Now, strap yourself to a chair and pull your tongue back far away from your teeth, because I’m going to say something that may shock you to your very core. Are you ready? Here goes:
Metal Gear Survive doesn’t suck. It’s actually decent, bordering on quite good.
I know, right? I was as ready to tear this game a new arsehole as everyone else, and the impression left by the recent open beta didn’t help matters. Konami’s Theresa May-esque insistence on barrelling forward with terrible decisions despite people insisting they aren’t on board has birthed a zombie survival game with crafting and tower defence that’s had the Metal Gear name crudely slapped on it. Much like the pelt of a beloved pet draped over a pile of broken glass and physical manifestations of ennui. Or so I thought, before I, with a sense of wearying inevitability bought and played the bloody thing. Making things worse were reports of staggeringly gross microtransactions, so I was all ready to play it for a few hours and bin it. Imagine my surprise.
Set just as Snake and Miller fly away from Mother Base as it’s attacked by XOF at the climax of Ground Zeroes, you are a create-a-character MSF soldier known as “The Captain”, sucked into a wormhole and dumped back out in “Dite”, a desolate wasteland filled with zombie-type creatures called Wanderers. That’s pretty much it for the plot besides some shady background stuff and a half-hearted plot twist, both of which are only important near the end of the game. The point is, you’re in the desert, you need to build a device to get back home, there are people to save and zombies to kill. Weapons are crafted from blueprints found throughout the world, fast travel points are unlocked by defending them from enemies to a time limit, and large parts of the map are covered in pockets of thick mist called “The Dust” that require a gas mask to traverse. The survival elements are one of the worst parts of the game; ever-present hunger, thirst and oxygen meters plague the Captain’s every step- undertaking one mission in the span of a few in-game hours will render her on the verge of starvation, and animals are hard to come by outside of designated areas, often on the other side of Dust pockets. Almost every time I finished a mission I then had to go hunting; not only does the hunger meter drop rapidly, it also governs the Captain’s max health. With rare exceptions there are no mid-mission checkpoints; die, which is likely for the first few hours of the game, and you’re right back to home base as if you never started the mission. The game doesn’t have much in the way of a supporting cast, and those who do turn up are all poorly written. One supporting character, an XOF soldier, actually stops everything to have an awkward rant about child soldiers, and how “Some kids have it really easy but these ones don’t, you guys, this is actually quite serious, you guys. It makes you think, doesn’t it?” It’s a far cry from, say, how child soldiers were handled in MGSV, which gave me pause in a way games rarely do. Story-wise it’s rather weak, and nothing on par with Kojima’s work. But then I suspect you knew that already.
So then, that was resoundingly negative, but I started the review with the bombshell revelation that the game actually isn’t that bad, so what gives? Well, once you start to get the hang of the game, how it works, the hunting, the lack of checkpoints et cetera, the game begins to show off the trick up its sleeve; it’s actually an effective horror game. Key to all this is The Dust; it’s dark, eerie and looking at the sky shows the texture of water’s surface, like you’re trapped in an abyss. Stamina depletes far more quickly in The Dust, there are enemies everywhere and the oxygen and stealth’s consumption of stamina means you’ll have to be quick, which results in a lot of desperate chases. The core gameplay loop of venturing out to find supplies, killing wanderers with the wide variety of weapons available and holding them off while you activate fast travel points is satisfying, due to the game using the engine and combat from MGSV. Lurking in The Dust is a huge, nebulous monster known as “The Lord of Dust”; it’s like something from The Mist, and it often just pops up when you’re moving around The Dust, usually on edge, low on oxygen and ammo having just delved into a cramped bunker full of zombies. It’s no P.T, but as a horror game it works quite well, and combined with that MGSV combat it’s a fun, if flawed experience. It’s basically the tat collecting from Fallout 4 married to a surprisingly solid horror game with MGSV’s controls, and given how bad it could have been, I’d say it turned out quite well.
So there you go; if you ignore key gameplay mechanics and the story, it’s a fun little game that’s worth sinking some time into whilst listening to a podcast or something. It doesn’t sound like much of a recommendation, and indeed I wouldn’t tell anyone to rush out and buy it, but I had a decent time, and that’s enough.
By James Lambert