Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
So, here we are; Metal Gear Survive has been released into the world. The first Metal Gear game to launch following the fallout between Konami and series creator Hideo Kojima. The one that takes a beloved series and turns it into yet other zombie survival game, with barely any connection to previous outings.
Is it the game Konami-haters have been expecting to tear apart, or is it actually worth your time? To cut a long story short, and because you’ve probably already seen my final score, no, it’s likely not worth either your time or your money. Why? Because Konami’s monetisation efforts have gone too far, and this kind of greed has to stop. Oh, and the game itself, although not awful, isn’t great, either.
“Surely the game itself doesn’t deserve a three,” you’re probably saying to yourself. After all, it comes from a team comprised of some of the same people behind MGSV, the Fox Engine running it is great, and although hardly new, zombie survival games can be fun.
In fact, in a rather shocking twist, when it comes to the actual game itself, I actually found Survive to be somewhat solid (no pun intended). At its core, the Fox Engine-powered open world survival is actually pretty enjoyable, and the story, and alternate dimension you find yourself in is passable, retaining a kind of Metal Gear style to it, but taking a new direction and embracing a genre that’s very popular.
It’s not going to win over the vocal majority who instantly wrote off the game as Konami being out of touch and ‘killing’ the Metal Gear license, but if you take the game for what it is and ignore the Metal Gear name, you’re left with a fairly decent survival title.
As an ex-member of Diamond Dogs (in a continuity confusing plot hole that does get some explanation eventually) you’re sent by some shady top secret types through a wormhole into Dite, another dimension that’s being mapped and explored for initially unknown reasons.
Arriving in Dite, it’s not long before you find the place inhabited by all sorts of dangerous creatures, including the most common ‘Wanderers’, which are those zombie-unicorn things we’ve all seen in the promos. Teaming up with another survivor, you soon gain assistance from a dual-personality AI, and have to build a base, find more survivors, and uncover the secrets of Dite, then find your way home.
As with all survival games of this type, this means a lot of exploration and farming of materials and resources to both keep yourself and your fellow survivors fed and hydrated, and to build and grow your base. You start out with hardly anything to your name, but as you progress and find more resources and recipes for equipment and facilities, you slowly build up a functioning base, complete with water purifiers, farms, military expedition tents, wormhole generators, and more.
Survivors can be assigned tasks to take on, or sent out into the wild to look for supplies, and you have to ensure you have food, water, and medical supplies to keep yourself, and the base running. It’s kind of like the Mother Base aspect of MGSV in a way, only fleshed out to be a more central system, and it works pretty well.
Of course, the majority of the work falls on your shoulders, and you are the main explorer of Dite and the dangerous areas known as ‘The Dust’. These zones are covered in a thick fog that’s not only dangerous to breathe, but also hosts the most dangerous enemies, and, as is expected, the best loot and resources. When exploring The Dust, you’ll not only need to watch your hunger and thirst, but also your oxygen levels.
Another main focus of farming comes in the form of Kuban energy. This is extracted from enemies and crystal formations found throughout Dite, and is a currency for crafting, a method of refilling oxygen in the field, and the main method of levelling up your character to strengthen core stats and add new abilities.
Combat is split between melee and ranged, with you learning how to craft better weapons as you progress, and both are handled well enough. The focus is on melee, however, and with the tower defence element of the game’s many confrontations.
Although you’ll encounter and deal with threats as you wander the map, many objectives also require defensive stand-offs against waves of enemies as you activate new portals or defend various objectives. To achieve this, you can build fences, barriers, plant mines, and utilise other measures to hold the zombie hordes at bay. These often timed horde mode sections are the game’s highlight, and making the most of your defensive equipment and tactical planning can be great fun, especially on the more difficult missions. Sadly, though, it’s also where the game’s many cracks start to show.
You see, the enemy AI is severely lacking, with most foes struggling in basic pathfinding, getting stuck on fences that could easily be side stepped, and you can fool zombies by simply standing up on a container, as they’ll never reach you. Even spider-zombie things, that can easily cling and climb walls will be stumped by you standing on a raised platform, so there’s often little to no threat.
Most enemies give up the chase very quickly, so when exploring The Dust, there’s rarely a sense of real danger, as you can easily run away from most threats, and although it’s easy to get lost (as your radar often stop working in The Dust), there’s usually a handy light from a nearby portal or open area to guide you.
There are other odd decisions that affect the game too, such as vehicles that are practically useless as they explode quickly, whether or not they take damage, survivors always being in the same predicament of being unconscious and on top of a structure surrounded by zombies, and a general lack of variety in any missions. Most major tasks all end up in a wave-based tower defence stand off, and while stealth is present, it’s basic, and certainly nowhere near as well fleshed out as previous Metal Gear games. Not a good thing when your entire series is known as one of the major benchmarks in stealth mechanics.
Then there’s the nag factor. So easily done badly in survival games, this occurs when you’re constantly reminded about the need to eat, drink or do some other task, lest you die. Metal Gear Survive isn’t the worst offender here, but it’s certainly high on the list, as hunger and water levels drop very quickly, and you constantly have to interrupt what you’re doing to find food and water to stay alive. True, in some tense missions where you desperately need to get back to your base before you run out of Oxygen or food, it can be a benefit, and make for frantic struggles to get to safety, but more often than not it’s a simple annoyance, and some balancing is needed.
Still, even with these flaws, and there are others to be found as well as bugs and glitches, the game itself is still, at least in my opinion, somewhat enjoyable. It delivers a strangely satisfying gameplay loop, and actually improving your base feels like an achievement. It is, dare I say it, fun.
Of course, Konami had to go and mess it up somehow, and boy did it succeed.
The most baffling example of this is the one that’s been in the news of late: Metal Gear Survive asks you to pay extra money for additional save slots. Yes, you read that correctly. Even after paying full price for the game. If you have the audacity to want to create a new character, or if you want a friend or sibling to also play the game, you have to pay $10 for an extra save slot. Just… wow!
In the wake of loot box scandals in the likes of Battlefront II and Destiny, and the ever-growing presence of microtransactions in games (which Metal Gear Survive has too, because of course it does), Konami just had to push that envelope. Not content with taking your money for the game, and then even more on in-game transactions and loot boxes, now we actually have a company charging extra money to utilise standard gaming features that’ve been in almost every single game released.
I just don’t know, anymore. I really don’t.
In a mind-numbing move, Konami, in one fell swoop, has lost any shred of the credibility it once had (and let’s face it, it didn’t have much left). By pushing the line of unadulterated, and despicable greed further than even EA could have imagined, Konami has put itself firmly on the top of the turd pile. It’s a company that clearly cares about one single thing – money, and it’s clearly demonstrated there are no limits to what it thinks is fair game or acceptable in its quest to obtain as much as possible. Even if Survive had been the best survival game ever made (it’s not), I’d still be ranking it as such. I just can’t in good conscience give the game anything more than the rating you see here.