Metal Gear Survive has had a lot of buzz around it, and not the positive kind. Being the first Metal Gear game since the departure of Metal Gear series figurehead Hideo Kojima, fans of the series are fuming at the blasphemy that is a post-Kojima Metal Gear game. Metal Gear Survive is a spinoff that strips the world of its beloved characters and tactical espionage action, instead opting for an action-oriented zombie survival game. But is it really all that bad? The answer to that question is no, not really. Despite not being a Metal Gear game in regards to what people expect from its beloved slew of stealth-oriented titles, Metal Gear Survive still manages to offer up a somewhat enjoyable gameplay experience, albeit with plenty of fundamental issues that hinder that enjoyment heavily, quickly turning entertainment to unbridled frustration.
Metal Gear Survive begins where Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes left off. The Militaires Sans Frontières’ Mother Base is attacked by XOF forces and Big Boss and Kaz make their escape. In the aftermath of the attack, your player character, a member of MSF, is whisked off into a wormhole to an alternate zombie-infested world called Dite. I wasn’t expecting much of a narrative going in to Metal Gear Survive, so i was taken aback by how much story there actually was. The story feels particularly convoluted however, never really engaging me nor encouraging me to check out the game’s cassette tapes for additional story. The lack of interest in the story could also be attributed to the game’s weak characters, who feel particularly bland and lifeless. The story scenes indicated that there was a sense of unity in the group, but it was a unity I never once felt. It’s kind of hard to feel emotionally invested and attached to people you’ve been given no reason to care about. The story did have some interesting moments, but in the end it feels like a poor attempt at replicating Kojima’s narrative style, leaving it feeling forced and underdone.
My custom character is cool, but the established characters are extremely boring
Metal Gear Survive’s saving grace however, is its gameplay, which is essentially the mechanical framework of Metal Gear Solid V, but slightly tweaked. Unlike Metal Gear Solid V, Survive focuses heavily on melee combat, with a variety of melee options including knives, spears and sledgehammers. All options provide their own advantages, with spears being able to poke through fences, and sledgehammers being the slower but more damaging option. The melee combat is simple and enjoyable enough, but can at times feel rather stiff and difficult to control, especially when larger hordes or enemies are present. Projectile based weapons such as Bows and Guns are present, but maintaining enough ammunition is extremely difficult, meaning you won’t get much time to use them. The lack of powerful weaponry is upsetting, but it does keep Metal Gear Survive feeling difficult, whether you deem that a good or bad thing is really up to preference.
You’ll quickly discover that Dite is a hellish place. Food and water is scarce, and the majority of the world is enveloped in dust, in an area simply known as, The Dust. The Dust is littered with Wanderers, the crystal-headed Zombie creatures, as well as an enormous cthulhu-esque monster known as the Lord of Dust, that serves as the major enemy in the game’s story. Venturing into The Dust requires a oxygen mask with its own meter that runs down over time, meaning most of your time in Metal Gear Survive is spent babysitting your character to ensure they don’t die (more on that later). When in the Dust you can’t see your player icon on the map, which would have been an interesting premise if the game wasn’t also constantly nagging at you to pay your characters hunger and thirst attention.
The Dust is an interesting place to explore, but the worries of micromanagement dampens its enjoyment
Metal Gear Survive’s 25-30 hour single-player campaign is spent acquiring resources, while also taking part in numerous fetch quests and tower defense missions, in order to gather the energy required to further progress through the campaign. The wormhole transporter defence missions are the games strongest, with the tower defence being surprisingly pleasing. The process of creating your defences and placing them in order to withhold the onslaught of zombies feels particularly rewarding. When not fighting off an onslaught of Wanderers, you’ll spend the majority of time collecting food and water, building up your base camp, as well as farming Kuban energy, the currency required to craft items, as well as to level up. In these sections of exploration, it becomes increasingly obvious that the AI of the Wanderers is laughably bad, with their cluelessness being evident. They are pretty much blind and take no notice to having you around them most of the time, and even when they do notice you, if you run a couple metres away they lose all desire to give chase. I often found clumps of Wanderers preferring to run into a wall than fight me, meaning I could easily pick them off. The Wanderers at times feel particularly cheap, with the poor AI dampening the experience. Despite the AI leaving much to be desired, the gameplay loop of Metal Gear Survive is fun enough to play, but even in it’s strongest moments, i’d rather be playing The Phantom Pain.
There are plenty of Wanderers around, but they’re all really dumb and unaware of their surroundings
Metal Gear Survive is arguably one of the most brutally unfair survival games that I have ever played, and this brutality is the games greatest fault. The food and water system despite being a mainstay of games of a similar ilk, is really poorly executed. The meter for water and especially food drop way too quickly, to the point where exploration is discouraged, because straying off the beaten path could lead to death by starvation or thirst. This issue is extremely prevalent in the early to mid sections of the game, with food being hard to come by and only dirty water saving you from dying of thirst. As to be expected, eating meat raw and drinking dirty water will make you sick, but in many cases this is your only option. The result of drinking dirty water is also far too unfair, with sickness requiring healing items that most of the time you won’t have the ability to craft. The issues with food and water taper of slightly towards the end of the game, but it’s such an overwhelmingly unfair system that i believe makes the game far less enjoyable than it could be. Maintaining food, water and the previously mentioned oxygen levels all at once simply isn’t fair.
Vomiting constantly after drinking dirty water or eating raw meat is not a fun time
Another big issue present is the stamina system. Your player character can’t run for particularly long at all, tiring out almost instantly, which leads to 3 second period of exhaustion where you can’t even look at the in-game map. Stamina won’t be used when simply walking but is somehow used when crouching or crawling, it’s ridiculous. This issue is quite literally doubled in The Dust, with stamina consumption being used up at double the normal speed. The system is asinine and has no place being as stringent as it is.
Making things exceedingly worse is the fact that the game only saves after returning to base camp, meaning deaths can lead to the loss of up to an hours gameplay, and I did find myself dying of starvation in such circumstances, leading to such anger that I turned the game off for a few hours, lamenting the time i’d wasted. These systems could be enjoyed by hardcore survival game fans who like the idea of constantly struggling, but in a game where exploration is key it’s a system that is far too monotonous and infuriating to be at all considered enjoyable. In short, Metal Gear Survive’s slew of inequitable survival gameplay mechanics don’t at all respect your time.
Maintaining food, water and oxygen makes the experience feel unfairly stressful
The multiplayer in Metal Gear Survive allows players to play the wormhole transporter defence missions online with up to four players. It makes sense that the game’s best moments have been chosen for multiplayer, and despite the issues raised with the game’s survival systems, it still manages to provide a good online tower defence mode. One thing to be wary of however, is that materials gathered in the single-player are used in the multiplayer and vice-versa, so if you’ve run out of materials in single-player, I don’t recommend lobbying up with your friends anytime soon. Online play is a great way to attain loot to make the single-player less difficult, but it’s completely optional whether or not you’d like to take part, which i can appreciate.
Fighting off hordes of Wanderers is surprisingly good fun with friends
Metal Gear Survive undoubtedly has fun moments, but it’s littered with flaws that quite quickly siphon almost all amusement. The characters are poor, the story despite having a few cool twists and turns feels underthought and poorly paced, the tedium of having to constantly eat food and drink is mind-boggling, but in the end, the gameplay, although having faults of its own, stands strong enough to provide an experience that isn’t entirely bad. This game despite bearing the Metal Gear name, is nothing like the Metal Gear we’ve known to love, but if you can manage to separate yourself from that mindset, there is some enjoyment to be had in Metal Gear Survive.
Reviewed on PS4 | Review code supplied by publisher