Konami's popular stealth action series has been entertaining gamers for over three decades. Now that Hideo Kojima has left the company, does this crazy spin-off offer a worthwhile experience or are you better off sticking to the classics?
Before I begin this review, I should discuss my history with Metal Gear. First of all, I've been a huge fan of the series ever since Metal Gear Solid debuted for the original PlayStation. I vaguely remember playing the first NES game before that but for obvious reasons, it failed to captivate me. Anyway, I loved every single entry in the series that I played from Metal Gear Solid onward. I even enjoyed the original couple of Metal Gear games thanks to their inclusion in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. Finally, I thought Metal Gear Solid V was awesome although admittedly, it didn't quite blow my mind as much as the four previous main entries.
When I saw the trailer for Metal Gear Survive, I couldn't believe my eyes. It looked absolutely terrible. Heck, even after booting it up and watching the opening cutscenes, I was finding it very difficult to hold back my cynicism. Upon playing for a few hours and watching the in-depth tutorials and overly long story scenes, I still wasn't counting on it being an enjoyable game. However, once the gameplay loop started to click and the mechanics began to open up and become more complex and challenging, I actually found myself becoming completely hooked. Well, I definitely didn't think that would happen. Isn't there a bandwagon that I'm supposed to be on?
Metal Gear Survive incorporates a lot of survival-based and management mechanics that culminate in a surprisingly in-depth formula. When you begin the game, you'll be struggling to keep your belly full and constantly run out of stamina whenever you dash anywhere. Your base of operations will also be small and mostly utilitarian. However, as you progress, you'll find that everything opens up in an impressive way that'll have you eagerly carrying out missions and upgrading all sorts of aspects. For example, you'll actually rescue people that can help build your base, your stats will enhance to the point where you can run without getting easily exhausted, and you'll even have enough mini-farms on your base that you won't have to worry about food, water, or medicine. It all adds up to an addictive blend of mechanics that's incredibly rewarding to master as you progress and things become more challenging.
One thing that the Metal Gear series has always done extremely well is tell an interesting and mind-bending story. However, I frankly found the plot of Metal Gear Survive to be very goofy. It starts with you being sucked into a wormhole and you end up in an alternate dimension that's basically a desert filled with strange zombie-like creatures. As you advance in this hellscape, the story gradually unfolds and there are a couple of twists that are very cool and worth watching but as a whole, the plot is just silly. I was hoping it would have been more intentionally bad like a B movie but it takes itself way too seriously.
Along the same lines, the characters are bland and unlikeable. Reeve (an XOF soldier) is kind of a butthole and the other characters consist of a nurse who's very out of place, a cop, and an artificial intelligence that has two personalities. My favourite character is a kid computer wiz in a wheelchair named Chris who turns out to be a lot more interesting than you'll initially think.
Another aspect that I look forward to in a Metal Gear game is exploring immersive environments. This is another aspect that disappointed me as Metal Gear Survive mostly looks similar from start to finish (which is a problem that I also had with Metal Gear Solid V). Basically, the desert area that you begin within is just sand and rocks. A lot of the map is covered in dust and within those areas, you need to wear an oxygen mask and enemies are more plentiful. Needless to say, the visuals get monotonous fast. On the other end of the spectrum, whenever you enter ruins, things become very eerie and you may even have a few jump scares. The darkened organic corridors are genuinely creepy and will have you on the edge of your seat. Anyway, the second half of the campaign is within an African-looking environment which helps mix things up a bit but not as much as you'd hope. Again, it's a lot like The Phantom Pain.
Back to the gameplay, the learning curve in Metal Gear Survive is expertly crafted to gradually hone your survival skills throughout the campaign. Sure, things start very slowly but once you get over the initial hurdle of learning the ropes and things start to open up, you'll find yourself jumping from managing your base to carrying out all sorts of missions with complete ease. Upon gathering a wealth of resources, opening some new shortcuts, recruiting more inhabitants, and crafting a few top-notch weapons and gadgets; completing the next tough story-based mission that you've been stuck on feels extremely satisfying. There's nothing quite like taking on dozens of creatures who are trying to destroy your base only to emerge victorious with little structural damage.
Aside from the addictive blend of mechanics, well-implemented learning curve, rewarding progression systems, and satisfying level of challenge, the core gameplay is fairly decent, too. It's nowhere near as intricately detailed and multifaceted as other Metal Gear games but I still had a ton of fun battling the creatures. At the beginning, you can get away with putting up fences and stabbing zombies through them for the most part but as you progress and meet new kinds of creatures, things become a lot more involving. Grabbers will temporarily incapacitate you, zombies with bomb heads can cause a great deal of structural and health damage, and spider-like monsters will gang up on you in an instant. On top of all this, the ever-looming Lord of Dust can stomp your life out in one hit.
Of course, I should discuss the multiplayer component before wrapping up this review. It basically consists of online cooperative salvage missions where you generally work together with three other players to protect a central asset from waves of encroaching creatures. It plays like a tower defense game although on a rather large scale. In addition to setting up defenses and using various weapons to thin out the hordes, you can also run around the map and complete side-quests that will aid your team in battle by providing more resources, etc. Although I enjoyed playing online a great deal and appreciated the rewards that assist you in the single player campaign, I can't help but wish there was more to it as taking part in the same kinds of missions over and over again gets repetitive very quickly.
Metal Gear Survive doesn't come close to offering the same level of immersion that past Metal Gear games did but it's still definitely one of the most addictive survival-based gaming experiences that I've ever played.
- + Addictive blend of survival mechanics, base management, and action
- + Awesomely implemented learning curve
- + Rewarding progression and level of challenge
- - Besides the ruins, environments aren't very immersive or diverse
- - Goofy story and unlikeable characters
- - Multiplayer could use more substance