Metal Gear Survive picks up where Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes leaves off and is a non-canon story about Militaires Sans Frontieres soldiers who have been sucked through a wormhole with the remains of Mother Base. They find themselves in a wasteland filled with zombie-like creatures and have to scavenge debris thrown through the wormholes to survive. From what we know of the game so far, it has little to do with with the Metal Gear series except for the title and the prologue.
The very loose association with the Metal Gear franchise, despite the name, has led to consternation from fans. Metal Gear Survive is the first Metal Gear title in the series’ 30-year history that hasn’t involved creator Hideo Kojima in at least some supervisory role. Given Kojima’s controversial departure from Konami, its expected that fans are going to be critical of the new game, but despite my love for the series I tried to go into it with a completely open mind.
After playing the somewhat limited Metal Gear Survive open beta for several hours, I’ve come to the conclusion that the number one issue it faces is its Metal Gear connection. A lot of the assets in-game are straight ripped from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which is understandable. Konami isn’t the first studio to recycle assets. The presentation is the issue here.
Metal Craft Solid: Sons of the Barbed-Wire Fence
In the beta, you’re put into a hub that is basically an expanded version of the mission start screen from MGSV:TPP. You can move around to several stations to change or improve your inventory, level up and train skills, or choose a mission. A lot of the weapons, gear, and items are straight ripped almost verbatim from MGSV:TPP. However, that game’s in-depth, but approachable, weapons selection and modification system has been transformed into something much more complicated.
Instead of three weapon slots, two primary and a heavy, in Metal Gear Survive you have two primary and two secondary weapons slots. Weapons are much more restricted in this game, so you’ll often find yourself compromising in your loadout more than you’d like. Gear is much, much more important and complicated in Metal Gear Survive, and before each mission, you’ll have to select which traps, obstacles (like fences), mines, grenades, weapon emplacements, etc., you want to take with you. Once you’re in the field, you can usually find Gear and Weapons crafting stations to make more items if you left something back at base, but often choosing the wrong equipment before a sortie can lead to failure regardless.
The gameplay in the open beta centers around salvage missions. Metal Gear Survive is loot heavy, and the objective in salvage missions is to pick up anything that isn’t nailed down and make your way to a wormhole drill. Once this drill activates, you have to face three waves of enemies which protecting it. If you’re able to defend the drill through all three waves, you get a ton of crafting materials, some bonus items, and a lot of the game’s currency for crafting and leveling up, Kuban Energy.
There are secondary missions within the salvage missions that you can complete to help better defend the drill. These secondary missions can be something simple like tracking down a box guarded by enemies that will let you refill all of your ammo when returned to the drill. Some have even more fabulous rewards, like being able to commandeer a Walker Gear complete with a minigun, but require you to take down stronger enemies. The secondary missions help break up what could be a monotonous horde mode. You have to chose to use the three minutes in between waves to consolidate your defenses or take the risk of heading out to complete a secondary objective and potentially not getting back to the drill in time to thwart an enemy attack.
They’re Like Zombies, but With Crystals in Their Heads
The basic enemies in Metal Gear Survive, Wanderers, are just your average zombie. They don’t have a ton of health, but come in swarms, and pack a wallop in groups. They’re not smart, and typically just walk towards you or the drill and flail their arms until they or you die. There are more robust enemies too. Bombers are bloated foes who have an armored upper body and weak legs. When a Bomber gets close to a target, or its HP is depleted, it will self-detonate in a powerful explosion. There are also Armored creatures which are much like Wanderers but in full body armor. You have to blast them until their armor falls off and you can hit the flesh underneath to take them out.
There are other enemy types, but the three above are by far the most common. I like horde modes a lot, so I found salvaging missions a lot of fun. My familiarity with MGS:TPP actually helped out a bit during the game because I was already used to a lot of the guns, emplacements, and gear, as well as the way your character moves and controls. I also really liked the new ability to place fences, traps, and other obstacles before each wave to slow down and kill enemies before they reach the drill.
The crafting can be a bit obtuse, and the menus could clarify things a little better, but for the most part, it’s just like most games that feature crafting. You need X number of X item and X amount of currency to craft a gun or piece of gear. The better the thing you’re crafting, the more items and currency you’ll need. Fortunately, even on the easiest salvage mission, I got a ton of crafting material, so so far the game doesn’t seem too grindy.
Still too Early to Judge
Unfortunately, the Metal Gear Survive open beta left two big questions unanswered for me. Single-player isn’t available, so I wasn’t able to see how any of the story plays out, or how the base-building is. Also, Konami revealed microtransactions will be in the game, but to what extent isn’t known yet. It’s hard to endorse or condemn Metal Gear Survive without that info, but so far I believe I like it.
If you’re a Metal Gear fan and you’re expecting a ton of connections to the main series, it looks like Metal Gear Survive is going to be disappointing. Instead, it seems like this will be a survival/crafting game with base-building and a lot of fighting hordes. There will also be four-player co-op, which I wasn’t able to try yet (no one is on the North American servers yet). The focus on repelling massive waves of creatures is perfect for co-op, but the whole thing lacks the ties to Metal Gear that a lot of people likely expected.
So far I’ve enjoyed my time with Metal Gear Survive, but I’ve done so by putting away my expectations and disappointments concerning the game’s ties with the Metal Gear franchise. It’s best to think of Survive as an entirely new IP that happens to reuse some assets from The Phantom Pain and let it stand on its own merits. Otherwise, you’re going to set yourself up for failure.