Metal Gear Survive accomplishes the one thing no Metal Gear game has ever managed before. It’s boring. Banal, generic and surprisingly unremarkable, the combination of zombies with survival elements is as well handled as you might expect. The sad thing is, were it not for the Fox Engine, the mechanics could be mistaken for any of the thousands of unfinished zombie games in Steam Early Access.
The story is adjacently connected to Metal Gear lore, specifically The Phantom Pain. In the wake of the previous game’s events, you are dropped into a parallel dimension known as Dite where zombies are crawling about. Also, yes, nanomachines are responsible for this somehow.
The story has plenty of shout-outs to Metal Gear lore but they rarely amount to more than flavour text. Even the appearance of a Metal Gear is the sort of shallow fan-pandering which sees Pyramid Head showing up in most Silent Hill games. Equally, the plot lacks the over-the-top stories with surprisingly poignant moments which helped past games stand out. So, if you’re in this for the plot you’re all out of luck, even if you ignore the multiple holes in it.
Things are just as bad with the mechanics. Let’s be clear here: The zombie AI is brain-dead. Quite often they can be found trying to attack you through walls or tricked by simply standing on a higher elevation. They’re not only near-blind but even their sheer weight of numbers is rarely a threat, to the point where you can all but ignore stealth. In fact, despite the heavy emphasis on melee engagements, the zombies are seemingly programmed to ignore stun-locks after a time simply so they can hit you.
Combat itself is a bland slog thanks to poor hitbox detection and long wind-up animations. No matter which weapon you are using, they will feel weak thanks to each being limited to a two-action combo. If you think guns might save you, they even manage to get this wrong. Despite re-using almost everything from The Phantom Pain, it’s not only clunky but generally inept against most foes. This could have been used to create Dark Souls style battles, but with AI this bad it inspires frustration over developing new tactics. In fact, the closest thing you will get to enjoyment stems from avoiding combat entirely, and simply summoning in barricades or gun-turrets to do your work for you.
Even Survive’s greatest accomplishment, a genuinely well-designed progression system, is hindered by a near-glacial grind and cliched zombie game perks. Most of these are only mildly helpful, as they do little to stop the game constantly pestering you to maintain your food and water stamina bars. This is as far from Subnautica’s balanced system as it’s possible to get, as the bar drops by the second but it requires consuming whole animals and multiple gallon jugs of water to max out each one. You can honestly kill and consume four sheep in a row and chow down on them, and it might not be enough to fully satisfy the protagonist.
Much like Hatred before it, were it not for the controversy surrounding its development, this is the sort of by-the-numbers release which would arrive and then be ignored by almost everyone. However, what turns this from a flawed creation worthy of being forgotten into a disaster is the industry trends it has embraced.
Microtransactions are rife throughout the game. While it doesn’t push them nearly so much as Star Wars: Battlefront II, it clear that Konami expects people to drop more than a few quid extra onto this game in order to complete it. Along with vital facilities such as expanded food production, these extend into ludicrous areas such as multiple save files. Then, on top of this, you have the old sin of 'always online' requirement to play the game. I will simply say that Diablo III looked practically functional on launch by comparison.
Were it not for the Metal Gear label being slapped on, no one would likely care about Survive. There are a few exceptionally rare, quite fleeting, moments where Yuji Korekado’s talent as a visual director shines through and the Fox Engine is still a solid basis for a game. However, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a game built on outdated industry trends, and is chasing fads which are long dead by this point.
If you honestly need to play an open-world sandbox Metal Gear game just go and buy Metal Gear Solid V instead. You’re not going to miss anything with this train wreck.
METAL GEAR SURVIVE / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: KONAMI DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT / PLATFORM: PC, PLAYSTATION 4, XBOX ONE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW