Since its announcement, Metal Gear Survive has been facing an incredibly steep uphill battle. Konami are less popular than they’ve ever been thanks to their highly publicised split with series creator Hideo Kojima and the subsequent rumours surrounding the mistreatment of development staff. You need only look to any of the trailers released for Metal Gear Survive to see the collective disdain aimed towards the veteran publishers. The comments are overwhelmingly negative, with players labelling the whole endeavour a cheap cash grab which shits on the legacy of such a beloved series.
It is my job as a journalist to try to give this game the fair shake necessary to accurately comment on it. Whether or not this is a cash grab? I will leave that for another time. For now, here are my thoughts on my 10 or so hours with the Metal Gear Survive beta, do with them what you will.
Upon loading into the game, the first thing that struck me was the sheer complexity of the systems and gameplay I was being thrust into. You are greeted by a standard character-creator screen then dropped into a Matrix-style white room with a clusterfuck of icons and options to wrestle with. After experimenting for a little while, I finally got to grips with the inventory system and managed to equip a spear, handgun and head out into the beta’s first and only mission. The lack of a tutorial really threw me for a loop but at least the hub world was enjoyable to mess around in. You can pull crafting tables, a target range and even a kitchen out of thin air and a giant billboard shows off your current level and other attributes. It’s actually a really novel way of doing things and something that made me wonder why all game start screens aren’t like this.
But on to the mission. I came falling out of a wormhole and with only a waypoint to guide me, I soldiered on. At this point it is probably a good time to mention just how damn ugly the environment is. It looks similar to the deserts from Phantom Pain but with a noticeable downgrade in fidelity. The landscape is a greyish-brown, devoid of any life or movement. After walking for a while I happened upon my first enemy. In Metal Gear Survive, it may not surprise you to learn, you can sneak up and stealth kill enemies, simple. I decided to face another attacker in a fairer fight and immediately got my ass handed to me. The baddies in this game are zombies with crystals for heads which, when armed with a spear, are quite difficult to deal with. The act of thrusting my spear felt weighty, but inaccurate, something I’m sure will just take some getting used to.
I beelined it to an abandoned fort of sorts and started looting and oh boy was I overwhelmed. The world is littered with all kinds of junk at an almost Fallout level of busyness. You can pick up said junk to gather resources which in turn can be used to craft things. There’s just so much of it though that I found myself simply standing in place hammering the square button until I assumed there was nothing left to pillage. As well as pick ups you can also break crates, fences and barrels to gain resources.
So I’d killed a couple of zombies, collected a load of crap and made my way to the objective. What proceeded is a horde mode of sorts centred around a drill which farms the energy needed to craft things, simple enough. It’s here that the game’s lack of guidance reared its ugly head again as I quickly realised I had no idea how to craft fences, barriers or anything I would be presumably needing. I was killed, immediately. It really doesn’t take long for you to get knocked down and after you’ve used up your three revival pills (more on these later) you’re done, game over. The depth and complexity of the game’s UI and menus is completely mind boggling. Everything is buried under three sub menus, from ammo management to simply customising loadout. This will absolutely scare off a lot of players, even if you’re savvy with Metal Gear Solid V’s menus, you’ll likely still struggle here.
There are side objectives to tackle too, placed within sprinting distance of your main base. These brief excursions offer rewards in the form of ready made traps and weapons so are absolutely worth your time. I am interested to see the variety of these little sub missions on launch as there is some real potential for quick, tense encounters to break up the horde mode.
After some experimentation and a lot of dying I finally got to grips with the base fortification process. This helped massively and soon I was stabbing enemies through fences, hurling molotovs at large groups and pretty much making it through by the skin of my teeth. Metal Gear Survive is undoubtedly fun. It is a pretty average survival horde game by any measure but that added level of Metal Gear goofiness elevates it to something better. When I finally got a team together the game really started to put its hooks in me. Having two players guard the fences while another picks off enemies with a bow is genuinely really thrilling. Experimentation is the name of the game here as I’m sure players will exploit to no end on release. At one point we used 4 fences to block off manned machine turrets which quickly became unstoppable powerhouses of destruction. You have to keep your wits above you at all times though as just one reckless move can lead to your base being overrun. There is little enemy variety in the beta but the exploding headed monsters definitely added another dynamic to proceedings. The traps are delightfully sadistic and of course the gunplay is impeccable and there are few things more satisfying than ploughing into a horde atop a walker and booting zombies in the face (disclaimer: they don’t have faces). What I do wonder though is whether the game will be able to attract an audience upon launch given that there are so many survival games which quite frankly do it better. Other than the aspect of defending a base, the game seemingly has little to offer in terms of USP. It’s fun but not Left 4 Dead or Ark fun.
The game is certainly not going to be able to rely solely on its name as unfortunately, it just isn’t really a Metal Gear game in the slightest. The wacky items are there, sure, but its all window dressing. As solid as the Fox Engine is, it isn’t enough to breathe life into this game by default. There are classic sound effects used which admittedly did tug on my heart strings but the core gameplay left a lot to be desired, especially for one bearing this name.
My time with Metal Gear Survive was spent largely in a state of confusion. After using up all of my revival pills I never figured how to make any more, nor did I work out exactly how to dispatch enemies effectively. This beta has done little to change the reservations I had going in but there’s no doubt that some players will have a lot of fun with it. There’s also the single player to take into account too so we will have to wait and see whether that adds anything to the experience. I can’t recommend this for Metal Gear fans, but for players who just want to team up with their buddies, mess around in the loading space, shoot zombies and hide in cardboard boxes, there’s probably something here. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain had some of the most flawless gameplay of all time, even in multiplayer so it is worrying that this game, which shares so much of its genetic makeup, feels so off in comparison.
Check back with us for full impressions on Metal Gear Survive when it launches February 22 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.