Screenshot

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. InMetal 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.

Metal Gear Survive Screenshot

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.

Metal Gear Survive Screenshot

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.

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