It’s easy to bemoan Konami for quickly setting their sights on extracting as much worth as they can from the Metal Gear Solid name now that famed creator Hideo Kojima is sowing seeds elsewhere, but it’s hard when you consider just how solid Metal Gear Survive actually is. The survival action title set in an alternate universe from Metal Gear Solid is surprisingly competent, and even more fun than I possibly could’ve imagined before going hands-on with some online multiplayer. Does that mean it still isn’t being exploitative in some manner? Absolutely not.
The most confusing thing about Metal Gear Survive is simply its loose attachment to the stealth franchise. There’s very little in Survive that ties it to the politically charged, often whacky hallmark game, and it’s clear that the name itself is being used to garner some good will from unsuspecting fans. It’s a shame though because the game itself introduces some neat ideas on top of perfectly enjoyable gameplay that the attachment ends up sullying it more than it does bolster it.
Playing a session of online multiplayer with a handful of other journalists, re-visiting the desolate outskirts of the Afghanistan region from The Phantom Pain immediately felt familiar. A thick fog blanketing the grounds gives it a more ominous feeling, matched by the strange creatures that mindlessly roam the lands. They’re not zombies in name, but their characteristics are easily encapsulated in that stereotype. Enemies lumber towards you slowly and then rush in the kill in packs, with suitably glowing weak spots making your job of thinning out the herds a little easier.
The main objective of the session was point defence. A wormhole harvester of some kind needed to be protected by our team of four from increasingly difficult and lengthy waves of enemies, consisting of regular foes, overgrown bombers and some heavily armed nuisances. Each player chooses a class before battle, which helps govern starting gear and weapons. Assault rifles and bows and arrows are standard issue, and pretty stock when it comes to mowing down mindless foes. It’s the gadgets instead that introduced an element of strategy to the entire affair.
Holing up in a blown to pieces shelter, we weren’t exactly in the perfect place to make a stand. My particular class gave me the chance to lay down all manners of hazards and traps to slow down the encroaching hordes. Electrically charged fences and massive fire traps strategically placed by all players around the map introduced a neat sense of cooperative comradely, as we all prepared for the horrors of the night to topple the down.
Survival isn’t just a naming convention either. Each player consists of a health and stamina bar, along with hunger, thirst and oxygen indicators. At least two gradually tick down over time, decreasing the total health value you can possibly heal to with a pack or after revival. Supplies are incredibly short too, and quickly it becomes apparent that sharing really is caring. Teammates can pool together resources at a central part of the camp, allowing anyone to craft ammunition, food items and more powerful versions of defences that you might already have.
These recipes are all controlled by player specific unlocks, which seems like the perfect place for Konami to inject some randomisation. With each round victory (and to a lesser extent, defeat), players are rewarded with new weapons, recipes for crafting and player profile unlocks that help supplement progression. You’ll become more adept at surviving the more you play, with the tools for taking down the nastier foes that later waves through at you. It’s no the only mode that will be on offer when the game launches next year, but it’s likely the main one that Konami is hoping most play.
Honestly though, it’s not bad. Despite reservations, Metal Gear Survive was both intriguing and enjoyable to play, with its many systems providing a strategic element to what is essentially a more blown out version of something like Call of Duty zombies. collaboration is certainly key online though. I soon found myself crucially out of ammunition, with one specific teammate hoarding most of the saving grace supply drops in-between waves all to himself. Without the aid of a single player, the walls quickly started falling. We were overrun shortly after that still, emphasising quickly to the entire time how a single act of greed cost us when we were so close to victory.
Still, it’s hard to understand why Metal Gear as a franchise needs to be attached to this at all. Perhaps it’s because it’d struggle without the association (which is probably entirely true), but it then works against it by imbuing a high bar of expectation given the strong history of the franchise. Instead, Metal Gear Survive is just simply enjoyable – not really more, and hardly less. It’s far more captivating than the snarky reception will ever suggest, but it’d probably serve Konami well to perhaps move it into a space that’s more captivating instead of confusing.
With the game now delayed to 2018 and single-player content still scarcely being shown, there’s still a lot more that Metal Gear Survive might end up just surprising us with.
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Last Updated: June 14, 2017