Okay, I know. Metal Gear Survive is the game we all want to fail because of how Konami treated Kojima. If you’re already protesting the game because of this, then absolutely nothing I write is going to convince you it’s worth it. That’s fine, and I totally get it. Now, if you’re still interested in seeing what comes of this weird game, the open beta has allowed me to give one of its modes a shot, and it’s way better than I expected.
While the beta was running there was only one mode available, and that’s the Salvage Mission. This mode puts you on a pretty open map with a digger sitting in a half-protected, rundown area. Playing either alone or with three other players, the goal is to survive three waves of enemies and help the digger collect as much energy as possible. You start with five minutes to scavenge the map, take out lone enemies, and grab whatever materials perk your interest. There are some elements that you would expect from a traditional Metal Gear game, like the ability to sneak up on enemies to kill them, but for the most part, this is much more of an action game.
The good news? Well, the gameplay is nearly identically to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. All the foundation for a super smooth third-person shooter is there already, and shooting things in Metal Gear Survive is a fun experience. I always really enjoyed hitting a button to quickly swap into first-person aiming, as it let me line up even more precise shots than third-person allowed. You’ll need to do this too, as the zombie-like enemies that populate Metal Gear Survive‘s world have weird crystal shaped heads that make them hard to hit.
As you gather materials you’ll be able to build new weapons and barricades to assist in your defense. The system to do so is surprisingly easy, and placing down the necessary defenses was as simple as having the material, finding a crafting table, and selecting it from your inventory. Before long my team had fences, turrets, and traps positioned around the digger. Between waves, you’ll get side quests, which will ask you to find items in specific heavily guarded locations. Manage this and you’ll get some helpful rewards, like a table to resupply ammo from or a walker with a machine gun mounted on it.
You’ll need these goodies, as I found Metal Gear Survive‘s swarms of zombies to be tougher than expected. If you’re ever fighting more than a couple in melee combat, you’re up against a challenge you may just want to call off before you get killed. As waves progress, you’ll begin to see the weirder types of enemies. Giant fat explosive zombies can provide a real threat, especially when they’re made out of hard to break crystal substance. I was especially worried whenever I went up against a “tracker”, an extremely quick zombie that can vault over walls and jump out of the way of your attacks. With limited supplies, each round requires careful ammo conservation and clever use of all your tools, and enemies like that are a great way to give your defenses a real test.
If you manage to survive, you’ll bring home crafting material and Kuban Energy. The materials can be used to craft new weapons and armor, upgrade and repair your current supplies, and make new traps ahead of time for the next round. You can use the Kuban Energy to level up your character, giving them better survival stats and new skills to try out. By the time I was done with the beta I had acquired a quick dodge, a sweeping low kick to knock enemies down, and the ability to perform a shoulder charge with my ax.
One of my biggest complaints is that there are actually so many unique mechanics in Metal Gear Survive, yet the beta does an extremely poor job explaining a lot of them. The menus are messy, and without a tutorial to properly explain I was left wandering them and hitting buttons that look like they would vaguely point me in the right direction. Figuring out simple things, like how to equip that new assault rifle I just crafted, took more effort than I really should need to use. Once I got in the game, I found I had some similar problems. I saw a hunger and thirst meter, but I wasn’t actually sure how to eat or drink and I’m not really sure it mattered because most rounds didn’t actually last long enough for it to become a factor. A good tutorial is absolutely necessary for this kind of game, and it’s weird that Metal Gear Survive chose not to include one with its beta. It makes me wonder how many little elements I missed while playing.
The other problem is that the beta has a very low amount of content. The only game mode available is Salvage Mission, and while the beta ran there were only two maps. Once you’ve played both maps you’ve basically seen all there is to see. I really would have liked a chance at the single-player survival mode, or one of the other multiplayer modes I saw detailed. The only good news is that at least this feels like a problem with the beta rather than a problem with the full release.
I’m not going to lie, Metal Gear Survive isn’t really that great of a Metal Gear game. It lacks a lot of the little quirks the series has been well known for, and it’s more of an action game instead of a stealth one. However, if you remove Metal Gear from your mind, you may actually find a lot of fun to be had here. While I was really hoping I’d get to play more than I actually did, the initial impressions are surprisingly positive.
Metal Gear Survive was played on a PlayStation 4 using a freely downloaded open beta. The game launches on February 20th, 2018 and will also be available on PC and Xbox One.