Metal Gear series currently feels like it is at a strange place where it doesn’t have the direction of Kojima behind it. After the whole fiasco over Konami and their feud with Kojima, the acclaimed director who made the series what it is today departed the company and started his work on Death Stranding as a new IP. This left the rest of the staff with an IP which lost most of its charm since Kojima was the mastermind behind it who designed and created most of the memorable games.
Metal Gear Survive is an attempt from remnants of the development team to create a spin-off featuring the popular Metal Gear brand, however it saddens me to say this but it feels mostly like a shallow shell of Metal Gear in all but name. There is no resemblance of any of the Metal Gear Solid tropes that fans might expect and it mostly feels like a game with a lack of coherent direction and vision. This doesn’t mean that Metal Gear Survive is not a fun game, since when it does click, it works really well for the type of gameplay experience it aims to offer here.
The definition of what the series meant for the fans might differ depending on your preference and how you experience it, but for me, Metal Gear Solid is predominantly a stealth-focused game that offers lengthy cutscenes that are amazingly choreographed and features an enjoyable cast of characters with their own unique personality. There is nothing of this nature in Metal Gear Survive but it does have a rather nice prologue with a lengthy cutscene that harkens back to the days of Metal Gear Solid V, nonetheless once the game properly begins, it turns into something completely different than what you might expect from a traditional entry in the series. Granted, this is still a spin-off but it is disappointing however that the flawless gameplay that was so perfectly executed in Metal Gear Solid V seems to be a wasted opportunity in Metal Gear Survive.
The opening of the game tries to tie the story with the main Metal Gear Solid series by showing the recounting of the attack by Big Boss on the Oil Rig at the end of Ground Zeroes and his escape on the Helicopter that ended in a crash leading to the beginning of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It is actually a very nice cutscene that is wonderfully directed and leads to the creation of the first wormhole that ends up sucking every remaining soldier in it leading to a completely different dimension which is called ‘Dite’ in the game. The main character is created by the player and depending on what they create as a character, his appearance is reflected in cutscenes which is pretty cool to see in action in the game.
When I was playing Metal Gear Survive, the game felt brutal in the start and this remains true until you are able to progress further in the story. One of the reason why the game is so difficult is because of the different mechanics that all tie to your survival in this new desolate world. Along with keeping track of hunger and thirst of your character, you are also required to keep your character healthy by checking out any infections and curing them, or making sure they have an adequate amount of rest by having them sleep for a few hours to avoid fatigue. There are just so many parameters and status effects to consider here that it starts to feel like a chore. To top it, the hunger and thirst accelerate at a rapid pace making it difficult to keep them in check at the beginning.
My first impression after playing some of the beginning missions was that this feels so repetitive, boring, and a constant struggle for grind just to survive. However, the game starts to offer more opportunities to help you survive by slowly opening up new options for the player. As an example, you won’t be able to get clean water and have to deal with dirty water in the start which can inflict infection, but once you progress a little further in the story, you will be able to unlock the option to filter this dirty water into a clean sample making it safer to drink. This is just an example of the incremental upgrades that the game will constantly throw at your way provided you have the patience to deal with the initial slow and infuriating pace of its design.
The main threat in the world is not the zombie-like infected humans called ‘Wanderers’ but the health of your character. It is essential that you maintain a close watch and monitor your status otherwise you are going to see the game over screen just as much as in a Dark Souls game. Speaking of which, there are actually a variety of different enemies that will be a threat to you in the world ranging from the Wanderers to huge hulking Beasts that seem to be a part of this strange dimension called ‘Dite’ where scientists are attempting to figure out their origins and a cure for the infection that plagues humans.
Metal Gear Survive often feels like a game that is suffering from a lack of clear vision. It has plenty of good ideas on paper but they end up feeling like terribly executed when you have to constantly deal with some of the more annoying design choices. Just take the post process effects which display on screen when you have a low health or get thirsty, they will make the screen entirely dim so it will be hard to see, or give a blurry look to the game that, combined with the dim screen, makes it practically impossible to enjoy the game.
In the open world of Metal Gear Survive, you will have to fight for your survival by constantly exploring the world to collect data that will unlock new features for your base. The base building aspect is another interesting gameplay mechanic that is again poorly executed. There are characters that you can rescue in the game and bring back to the base and they can be assigned a job to handle there. Aside from that, you will also be required to keep a good security around the base and make sure to have a capable source for food and water active so that you don’t run out of the necessary items needed for survival.
During exploration, it is possible to find materials that can be then brought back to the base to create things like new weapons, gears and upgrades. Killing the Wanderers and then looting them can give an energy crystal called Kuban which is basically the main currency for Metal Gear Survive. It will be used when upgrading weapons, repairing them, constructing new items for base or even when upgrading the Survival Level of your character to learn new skills.
Majority of your time in Metal Gear Survive will be spent in exploring the so called Dust cloud that disables navigation including maps and adds another survival requirement for your character in the form of oxygen through an air tank. If you explore in a dust cloud, you will not only have to keep track of your health and thirst, oxygen will also keep ticking down and while it can be recovered with a little Kuban crystal, the requirements for it will keep going up forcing you to quickly head to your next objective. Admittedly, it is a scary experience but more often than not, it ends up being an unsatisfying journey in the dust cloud that finishes with the death of your character after failing to find the objective. The game is just plain unforgiving in this way. The death of your character can also result in the loss of all the materials that you had gathered before you are offered to respawn at the base, however you can go back to the same location to retrieve all materials just like in the Dark Souls series.
One of the cool addition in the game is the tower defense gameplay mechanic. During this time, you can build a variety of blockades around an objective that needs to be protected and then kill off the wave of enemies that attempt to destroy it. It is perhaps the moment when I felt like the gameplay comes together in the perfect way to offer you the chance to survive with what you have learned so far. This section of the game is also extremely challenging especially when you trigger the wormhole for the first time and it ends up summoning Wanderers spawning around random locations near the objective. Online Co-op revolves around this mode with the salvage missions. You can get a performance ranking depending on which the game offers various rewards. These can be utilized in the single player portion of the game if you want to keep them.
Metal Gear Survive Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Metal Gear Survive is a survival action-adventure game developed and published by Konami. It was the first Metal Gear game to be developed following the series' creator Hideo Kojima's departure from Konami in late 2015.
Metal Gear Survive is a strange mix of survival horror with open world. On the one hand, there are some superb ideas seen in the game that could have been great to play but on the other hand, the game constantly keeps testing your patience by forcing you to micromanage the health of your character.