Review: Metal Gear Survive is Better Than You Probably Think it is

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Metal Gear Survive is a game that many will find easy to point and laugh at from a distance, what with the goings on between Hideo Kojima and Konami.

Yes it’s not a real Metal Gear game, but there have been plenty of other spin offs like it that haven’t received as much armchair criticism. Though even actually playing Metal Gear Survive for a couple of hours is unlikely to change people’s perception of it – the story seems so ridiculous that it’s not even entertaining, the graphics are bland, and the gameplay seems awfully repetitive. But if you spend some real time with it, you’ll likely find that Metal Gear Survive is actually quite good. Not great, but just good.

Metal Gear Survive is a game about wormholes. That’s how you’ve found yourself transported from the real world to the hell you’ve found yourself in called Dite. Wormholes are also what you’ll use to get about quickly, and eventually escape. Having the story take place in another dimension has allowed Konami to literally go nuts – so much so that you’ll probably stop caring about it rather quickly, especially as as the character you create is of the mute variety. The AI companions you meet on your journey, as well as the odd survivor that you enlist to your cause, will all discuss and natter about important plot points, but your avatar will just look on in confusion and bewilderment in a way that’s not entirely fulfilling.

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But it’s the gameplay of Metal Gear Survive that proves to become rather compelling if you put in the time to get sucked in by it all. Metal Gear Survive is a survival game, and as such, you spend a large amount of your time searching for materials that are useful for crafting, as well as maintaining your hunger and thirst levels. Alongside that, you also have missions to complete to further the story and also unlock new gameplay elements. It makes for a satisfying mix of structure and freedom, as you decide exactly how you want to spend your time. Exploring Dite is not particularly safe, however, as crystalline zombie-like Wanderers roam the lands, seemingly waiting for a poor sap like yourself to wander into their reach. Sneaking around them is perhaps the most Metal Gear thing to do, and it is indeed a great option in most cases, but Metal Gear Survive also allows you to engage them in combat in a myriad of ways, providing you’ve got the resources.

Melee weapons can be crafted to give them a good whacking, and when combined with defences such as fences they actually prove to be quite effective. As you progress further into the game, however, you’ll find that ranged weapons such as bows, guns and slingshots become much more useful, though they’re more costly on resources. How you play then is up to you, and you can further tweak your gameplay style by using the Kuban energy you obtain throughout your endeavours to level up and increase your stats and skills. Metal Gear Survive is a game that gets much more varied and complicated as you progress, unlocking features such as base and personnel management, as well as the occasional bout of tower defence.

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Metal Gear Survive also has strong survival horror elements. While your base of operations and the surrounding area has clear skies and looks quite picturesque, most of your travels take you beyond a wall of fog in which your visibility is reduced. In ‘The Dust’, you’ll find your exploits limited by yet another resource alongside food and water – oxygen – meaning that you need to think and act quickly to achieve whatever goal you entered for. The Dust is more densely populated with Wanderers too, and not just your bog-standard zombie type – there are more than a few surprises in store for those who persist with the game. Die while in the dust and you’re likely to lose all progress since you were at the base, making each excursion a tense affair fraught with peril.

And so that’s how Metal Gear Survive plays out. You acquire missions, ready yourself up for an expedition, and then head out into the harsh world of Dite. Initially I was worried that it would be co-op focused, but on the contrary, it’s very much a single player game with co-op elements. Sometimes you’ll go out just to loot an interesting spot you found on a previous mission but didn’t have time to explore, other times you’ll be hell-bent on completing a story mission to push the plot forward, or embarking on a salvage mission with a friend or two in tow. In any case, a tense time will be had in which you sneak, loot and kill in order to develop your base, improve your character and progress the story, which you may eventually become a little more interested in as you get your head around it. It’s a fun and engrossing cycle, though it’s not entirely free of problems.

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Keeping your character fed is one of Metal Gear Survive‘s main issues – it just doesn’t seem like there are enough animals in the world to keep them from going hungry. Thirst is also a problem early in the game – you’re likely to find yourself drinking a lot of dirty water until you obtain the upgraded cooking area later in the story. As you develop your base’s capabilities matters do get better – you can make a potato farm, for instance – but perhaps too much of your time is spent worrying about food.

Repetition is another problem, with a great deal of your time in combat spent prodding Wanderers with a spear through a fence. It becomes a tactic less useful later in the game, but for the first few hours expect to do it a lot. And finally, Metal Gear Survive does a poor job of warning you about upcoming events sometimes. You’ll often be tasked with defending a point on the map without any sort of warning, and without an inventory full of fences, Molotov cocktails and other useful goodies, you’re likely to find yourself quickly overrun by the enemy. Oh, and before I forget, if you want to start another game of Metal Gear Survive with another character, you’ll need to either spend in-game currency or real money to unlock a new save slot. Ridiculous, eh?

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Metal Gear Survive isn’t Metal Gear Solid VI, and neither is it meant to be. It’s just a fun side excursion made using the Fox Engine. It has very little to do with Metal Gear Solid V apart from spinning off from the events of Ground Zeroes, and while many will discount it simply because of its Metal Gear moniker, they’ll be missing out on what is essentially quite a fun survival horror adventure.

It’s a dumb game full of irritating characters, but its gameplay is more absorbing than I ever thought it could be. I’ve come to enjoy heading out into The Dust, looting containers for new recipes and sneaking up behind Wanderers to initiate a stealth kill. I’ve discovered a network of wormhole teleporters, allowing me to get about quickly and easily, and I’ve upgraded my gruff-looking avatar to be able to stand his own in battle, dodging out of the way of enemy attacks and performing extended combos. Metal Gear Survive is a far cry from any other game released prior in the series, but that doesn’t make it any less compelling. So it’s up to you: either cling on to the notion that Metal Gear Survive is a terrible cash-in and miss out on an interesting adventure, or put your misconceptions aside and jump right in and have some fun. I know what I’d do.

Metal Gear Survive is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. We reviewed the Xbox One version.