Contrary to its packaging, Metal Gear Survive is not a stealth action video game. Just in the same way Destiny isn’t a fantastic story based shooter, both are MMO games dressed in a different genres clothing. On the disc (or download purchase) is a client that allows you to sign in and play the game purchased. In both of these games the online game your playing is a different genre as we are pushed further into the ‘games as service’ ideals that some AAA publishers are loving. Any sense of ownership or accessibility when the servers turn off is just a fantasy, you simply have a shiny coaster. So with that particularly nasty start of events for a game that is largely a single player offline game forced online to play, let’s get on with things.
If you’ve ever played a Metal Gear Solid title then the core systems of Survive will be very familiar but slightly different, like a comfortable pair of shoes but realising you put the right shoe on the left foot. Given the game is built on the Fox Engine, Metal Gear Solid 5 bleeds through in every way. From the look, the feel and the physics. The crouching, the guns, the CQC and even the nearby hazards ring. This isn’t particularly a bad thing given how good MGS5 is but this feels like a free to play game carved out of the MGS5 turtle shell. I’m generalizing again as the more you play Metal Gear Survive the more you find yourself wishing you were playing something more enjoyable.
It starts off nice enough for a survival game with the amazing character creator from the beta and lots of little nicties with your character and name popping up in cutscenes. Stangely the character creator is running a much more detailed model of your character then you’ll see in-game or cutscenes so there is that to contend with. After creating your masterpiece and hopping into the single player content the game does a good attempt at using the Metal Gear Solid style of story telling especially taking very literal nods from the cutscene direction (not the Quiet style though thankfully).
Your new character is dropped into the barren wasteland known as Dite with nothing but the shirt on your back and told to deal with the unicorn zombie hybrid menace or something to that effect. There’s one aspect of Metal Gear Solid they could have overlooked with Survive and that’s the nonsense story and too many cutscenes for its own good at the start of the game. Sadly Metal Gear Survive is stuffed full of them at the start and strangley the bare minimum once you get started. There are some good ones to be had but the main “reveal” is played out almost like a bad joke that is no longer self-aware of how tired its become. It’s you! Yes that’s nice and all but moments later a character we’ve never seen or known is revealed the same way. Granted I’ve not finished MGS5 but I doubt Solider Dan is a serious player enough to warrant the treatment he gets.
Once again the same issue with all Metal Gear Solid games rears its head quickly. It feels like hours of story before you get given control of your character. So you’ll either enjoy the nonsense or like me you’ll find it overkill and nonsensical wishing to hammer that skip button like it dispenses skittles. The start of the game can’t make up it’s mind what it wants to do. It starts off with you being briefed even though my character at that time is busy recovering in hospital but didn’t I fall into the portal at the start? I realise I can follow a clever edit but this is just simply nonsense. It should have been in a simple order that fits, you died, so did a ton of other people, you were brought back but only to be dumped into Dire to stop monsters coming through to the real world. Simply “Oh the monsters are coming through and we’re going there to stop them. Why didn’t you say so?” would have done. You don’t benefit from the extended exposition for a solo game that’s story is the minimal once you get into it. Hell I’d probably like voice in my ear Captain ‘Goodluck’ a damn site more if he was giving the exposition as I drudged around Dire.
Metal Gear has always been fairly open for a linear experience. The games have always tasked you with a fairly small area that expands and given a clear goal to make up your own mind and solve the problem how you see fit with the tools to hand. Metal Gear Survive is a big open empty world, you have simple cutscenes and goals. Less Ubisoft open world with a ton of things and more open waste with pockets of things to loot. It’s largely a case of just helping the HAL like AI robot regain its memory by going to points on the map and plugging in. The problem is rather than exploring and enjoying the surrounds and challenges you have grey and empty spaces to run and sneak through. A ton of dull grind from start to finish that just feels like a massive drain.
So you’re in Dire, you have a map, you have a slight idea of where you need to go and what you need to do. Now what? Well get ready to watch your meters and craft a ton of stuff. Surviving in Metal Gear Survive is essentially translated into drink and eat to keep hunger and thirst above 80% and keeping your weapons, armour and base in top shape by crafting. Now crafting and survival isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Minecraft is made better having both of these mechanics and other titles have benefited from one or the other being added. Metal Gear Survive feels unfortunately like a massive slog. Almost every resource is a distance of running, stealthing, looting and then the long trek back. No crafting in the field and good luck getting clean water anytime soon.
This hasn’t even touched upon the areas consumed by Dust. Areas of grey fog that carves the draw distance, adds a o2 meter, lowers your stamina and boosts the zombies. I’ve not mentioned Kuban crystals yet. I’ve spent most of this review explaining how the mechanics and game has worked so you can understand probably what the developers of the game wanted you to think before they had to implement a horrible micro-transaction economy that wrecked the game from start to the finish. You can gain Kuban energy from smashing crystals on the map, killing zombies and you guessed it, paying real cash. Your low on o2? Convert the Kuban energy you have to o2! Given you can only recover the o2 at your home base your going to do this a bit. Need to craft? Hope you have the materials and Kuban energy!
You can level up your characters stats and skills as you progress which would be fun and give need to the grind if it wasn’t simply a purchase using Kuban energy. You buy a class level and this allows you to put 1 point in either a stat or a skill slot. There are arbitrary limits to stop you building a character in the way you want though. For example if you want to level up nothing but your strength to 2 you need to get your class level up to 5 first. This forces you to have a more balanced character but negates the freedom to mess around and experiment. Granted you have to pay real money for multiple save slots so maybe this is on purpose to stop you wasting points. The fact it becomes a grind for Kuban energy to either stay alive, fix items or level up doesn’t make this fun at all. The grind does remind me of the Souls games but with all the fun sucked out and more meters to keep topped up with unnecessary busy work.
The game hasn’t seen that much of an improvement since the beta. Obviously this is being picky but the game is still a mess visually. Nobody likes grey and washed out bleak constantly and this is 90% of that. Even Gears of War has splashes of colour or visually amazing moments to break up the metal/brown palette. Metal Gear Survive got the grey, the brown and depressing fog right, it’s just a shame the sandy oasis areas are not visually popping enough to be a needed respite from the rest.
The blur, grain and low resolution is back as well with a vengeance. The game maybe built on the Fox Engine but make no mistake this doesn’t hold a candle to MGS5. This feels like it was built on the beta engine and given Konami’s past with various other franchises it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that’s the case. There’s a frustrating lack of consistency as well. The multiplayer lobby is visually interesting and yet the menus and crafting tables are clunky and unnecessarily fiddly and complicated. It’s almost as if the game’s engine was never designed for such a mess.
The voice acting is ok but then this is Konami, I can’t think of a game where they’ve not had functional voice work. The surrounds and areas sound right but you’ll get fed up with the alerted zombie music after the 15th time you’ve heard it because you’ve gotten low on a stat and need to run back to home base to again top up on grilled sheep.
Online is where almost all of your fun is going to be found with Metal Gear Survive. The missions are different to the simple retrieval ones from the single player with you plopped into a squared off area of the single-player map, a drill to protect and various little side quests to get on with. It’s the same online system as the beta but this time your character is pulled from single-player, items and all. It makes sense in a Monster Hunter World sort of way, where you can show off your gear and also play a game with strangers for a collective goal. The problem lies though with the gear and characters stats being pulled along to in the exact same way. Weapon degradation from single player is bad enough but are you going to take your valuable gear online to only have to repair it later? I suppose if you’ve Kuban to spare and think you’ll win back the materials assigned at random from the end of the game.
This all leads to a very important question that almost anyone playing Metal Gear Survive will ask at least once. Why is the single player experience forced to be online? Well after playing a substantial amount of time in the game I can confidently say…. I have no idea. I literally can’t find a constructive reason for this to be online. The only idea I can come up with is Konami is terrified people will hack the game and take those hacks online for the multiplayer. This isn’t like Just Cause 3 where your progress pops up in other players games and this isn’t even a case where other players can directly interact at all. This works as if previous GTA 4 & 5 were online only for the single player part.
You can see the game potential there and at it’s core it’s functional. It’s just a shame it’s Konami because anyone else would have launched this as free to play. Someone else would have worked at it a little longer to made the grind more fun. Made the solo game offline and chopped up the story into that section to make it less of a drag. Sorted out the terrible AI and slight glitches, swapped out greys and dull washed out colours for vibrant extremes. You could see this concept working well with a Mad Max Fury Road setup. It’s a real shame that the only real fun comes from multiplayer randomness but that’s not really the game pulling the weight there it’s the players. Also hope your internet is up to this because otherwise….
4/10 – Did you know Kuban is a region in Russia?