Espionage, Guns, huge Mechs, giant explosions and beautiful women! Metal Gear has always been known for its adrenaline pumping stealth. Being able to move past enemies undetected, at one with the shadows has always felt incredibly rewarding. That is what Metal Gear is all about and what it truly means to be an agent. Yet, in Metal Gear Survive we have Fences. Lots of fences and uh, Zombies? Armed with spears and at the mercy of newly introduced hunger and thirst meters (requiring constant attention). My first reaction was "Oh god. Oh god no...what have they done!?", so let's see what awaits us in this vastly different take on the Metal Gear series.
I won't lie to you. I've been putting this off for a while now, because as a long time fan of the Metal Gear series, I like to pretend this game doesn't exist and also because I've been hunting for any and all redeeming factors this title might possess. I would also like to point out that I'm not a supporter of the practices many top tier games publishers are now carrying out. Konami have introduced a new kind of in-game purchase for this title and though I'll touch upon this further into my review, I'll tell you now - It's not a good one.
Metal Gear Survive is the newest release from Konami after the departure of the much loved and hugely iconic mastermind, Hideo Kojima. Taking place (kind of) in the Metal Gear universe, this Action/Adventure spin-off is yet another take combining your tried and tested survival game mechanics with Zombies. In case my review tone hasn't already been an indication as to how I feel about this, to make it clear, this is not a AAA title. Taking two of the most overplayed tropes in modern gaming and not doing anything overly new with it, how did Konami expect to win the fans over with this one?
Story-wise, Survive begins with the destruction of your beloved and customisable base of operations from the stellar Metal Gear Solid 5. Laying your fallen comrades to rest, your character (which is customisable to a reasonably impressive degree) is then sucked into a wormhole and dropped into an alternate dimension full of zombies. Sound familiar? Some of the worst movies of all time have had better plot lines than this and thinking back on it, one of Survives opening moments features Snake himself, flying away in a helicopter as my character was sucked into said wormhole and now all I can think is "Please, Snake...take me with you!". Regardless, you're now stuck in this alternate dimension with three tasks - Exploding Zombie heads, finding a cure for this unknown virus and saving those not currently infected.
Almost immediately, you find yourself dropped in the thick of things, with little more than some base weapons that are average at best, eating crap (figuratively, thankfully) to survive until you can gather enough resources to build yourself a better base with better supplies and better weapons. All of which can be harvested from the world and from the fallen bodies of the dead (again) Zombies you'll kill along the way. Missions range from obtaining materials and items of interest to fortifying your base defenses against the constant hordes of Zombies and more. That all seems simple enough, right? True, but it just doesn't work well.
The problem with this is that I now find the Post-Apocalyptic Zombie setting to be incredibly overdone and boring - Everyone is dead, so where's the fun in that? Many aspects of the maps are identical to those from Metal Gear Solid V, only they're all in the desert. Who puts zombies in the desert?!
Let me explain why I feel this doesn't work; Dead Rising takes place during an apocalyptic scenario, but the tight level design and density of the Zombie population ensures that even a few hundred meter trip is fraught with peril for the unprepared. In Survive, the play area is set within a huge and sparsely decorated sandbox, full of nothing and devoid of any colour or even its own unique character. Left 4 Dead combines fast moving zombies in chase sequences, where teamwork is required to battle the range of unique Zombies to survive as a unit. Survive on the other hand, has a handful of enemy types, all of which are easily dispatched. Seriously, when playing solely to complete the story (without the distraction of side quests), I didn't suffer a single legitimate death. Where's the challenge? The game is as mindless as the Zombies within it.
With that in mind, let's talk gameplay. As a spin-off of Metal Gear 5, the control scheme is pretty similar here. Additionally, you have the option of developing new weapons through Research and Development, which should help to fight off the undead hordes, but rarely did I ever feel a need to use this feature. Early on in the game, you're given a spear that easily dispatches Zombies with few, well aimed head-thrusts. The piercing and range of the spear is fantastic, so good in fact I never had a need for anything else and do you know what else? It has no problem poking through fences. Chased by a horde? Climb a small ledge, poke them all to death and pick up the drops. Rinse and repeat, because that's all you need to do. Ever.
If you came into this expecting the same Metal Gear experience you've grown fond of, expect to be disappointed as stealth doesn't even play much of a part here. Sure, you can sneak up on Zombies for an insta-kill, but two hits from a zombie and your'e dead anyway, so play it safe, climb the ledge and poke the things. As for Base Defense? Set up three fences one after the other and head-poke until one falls, then get behind the second and third...you get the idea.
By this point, you've read nothing but the negatives, so let's take a step back for a moment and talk about what this game does do right.
Graphically, Metal Gear Survive is a good looking game. Unfortunately, this isn't something I can attribute directly to Survive, because as previously mentioned, huge parts of it are lifted directly from Metal Gear Solid 5. This still runs on the Fox Engine - A beautiful and brilliantly made piece of software that honestly, you'd struggle to make something look bad on. I encountered no glitches, no bugs and no game-breaking glitches, so it has that on its side at least.
The main thing to convey here is that this is very much a lacklustre spin-off, over-shadowed by a far superior game and while visually, it's nice, the original is nicer in every aspect. Gameplay is functional, but nothing compared to MGSV and the same goes for the sound etc, etc. Everything about this game is a disappointment as it succeeds in creating nothing but another lazy Zombie killer, plagued with copy and pasted map layouts and game assets stripped directly from Metal Gear Solid 5. Even the characters are lacking in almost every way and my overall feeling of this is simply "Meh."
To close things off, is this worth an investment? Were this several years ago, I'd probably say yes. It's a functional game despite its lack of inventiveness, but for a definitive yes, Konami would need to remove the unsavoury practice of charging you for additional save slots. Yes, you heard me right. This is what I was talking about when I mentioned modern business practices I simply cannot get on board with. You are expected to pay for additional save slots. You are expected to pay to access your own storage. This is utterly ridiculous, but as a full game, these problems aside, if you remove Metal Gear Solid 5 from the picture, Metal Gear Survive as the absolute runt of the litter still has something to offer.
As things stand, I cannot recommend anyone purchase this game at full retail price. Metal Gear Solid 5 is still available and at a discounted price across many stores, so if you don't yet have that, you're better off paying less for a much better game. Metal Gear Survive is a barren game, devoid of all life, where nothing can grow as it's littered with debris, Zombies with phallic looking pink crystals jutting out of their heads and simply isn't for us. Is it worth a bargain bin purchase much later down the line? Probably, but as things stand, if you love the Metal Gear series, I'd advise avoiding this at all costs.
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