To be honest, I didn’t know exactly what type of game Metal Gear Survive was before I played it, ignorant as I tend to be about gaming news. The glance I took at the main promo image showing a team of soldiers with different weapons led me to believe it might be some kind of objective-based online co-op shooter based in the Metal Gear universe.
The first incorrect assumption I made was about the general gameplay, thinking it would be a sort of wave-shooter co-op thing – but Metal Gear Survive is primarily a single player game. A single player, survival game. You know? The kind of game where your character gets hungry and thirty and you have to scavenge for resources to build equipment and hunt for food and build a base. As it turns out, I’m partial to the occasional survival game. I quite enjoyed Don’t Starve and I spent a heck of a lot of time playing Rise of the Tomb Raider’s survival expedition mode. I wonder why I wasn’t expecting that. The clue was in the name, after all – Metal Gear Survive. But then, how often does a game’s subtitle bear any relevance to its gameplay or content?
Another incorrect assumption I made was that this was Konami’s first Kojima-less Metal Gear game. It might have the Metal Gear logo plastered on it and it uses the MGSV engine, control scheme and plenty of its assets, but Metal Gear it is not. It has about as much to do with MGSV as Cy Girls has to do with MGS2. Apart from your character being a Mother Base soldier who was present at the destruction of Mother Base at the end of MGSV Ground Zeroes, there’s really no connection at all.
A bit of story later, and your apparently dead soldier wakes up in an unfamiliar place with an anonymous voice telling you to complete various objectives. Along the way you’ll recruit other characters who are also trapped in this bizarre place and eventually learn your objective is to defeat some gigantic, terrifying Lovecraftian nightmare creature, which is right up my depraved alley.
The story isn’t bad, I suppose – it just has sweet Fanny Adams to do with Metal Gear and it’s quite likely Konami just used the name for brand recognition. Oh, the writers did try their best though, because the story has some twists and it tries to be Kojima-ish with some overly-long, artsy cutscenes, but they’re missing that Kojima panache and campiness. As ridiculous as I think his writing and direction is, you can’t deny, no one does it like him, and it’s obvious he wasn’t in the director’s seat here.
Along with that tiny bit of pilfered MGS story, Konami has butchered a number of other MGS concepts to create a bizarre Franken-game out of MGS Survive. If you’re ever played MGS4, you’ll notice the Threat Ring enemy indicator has made a return, showing a holographic ring around your character with waves and spikes to indicate enemy presences. Also present is the medical system from MGS3, where your character can sustain various types of debilitating injuries and must use the right items to treat each wound. I dared to hope the camouflage system from MGS3 would be in there too, since you can craft all kinds of outfits – but it’s not.
I’m kind of tickled by these Metal Gear Retro inclusions, but then I started thinking about what they might mean – without the chaotic genius of Kojima, is Konami incapable of innovating, and instead only able to cobble together his past ideas? It might be a bit early to say, but time will tell.
There are two main mission types that advance the story, finding memory boards for info (basically your challenging fetch quests) and Wormhole Digger bits (which are basically tower-defence sections where you must defend the active machine from waves of enemies using your weapons and crafted items like fences and barricades). Although I couldn’t help but wonder how my character manages to fit six chain-link fences, six sandbag walls, and six spiked barricades in her knickers.
As you undertake these missions and various side missions like hunting animals, gathering materials, finding gear schematics, and rescuing other survivors, you’ll be able to expand your base and build better gear. At about the halfway point of the story, you’ll gain access to a new area with a Forward Operating Base, which is basically a mini-version of your home base, with access to all the crafting stations and materials you have at home.
Another thing to mention is that most of the strange game world is covered by a fog like “dust”. You can’t breathe in it, so you need to take an oxygen tank, which slowly depletes. To add to your woes, the dust obscures visibility and your map and compass don’t work in there, so you have to rely on your own sense of direction to not get lost and die of asphyxiation. It lends an extra layer of tension to missions which take place in these areas and it’s almost a relief to get out of there again. I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten lost and somehow managed to find a way out with only 3% oxygen left.
As for the multiplayer mode, well, there really isn’t much to say. You log into an online lobby, join up with three friends or strangers and take on progressively difficult Wormhole Digger missions – tower-defence scenarios with three waves – for the best score. The higher your score, the more resources you get. The top players in each session also get some extra awards, just to give everyone an incentive to work hard. Apparently some more varied online modes are on the way at some point.
Inevitably, some players are none too happy with the microtransaction side of things – and who ever is? I never do microtransactions myself, but I did sort of see where they fit in. You earn a smidgen of SV Coins in the game, but if you want a lot, you can buy them for real money. You can use these to buy extra character slots – which I never noticed because it took me forever just to get through the game with one character – and extra expedition team slots, meaning you can send more expedition teams from your base at once to gather resources. Nothing essential, but the fact that developers keep adding microtransactions into games must mean that some people are using them.
Whoever you are, stop it!