This has probably been the most contradictory review I have penned to date, to start with it was a game that I took one look at the reveal trailer and just instantly felt it was not for me. Personally I felt the fatigue from the entire Zombie apocalypse genre over the last few years and after Dying Light the genre was treading water. So when I saw that following the controversial departure of Metal Gear God Hideo Kojima from Konami and the massive fallout from how that all went down, the Metal Gear series was for me at the least, done with. But after playing this game to completion and then in the post game, my views on it have indeed changed and unlike others who have rallied on it to dismiss it in a powerfully negative way, I actually kind of liked it.
So to get it out the way straight off the bat, I actually found this game fun to play and really enjoyed my time with it but at the same time, it certainly has its flaws and some really curious attempts by those behind it to keep using the Metal Gear formula of games in terms of story telling and character building. Some of it works and some of it is eye rolling cringe at the same time. But the gameplay for me, the survival aspects and crafting especially, did work enough for me to change my opinion on this game from where I was after watching the trailers for it but then the weak story and terrible dialogue mixed with some of the worst voice acting in a game for quite some time, should put this on my avoid at all costs list. So yes, this is quite the weird one for me.
Metal Gear Survive borrows a great many things from Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain such as the gameplay, game engine and cinematic feel. It also borrows from the story by linking the events to the moment Mother Base is attacked by the XOF and Big Boss and Kazuhira are shown to be escaping by chopper. The cutscene then shifts to the bodies of fallen soldiers all being listed by the surviving Mother Base team along with the UN and we see a mysterious man looking among the dead for a specific body. Scene then switches back to that same soldier, who covered the escape of Big Boss and co by taking out a shooter causing him to sacrifice his own opportunity to escape when suddenly a large worm hole appears above Mother Base sucking all remaining survivors and debris into it. Our soldier manages to hold on enough to avoid going through the worm hole but at the cost of his left arm and well…his life as he falls to his death. Now the scene returns to our mysterious friend six months after the incident, along with the soldier who is now alive and with his left arm back.
This is where the story starts to creak a little for me by beginning with linking this game to MGSV and then going full on straight to DVD film by cranking up the sci-fi and chucking in a wormhole. The mystery man now identified as Goodluck, explains that he needs to send the soldier, to be known simply as Captain going forward, on a mission to another dimension called Dite and tasked with the recovery of data and information from the original mission to Dite by the Charon Corps. Once there the Captain must work to survive from the threat of strange Crystal form Zombies known as Wanderers, recover the lost data the Corps were gathering on Dite and rescue any survivors if possible. Moments after arriving, the Captain encounters the first survivor, a pilot named Reece and together they form a quick plan to escape their first contact with Wanderers before encountering an AI, the original Virgil AT-9 support AI for the Charon Corps who is somehow suffering from memory loss, leads them to their home base and acts as the Captain’s support out in the field.
Before I dive into the issues I have with the story and the characters I think I should start with what I actually did enjoy, the gameplay. For those who have played MGSV you will instantly feel comfortable with the movement, controls and mission styles that make up Survivals core gameplay. The addition of an actual effective survival mechanic changes it up quite a bit. Like any survival game, the Captain will need to eat and drink in order to keep his/her strength up. In addition medical supplies will be needed to treat any illness from eating dodgy food or dirty water as well as potential injuries from combat and accidents. This mechanic works really well and is a constant factor when out exploring or completing missions.
The stand out mechanic for me however is the crafting which is how you can upgrade your gear in terms of armour and weapons which range from basic two handed spears to one handed weapons to more advanced weapons such as guns, bows and explosives. Thanks to the wormhole tech, eventually you can also carry or call in defensive units such as metal fences and barricades to more advanced units like mortars and machine guns. As you explore the world and via natural story progression, new recipes or designs can be obtained and crafted to improve your weapons and armour and defensive designs and has such a natural progression that all it really requires to improve is taking the time to go out and gather the materials needed. Now for the more advanced designs and especially in the end game area of the game, rarer materials will need to be gathered and these can be hard to find. Encampments and wormhole transporter sites, the method of fast travel between the different areas of Dite, hold most materials but between crafting new gear the same materials will also be required to repair them as constant use will cause them to deteriorate and lose their effectiveness. This will mean that outside of completing main story missions, you will need to go out on expeditions in order to find materials and food to keep going. Crafting will also require Kuban energy which is collected from the killed Wanderers and also natural forming Kuban crystal deposits found out in the world or Dite. Kuban energy is needed for everything from crafting weapons and equipment to cooking food but the main benefit of this resource is in how it can be used to enhance The Captain with new skills to increase health, stamina and combat skills for the various melee weapon types.
The combat itself is also fun, if rather generic in terms of the main threat from Wanderers being a numbers game for the most part. Wanderers exist all over Dite and the difficulty in handling them rises the further into the main story you progress. All Wanderers react to either sound or seeing you directly. Stealth is limited but can be used but usually if you can avoid them then you will be better off. There are different forms of Wanderer that are introduced via story progress but the basic Wanderer is fairly stupid and like all Zombies they simply react and attack which is where the numbers game comes into play. If one is alerted their cries will summon all Wanderers in that area to your presence and most of the time it is just best to take them on. This can lead to some repetitive gameplay though as putting up a simple metal fence in front of you will cause them to all build up against it which can cause the fence to crumble as the clamber to climb it but does make them a pretty easy target for a melee weapon, arrow, bullet or explosive.
This continues in the big combat element to Survival, base defence. During the story you will be called upon to activate a number of wormhole transporters each of which requires a certain amount of time to activate. Once started, it will attract all Wanderers to you forcing you to have to defend the transporter until it has completed its start up which can take anything from a single minute to three. You will need to prevent the Wanderers from destroying the transporter. Now depending on your load-out of choice this could be a tough battle but if honest, even with basic weapons and defensive units, this never really became bothersome. This style of base defense does escalate with the home base itself coming under attack as part of the main story campaign and when utilizing the Wormhole Digger during the story. This essentially is the same gameplay as defending a transporter however it lasts for three waves and large numbers of Wanderers attacking from multiple directions. This can be trickier to manage so having extra ammo for weapons in the repository to call in after each wave is handy.
I did like that after completing the main story campaign there is still more to do with extra missions opening up including a completely random and slightly out of place Boss Battles but that is best left to be discovered once you have completed the main story and it is a very high level which is why new skills can be unlocked and further upgraded by completing the post game missions which should help but will take some effort to get as the amount of Kuban energy required is very high compared to the main story requirements. So there really is plenty of gameplay to be had in this game for the asking price which at the time of writing has Metal Gear Survival physical version available from £20 online which is a fair price I feel for what this offers.
Now to the issues with the game which balance out all the good things I enjoyed bout it. First off the story is rather weak mainly because of the loose way it forces itself to be connected to the main canon of Metal Gear V. The massive negative response by fans of the series to this could be well justified but personally I have no problem with spin off titles set in this universe after truly enjoying Metal Gear Rising which was a huge departure in terms of story, main character and gameplay style. There is a definite effort to recreate the same story telling style and dialogue of the Hideo Kojima Metal Gear games and if honest, it does feel very strange but that is only because the writing here and in particular the terrible dialogue which is not helped by some seriously wooden voice acting, undoes some of the good work the actual gameplay does. Characters like Reece or as I came to call him ‘Officer Douche’ never feel natural especially when in the base defence moments literally no one and I mean no one will come to help you which just feels strange when their dialogue suggests they will help you no matter what. The post campaign side also feels just thrown out there to have a world continue and when you do encounter the boss battles you will probably have the same ‘WTF’ reaction that I had.
The co-op side which takes the form of Salvage missions is a great way of earning extra Kuban energy and materials as rewards for doing well. These are essentially multi-wave wormhole digger defence missions which can be played by up to four players using their own ‘Captains’. Thankfully this does have matchmaking so it will search for other players which did take some time on Xbox One to fill a lobby. As well as defending the digger players are also tasked with the competitive task of scoring more points than everyone else by killing the most Wanderers and completing objectives that appear during each wave. This is a fun side mode for the game which is aided by having the matchmaking option to find other players.
Now the really nonsense element and something that there really is no justifying at all by Konami at this point showing their complete ignorance to how fans would react to it are the micro-transactions. The game has its own currency known as SV coins which can be used to purchase various Booster passes from one day to seven days which boosts the amount of Kuban energy you can earn and the supplies generated by your homebase. Now so far a couple of one day booster passes have been given to players as compensation for several issues with the game since launch and there is a log in reward system for playing the game each day with an amount of SV coins given. But real money can be used to purchase these coins but as you can also earn them just by playing the game, for now at least, this side does not bother me as much as the really big insult micro-transaction which by now just about everyone, including those not playing the game, will have heard about. Yes Konami are charging £7.99 per save slot in this game. You naturally get one to start with but if you want to have a second or multiple characters or playthroughs then it will cost you for each save slot which for me is just unforgivable even if this is a budget priced game at this point. Not a wise move by Konami and certainly not a sensible one considering the negative reaction to Survival before its release and after.
It is a shame that Metal Gear Survival has this dark cloud surrounding it which has put many people of before even trying it. It was always going to be a tough going being the very first Metal Gear game without Hideo Kojima and it certainly has not been helped by the save slot shenanigans. Though the story is weak it is not game avoiding level bad to spoil the game experience but the dialogue and voice cast again does nothing to help this game at all. I loved the survival side and the crafting elements really gave me the sensation of getting that pay off in strengthening my Captain as the story progressed. The post game allows for a high end experience that keeps you searching for better designs to craft and the online co-op is fun and offers good rewards for taking part.
Sadly whilst I really enjoyed my time with the game despite issues with the story and writing, this is a game that was indeed almost doomed before it was released and it was an interesting choice to be the first post Kojima Metal Gear game. It is the second spin off and the reaction to Rising was also luke warm at best but as a taste test for how fans would react to anything in this series without Kojima it probably has soured the milk a little. With the price already dropping for the physical copy of this game, this is one worth investing in if you enjoy survival games and were a fan of Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain and at the right price you will get value for what you pay for it.
Metal Gear Survive is certainly not a terrible example of the survival game genre but it does show that the zombie apocalypse is a very tired concept right now and perhaps not the best choice for the continuation of the Metal Gear series even if it is just a one off side game that simply reused a lot of the Metal Gear V assets and game engine. It does deserve a look at but maybe once it is firmly in the bargain bucket for those unsure about it. But I enjoyed it enough to get all the way through to the post game side though I doubt I will get the urge to replay the main story any time soon, and certainly not for the asking price of £7.99 per save slot.