Metal Gear Survive is a curious addition to the Metal Gear franchise. Set alongside the events of Ground Zeroes and the Phantom Pain after the destruction of Mother Base, MGS sees you transported to an alternate version of Earth known as Dite, to rescue other soldiers who have been stranded there, taking on hordes of zombie-like creatures called Wanderers while rebuilding Mother Base with the help of already rescued accomplices and managing food and water resources until you’re able to get back home. Starting the game faced with these headless creatures, you make your way to the wreckage of your base where you’re met with an AI called Virgil who you’ll use to manage your base building and claim missions.
There’s a focus early on making sure you have enough food and water to complete your first few missions, which generally revolve around rebuilding Virgil. You’ll be under-equipped to face too many Wanderers at a time as until you’re able to upgrade your weaponry you’re stuck with a makeshift spear. My first encounter with a number of enemies I got through by nothing other than luck, forcing me to take a much more clever and stealthy route going forward. It’s this approach to tackling some (admittedly annoyingly familiar) bases that reminds us that this game has any place in the Metal Gear universe. The annoying familiarity that I mentioned before is from the fact that the majority of the map is just recycled from MGSV and if you spent a lot of time playing that, then you’ll almost certainly recognise your surroundings.
It’s this point of the game that proves to be rather satisfying, sneaking around bases taking out enemies one by one, trying to avoid their line of sight and keeping your noise down so you aren’t overwhelmed. Making sure you’re able to eat, drink water and survive each mission is a thrill, but it’s having to remember to loot everywhere and get back to home base with enough resources to build something else to make things safer for you and your ever growing team. These team mates are able to be assigned to different jobs around the base so things can run while you aren’t around. The more you rebuild, save and complete objectives get you closer to the end of the game, but it’s the story that is one of the biggest disappointments with Survive. It’s bordering on nonsensical at times but the biggest crime it commits is that by the end of it all, most of it feels like it’s for nothing.
Now it should be pointed out that Metal Gear Survive is also targetted at a multiplayer audience. After your initial tutorial, you unlock the option to partake in up to 4 player co-op missions. These are directly linked back to your base camp and resources from these is saved. Playing with friends is actually quite good fun, although I don’t feel like there’s anything here that is going to drag anyone away from the likes of PUBG or Fortnite. You take on waves of Wanderers with your new friends, but there’s nothing that feels like anything more than a distraction from the base defence of the single player campaign. This is why Metal Gear Survive feels like it could have been a free-to-play game, but the single player campaign and the tenuous link to the Metal Gear universe allowing it a full release, although thankfully not at a AAA release price. They also have implemented a micro transaction system. This charges you for as little as emote, up to another scavenging team and even a secondary save slot. I’ve not found the need to buy anything with my own money, but there’s enough there that they’re bound to get people spending their money.
Despite all of this, it’s not an overly bad game. It looks really nice and plays much like the two other current generation Metal Gear Solid games mechanically so there’s nothing wrong with that. The encounters with Wanderers and other enemies can be fun and intense, but having to keep an eye on your thirst, hunger and other resources can become a chore. Likewise is the constant need to micro-manage things at your base. Considering the price of the game at launch (£34.99 in the U.K. compared to a standard of £54.99) it’s hard to treat it in the same way as a full AAA launch, but with it being built using the Fox Engine and carrying the name of a renowned franchise means it should be treated as such. Certainly, worse games have been released as a full retail release but Metal Gear Survive may wind up getting bought by people expecting a far different game than they end up playing.