You can’t mention Metal Gear Survive without seeing an argument. Sometimes it’s about how Konami treated Hideo Kojima, sometimes it’s about how the spin-off is nothing like the rest of the series. Whatever the case, Metal Gear Survive‘s very existence is divisive. Now, this weird Metal Gear/survival hybrid game is finally in our hands, and we can see if it can live up to the rest of the legendary series. Does Metal Gear Survive follow it’s namesake, or will it die?
You play as Captain, a soldier from Mother Base who is killed during XOF’s attack on it at the end of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. After being revived by a mysterious organization called Wardenclyff Section, you’re drafted into their war with Dite, a parallel dimension full of weird horrors. Your job is to enter Dite and save Charon Corp, a group of soldiers that have been trapped there while collecting as much information on the area that you can. Naturally, things quickly go wrong as you get caught up in Wardenclyff’s internal struggles, meet with survivors that don’t belong, and have to survive the horrors Dite throws at you.
In a way, the story Metal Gear Survive tells is the story of Metal Gear Survive itself. Big Boss (Kojima) leaves behind the dying Captain (Kojima’s team), who is then revived against their will (the Metal Gear series) by an evil company (Konami) who has found a mysterious energy (players) and wants to mine it for money (money). While that’s an excessively creative and wonderful premise, Metal Gear Survive ultimately doesn’t do much with its plot. There are a few strands I really wanted to see expanded, but there’s so much playtime between important plot points that I usually forgot about them. The real joy in the story comes more from watching the various characters interact. From a police officer turned wannabe-chef who’s genuinely convinced this is all a dream no matter what anyone says, to a wheelchair-bound child with a love of computers, to a weird AI that has a split personality and constantly mixes its proverbs together in confusing ways, each character was honestly far more delightful than I would have expected.
As you would expect from a game with “survive” in its title, Metal Gear Survive places the emphasis on survival elements. You need to keep Captain fed and hydrated, and can do so by hunting, foraging, farming, and more. If you don’t eat or drink, your health takes a literal toll. Your max health and stamina drop and how much you can recover is decreased until you satisfy your needs. As you get further into the game, you’ll need to worry about more than just Captain. You need to keep the survivors you come across healthy so they can continue to assist you by doing work while the game is shut off.
At first, I found the survival mechanics to be overbearing. It seemed like my character would just move between “kind of hungry” and “starving” almost instantly. Finding food and water was way more difficult than it needed to be. The further I got into the game, the more I was able to cope with and eventually enjoy the survival elements. I liked hunting for food, I enjoyed scavenging for water, and farming corn and potatoes were my jam. I still think the survival mechanics could be a little less punishing, and a theoretical 10-15% drop in how fast you get hungry/thirsty could keep it from being too harsh without making it feel underwhelming.
You don’t just get to peacefully farm and hunt all day long. The world of Dite is full of horrors that want nothing more than to kill you. The most common enemy you’ll run into is the Wanderer, which is a weird zombie-like creature that has a strange gem replacing their head. For the most part, these enemies aren’t that smart and travel in packs. You can avoid them easily as long as you don’t let them gang up on you. Once you gain the ability to build fences, you can easily trap these foes in a choke point and stab them with your spear or shoot them with a bow. Metal Gear Survive openly encourages you to cheese Wanderers by finding platforms they can’t climb onto or keep them trapped in choke points.
As the game advances, more complicated enemy types show up. Trackers are deadly to engage in melee combat and can jump over your defenses. Mortars will stay away from you and open fire with explosives and shotgun blasts. Surefire strategies suddenly become unusable against foes like these, requiring you to change things up in order to survive. At the very least, you can fall back on the old Metal Gear stand-by: stealth. Backstabbing enemies is a great way to avoid a difficult to win battle via an instant kill. That said, not all these new enemies are fun to fight. The worst is the Grabber, which hides underground and lashes out with a vine to hold you in place. Facing a Grabber is never difficult, and I’m not sure if I ever took damage from one. Still, it’s annoying constantly getting your aimless wandering halted because another Grabber has caught you.
Most of your scavenging takes place in the Dust. Impenetrable without getting an oxygen tank, the Dust is easily the most hostile environment in the game. It’s difficult to see two feet in front of you, your map and waypoints constantly glitch out and vanish, and you can run into monsters far more powerful than you can handle if you’re not careful. Getting a handle on the Dust is difficult for a while, but I really came to love the area once I did. It was almost impressive how creepy it could be, and the limited sight and strange noises both strongly contributed to this factor.
Using all of these mechanics, you’ll be performing a variety of tasks to build up your home base and work on getting off of Dite. Usually, this boils down to one of three things: finding a data board, saving a survivor, or activating a wormhole digger. Data boards and survivors both play out the same, usually just requiring you to go from point A to point B and back, navigating the Dust and fighting enemies along the way. The real challenge usually comes from wormhole diggers, which you’ll need to protect from waves of enemies. You can easily build fences and traps to try and funnel enemies through waves of turrets and mortars to give yourself more of an offensive advantage
As you do all this, you’ll earn plenty of items to bring back to base with you. The main thing you really want is materials to craft new traps, armor, and weapons. There’s an almost absurd amount of items you can collect, just like there’s a crazy amount of stuff you can build. By the time I finished playing the game, I feel like I barely scratched the surface in craftable items. You’ll also earn Kuban Energy from killing enemies, which you can use to level up your character and teach them new skills. You start the game with only one skill tree, but the more you play the more trees you can earn so you can unlock even more.
You’ll also be using Kuban Energy to build up your base. Structures and defenses can be crafted and placed in your base as you see fit. After a while, you can bring in survivors to start assisting you with base maintenance. You can make farms to provide sources of food and medicinal herbs and pens for you to capture animals for milk and fur. Teams can be sent out to collect materials while you’re not around. There is a genuine appeal in building out a cool and useful base, just like there’s some real despair when a wanderer takes out my potato farms and my team starves until I can plant some new ones.
That said, a lot of the joy that I had in Metal Gear Survive only came with patience. Much of the game is backloaded, and it took me a solid 8 to 10 hours to get out of the tutorial, have all of the mechanics introduced, and feel comfortable enough to start really digging in. It means you’re going to spend some time climbing up a rather difficult cliff, learning mechanics and making a viable base that can be used to actually survive. If you’re willing to scale that cliff, you may actually find something to like here.
While I came to enjoy a lot of Metal Gear Survive, there are two things I never got used to. This was the lack of mid-mission checkpoints and the always online requirement. The lack of checkpoints is just annoying, especially with the longer missions. Dying at the end of a defense after multiple waves drove me nuts. Finding my way back to the mission area and battling all the enemies along the way all over again just wasn’t very appealing. Worst of all is losing that progress because the Internet got cut. I understand Konami wants to keep your single player character balanced for multiplayer, but it was massively annoying losing progress or being unable to play single player because the servers went into maintenance.
If you’re up to surviving with other players, Metal Gear Survive currently contains one co-op multiplayer mode for four players. Salvage Mission hasn’t changed too much, and I talked about it at length in my beta impressions. There are five maps currently available of varying difficulty, but it hasn’t changed much otherwise. Your goal is to defend a wormhole digger from waves of enemies while still finding survival material and completing side quests along the way. Now that I have a much better idea of how to actually play Metal Gear Survive, I found myself having a lot of fun with Salvage Mission. Popping in to quickly eliminate waves of enemies between scavenging was quite fun, and it was nice to forget about the survival elements for a bit. Since Kuban Energy and items earned in either mode carries to the other, this is also a great way to grab materials you really need.
There has been some fuss made about about Metal Gear Survive‘s microtransactions, but I never particularly felt any need to indulge in them. The boosters can make the game move a little faster, but if you’re not interested then you can ignore them and not miss anything. A big deal was made about having to buy a new character slot, but I can’t actually figure out any reason why I’d actually want to do this. Since your character can change classes and skills at any time, it’s not like you’re missing out on a skill tree or anything by only having one character. In the end I didn’t buy, or feel the need to buy, anything.
So this is it. We officially live in a post-Kojima Metal Gear world. Konami has given us Metal Gear Survive and I found it… much better than I would have expected. The survival elements are a little harsh, but I found them fun to manage and work around. Combat is fun, besides a few enemies that never got above being annoying. The more I played the more I created myself a lovely base on the world of Dite that could supply me, so long as the internet was running. There’s some real potential here, and this ranks up there as one of the best survival games I’ve played.
Metal Gear Survive was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC and Xbox One.
While it's a slow build and even by the end of the game some elements still annoyed me, I honestly had more fun with Metal Gear Survive than I would have ever expected and I'd like to see the game's formulas built upon.
- Fun Character Interactions
- Survival Gameplay Better than Expected
- Lots of Craftable Items, Base Building
- Fun Multiplayer
- Dust is Creepy, Interesting
- Story Ultimately Goes Nowhere
- Some Enemies Annoying to Fight
- Survival Elements a Little Overbearing
- No Mid-Mission Checkpoints
- Always Online Requirement