Metal Gear Survive Review

Posted February 26, 2018 by Cameron McFarland in Video Games

Developer: Konami Digital Entertainment

Publisher: Konami

Release Date: February 20th 2018

Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC

Anyone who follows video game news closely is likely very familiar with the controversial and often frustrating management decisions made by Konami. Metal Gear as a series has been keeping fans engaged since 1987, not just through storytelling and exciting, stealth-based spy missions, but also thanks to the eccentric and lovable designer Hideo Kojima. It’s impossible to look at the cover of Metal Gear Survive and not think for at least a moment about how “this is the first one since they fired him,” but I do believe it is important to leave politics out of the conversation. Survive deserves a clear and unbiased critique, just like any other game would warrant. With that perfectly clear, I feel less pride and more disappointment in saying Konami may have been better off not making this game.

Metal Gear Survive is a spin-off that relies heavily on the setting of The Phantom Pain, following the story of one of Big Boss’ soldiers that was lost in the attack at the beginning of the game. Survive takes a sharp turn by relying less on warfare and espionage and more on being trapped in a parallel dimension Hellscape where you must gather potatoes and fight zombies. A logical approach, when you think about it. Still using the Fox Engine, the world does look nice and everything is animated pretty well. Typically it’s the controls that suffer in a budget title, but the benefit of being constructed out of pieces of The Phantom Pain works to Survive’s benefit. The game opens with a very long story sequence, including cutscenes, slide shows, and scrolling text to get you in the mood for a Metal Gear adventure. Much to my surprise, I care about the story in this game. Spin-offs often beg to be disregarded in terms of canon, but coming from a series with such bonkers ideas opens a door that Survive is smart to leverage.

The fun stops after the cutscenes. That sounds like an overly terse statement, but once you finally begin the game proper you will immediately begin to starve to death. Part of the tutorial instructs players how to hunt animals and gather water. There are some stray sheep right near the base and a cooking campfire all ready to go. What the tutorial fails to mention is that this may be the last food you come across for some time. Survive is one of those games that never truly pauses, and the food and drink meters move down at a surprising rate. I didn’t realize it at first, but while navigating crafting menus and trying to customize my loadout I accidentally got very close to dying without even leaving my base. Low health levels don’t just mean you’re close to death, but will actually hinder your ability to move, see, and fight. This period in the beginning does get better as you expand your base, set up a farm, arm yourself with better weapons, etc. But, the experience is overly harsh in the beginning and that sense of growth a player should feel is replaced with an annoyed relief one can finally play the game with less hindrance in the way.

Though it looks strategic at first, you’ll be overpowering enemies more often than outsmarting them.

I mentioned that the controls felt tight. I’m actually at my happiest while fighting zombies. The first weapon you craft in the game is a spear and lining up the perfect headshot or stabbing through multiple targets to take them all down is very satisfying. There are segments where traditional Metal Gear brand sneaking is effective and being smart about handling encounters on your terms can be key to overcoming certain fights. More often than I want to admit, however, strategy and stealth are irrelevant when facing the game’s multiple bugs. I discovered during one fight that if I set a wire fence barrier in the world, nearby monsters would gravitate toward it. I stood to the side of the fence and watched a Wanderer literally veer away from me and toward the fence to do that classic zombie move of grabbing onto wire fencing technique. While the zombie was distracted by my fence, I poked him in the side a couple times with my stick and reaped the rewards. Another recurring issue I was experiencing was random events in the game locking up my playthrough. Once the game froze, once it was only my character that froze, once the game said it was loading but never seemed to finish. The amount of progress and resources lost to restarting the game over and over left me wondering if I could actually put off this review a little longer just in case this problem gets patched out.

They got stuck in my fence. I liked that fence.

One major selling point of Survive is the multiplayer aspect, and again the Fox Engine shows its strength. Fighting waves of zombies with clever flanking positions and a variety of weapons was how this game was first announced, and I will give Konami credit for putting the multiplayer modes together. Ultimately, the shaky AI means you’re faced with a challenge of numbers more than strategy. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to work together, but it does limit the number of times you can play these missions together and still be entertained. The best compliment I can give Survive is to call it a less-buggy version of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.

For fans of Metal Gear, there isn’t quite enough to make this a must-play experience. For players looking for cooperative fun to play with a pal, Monster Hunter World is a really strong option. For players that have exactly $39.99 and wanted to buy a game that starts with the letter ‘M’, I saw Super Mario Odyssey on sale the other day. I was very hopeful this would turn into a strong spin-off experience, but much to the expectations of cynics I’m left wondering how much longer the Metal Gear name will survive under Konami’s current oversight.

About the Author

Cameron McFarland

Cameron loves cartoons and bad movies almost as much as bad cartoon movies. He is also the world's best spaghetti-eater, so don't bring it up around him or he won't shut up about it. Author and Artist for world-reviled World of Warcraft fancomic,