Marking the first release since the departure of Hideo Kojima from the series he created, Metal Gear Survive is an always online, zombie wave killing, scavenging and resource gathering, base-builder which takes place in a dimension through which access was gained after a wormhole appears above Mother Base mere seconds after Snake escapes by helicopter in the events depicted at the end of Ground Zeroes.
Lost? Bear with me.
I don’t know if Snake knows this, but somewhere across the galaxy is this planet, like ours, which can be accessed by wormholes that open up above your autonomous paramilitary oil rig facilities and suck them through the cosmos. We can send people there too via special wormhole making machines. It’s perhaps apt that Mother Base gets propelled across the universe. Because that’s how a Metal Gear game feels without Kojima. A bit lost in space.
In fairness, the alternate dimension idea does work and a good deal of care and attention has been given to getting the initial narrative over. We are teased that this dimension may well not be reality. It has wolves and other earthly fauna. Water, albeit mostly dirty. The last time we saw ourselves we were in a hospital bed. There is mystery to be found here in Yota Tsutsumizaki’s vision of the Metal Gear universe. It does well in nodding to its predecessors, especially with its long expositional sequences. Briefing style conversations reminiscent of Solid to unbroken Iñárritu-like takes from Phantom Pain, Tsutsumizaki delivers competently and with a steady hand.
Wormholes, alternate dimensions and alien planets aside, Metal Gear Survive is moderately fun. Although, it doesn’t feel that way to begin with. Stamina and health become a big deal very quickly and I was often dragging myself through the dusty world of Dite, a reference to Dante’s inferno of which there are many in the game. But after the grind of hunting meat, finding water and piecing together the puzzle of this place by finding missing memory cards for my base camp’s resident artificial intelligence Virgil AT-9, Survive opens up to, well, almost nothing.
The solo campaign consists of what are essentially tower defence missions, to open up wormhole gates so you can fast travel to areas around the map. This is all very well and good, but unfortunately, tower defence is where the game stops. There isn’t really anything else to do except open wormholes and drink loads of water so you don’t dehydrate. After hours of this, the promise of an acceptable post-Kojima instalment disappears and the lack of any notable depth in the game give solid indications as to why Metal Gear Survive appeared on shelves so quickly.
Maybe we are forced to continually eat and drink because there are no other real challenges. Things to do on Dita are few and far between as Metal Gear Survive isn’t populated with nearly enough to do. When you’ve sussed out how to take down bad guys, which doesn’t take so long, Metal Gear Survive becomes repetitive and boring, with little else to please the senses and the monotony and actual frustration with the health and stamina bars goes along way to destroy the narrative groundwork done at the start. Most of the game will be played in a strange gaussian blur which provides more in the way of headache than it does entertainment.
It all feels like a missing multiplayer DLC for Phantom Pain, that has found itself monetised unjustly by slapping some story on at the start.
Intrinsically linked to the campaign is the online multiplayer mode. Again, more tower defence and shockingly, only one map. Set to one difficulty level. Easy. You and three other generally dissatisfied players mine the Kuban energy and take a share of the spoils should you successfully defend the diggers from three waves of attacks. There is very little variation in the enemies too. Yes, some wear different clothes, but the behaviours and AI are all the same. There are only two kinds of baddie as well, which is a rather poor show.
Before clocking on to how to adequately dispose of the baddies (sneaking up behind them and tapping R2) getting through three waves was near impossible. However as I got better at the game, enduring the waves became too straight forward and ultimately boring and repetitive. There is however fun to be extracted from spending the Kuban energy you share with the team on skill points, improving your class and deep crafting if you’re into that kind of thing. The menu system is fluid and tricky, but I’m a fan of things like that and it’s definitely less infuriating than The Long Dark. These class improvements are used directly in the solo campaign which explains why the game is always online.
Despite everything, Metal Gear Survive does have one major thing going for it. Potential. Yes, it feels rushed, unfinished and empty, much like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but unlike PUBG, what is there is ripe for development and could prove to be a genuinely exciting prospect with more updates. It needs more maps and more stuff to do besides tower defence in the solo campaign. Once those things are taken care of they should be getting to better weapons. The construction of your own home base could prove to be great fun as time goes on. But until these things are properly fixed, there isn’t much here to do. Except to maybe die of thirst. Again and again and again.
Far from the standards we expect of a Metal Gear game, Metal Gear Survive is sparse, dull and repetitive, with very little to keep you hooked. However there is some serious potential here. If a lot of the problems are rectified, then Metal Gear Survive could become an exhilarating experience worthy of inclusion in Kojima’s groundbreaking franchise.