After the unceremonious firing of series creator Hideo Kojima, many Metal Gear Solid fans were understandably skeptical when Konami announced Metal Gear Survive. Abandoning the typical espionage-fueled stealth action of the core series for crafting and survival gameplay, the game’s initial announcement was met with severe backlash from fans. Unfortunately, we can now confirm those initial criticisms were justified.
Metal Gear Survive has a wide range of issues, but first and foremost, one of its biggest problems is that it’s not really a Metal Gear Solid game. Beyond its art style and the use of recognizable sound effects, there’s very little about the game that will appeal to fans of the franchise. It doesn’t have an engaging narrative, it almost completely throws stealth out the window, and it features a boring, generic, player-created avatar in place of the iconic Snake.
For these reasons, Metal Gear Survive is not a game that will appeal to Metal Gear Solid fans. It seems to be aimed at gamers who enjoy survival games, but even then, it fails to deliver a compelling survival experience. In fact, its survival game mechanics actually weigh Metal Gear Survive down a great deal, and are arguably the worst parts about it.
Oftentimes, and especially early on, the hunger system can cause players to fall into a death loop. There may not be any animals to hunt or vegetables to harvest, so players will be forced to complete the next mission as fast possible, return to base to save their progress, and then lay down and die. They will then respawn with about a quarter of their hunger meter filled, which should be just enough time to complete another mission and keep repeating the process.
Later in the game, when players manage to amass a larger supply of animal meat and start a vegetable farm, starvation isn’t as pressing of an issue. However, it’s easy to see how many people who try to play Metal Gear Survive may give up in the game’s early hours as they become fed up with having to constantly babysit their avatar’s hunger and thirst. These “features” simply aren’t fun and serve little purpose other than to frustrate and make the game inaccessible for many gamers.
Even if players manage to stick with the game long enough to get past the starvation death loops, then they will have to deal with its other tedious gameplay loop. Metal Gear Survive mostly consists of players running through large, empty stretches of desert to an objective, which usually revolves around activating a new teleporter or defending something against waves of zombies (or “Wanderers,” as they’re called in the game). They loot the area, complete the objective, return to base camp, and repeat the process endlessly.
With very little variation in objectives, Metal Gear Survive quickly becomes boring, and it’s hard to stick with the game. The gameplay loop of running forever, likely getting lost in the “Dust,” collecting resources, fighting zombies, and returning home gets old quick, and it doesn’t help that the combat isn’t very compelling either.
The key to success in Metal Gear Survive is to bring a bunch of chainlink fences on missions to distract Wanderers. Oftentimes the enemies will not even try to walk around fences to reach whatever the player happens to be protecting or to attack the player head-on. Usually they will walk straight to whatever barricade is close to them, almost like the fences in the game have a gravitational pull or something. This can be exploited to make most encounters in the game far too easy, and it only becomes truly challenging when there’s an overwhelming number of enemies to deal with – which doesn’t happen very often.
The dumb enemy AI can easily be exploited, but just like the starvation and thirst systems in Metal Gear Survive, the situation improves the more time players invest in the game. New enemy types introduced in the later chapters will actually force players to go out of their way to craft stronger weapons and go into situations fully prepared, but unfortunately, these enemies don’t show up until the game is over halfway done.
Almost everything in Metal Gear Survive becomes more tolerable and enjoyable the longer the game goes on, actually. The first five hours or so are an absolute nightmare that will likely turn most people off from the game, but those that stick with it may actually find the later levels somewhat rewarding, particularly when it comes to the crafting system and strengthening the base camp. As more buildings are built and survivors are recruited, the base camp becomes more efficient, which can be rewarding considering how dire of a situation players find themselves in at the beginning.
Something else players may enjoy about Metal Gear Survive is its use of the Fox Engine. The Fox Engine allows Metal Gear Survive to display numerous enemies on-screen at once without any kind of slowdown or other issues that many similar games seem to struggle with. In general, the game runs very smoothly, and we encountered very few, if any, hiccups during our time with it. Despite launching at only $40, Metal Gear Survive actually runs better than many full-priced games.
Even with its budget price in mind, though, we can’t recommend Metal Gear Survive to anyone, perhaps especially those that consider themselves dedicated fans of the franchise. The game flatout fails to capture the Metal Gear spirit, and while it has some positive qualities, they aren’t enough to redeem it. Those that manage to stick with the game for the long haul may end up enjoying it a bit more than others, but most Metal Gear Survive players may find it difficult to force themselves through its tortuous beginning hours.
Metal Gear Survive is available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant reviewed the game on Xbox One.