Metal Gear Survive is the survival spin-off of the superb MGS V: The Phantom Pain and the first Metal Gear game to be released after the departure of Hideo Kojima.
The story of Survive picks up at the end of MGSV: Ground Zeroes with MSF motherbase under attack. You play as a MSF soldier who was left stranded when suddenly a wormhole opens in the sky and you get sucked into an alternate dimension. It’s an oddly compelling and ridiculous premise with no satisfying payoff. The story falls flat with every twist and a very small cast of bland and forgettable characters, something that’s a first for the Metal Gear series.
After the well-directed opening cutscene I was disappointed that cinematics took a back seat to the codec cutscenes. This wouldn’t have been a problem if they were at least interesting but they added nothing worthwhile to the story.
Sound design here is also weak. The voice acting is flat throughout the entire cast of characters as they fail to project any believable emotions. The soundtrack isn’t bad, but it is just completely forgettable.
Survive‘s gameplay is a loop that involves scavenging for resources to bring back to your base camp to build new weapons, gadgets, and stock up on supplies to defend a teleporter or wormhole generator. It won’t be for everyone but this loop can actually be engaging as you feel your character get more powerful over time. The base camp can also be upgraded and the survivors you bring back will have a place.
Enemy design lacks creativity both in the visual department and gameplay. The crystallized zombies known as Wanderers are as boring as they are stupid. The AI can easily be abused by climbing onto a slightly higher ledge or placing a fence directly in front of them. There’s a few variations of zombies, but only the Trackers are interesting, so it’s a shame they are rarely used. Even one of the boss fights is just a bigger version of one of these variations and was just as easy to kill.
Most of the missions involve defending an objective and these often play out the same way most of the time, especially in the early game as you sit behind fences stabbing zombies with a stick and occasionally setting traps. It’s incredibly boring. Thankfully things open up in the late game and you have more room to experiment with different weapons and traps. Most of the melee based weapons aren’t fun to use and feel awkwardly clunky but once you get an upgraded bow and some arrow types things change. There’s some fun to be had in rapidly picking off the Wanderers with well-placed headshots in hectic situations involving dozens of them.
Long gone are the meaningful stealth mechanics the series is known for. Getting detected has little to no consequence as most of the time you can easily dispatch the small horde or just briskly walk away since they lose interest fast. But there is a distinctive horror vibe as you will be occasionally creeping around keeping an eye out for enemies or a bright light.
The open world is a reuse of the same one used in The Phantom Pain, devoid of anything interesting to do. You will be spending a lot of time in an unmapped area known as The Dust, an area surrounded in a thick fog that reduces visibility.
Survive is the name of the game so of course they have survival elements and whilst they are good in theory, the execution is irritating. The hunger and thirst meters drain annoyingly quickly, forcing you to go hunt for food and gather water. You also have to constantly go back to base to cook/purify them on a regular basis or else you’ll have reduced HP and stamina. Eating uncooked food, drinking dirty water, or taking damage has a chance of putting a status effect on your character which you must cure in the menus. All the menus are in real time so you’ll need to make sure you have enough time to apply the medicine. The AI characters that act as your guide in the world will constantly complain about how hungry you are and tell you to take a breath when you are almost out of stamina. So yeah, it’s annoying.
Graphically, Metal Gear Survive is very similar to The Phantom Pain with some poor visual design choices. It still looks good but there was wasted potential with the FOX engine and The Dust looks and feels lifeless thanks to the lack of color. On a base Xbox One the game looks blurry thanks to the lower resolution and abysmal framerate, though other systems fare much better.
Beyond the roughly 25-30 hours campaign there’s some end-game content and a cooperative multiplayer mode which consists of the same wave defense you’ve already done a lot of in the single player. Only on select portions of the map can you have friends with you and, disappointingly, you can’t explore the open world with a buddy.
The multiplayer doesn’t justifying Survive‘s always online requirement (Disconnecting makes even the single player unplayable). And this brings us onto some of the most outlandish Microtransactions I’ve seen. The premium currency “SV Coins” are used to buy loadout slots and even more save files, something that is usually standard in most games. Post-launch a number of promised updates will hopefully flesh out the multiplayer.
So even though there is some fun to be had, Metal Gear Survive lacks personality and creativity thanks to the reused content, repetitive zombie gameplay and an awful story.
The FOX engine still looks great but The Dust looks boring, and enemy design is unimaginative
Mechanically, Survive‘s gameplay is solid but very repetitive and lacks variety.
Bland sound all around, with weak voice acting and a forgettable soundtrack
There is some fun to be found hidden in the repetitive structure of this game. Just not a whole lot of it.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Metal Gear Survive is available now on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC
A copy of Metal Gear Survive was provided by the publisher.