Metal Gear Survive Review

Richard Walker

In recent memory, I'm failing to recall a game that's endured as much venom and vitriol from fans as Metal Gear Survive. Konami hasn't really done itself any favours in how it conducted what appeared to be a very messy breakup with series creator Hideo Kojima, and since launch, news that it costs $10 to unlock an extra character save slot hasn't exactly enamoured fans either. You can't blame folks for being upset, but if you sweep all of the nonsense aside, you'll discover that Metal Gear Survive is actually a more-than-okay survival game. Though not one without several major caveats, of course.

First of all, Survive isn't really a Metal Gear game. Since first playing Metal Gear Solid back in 1998, I count myself a pretty big fan of the series, and Metal Gear Survive isn't ordinarily the sort of game I'd necessarily want to play. Understandably, the game bears the Metal Gear name because it's popular and recognisable, like Capcom deciding to brand Operation Raccoon City or the dreadful Umbrella Corps as Resident Evil games, when they're not. From a gameplay standpoint, the basic nuts and bolts are much the same in Metal Gear Survive, but that's about it.


Goat for dinner again.

Described in-game as a “pseudo-historical” sequence of events, Metal Gear Survive picks up directly after the conclusion of Ground Zeroes, drawing your custom avatar into a wormhole as Mother Base topples into the ocean in a ball of flames. Finding yourself in the barren desert of a place known as 'Dite', your sole objective is to survive long enough to find a way home. Things quickly go awry, however, and after an interminable opening filled with gobbledegook exposition, you're tasked with fortifying your base, rescuing survivors and gathering resources. All while keeping a steady influx of food and clean water in your inventory. Ultimately, you'll want your base to become a hub of self-sufficiency, with its own water supply and crops tended to by your staff.

Away from your base, you're constantly at risk, whether it's death at the hands of Wanderers or other hostiles roaming the land, starving to death, or running out of oxygen in the Dust. The Dust exists in pockets across Dite and denotes the region's most inhospitable zones, where the acrid air reduces visibility drastically and interferes with the signal on your iDroid making map navigation difficult. It's in the Dust that you'll find most of Survive's best rewards and weirdest enemies, and where you'll unlock new fast travel wormhole generators to move swiftly between base camp and the furthest reaches of the map. Respond to distress signals and you'll recover useful survivors you can add to your team, that later in the game you can send off on Dispatch Missions to bring you back extra materials.

As a survival game, then, Metal Gear Survive just works. It's various systems and concepts hang together well, and the crafting and base-building aspects are genuinely enjoyable and neatly implemented. The story – such as it is – is complete rubbish, and the dialogue is truly cringeworthy. Clearly, this isn't a game you'll play for its narrative. Fighting to stay alive is its own reward in Survive, the game constantly presenting various challenges and new tools with which to overcome them. It's simply harvesting enough resources to ensure you can keep building and crafting that's the trick.

From pointy sticks and rusty machetes to proper weapons like recurve bows, rifles and handguns, Metal Gear Survive encourages you to explore and discover new stuff, while upgrading your character means hoarding as much Kuban Energy (KUB) as you can. KUB is tied in to practically everything, from crafting and base-building to topping up your oxygen level in the Dust or purchasing upgrades and new skills for your character. Thankfully, it isn't in short supply, found scattered across Dite in breakable outcrops and vanquished enemies. Co-op Salvage Missions reap massive KUB payouts too, which is nice.

Playing online co-op multiplayer is a fine way to gather additional resources too, banding together with three other players to guard a wormhole digging machine in a bid to harvest as much Iris Energy you can. The more energy you manage to excavate, the better the rewards at the end. Spread across three, short, sharp waves, the goal is to work together and repel Wanderers attracted to the digger, building fences and crafting weapons to keep enemies at bay. It's genuinely good fun and a bite-sized vacation from the single-player grind that's great to dip into now and again.


Meet the Tracker, the game's most hateful enemy.

And with single-player fast becoming a grind, especially after you reach the game's second map (yes, there's a jungle area as in MGS V), you'll need a break. There's one instance in which you'll stumble upon a non-optional mission to defend your wormhole energy digger for 15 minutes. It's at this point that I'd had enough of Metal Gear Survive, the entire experience beginning to feel both completely unfair and too much like a thankless chore. Chuck in some large boss creatures and a juncture in the game where your base essentially gets levelled, and Survive will truly test your patience.

Exploration reaps certain benefits that can make things easier, but when a Mortar enemy is bombing the shit out of the thing you're trying to defend, there's little you can do to combat it. You have mobile defences you can deploy out in the field, like machine gun turrets, fences, barriers, mines and sandbags, but any type of explosive will wipe it all out in one fell swoop. There's obviously a strategy to setting up your barricades, but after the umpteenth time of setting up a bunch of chainlink fences and poking zombie thingies through it, you're bound to grow increasingly fed up with the whole affair.

There's the rub, then. Metal Gear Survive has some robust game mechanics at play, but after a few hours, it all starts to grow far too repetitive. Cool callbacks to The Phantom Pain aside – like damaged D-Walkers you can pilot for a limited time before they explode - there's not much motivation to keep on playing either, its story hokey as hell and the gameplay only enjoyable for so long.

Metal Gear Survive

A Metal Gear game in name only, Survive is a decent – though often frustrating - survival game with a few unique tricks up its sleeve. While the Metal Gear name brings with it a certain weight of expectation, as long as you don't go in expecting Metal Gear Solid 6, you'll be fine.

Form widget
60%
Audio
60%

Ropey voice work, decent music. The iconic Metal gear sound effects are in the mix, though, which is good. I guess.

Visuals
70%

Quite how Konami has managed to make Survive look worse than Metal Gear Solid V is beyond me. The overall visual design is poor, unimaginative, and not a patch on anything the series has mustered to date. Still, the Fox Engine does at least make what's on show look decent.

Playability
70%

While Survive's core gameplay is sound, the handful of activities the game offers get pretty old quite fast. At times, the game can be truly infuriating, especially when you're caught out in the middle of the Dust with nothing.

Delivery
50%

Two expansive maps to explore that are – differing enemy types aside – a bit samey. Some cynical, though easy to ignore, microtransactions aren't great either and the story is a load of old arse.

Achievements
60%

An achievement list with excellent spread, Survive loses points for peppering in some ridiculous tasks. Surviving ten days without dying is a tall order, so having to endure more than 140 days without a single death? Forget it.

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