Metal Gear Survive Review
Out of the gate let’s be clear, there is no reason for this game to be a Metal Gear title; in turn many would argue it isn’t and/or is not worthy of the name. The former is absolutely true, the latter will depend on how bought in you are to the fairly consistent stream of hate that has been thrown at it since it was first announced. Fans of former employee and mastermind behind the Metal Gear series, Hideo Kojima, witnessed a rather public messy breakup and from that point forward everything Konami do with the series is going to get a lot of heated backlash, even if it isn’t terrible. So is this budget Metal Gear title an absolute disaster or is it actually decent and worth the time investment required to get the most out of it? The answer...well it’s a bit of both.
We will begin with the story, which for the most part deftly moves between way out of left field all the way across to absolutely ridiculous. Metal Gear Survive’s story by its own admission is pseudo historical and picks events up directly where Ground Zeroes finished, with you and Mother Base being sucked up into a wormhole to another dimension. You land on a barren wasteland of a planet called Dite where the population have been affected by a strange virus that turns them into mindless zombies with crystals for heads (yep, you read that correctly). A series of incredibly long and often baffling cutscenes ensue detailing how your initial objective is to simply survive as long as you can and get yourself back home.
Dusting yourself down following the abnormally long introduction, the game settles down into its first main stage: survival. The game, if you haven’t already got a inkling, is odd in both its story and its structure, therefore it’s worth making clear now that Metal Gear Survive can almost be broken down into its composite parts and it morphs as you progress through the single-player; the co-op we will come to later as that is a completely different beast. The bulk of the first ten or so hours is more or less dedicated to exploring and survival. You begin without the ability to produce anything for yourself and must venture out into the world to find food, water and much needed supplies to build anything you might need along the way. As with any decent survival game like Don’t Starve or State of Decay, supplies are limited, you are hugely vulnerable and it can be very challenging, and at times a little brutal. In these respects Metal Gear Survive is no different as it drip feeds you its systems and you learn how best to survive.
Food, water and after a little while oxygen gauges absolutely plague your experience early on, not helped by the always annoying computer voices telling you that your gauges are low, as if the constant flashing red number forever on the screen wasn’t enough. It’s all a little video gamey and detracts from any sense of tension; even when you are surrounded by enemies and running low on oxygen, the immersion is frankly obliterated by the nice computer lady suggesting you top up your oxygen for the nineteenth time in sixty seconds.
The main gameplay loop, at least for the first ten or so hours is purely based on survival comprising of finding kuban energy, food, water, parts, weapons, wormhole transporters (fast travel, basically), rescue missions to build your base crew and memory cards which are mainly used to push the story forward. Kuban energy is the main currency of the game and drives everything from building to crafting to levelling your character, and you are going to need a ton of it. It can be found by killing the (for the most part) dumb-as-rocks enemies and hacking it out of them (or sending them home, which is an option which unlocks later) or through finding Kuban clusters as you explore. This first chunk of the game is simply an average take on the survival genre, borderline repetitive and generally just a little bland. There isn’t a situation or a moment within these early stages which excels or makes Metal Gear Survive shine, and as a result it’s highly likely that these early hours will put quite a few people off. To completely dismiss it though isn’t being fair, as a little past the ten-hour mark the game completely morphs itself into something quite different, therefore to dismiss the game without experiencing this change wouldn’t give you the whole picture.
As the single missions roll by you are introduced to the tower defence mechanics and all the tricks available to help in these situations. After this, the game takes a larger turn and changes into a base-building management sim and opens up a wealth of new weaponry and defences including shotguns, pistols, mortars along with a wealth of new gear for your avatar and new upgrades for your base. Picking up all those side missions rescuing people around the wasteland allows you to service your base, plant new crops, catch rainwater and purify it. This effectively removes the survival elements from the game, oxygen aside, and that cannot come soon enough as you no longer have to listen the constant CPU nagging you so much. Managing exploring squads, food production, medical supplies and more — along with defending your growing base — now becomes the core focus and the end game starts to reveal itself, in the form of post-campaign boss challenges, new gear and co-operative play.
This leads us onto the game’s co-op mode which is a wave-based defend-a-point mode containing side objectives and rewards. This element of the game was pushed through the marketing in the run up to the release, along with the beta, but many would argue that this massively mis-sold the product, leaving many disappointed that the co-op is pretty much an end game activity with maps being drip fed to you as you level up in the single player. Even once you’ve reached level twenty, after around fifteen hours of play you will only have unlocked one more map. For some, having to slog through many hours of single player before this mode even becomes an option will be too much. The more important question though, why bother to play the end game at all once you’ve completed the single player? New gear to be used in the co-op modes and upcoming co-op modes? After many hours to get to this point, in all honesty that doesn’t sound too appealing.
Running in 4K with HDR and a reasonably solid 60fps on the Xbox One X, the game looks clean and runs really well. Naturally, given the nature of the adventure, its colour palette is fairly grim as well as having a large chunk of the game played within a grey/brown fog; the game isn’t a looker but what is presented is on a par with, say, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It’s a statement that isn’t really a revelation as it’s effectively an asset flip of that title and could easily have been DLC.
The game contains microtransactions but they aren’t essential and far too much will be made of them. Having microtransactions in a game in 2018 is akin to saying this game has sound, though what that says about the state of the industry is a different matter. Metal Gear Survive asks you to pay money to have a second character on the go at the same time and also has pay-to boost mechanics allowing you to rush through it quicker than you would without. None of it is required to experience all the content, so it can be ignored or raged at, depending on your disposition.
The core criticism for anyone not attached to the franchise or disinterested with the current hate directed at Konami, is that Metal Gear Survive tries a lot of things and is bang average at all of them. Utilising old assets and incorporating core gameplay styles that were hugely popular a few years ago it fails to excite or enthuse. There are better survival games, there are better farming games and there are better base management games. At its budget price point it’s decent enough entertainment but ultimately it lacks any sort of spark to motivate you to stick with it long term.