Metal Gear Survive Review: Punishing, Yet Rewarding
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Metal Gear Survive is the latest Metal Gear title developed and published by Konami, now available to buy around the world. Survive is the first open-world Metal Gear game to be developed following the departure of Hideo Kojima, the legendary Producer and Designer who has worked on the series for over three decades. Has the Metal Gear franchise lost its magic after the departure of Kojima, or does the survival aspect breathe new life into an ageing franchise?
We’ve spent around 12 hours playing Metal Gear Survive so far. We feel like this is enough for us to get an idea of what the game is like, although we’ll be playing much more in the coming days and will amend the review if necessary.
Platforms and pricing
Following a 22 February 2018 release, Metal Gear Survive is now available to play around the world on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Due to the nature of the game, Konami couldn’t justify a £50 price tag and as such, those interested can pick the game up pretty cheap. Those with consoles in the UK can head to Amazon (£25) or Game (£29.99), while those on PC can head to Steam (£34.99) or Green Man Gaming (£28.69).
For those over in the US, you can head to Amazon ($39.88), Best Buy ($39.99) or Steam ($39.99) to pick the game up.
Metal Gear Survive Review
Metal Gear Survive is set just after the events of Ground Zeroes, and is a spin-off from the timeline of The Phantom Pain. In this pseudo-historical timeline, a wormhole appears in the sky and promptly sucks Motherbase into its churning maw, and then into another dimension. If you’ve played any Metal Gear game, you probably won’t be batting an eyelid at any of this.
As a nameless soldier, referred to as the Captain, you must survive in this new and hostile world that has been overrun with a parasite that turns humans into ‘Wanderers’, aka zombies with Kuban Energy crystals for heads. And that’s the least weird type of enemy you’ll come across when exploring Dite – as you progress, you’ll come across various types of Wanderer, each with strengths and weaknesses that you need to figure out and take advantage of.
The game features the familiar Metal Gear feel of action stealth, mixed with a heavy dose of scavenging, crafting, base building and, most importantly, survival.
The game runs on the Fox Engine and is built from the foundations of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, while the environment borrows heavily from the game’s open world of Afghanistan. This also comes across in the performance, which is very solid on the PS4 with no noticeable frame drops even in the more crowded areas.
Hunger and thirst
Aside from the building mechanics, the most immediate change you’ll notice from Phantom Pain is the introduction of a hunger and thirst system. These are displayed as a percentage at the bottom left of your screen, which ticks down over time. To make these values recover you must scavenge food and water from the landscape – ideally cooking things first at your campfire.
Your hunger and thirst have a large effect on your maximum health and stamina, so you’ll want to make sure you’re bringing some snacks along with you if you’re heading out into the world. And herein lies the biggest issue with Metal Gear Survive; it’s a challenge to find wildlife to hunt and eat because wildlife is scarce.
You’ll occasionally be presented with a side mission that’ll highlight the presence of wildlife, but they won’t respawn in the same place once killed, and there isn’t always a wildlife-orientated mission available. If you keep an eye out on your travels, you can find a handful of places throughout Dite where livestock does respawn every so often. It’s important to mark these on your map with a sticker so you can come back and stock up next time you’re feeling hungry.
We find the hunger aspect pretty punishing, and because it’s directly linked to your health, it limits what you can do in the field. At times, it almost felt as though we were exclusively undertaking hunting missions because we’d only be able to recover the amount of hunger lost while hunting, and rarely anything more. It’s not as bad with water as you have a spring right next to your base that you can collect water from and purify, although you’ll constantly be scavenging for empty bottles to use.
Admittedly, there has been mention of building farms on your base camp to preserve wildlife instead of killing them in the field, although we’ve not yet accessed this function. We’ll revise our commentary on the hunger mechanic if this provides better access to food.
Base Camp and crafting stations
As well as exploring the open world environment, you’re tasked with building up the destroyed base’s defences to fight off the occasional horde invasion – you’ll start off with basic fences, but you gain access to more advanced gadgets as you progress through the game.
It’s satisfying, watching your base grow from a desolate wasteland into a military complex complete with team members performing tasks while you’re out in the wild. It’s a long process though, as with most aspects of this game. It rewards the grind though, so if you’re willing to put the hours in, you can end up with a nearly impenetrable base.
Speaking of, your base provides access to a series of crafting stations, where you can create an ever-increasing array of gadgets, weapons, armour and buildings from items you scavenge throughout the world. As you progress through the game, you’ll gain access to increasingly-advanced crafting tables, providing better resources to keep you alive when exploring uncharted land.
It’s also where you level up your character – not by experience like in most games, but by harvesting Kuban Energy from the Wanderers you take down. Kuban Energy is the main currency of the game and is required to craft resources and level up, so it’s a good idea to take the time out to harvest any Wanderers that you come across.
That brings us to the next main feature of the game; scavenging. When on your travels, you have to scavenge everything you see in order to craft the items you need to survive. This may get a little tedious for some, although the excitement of wondering what I’d find in those abandoned buildings I come across is enough to encourage me to have a look.
In addition to scavenging bits of scrap, you’ll occasionally come across huge crates out in the world that contain valuable recipes for new (and often rare) weapons and gadgets, but there’s a problem; they’re all locked. These crates often come with a complementary horde of Wanderers nearby and if you make a mistake in the lock-picking process, you will alert them to your position, so try not to do that too often. You do have the option of smashing it open with your weapon, but again, stealth is the key to most elements of this game.
The issue is that unlike with most survival games, you can’t craft anything on the go. You have to travel back to Base Camp, at which point everything you’ve scavenged on your travels is added to your storage, and you can use one of the crafting benches mentioned earlier.
This forces you to think tactically about the task ahead; will I need fences to hold off hordes of Wanderers? Or should I sacrifice my trusty spear and take out a bow-and-arrow for a long-range, stealthy approach (ideal for bombers)? The issue is that sometimes I simply forget to craft something before I head out, or I require more than what I can carry, and without any way to access my storage in the field, it becomes incredibly difficult to fight swathes of Wanderers.
Combat; an important element in any survival game, especially when going up against incredibly powerful creatures. Overall, the combat in the game is true to the Metal Gear formula, as stealth is the key to move forward, while combat is the fall-back option. And even then, melee weapons like spears and machetes take priority over standard weaponry.
Oh, and did I mention that the Wanderers hurt? They do. A lot. If you get too close they will slap you and remove a good chunk of your health, and that’s just with one of them. Getting overrun is a very real possibility, and that’s something I really enjoyed. It forces you to think on your feet and adapt to the ever-changing situation; something that can be challenging with limited stamina, especially when in the Dust.
But in general, the controls felt slightly clunky to me; it’s clear that the Captain doesn’t have the same level of skill as Snake, which makes his attacks – and the ability to respond to incoming attacks mid-action – slow. This means that you can’t simply run into a group of Wanderers with a machete and come out unscathed; the longer animations and slower pace of combat mean you have to take a more tactical approach, and when combined with how much damage the Wanderers do, provides quite the challenge.
Open-world and the Dust
You’ll find yourself submerged in the Dust for the majority of the game, where, if you can believe it, it’s even tougher to survive. The dust is, as you’d imagine, a thick wall of dust where some of the most powerful enemies are lurking, including a monster that’d be better suited to the Shadow of the Colossus.
The issue is that the dust is toxic to humans, and requires you to wear an oxygen mask when exploring, providing another survival mechanic to keep an eye on. Once your oxygen hits zero, you’ll start to lose health and eventually, will die. The good news is that you can use crystals to create oxygen while in the dust if you’re running low, although it’ll slowly damage your oxygen tank to the point that it’ll no longer function.
The Dust does have benefits; namely the sea of resources it holds within. Although you’ll come across powerful and aggressive hordes of Wanderers on your travels, the amount of valuable resources – and potential crew members to recruit to Base Camp – makes it worth the risk. The issue is that with limited visibility, it’s incredibly easy to lose your bearings in the Dust and if it’s an area you’ve never explored before, you won’t have access to your GPS or waypoint markers to help you.
You’ll be able to spot nearby landmarks and Base Camp thanks to bright lights, so when in doubt, head towards the light. The digital fog of war in your map is only removed once you return to Base Camp and sync your iDroid with Virgil AT-9, at which point GPS becomes available in the areas you previously visited. It’s a bit of a clunky mechanic, and requires a lot of back and forth between the Dust and Base Camp. It also means that you can’t reliably mark any interesting spots you come across first-time-around on the map because you can’t find your exact location.
The one saving grace is the Wormhole Teleporters that you come across on your travels. These short-range teleports allow you to easily get back to Base Camp, although it’s a risky business setting them up. Why? Activating teleports for the first time is a long and loud process that attracts nearby Wanderers, leaving you to fend them off while it powers up.
Clever use of your crafted gadgets is crucial for times like this, building fences and other defences around you to battle off the approaching hordes. Watching Wanderers start to slowly climb the fence in front of you, only to have it topple over under their weight is a very nice touch and really adds to their relentless – and slightly terrifying – vibe. Unlocking teleports and mining for Iris Energy are some of the better parts of the game, but once you’ve done it four or five times, it starts to get a little same-y.
Before we go any further, we should mention that the game isn’t fully co-op like some assumed. While you can’t invite friends to explore Dite with you, you can take on scavenging missions together. The best part of multiplayer is that you can take all items with you, and all items earned in multiplayer can also be used in single-player, making multiplayer a great way to farm large amounts of resources.
The basic concept, in the easier missions (which aren’t that easy with level 20 Wanderers), is to protect the drill while it mines Iris Energy. As mentioned above, this will draw in large crowds of Wanderers that you must defend against in wave-based fashion. The waves get more difficult as they go on, but unlike in single-player, you get a brief period between waves where you can use crafting benches to craft more defences
As well as fighting off hordes, you’ll see a number side-missions pop up on the map that rewards you with some tasty loot – providing we could get back to defend the base fast enough after completing them. It’s great fun, especially when playing on headset where you can communicate a proper plan with your teammates, leading us to wonder how amazing it’d be to have your friends be able to join you in the main game.