It’s no secret to anybody who’s a fan of the Metal Gear Solid series or has been watching the gaming scene closely since 2015: Metal Gear Survive is a controversial title. It’s the first entry following the departure of series creator Hideo Kojima. I became a fan of the series in 2014, once I decided to buckle down and play every entry in the series before Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain released the following year. I went into Metal Gear Survive with open arms; I had seen one trailer for the game, so I wasn’t exactly sure what I should be expecting outside of the game being a survival-type title.
As it turns out, Metal Gear Survive is a title that is passable as a survival title, but as a game with the Metal Gear name attached to it drops the ball in almost every regard. There’s a lack of focus on the good things Metal Gear Survive offers. Instead, the game focuses on an awful single-player campaign as multiplayer takes a backseat. There’s an annoying amount of focus on the narrative and I couldn’t be bothered to care about anything revolving around it.
I can confidently say that the worst part of Metal Gear Survive is its opening hours. The way the story is presented can feel so lazy at times; I often wondered how they could’ve possibly thought anyone would be interested in the story they were trying to tell. It’s a game about interdimensional travel; we don’t need a story, nothing needs to make sense here. The Metal Gear is a series that’s not afraid to get a little weird and wacky sometimes, and it usually works. However, Metal Gear Survive takes itself far too seriously too often. The fact that the story is supposed to be your primary motivation for progressing in the game is awful.
The game opens by teaching you some of its mechanics, but don’t be too distressed if the game is too much for you at the beginning. There’s a lot of tough survival mechanics to be found early on when you’re trying to maintain your hunger and thirst meters, and navigating the game’s world can be intimidating and downright challenging when you’re weaker. But after a few hours, you’ll be too powerful as you find yourself repeating missions that feel all too familiar, over and over again. It got quite monotonous, and I had to put the game down every couple of hours out of pure boredom.
There’s a specific area in Metal Gear Survive known as The Dust. It’s an area covered in, you guessed it, clouds of dust. Once you enter this area for the first time, you’ll be introduced to your oxygen meter that you’ll have to keep track of alongside thirst and hunger. The annoying thing for me about oxygen is the fact that it runs out incredibly fast. The game explains to you that this is intentional so that you’ll be more careful about what areas you loot, which is fine, it’s just not something I particularly enjoyed. Not only that but you often can’t see your objective marker in The Dust so you can find yourself quickly getting lost and running out of oxygen.
Kubon energy is the primary currency in the game, you can use it to replenish your oxygen in The Dust, craft just about everything, and level yourself up. The energy can be found on all enemies as well as tiny shards that are scattered throughout The Dust. There’s a premium pass of sorts that you can purchase with real money, that’ll allow you to get double the Kubon energy.
I had the chance to activate this buff for a few hours and it makes leveling up a breeze. Since the game is primarily single-player, I wouldn’t necessarily call this pay-to-win… it just makes progression feel a lot faster in an unsavory way. It’s definitely not necessary though as higher level enemies drop plenty of Kubon energy. You might think those microtransactions sound bad, but Metal Gear Survive manages to one-up this by including additional character slots for $10 USD each. It’s just straight up insulting to the users time and money.
Speaking of which, the enemies in the game are some of the worst in a Metal Gear title. The AI is just terrible and so incredibly easy to avoid. The only time they pose a threat is when they come at you in mass and you’re backed into a corner. You can quickly plant defensive structures in front of you that’ll hold back the hordes of enemies, and while this mechanic seems interesting on paper, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Enemies could realistically just run around these structures in a few seconds but they’ll stay committed to taking down that structure.
The mechanic can also make combat feel tedious as you can continuously plant defensive structures and poke your enemies with a staff to death. You can do this over and over again throughout the single-player. I feel like the mechanic would work best in a tower defense game, but Metal Gear Survive doesn’t commit to solely being just that. There are also guns in the game but a good amount of grinding is required to upgrade your inventory enough to carry a sufficient amount of ammo.
Multiplayer, on the other hand, is a lot of fun. The problem is it’s very limited right now. There are only a few missions and most of them lack any real challenge. You and your teammates will typically have to defend something from waves of enemies and the more difficult challenges can prove to be a lot of fun. There is also a slew of side objectives that can be completed outside of the area you need to defend, you can allocate different team members to these objectives and your entire squad will be rewarded for completing them. I think multiplayer is the only way this game is going to survive, but I think it’s probably already too late.
Base building is another mechanic the player is encouraged to focus on in single-player. The tool itself works fine, but I wish the game offered a little bit more creative freedom as to what I could actually do with my base. There are some neat things though, I will admit, like a radio that can play tunes from past games in the Metal Gear series as well as a few other Konami titles I won’t spoil. Other than that there are a pretty good amount of craftable items, weapons, and equipment. You can expand your recipes by finding large loot crates hidden throughout The Dust. You play a short minigame to open them and failing will notify nearby enemies of your presence.
We finally get to see the Fox Engine in use again, and while the game does run well, there are a few disappointing issues that I have to mention. For one, the game just doesn’t look as good as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain for some reason, facial and combat animations look pretty meh and none of the environments ever really wowed me. There are survival games with far more exciting settings. I also noticed a few instances where large structures or trees would pop in out of nowhere. I’m usually a pushover when it comes to some of these things but in a Metal Gear game, fans have every right to expect more.
Most of you have probably already made up your mind about Metal Gear Survive. I think Survive has some redeeming qualities and, had it focused firmly on its multiplayer, I may have enjoyed the experience more. As it stands, there are just so many better titles in the survival genre, it’s hard to recommend this game to anybody. I’m sad to say that Metal Gear Survive has squeezed any ounce of hope I had for this series I only recently got into.