The Metal Gear Solid series is massively important to me, but I've never been under the delusion that Metal Gear Survive would reach anything even remotely close to the genius of the games before it. It's the first Metal Gear title devoid of any input from the man Hideo Kojima himself, and aside from the recycled assets and glimpses at familiar characters during the opening moments of the game's single-player campaign, it certainly shows.
But that's not to say Metal Gear Survive is a bad game. In fact, it's just the opposite. Without factoring in any references to Metal Gear, its lore, or its characters and taken on its own at face value, it's an intriguing survival game that demands a lot out of its players. It's derivative, sure, but it's also a robust and strangely addicting mix of zombie-slaying goodness wrapped up in some admittedly weird design decisions.
If you're looking for anything even remotely close to the Metal Gear series you may be in love with, you won't find it here. But you will find a fairly unique experience that's surprisingly great for being built from the scraps of a decidedly higher-profile game.
Escape to Dite
Metal Gear Survive splits off from the Metal Gear you know and love directly after XOF attacks Mother Base near the end of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. A wormhole tears through space and time out of nowhere and ends up drawing the Metal Gear Survive protagonist into another dimension named Dite, which is rife with zombie-like creatures known as Wanderers. That's the narrative in a nutshell, and essentially everything you need to know about what to expect from the game. Its story isn't its strong suit, unsurprisingly.
But you won't come here for the story. You'll come here for the survival elements and, likely, morbid curiosity about what the game has to offer. As you explore Dite, you'll come to understand why it's such a despicable place crawling with zombies. It's covered with a strange substance called Dust, which the Wanderers can survive for reasons that will be revealed later in the single-player campaign.
As the Captain, your customizable male or female character, you're tasked with figuring out the situation in Dite with the Wanderers, the Dust, and ways to transport yourself back home to Mother Base. With the help of AIs and other human characters, you'll unravel the mystery as you weave together your Captain's story. It's not a particularly rich one with tons of lore, but it's fine for the single-player campaign, which needed a reason to saddle you with wormholes to explore and a toxic world to, well, survive.
Whether you choose to play through the single-player campaign (which you should) or you tackle the co-op options, you'll still be required to have a constant internet connection. With that out of the way, just know that this game will feel as though it was built for online in mind. With lobbies, starting areas, and setups that feel as though the single-player was a second thought, it can feel as though you were meant only to hop online to have your fun.
Survival of the Fittest
Metal Gear Survive is all about keeping yourself alive. You need to pay attention to thirst and hunger gauges in addition to staving off any errant Wanderers that head your way. You need to pick up anything that can sate your character's appetite or you'll find that you'll just die. There's a lot more to the game than killing the shambling hordes, that's for sure. Cooking meat before you eat, boiling water before you drink it, hunting your own food for sustenance, and dealing with sickness acquired through imbibing things that are contaminated. There are ways to combat all of these things, and they're meted out to you at what feels like a glacial pace, but it feels that much more satisfying when you're able to deal with the elements in a more efficient way.
While out in the Dust and fighting off Wanderers, you'll need to collect the all-important Kuban Energy, usually found via bright red crystals out in the field or on the enemies you take out. As you make your way through, you'll find treasure troves of items that you can use to create new items to help you through the desolate wasteland. For instance, you need to worry about your oxygen tank running out of air while exploring in the Dust, as well as keeping yourself healed up if you sustain an injury. There's a pretty extensive list of things you need to be concerned with at just about any point in time as you explore and accumulate recipes and Kuban Energy. It can be exhausting, but when you get the hang of things, you'll be humming along like a well-oiled machine.
You'll need to make sure you're fighting fit at all times, too, because you'll constantly need to look for better loot, better items, and better weapons to pull you through. The Wanderers are your biggest threat as you work to get home during the 30-hour campaign, and whether you're completing main or side missions or you're exploring Horde mode-like gameplay, you'll need the best you can get to carry you through.
Some missions find you doing some pretty run-of-the-mill campaign quests, while others find you playing guard to a "wormhole digger" that's essentially your ticket home. Collect enough energy, and you'll eventually find a way back to the real world in the campaign, which is easier said than done. These mission types are plentiful in both single-player and co-op modes, if you're interested in playing online.
To that end, playing Metal Gear Survive online via co-op is pretty exciting, especially if you have friends you'd like to explore Dite with. The survival missions are absolutely teeming with loot, and you'll find some pretty interesting scenarios to take on. You get to bring over the items you get in single-player mode and vice versa to co-op, so it doesn't feel as though the online components were just tacked on, despite how online-oriented the entire package seems at first.
The question on everyone's minds these days is not if a game will have microtransactions, for the most part, but how bad they'll be. Yes, you do need to pay extra for things like save slots, which aren't particularly necessary, but there are additional things that you can spend SV Coins on that do make the addition of micro transactions somewhat aggravating.
For instance, you can purchase things like Premium Boost Passes and similar items that can essentially make for what may as well be a pay to win scenario, or at least "pay to do better." It'll up the amount of Kuban Energy you receive, as well as the other items you collect throughout the game. If you find that the game is too hard, you can grab one of the passes for roughly $11 for 30 days of boosts, but it seems pointless to pay for the game to artificially simplify itself when the fun comes from the challenge of trying to stay alive.
Charging extra for save slots, exploration team slots, Boost Passes, and various other items via microtransactions in-game are a bit frustrating and slimy of Konami, but they don't hinder your enjoyment of the game in any significant way. They're par for the course at this point, and as unpleasant as they are to see, you don't have to purchase anything to enjoy the game.
I'm A Survivor
Metal Gear Survive is an interesting amalgam of survival elements, small references to the series that influenced it, zombie games, and online titles. It's not a Metal Gear game, which makes me wonder why it was titled as such in the first place as it's not attracted fans of the series, and in fact has done just the opposite. It would have fared better, perhaps, as a new IP with less recycled assets. But as it is, it's an interesting and wholly engrossing exercise in survival that I enjoyed more with every hour that passed. Don't go into the game looking for any sort of Metal Gear gratification, and you'll come out relatively pleased with what's on offer.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 download code provided by the publisher. Metal Gear Survive is available in retail and digital stores now for $39.99. The game has been rated M for Mature by the ESRB.