As a long-time Metal Gear fan, when I found out that Konami was planning to spin-off the series without Kojima at the helm, I was extremely skeptical. It's like The Lord of the Rings without Peter Jackson, or Toy Story sans John Lasseter; it just didn't make any sense.
And then I played the game at E3 2017. I arrived at my press meeting expecting to witness a biblical roast, yet walked away with a smile on my face. "What just happened?", I thought to myself. I had somehow been converted in a matter of 30 minutes. What kind of Metal Gear fan was I?
So here we are almost a year later and Metal Gear Survive is a thing. It might not be a thing that a lot of gamers think they want, but those who give it a try might just find themselves playing of this generation's best co-op titles.
A Metal Gear Unlike Any Other
Metal Gear Survive is a dramatic shift in style for the series, foregoing the story-driven single-player nature of previous games for a co-operative survival structure that is far more like Gears of War's Horde mode than anything the Snake family has ever seen before. So right off the bat, the difference between deal or no deal is whether or not you enjoy co-op multiplayer games. The single-player here sends you on missions with three A.I. friends, which just isn't the same as playing with real people who you can yell at and give chest bumps after each mission. For all intents and purposes, this is a multiplayer only game.
The primary game cycle goes something like this:
Join a lobby and hope you don't have toxic teammates
Try to coerce your teammates into using their microphones
Choose a class
Setup a defensive perimeter
Beat the doodoo out of opponents
Complete optional side-quests between waves
Remember to use your equipment once the game is already over
This isn't necessarily ground-breaking, and is something we've seen before with games such as Killing Floor 2 and Payday 2, but the product here is notably more polished and feature complete than what competitors have offered at launch.
Part of it is the sheer quality of the production. The only game in the space that really comes close to Metal Gear Survive's presentational quality is Left 4 Dead 2, and that game is so old at this point that it belongs in a hall of fame museum more than it does on anyone's hard drive. The reward loop is highly refined, with a great difficulty curve matched with item drops that you'll probably get addicted to working toward. Enjoy the addiction.
There's No Snake In This Boot, But That's Okay
Metal Gear Survive might not be a Kojima game, but it's definitely a Metal Gear. You can tell that a lot of thought went into making sure that it feels like it belongs in the franchise, and at times I got deja-vu flashbacks of my Metal Gear Online addiction back in Summer 2008.
This is most obvious in the case of character design. There might be no Big Boss or Eva on the battlefield (or at least literally), but the characters you and your team play as are distinctly Metal Gear style soldiers, with rolled camo sleeves, robotics, and all. Think Johnny Sasaki, but without the diarrhea.
The level design is also taken right out of a Metal Gear book. We're talking desert-based military installations that resemble Metal Gear Solid V's Afghanistan, and even snowy locales that are reminiscent of Shadow Moses where you first came face-to-face with Meryl's ridiculous haircut.
That's not to say that what's here will be enough to win over Metal Gear fans. What lets it down the most in this regard is the lack of "fun things", the stuff that made Metal Gear stand out in the Kojima era. The funny moments that made the series unpredictable and charming for so many years have apparently been evacuated with this release. Bummer.
During your playtime you'll place a variety of equipment that ranges from structures such as sniper towers and fences, to landmines, and even Fulton traps that'll send your enemy skyward like the old man from Up!. Of course, you also have weapons for shooting the morons that are stupid enough to try invading your base, and just like in Metal Gear Solid V they feel great in the hands.
The equipment diversity here is honestly impressive. Across the game's class options are a hefty amount of selections that provide plenty of room for experimentation. Expect to jump around classes a lot.
Don't Be A Hayter
It's nice to see the Fox Engine used a second time. Movement and combat are a big strength of Metal Gear Survive. This is no PUBG; your bullets go where you think they should, and you won't spend half your time blaming the game when things go awry.
That's not say it's perfect, though. Just like in most Metal Gear games, melee combat is a real handful. Animations lock you into moving forward, and generally feel clunky when compared to most action games this generation. Since a few of the coolest weapons are melee oriented, it's a bummer, but you can overcome it with practice.
The visual quality isn't quite at the heights of Metal Gear Solid V, and you can tell that a smaller team worked on this. But in general, character models look attractive and the environments have some nice effects that don't necessarily make for great screenshots, but happen to look good in motion.
The highlight in this regard is the user interface, which is not only highly functional, but downright pretty, a staple for the series. In addition, the game runs incredibly well, to a point where I would expect nice words from DigitalFoundry in the next week or two.
In terms of longevity, initially you'll find yourself interested in trying out the game's wide assortment of equipment as you earn unlockables. Long-term, there's a skill tree that will unlock both statistical improvements and new abilities. The trees are rather underwhelming, to a point where you'll often forget to bother placing your points. So chances are that if you're still playing after 20 hours, it's because you enjoy the gameplay and playing around with equipment.
Against all odds, Metal Gear has survived in a post-Kojima era by delivering one of the best co-op games of the generation. At $39.99 it's a solid pick up for anyone who is in the mood for a game that really shouldn't be played alone.
This review was conducted using the PS4 version of Metal Gear Survive. Over 20 hours were played across an E3 2017 appointment, the pre-release beta, and an early copy from a local shop.
| + One of the best polished survival games|
+ A bundle of equipment items to play with
+ Gameplay and presentation are smooth AF
+ The Fox Engine shines again
- Single-player options aren't worth your time
- Lacking Hideo Kojima's fun flavor