A new “Metal Gear” game launched this week on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It’s called “Metal Gear Survive,” and it’s pretty good!
You’re forgiven if this is the first you’re hearing. Due to a variety of factors, the game has launched to little fanfare. The marketing push has been nearly non-existent. In short, nothing about this game’s arrival feels like your typical, major “Metal Gear” game launch.
And that’s a shame, because the time I’ve spent with it so far has been largely positive. It’s far from a standard “Metal Gear” game, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Take a look:
If it’s not a traditional-style “Metal Gear” game, then what is “Metal Gear Survive”?
First and foremost, “Metal Gear Survive” is a super, super weird game. It’s set in the same timeline as the last major “Metal Gear” game, “Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.” But instead of continuing that game’s story, it branches into an alternate, paranormal version of events.
The game’s main character – one you’ve molded in the game’s character creation tool, and named something silly – is one of dozens of random soldiers involved in a paranormal incident. A wormhole in the sky opens over the base you’re stationed at, and you’re swept into an alternate dimension: An bizarro version of Earth named “Dite” (dee-tay) that’s full of horrific, zombie-like creatures.
Thus marks the beginning of the story of “Metal Gear Survive.”
What’s your main mission in this new, grotesque dimension? Survival!
Don’t get it twisted: This isn’t the next main series “Metal Gear Solid” game. “Metal Gear Survive” is a survival game — a spinoff — set in the world of “Metal Gear.”
As the game’s name implies, “Metal Gear Survive” is a literal mash-up of the main “Metal Gear” concept of tactical, third-person espionage and survival.
As a soldier in the world of “Metal Gear,” you’re equipped with the usual arsenal of military armaments and goofy gadgets as previous games: knives, guns, and, uh, entire walls of fencing (which are conjured out of nowhere into the world in front of you, naturally). Instead of the traditional cardboard box, used in previous “Metal Gear” games to great effect for silly sneaking, you’re far more likely to erect a wall of fencing in “Metal Gear Survive.”
There’s a practical reason for this: “Metal Gear Survive” is full of zombies (called “Wanderers”). There are loads of them, and you’re in no position to fight off hordes of zombies. Your best bet, most of the time, is to either block off zombies temporarily with a wall of fence, or to simply run away.
I mentioned that this game has the word “survive” in its title, right? If you’re looking for a traditional “Metal Gear Solid” game, you’re looking in the wrong place. “Metal Gear Survive” takes the guts of the most recent “MGS” game, “The Phantom Pain,” and gives them new purpose.
Forget about taking down governments: You’re just trying to stay alive.
Traditionally, “Metal Gear” games focus on an ongoing cast of characters as they grapple with international political dynamics and philosophize on the nature of man. It’s quite a series.
In “Metal Gear Survive,” the focus is on collecting materials, crafting those materials into usable resources, and staying alive.
You need to feed yourself, and quench your thirst. You need to build shelter, and new crafting stations to create better stuff. As your hunger increases, your overall health declines. As your thirst increases, your stamina declines (meaning you can only run for so long, etc.). It’s tough!
If you’ve ever played games like “Don’t Starve” and “State of Decay,” you’re already familiar with the core gameplay loop of “Metal Gear Survive.” You’ll spend a lot of time picking up as much stuff as possible simply so you can stay above water. That’s before we start talking about actually progressing the game’s story or completing missions.
There’s still plenty of sneaking, but you’re sneaking around zombies instead of soldiers.
The first 10 or so hours of “Metal Gear Survive” is an ongoing mission to understand your environment, build up resources, and figure out what happened to the people who came before you.
The way that plays out in the game is very similar to “The Phantom Pain” – a lot of sneaking around carefully, trying to avoid detection, occasionally sneaking up on enemies from behind and taking them out.
As you can see above, I’m laid out prone on a low rooftop, just above a gaggle of “wanderers” (zombies). Charging in guns blazing would be certain death – the zombies quickly overwhelm you, and aren’t taken down so easily.
A stronger move might be jumping down, attracting the attention of as many zombies as possible, and running away from where you need to go – thus drawing away the zombies from your objective. They’re easily confused. You could also throw a lure, or maybe you’re good enough at sneaking that you could just ghost past all of them.
“Metal Gear Survive” is a budget title that launched at $40 — and that’s occasionally evident when playing the game.
There’s a lot of “jank” to “Metal Gear Survive.” It is, for lack of a better word, janky.
It’s rough around the edges in a lot of ways: Animation is often messy, and there are endless menus, and there are systems that are poorly explained. There are basic spelling errors in the game’s written dialog. Instead of cutscenes, “Metal Gear Survive” sometimes uses comic book-style depictions of conversations between characters.
All of this stuff can be directly attributed to a lack of resources at the game’s developer, Konami. “Metal Gear Survive” is intended as a (relatively) quick follow-up to 2015’s “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.” It’s very clearly built on the technology that powered “The Phantom Pain,” which results in some rough edges as that game’s mechanics weren’t created for a survival game.
That said, “Metal Gear Survive” is a surprisingly adept, competent package for a spin-off. As it turns out, it’s pretty fun to sneak around zombies – as if “The Last of Us” didn’t already teach us that lesson. The rough edges are easily dealt with considering how fun it is to play “Metal Gear Survive.”
After 10 hours with “Metal Gear Survive,” I’m excited to play more.
You know what’s tremendously surprising? How much fun I’m having playing “Metal Gear Survive”!
I’m not a huge “Metal Gear” fan – though I did thoroughly enjoy “The Phantom Pain” – so take that as you will. I don’t have strong feelings about Revolver Ocelot, and I generally think the story arc of the “Metal Gear” franchise is convoluted and silly. I don’t actively dislike it, but I’m relatively apathetic about it.
Maybe that’s why I’m able to find enjoyment playing “Metal Gear Survive,” which is the first major “Metal Gear” game produced by Konami without the game’s long-time creative director Hideo Kojima. That the game is named “Metal Gear” and has the trappings of that series holds no emotional sway for me – I’m likely to give the game more of a chance than the average “Metal Gear” fan, in so many words.
“Metal Gear Survive” may be the first “Metal Gear” game that’s more appealing to average game players than fans of the series.
“Metal Gear Survive” is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It’s $40.
There’s a lot more to “Metal Gear Survive” than shooting zombies and gathering resources – take a look for yourself in this launch trailer: