That roasted Gerbil really hits the spot.
Metal Gear Survive was never going to win over most gamers. From its announcement, the game was fighting a losing battle, one it had zero chance of winning. The damage done to Konami's image and legacy was tarnished with how it handled Metal Gear creator, Hideo Kojima's exit and departure from the studio, not to mention several other aspects of how it continued to conduct its business. This controversy almost guaranteed that Metal Gear Survive would release dead on arrival. As a lifelong fan of the series, I was curious as to what Survive would offer the Metal Gear fan in me, and while it never comes close to living up to the legacy of the franchise, it might very well be one of the best survival games in recent memory.
Being an independent video game reviewer, I choose what titles to not only play but which ones to review as well. I'm too small a website to garner review codes or free access to the games I want to play. Every title I review comes out of my own pocket and this website doesn't make me any money, so getting views reviewing a controversial game doesn't really benefit me financially. I chose to review Metal Gear Survive for two reasons; One; I was curious about it, and two; It can be quite enjoyable to review a really bad game. Unfortunately, for that second reason, Metal Gear Survive turned out to be actually quite great and a title I can't put down.
I've been a fan of the series since the original Metal Gear on the NES, back when it first released. I wouldn't revisit the series until Metal Gear Solid on the PS1 and from there I've played and completed each entry that followed, even the portable versions like Acid and Ghost Babel. While Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance wasn't exactly remarkable, it was interesting to see the Metal Gear series continue or at least branch off without the series protagonist, Snake. While it's still unclear why Konami parted ways with Kojima, the thought of the Metal Gear series continuing without him was something that upset a lot of gamers, even myself.
It's hard to imagine another title that has garnered so much hate, but given what Konami did, I am not surprised at the amount of criticism that has been directed towards them. What I don't agree with, however; is the community lashing out at those who want to enjoy this game. As I mentioned, I fully went in expecting this game to disappoint, not to confirm those who have called this game "utter garbage" without ever even playing it, but to see what it offered for myself. As a Metal Gear game, it disappoints on a massive scale, but take the brand away and you have a solid game that I found nearly 45 hours of enjoyment from, and one that I look to put in at least double that before I am done with it. I treat this game as a spin-off of the main series, as it was never meant to be anything else. Is this a cash grab at the license? Probably. Does that impact the enjoyment I have gotten out of it? Not at all. Have many outlets even mentioned its reduced price? Not that I've seen.
Metal Gear Survive is a meter-driven survival game that takes place after the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, albeit in an alternate timeline. A mysterious wormhole opens up above the Caribbean forward operating base, Militaires Sans Frontières, and much of its structure and crew, who are currently in battle against XOF forces are then swallowed up by the strange phenomenon. You wake up on the other side, in a world named Dite, and are tasked with finding out what happened to a previous squad and eventually you'll discover there is far more to your objective than a simple search and rescue. The central cast is small and sadly, are not developed in any significant way and come off as mostly forgettable. Apart from Goodluck, a man who resembles Laurence Fishburne, you likely won't remember the names of anyone you meet. The exciting parts of the story come from the set pieces of defending your base from attacks and from a handful of well-designed missions when you are not grinding the environment for resources. Towards the end of the 15-20 hour campaign, several characters start banding together for reasons that feel hollow and not authentic. Had the game focused more on the bond you are meant to share with these survivors, then I could have bought into it a bit more. It also doesn't help that the voice acting lacks any real effort and can mostly come off as annoying or laughably bad.
The world of Dite, which is pronounced Dee-Tay, is mostly recycled parts of the environments of The Phantom Pain, with several locations seeing small tweaks and adjustments to accommodate the narrative and gameplay mechanics. In fact, much of the reason why Survive looks and plays so good is that it directly lifts much of what made The Phantom Pain such an enjoyable experience. I see so many people claiming that nothing about this game is exceptional, and yet, it pulls so much from a game that many absolutely love. In Survive, you will not only manage your hunger and thirst levels but as you explore a foggy area called The Dust, you'll need to wear an oxygen apparatus to survive, giving you yet another meter to keep track of. It is here in The Dust where the majority of your time is spent on missions, objectives, and finding the best loot.
For the meters you need to watch, hunger can affect how much health you have and thirst will affect your stamina. Should either value be low, you won't have as much health in reserve or stamina to allow a solid amount of sprinting. The problem with these meters is just how fast they drain and they drain even when in menu's as well, which just feels far too punishing, Thankfully, you can pause the game entirely, should you need to take a break, answer the phone, or grab a snack, and not have to worry about your survivor.
The opening few hours of gameplay are littered with tutorials and learning to manage those meters, often with frustration. While the game can feel a bit bland in these early moments, it's not long before it becomes incredibly addictive. You'll need to track down your own food and water to survive, collecting dirty water to eventually convert into clean water, and hunting animals to cook or turn into a soup, which satisfies both your hunger and thirst. Consume that dirty water and there is a chance you will contract a stomach bug, requiring special medical supplies to cure. Ensuring you have enough food and water becomes a gameplay loop that you will place a large focus on and eventually, that will look to include finding materials to craft weapons, gear, and gadgets you'll need to survive. While I've never been a huge fan of the survival genre, the included progression of the story, character upgrades, and the gameplay loop of finding and crafting better gear is an extremely satisfying one that kept my interest high for nearly the entire campaign.
For a large portion of the game, you will have a base to build and turn into a fortress of your own design. Each slot can be filled with various crafting desks, medical stations, farms, tents, and various means of protection like barbed wire fences, turrets, or fire traps. You can also craft water-filtration systems that make the collection of clean water that much easier. At first, your base is small, but as you progress, you'll be able to expand, even if it is just a minor upgrade. With that progression comes higher quality crafting desks that grant you better and better equipment and even some of the higher rank items will require that you have certain people in certain roles in your base. Just like in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain as well as Peace Walker, each survivor will have skills that benefit them in certain base development roles. During the campaign, your base can be attacked, but only during certain story moments. This changes upon completing the campaign as you will be able to defend your base through timed events that either you can assist with or leave it to your base to defend itself. While each attack is incredibly easy to defend against, I still found it immensely satisfying to turn my base into an impregnable fortress.
You will be defending that base, as well as the survivors, against what is known as the Wanderers. While the name is lacking in originality, the creatures are designed by Silent Hill artist, Masahiro Ito, who worked on Silent Hill as a background and creature artist and then as art director for its second and third of the series. The Wanderers have been joked around as being called Unicorn Zombies, and that assessment isn't far off. While there is some narrative to the reason for their appearance, it's thin and frankly, the creatures could have been better. Their AI isn't anything to write home about either, but it does allow you to easily lure them into traps and situations where you can just massacre dozens of them with ease. The most common way to deal with this menace is to simply craft a chainlink fence in front of them and then use your weapon to slice, stab or impale them while they attempt to break it down. Killing Wanderers will net you Kuban Energy, the currency of the game, and part of the gameplay loop to upgrade your skills and craft new and better gear.
For quite a chunk of the campaign, you will only see one or two types of Wanderers. That changes quite drastically towards the latter half of the game. While the majority of your time is spent killing the standard humanoid versions, you'll encounter Bombers that have a large round upper body that can cause a major explosion, to fast-paced Trackers that can jump over your defenses and unleash wild dropkicks in a lightning-quick fury. You'll also encounter various other types of threats like creatures that disguise themselves as innocent looking plants, which will make you swear out loud dozens of time in anger or large metal spiders which can usually be taken out quite easily. While you can shatter the crystallized fragments of their body to retrieve what Kuban energy they contain, you can also knock them down and Fulton most of them away through small portals to harness far more energy, should their crystal be intact. This works the same for animals as well as running up to throat punch a sheep never gets old.
As you venture out into the Dust, your ability to use your map goes away, making it more of a memory game to study your surroundings and figure out exactly where you are. While I've gotten lost numerous times, you can usually find your way home by looking out for blue or green lights. Blue lights indicate either a potential fast travel location or a locked chest. Locked chests will put a smile on your face each time you see one as these contain new gear items to make your character look a bit cooler or survive a few more hits. These chests come with a catch, they can either be opened very quietly with some precise timing or very loud should you fail the short mini-game, causing enemies to be alerted to your presence. When you have access to the fast travel base camps, which are locations you need to first liberate away from the Wanderers, the lights above them will turn green, and when you are carrying a survivor on your back, that light can be a beacon of hope, especially since that survivor cannot breathe in the Dust and time is crucial.
Metal Gear Survive features a wealth of weapon types to assist in cutting down the Unicorn Zombie threat. You have spears, machete's, hammers, axes, bows, and various guns like pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, and the powerful magnum. Each melee weapon has a speed and range that will look to suit your own playstyle, so if you prefer slow weapons that pack a punch or fast agile ones like the spear, then you are all set. As you earn Kuban, you can upgrade your character to learn new weapon combo's and while the combat system is functional, it can be a bit clunky when trying to put off a few of these attacks, often leaving you vulnerable and surrounded instead of that flashy move that should have cut down those around you. Each weapon falls into a slot of either being on your back like the spear or bow or attached to your hip like the machete or pistol. This can limit what you can take into battle, even when you have unlocked all available weapon or item slots. Your character also has the ability to equip more pouches to carry more ammunition or flammable items like the crowd-pleasing Molotov. You do have a weight limit to worry about, so ensuring you are only carrying what you need is something you need to be mindful of.
Your weapons, armor, and gadgets, and not to mention your base defenses and food items, all are constructed via a crafting system, a multi-material system we've seen a hundred times before. Better items require rarer materials and most locations will resupply their stock occasionally, meaning that if you know a special spot for batteries or piano wire, then chances are that location will contain those items again upon a future visit. The crafting system allows you to see what materials you need for a certain recipe you've unlocked and tracking these pieces down to construct that long-awaited weapon or gear piece can be a very satisfying feeling, especially when you stumble upon a table or shelf filled with that last item you need. While the game doesn't contain the completion prompts of something like Monster Hunter World, where you can set alerts to indicate you've gathered all the materials for that item, it still contains the same addictive charm of Capcom's monster crafting simulator.
As I've mentioned, your combat moves, as well as your character, can be upgraded after collecting certain Kuban milestones, with each level requiring far more energy than the last. You can upgrade the damage you deal, how much damage you can take, or boost your dexterity or stamina. Combat moves can involve leg sweeps, sprint attacks, special attack combo's, or simply the ability to pick items up a bit faster. Several of these, such as the CQC counter can be a lifesaver when a Wanderer is about to strike, causing you to unleash a fury of punches and kicks to drop them to the ground. Upon completing the campaign, I am missing only 5 skills and should easily be able to max level my survivor in no time.
When you complete the campaign, a post-game mission to unlock special subclasses is soon available and will look to enhance various playstyles. These subclasses are Assault, Jaeger, Medic, and Scout. Each class has special skills to help your multiplayer companions like the Assault's Battle Cry to strengthen your attack power of you and your allies, or the Medic's ability to share some of your life with another player. Each class also has several quality of life additions like the Scouts ability to repair damaged defenses, pick up multiple materials at once, or the Jaeger's ability to shoot three arrows at a time. These subclasses add a whole new dynamic to the game and frankly, it's incredibly disappointing that you only unlock these after beating the main story, some 20 hours in. I instantly gravitated towards the Scout subclass due to the ability to cloak, acquire Kuban instantly upon a kill, and walk silently around my enemies.
While most of your missions are typical fetch quests, there are numerous times throughout the campaign that you will be tasked with placing down a Digger and mining for Kuban Energy. These are wave-based events that take place either in three-wave cycles in preset locations, or single waves that appear randomly on the map. These events are essentially training you for its co-op multiplayer, albeit as a solo experience. You can leave the campaign at any time to join up with three other players for some extremely satisfying co-op action. Any items you earn as a reward can also be brought back into your single-player game, so it's a solid way to procure some much-needed materials and new gear items. During these Digger missions, you are tasked with defending the digging machine from the Wanderer threat, using all manner of defenses to cut them down. This is easily the best component to Survive and is a blast to play with a full roster of players. At first, you are locked to completing easy missions until you reach a certain character level to unlock normal, and the same goes for unlocking hard difficulty as well.
Part of the fun of these wave-based encounters is how hectic the action can get. Each base will have numerous paths that the Wanderers can infiltrate from and while there are clear paths shown to you where they enter from, I've had small forces come from completely other areas or drop in from up high, paths I never even considered. One aspect of playing with other players online that I found rewarding is seeing the interesting ways that people would use traps or seeing certain attack combos that you may not have unlocked yet. This gets even more impressive when you start adding in subclasses. The main goal of multiplayer is to earn the coveted S-Rank, an end goal that is remarkably easy to earn on Easy and Normal, and one I have yet to earn via the games hardest difficulty.
Most waves in the campaign run only a few minutes long and as action-packed as it can get, there are two moments in the single-player campaign where you are fending off forces for nearly 15-20 minutes. The first of those is a 15-minute timer to Fulton back something crucial to the plot and this was easily the most chaotic moment in the game and frankly, I survived with only a sliver of health left on the Digger, not to mention that I had completely depleted my items, ammo, and had a merely 9% durability left on my spear. My character was pretty much out of gas, as I was as well. For a game called Survive, I felt I had barely done just that.
For an online-only title, even during its single-player campaign, the servers have always been up during my time with the game. While the first few hours of release saw the servers not switched on, that only affected those in the early hours of the day and nothing I was privy to. I've had a few issues with a "Network unstable" message flash up pausing the gameplay for a few seconds, but I've never once had a dropped match during my 20+ hours with multiplayer alone. I found it disappointing that you can't stick with the same group of randoms after a match ends as it boots you back into blind matchmaking. Instead, you would need to send them invites to a private match should you want to keep playing with the same group. I would hope that they patch in a "stick with group" function, but I won't hold my breath.
While Metal Gear Survive uses the Fox engine, it doesn't quite share in the same visual polish as The Phantom Pain. The game still has some decent visuals, but I just feel that the team involved during the Kojima days were just overall better at getting the most out of the engine. However; it could easily be a budget issue that is holding the game back visually. That being said, I've never seen any glitches or framerate drops at any point playing the game. There are some muddy and flat textures here and there and the in-game models for the people are just ok if a bit generic. The variety in the Wanderers look visually impressive, despite them still looking like Unicorn Zombies.
Audio is where the game has a little bit of column A and a little of column shut the F up. The soundtrack here is pretty great, offering songs of not only past Metal Gear games but that of old-school Castlevania as well. You can set radio towers in your base to play these while running around it or playing with the design and function of your base in the builder. Weapon sounds work well and each slash, strike, and jab finds the exact tone of crunch when it really matters. However; for all the fun classic game themes that fill the air, there is the non-stop needless AI chatter for the thousandth time telling me that my oxygen is low or that I need to eat. I wish there was a way to limit your AI from constantly issuing out the oxygen tutorial of using Kuban to refill your oxygen when it's low, an act that gets insanely expensive the more you use this method of re-upping that sweet sweet oxygen. The voice acting, as I've mentioned is nothing special, which sucks considering you have the likes of Matthew Mercer and Crispin Freeman lending their well-known voices to the game.
There's been much talk about the games use of microtransactions and how a second save slot is a whole $10 to unlock. Now, I'm a solid 45+ hours into the game and I only accessed the online store for these digital goods to see what was there, and there ain't much. Honestly, I never once felt that I needed anything here and found the game to strike a solid balance of difficulty when I started to build water filtration systems and gained access to more locations to hunt animals. The save slot issue is only one if you are actually wanting to create another character, though I'm not sure why you would want to. You can change all but your gender at any time and the subclasses can be swapped freely, never locking you into any set build. The currency used to buy the save slot is also something you can earn each day for simply logging in and hell, I was gifted 130 coins of the 1,000 needed for that save slot just randomly one day, pushing me nearly a third of the way there in less than a week. Any issue with these paid services is really on how much of an issue you want them to be. Unlike something like Shadow of War, these digital goods are never once shoved in your face or indicated your experience would be "better" with them.
Metal Gear Survive has a harsh grind in its early game that can throw off players in ways that feels punishing and stressful, but should you stick with it, the management of those meters becomes far more tolerable and forgiving when you start implementing farms and water collection facilities. When you get into the rhythm of hunting for food and tracking down those much-needed materials, Survive is a truly addictive experience. The thrill of panic when trying to dig for Kuban Energy in a base being swarmed by dozens of Wanderers as you frantically place down turrets, chain-link fences or fire traps by yourself or alongside other players is a fantastic experience. Metal Gear Survive at its core is not a Metal Gear game in the slightest, but rather a game that takes place in an alternate timeline of a Metal Gear story. It is certainly not a game to hold alongside the greatness that Kojima gave us, but take that branding away and you have an extremely fun game that most people just can't turn off the hate to enjoy.