Ever since its reveal, Metal Gear Survive has garnered some interest. Not because of the game itself, but rather the controversy surrounding it. Back at the Konami booth at gamescom, I had the opportunity to try the game hands-on, and I’m convinced Metal Gear Survive will be nothing more than a forgotten spin-off. I was keen to know more, especially since Konami has been rather notorious when it comes to themselves and Metal Gear creator and director, Hideo Kojima.
It began with an introduction of where the game was set and how it's taking part within the Metal Gear Solid universe. After a short trailer, it’s explained it does not. So far, so good, it’s not canon. Metal Gear Survive does technically take place in the universe established in The Phantom Pain, but this is where the comparisons end. It’s a what-if scenario. Almost some sort of fan-fiction, with the players created characters being transported through a wormhole, alongside other Militaires Sans Frontières soldiers and the besieged remnants of Mother Base seen at the start of Metal Gear Solid V. Taken to a desolate world inhabited by crystallised zombie-like creatures, my first thoughts were: “What’s this got to do with Metal Gear Solid?”
Well, nothing. It’s nothing more than a soulless stand-alone spin-off, capitalising on the name and branding of Metal Gear. Still, it wasn’t merely a game developed out of spite, there is still a game here and after spending roughly half-hour with it, it’s not as bad as you’d think.
Metal Gear Survive, if you’d hadn’t already gathered, is essentially Konami’s attempt to take the espionage, throw it away and put emphasis all on ‘survival action’. Whilst there is a solo story to be found, they couldn’t talk about it. I instead, along with three others, took part in the game's main focus, cooperative play. We chose from four preset character builds - two melee focused and two long ranged. It was explained that in the final build, you’ll be able to create your own character to your liking, set up their skills, choose weapons, and organise your inventory. For now, though, we were using these presets. Beforehand, when selecting our characters, we all gathered in a pre-game lobby allowing us to run around freely, test our weapons and annoy one another with our gear. Once all readied up, we began.
Controls are identical to The Phantom Pain and Ground Zeroes, no real surprise considering it’s built on the same impressive FOX Engine. With this, you can lay prone, roll, use contextual cover, and execute close-quarter combat. All useful skills when carrying out stealth missions and tactical espionage, but going up against zombies? Not so much. Still, there is an element of stealth as you and your team sneakily take-down zombies as you travel towards your objective. Problem is though, it all feels rather awkward. Metal Gear isn’t designed to have players go against hordes of zombies, it’s just not how the game was built to play. Instead, you’re almost a little conflicted. Run and gun, wasting resources at the zombies and risk being overwhelmed, or play stealthy and avoid them at all together.
Tasked to defend a wormhole generator against hordes of zombies, we arrived at a deserted courtyard surrounded by ransacked and toppled buildings with the generator in the centre. It was a wave-based mission, which sees the zombies stagger towards the generator increasing in size and difficulty after each consecutive wave. Before starting, it was advised to build up fortifications. These are crafted through in-game menus and come in form of fences, barricades, and the use of equipment like claymores or mortars.
Surviving the first wave was simple enough, each of us was well equipped, we steadily took down the oncoming zombies with little trouble. Their shambling nature allowed us to effectively dwindle down the hordes before any defences were breached. The only real trouble throughout was maintaining ammo and our steadily depleting resources. So after the second wave, we were given the task to carry out a side-quest within the mission. Before this, disaster struck. No, we didn’t get killed or fail, it was something far more amusing.
At the start we were told that we’d be playing on the Xbox One version, more specifically on the Xbox One X. And lo’ and behold, the console I just happened to be playing on decided it didn’t like me and crashed the game halfway through, forcing our friendly Konami PR rep to shutdown and restart, not only ending my playtime short, but also leaving our team of four a man down. Still, I had to laugh at the situation and looked onwards to see what the remaining team did next.
We were told that side-quests within missions are optional, but are rewarding. In this case, the team travelled to a marker north of the generator to gather resources and grab a couple of Walkers, bipedal one-man vehicles with miniguns. Surrounded by more zombies, taking control of the Walkers, the team was able to mow down the remaining hordes and stomp them with the Walkers. Riding them back to the main mission, the team continued to prevail in their defence, but soon things took a turn.
With a man down and the Walkers depleted of ammunition, the team was unfortunately overwhelmed. It was clear that teamwork and coordination was seriously required to survive the last wave, and lacking that fourth didn’t help. A few things I noticed during this time, was that players could be downed before dying, giving chance for other teammates to revive. You can be wounded as well, affecting your movement and aim, something found similarly in other survival titles and was reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid 3’s recovery system.
Other things learnt was that there is a crafting system put in place to allow you build up your own base. You start off small and as you go out exploring, gathering resources, you can essentially build your own massive fortifications and further advance with stronger defences, better equipment and more gear. Much like Mother Base and the FOBs in Metal Gear Solid V, there will be no doubt that your base will be prone to attack by the hordes of zombies, or even players - but that’s something yet to be seen. So don’t be surprised if Konami tries to again capitalize on this with micro-transactions and ‘insurance’.
Metal Gear Survive then, does it do justice to be tied to the Metal Gear name? Absolutely not, it’s a forgettable experience. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s damaging to the legacy, but with game mechanics seen better established in other survival titles, it makes you think who is Metal Gear Survive actually for? It’s not the fans, they’re like me, still very bitter towards Konami and their treatment of Hideo Kojima and Metal Gear Solid V. So who then? Well, anyone interested in another survival title. After all, the FOX Engine is still an astonishingly impressive engine and by having almost everything in place already, why not recycle what you’ve got and produce another game. Whether that translates into sales, well, that’s up to you.