Close your eyes and imagine a world where neither Hideo Kojima or the Metal Gear series exists…a game like Metal Gear Survive doesn’t seem so bad now does it?
This is the frame of mind I had during my time with the Metal Gear Survive beta on the PS4 after Konami finally got things in working order and it actually left me yearning for such a world, as the game is surprisingly decent.
As I’m sure you know by now, Metal Gear Survive eliminates the tactical and stealth-based gameplay that series is known for, and throws the player (who controls some random schmuck from The Phantom Pain’s Diamond Dogs) into a strange, alternate reality where they have to scavenge for supplies while protecting their base from hordes of strange zombies who would love nothing more than to put the foreigners into the ground.
Judging from what is offered during the beta, this premise seems like it could work in the long haul. As there are no missions available from the single player campaign, all players get to see are a few multiplayer missions which can either be completed with up to three other players. They all play out in the same manner: gather resources, protect specific locations by building defenses and fighting off waves of enemies, use the brief respite to gather resources or complete side quests and then fight again.
It sounds simple (and even boring to some), but it works surprisingly well.
In fact, all aspects of the game actually work well. Players can easily select their weapons and other equipment before heading out the field and once there, make your way to a base where they need to place a generator which mines resources from the ground. Fortunately, the game provides a few minutes before the gameplay starts to pick up, so the player can use this time to collect resources like wood and gunpowder and then take them to various workbenches to be combined into something new.
You can make anything from wire fences to food and all you need to do is hold down the corresponding button provided you have the materials. Each have their own uses and can be surprisingly valuable in certain situations. For example, while wire fences are more durable than a wooden wall, there are times when using the latter can prove to be more effective. Players will need to get quickly acquainted with the function of each item because the game doesn’t provide too much time before the round starts.
Once the timer hits zero, reddish rifts open up in the sky which spew out an assortment of enemies which seek to destroy the drill in your base; and naturally, your goal is to prevent them from doing so. Players have an assortment of weapons at their disposal, ranging from axes to shotguns to fend off the variety of goons that come their way. The gunplay is exactly how it is in The Phantom Pain, with your weapons being easy to aim and control, while the melee is actually improved thanks to the ability to aim at specific parts of the body. Of course, using your own weapons can only take you so far, and you’ll soon find yourself relying on crafted fences, traps and other items to help get the job done. If you manage to survive the round, the enemies will despawn and the game will give you some time to collect resources before the next round starts. Complete this cycle enough times and you’ll complete the mission.
That is Metal Gear Survive in a nutshell, and success means you get new schematics and resources that can then be used at the Staging Area to create new weapons, items and even enhance the abilities of your character to make the next mission a smoother one.
And therein lies the problem: how much of what I just said sounds like Metal Gear to you?
Crafting? Zombies? Base Defense? Skill Points? None of these are the hallmarks of what makes Metal Gear, actually Metal Gear. In fact, one could remove the references to Metal Gear entirely and this game could practically be any survival or base defense game on the market. The only thing that sets it apart thematically is that it dares to combine the two.
That is why I asked you earlier to close your eyes and imagine a world where neither Hideo Kojima or Metal Gear exists. In such a world, Metal Gear Survive is actually pretty damn decent. There is nothing glaringly wrong with it, as the core premise works, the combat is fluid and pretty much every mechanic is spot-on.
And it’s for that reason I wish Konami had the courage to use this game as a means to start a new IP, rather than rely on a popular one that doesn’t even have the right studio to oversee it. Seriously, imagine what this game would be like if it featured a unique aesthetic like Konami has done with franchises like Bomberman, Castlevania or Zone of Enders, there would have been no controversy surrounding this game and people wouldn’t already be praying for its death.
In its present state, Metal Gear Survive is an empty shell of its “former self” — a game that claims to be part of a series that it really has nothing to do with. It’s a good game, but its not Metal Gear.