Metal Gear, is one of the enduring franchises in video games, spanning decades. Almost every Metal Gear game has made headlines on its release. Metal Gear Survive, however, the latest entry in the franchise not to feature Hideo Kojima has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Unceremonious exits, switching to always online and finally microtransactions. For a Metal Gear fan, Metal Gear Survive is sacrilege, but for a for a non-Hideo Kojima fanboy (cue yours truly), does Metal Gear Survive hold up as a video game? Let’s find out.
Metal Gear Survive is an always online action-adventure survival game with elements of crafting. The game has been developed by Konami Digital Entertainment and has been published by Konami. The game was released on 28th February 2018 and is available for the PS4, Xbox One and Windows PC.
METAL GEAR SURVIVE
Story & Narrative
I do not enjoy Metal Gear games. I think they are overly verbose and needlessly complicated. I think they focus on non-critical mechanics too much, and try to pass it off as attention to detail. I also don’t enjoy Hideo Kojima’s abstract vision too much. MGS: Snake Eater had a 2-hour long intro, and by the end, the game had stopped making too much sense to me. The only reason I wanted to try out Metal Gear Survive, was to see how a Kojima less Metal Gear universe looked.
Turns out the entire game is set in a parallel dimension, doesn’t mess with the canon timeline of the Metal Gear universe, and stays away from established characters as much as possible (apart from some minor cameos). Instead Survive sees a regular recruit from Diamond Dogs landing up in a mirror Earth (called Dite) investigating the disappearance of a team tasked to collect an exotic energy source found only on that planet and collected mostly by killing/farming zombie-like creatures. The reward for your effort, a return to Earth and a possible cure for the zombie infection that has taken hold of you too.
The premise set, Dite is pretty hostile, especially to newcomers. You are tasked to operate out of a broken down camp which houses a campfire, 2 workbenches and an split personality AI (which seems to be popular these days, think Destiny 2), as you collect resources (to build/defend your base), hunt down clues (to progress your investigation), and consume food, water and oxygen to essentially ‘survive’ while you are at it.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Much of the core gameplay loop consists of familiar beats for anyone who has played the likes of Ark or H1Z1. Scavenging for supplies is always the first order of business, as everything the player has at their disposal degrades over time or is in such scarce supply that rationing out basic necessities such as food and water is integral to surviving in Dite. Goods like wood and iron are plentiful within the wastes, but more specialized items such as Lead and Gunpowder typically show up in specific locations. These materials can often be found near wormhole transportation systems, Metal Gear Survive’s form of fast travel, and respawn after a certain amount of in-game days, so it’s good to make a habit of making the rounds around Dite to restock on essentials.
The early hours of Metal Gear Survive are incredibly slow to get through compared to the rest of the campaign especially until chapter 7 when you finally unlock the pot which lets you heat water and drink clean water for a change. Over time, you will also build up a squad, which will inhabit your base camp, and they can be deployed onto AI managed scavenging missions to collect even more resources; at which point resource collection becomes easier and almost secondary. None of them accompanies you on story missions, however, and so every time you step out of the base you are on your own.
Naturally, you’ll also be able to upgrade your hero to be better equipped in the wilderness, which once more ties into the repetitive nature of Survive. Once you’ve ticked all the boxes for another day, and can successfully say your heart is still beating, it’s back into the menus to level-up to find even more efficient ways to kill a zombie. Like most survival games, Survive wants you to get into a groove of base-building to acquire more materials so that in turn you can continue constructing. The crafting system is a nice touch as it puts more power in your hands but going through the motions can be draining if you’re not engaged by its wash, rinse and repeat approach.
Which brings us to the microtransactions situation. As has been wildly discussed on the internet, Metal Gear Survive costs around 12,000 in-game currency for an extra save slot. This roughly translates to about 10$ per slot if you decide to buy it with real-world money instead. Technically it’s not a save slot (It’s more of a character slot), and the fact is there is no real reason why you would want to play with an alternate character (Since I didn’t notice any particular branching of the skill tree or the narrative). I think most players would be happy with just the one slot. Having said that blocking a core non-critical experience of a game behind a paywall when the game itself is decently priced is not going to win Konami any fans. Finally, microtransactions aren’t as intrusive in other fields of the game, specifically the survival aspects of it. I legit thought there would be a buyable pack of consumables from the game store, but there wasn’t which kind of made it a bittersweet moment.
But in no way is Metal Gear Survive a pay-walled experience.
If co-op is your thing then you can join up with up to 3 players on the internet and tackle challenges together. Again fun with friends, not so much with random people, communication is key in this particular mode, and if you have a core group of friends to play together, Survive does offer some decent rewards in return.
Excursions into the wild are not the only challenge that Metal Gear Survive throws at you, however. Your base will be attacked by a stream of zombies from time to time, and you would be called upon to defend it. This could get pretty intense, and after some of the particularly gruesome defence, there is a sense of pride that swells up. This challenge, unfortunately, does not scale up in line with your own levelling, though there is some fun to be had by becoming OP too.
Graphics, Sound & Performance
At this point in the review, I am pretty sure you are thinking, if this game is so different from a Metal Gear game then why carry the name at all. All would be revealed when you realize that Dite lifts elements of The Phantom Pain’s Afghanistan and Angola maps by the Terabytes. The map is populated by the same plants and animals, and Konami has reused certain structures that will look very familiar (cough cough Motherbase cough cough). There is an in-game justification for these repurposed assets reappearing, naturally, and Survive is also made in the Fox engine. But its clear for what it really is, a copy paste job. The similarities don’t end there, the implementation of the stealth mechanic, the Fulton system and even the alert sound that zombies make when you expose yourself are a throwback to Phantom Pain.
Now just imagine the backlash, Konami would have had to face if they hadn’t named the game Metal Gear and still reused the assets?
All thing considered, reusing assets, mechanics and engine also meant that the game provides predictable and reliable performance, especially on the PS4. I had no issues in my first 20 hours in the game, the voice acting is average, and sound effects follow the looney serious mixture typical of a Metal Gear game. The Fox Engine is able to crank out stable textures no doubt thanks in part to the drab colour palette of the game. All in all an okay effort by Konami.
Konami has made plenty of mistakes on Metal Gear Survive but they haven’t messed up on the one front that matters the most. Metal Gear Survive is a good game. It piques your interests and makes you want to keep coming back to look after your character, and the base, even way after the game credits have rolled. Metal Gear fans should still stay away though, lest they burn their console/PC.