Metal Gear Survive Review (PS4)
Can Konami keep its stealth series alive without its lead creative and main hero?
Punished SnakeLet's be honest here – the odds were stacked against Metal Gear Survive from the very start. As the first release to carry the series' cherished name since Konami and former Metal Gear head honcho Hideo Kojima parted ways under seemingly less-than-ideal circumstances, Survive was always going to come under heavy scrutiny... doubly so given how it's a spin-off title that radically changes up to series' core gameplay while reusing a lot of assets from previous release, The Phantom Pain. Based on the bubbling salt lakes that can be found wherever there is discussion about this game, people seemed ready to hate Metal Gear Survive from the moment it was announced and the vitriol surrounding it is unlike anything we've seen in a long, long time. But you know what? Give it a chance, overlook the baggage it comes with, and you'll likely find Survive to be nowhere near as bad as its oh-so-vocal critics suggest. In fact, it's a perfectly adequate survival title, albeit one laced with niggling issues and that would have been better off as a new IP rather than trying to fill the big boots of Big Boss.
Would have been better off as a new IP rather than trying to fill the big boots of Big Boss
It's fair to say that it lives up to at least part of its name, though – while it's certainly not Metal Gear as we know and love it, the survival aspect of the solo game is a lot more fleshed out than we were expecting. Foraging for food and water is essential to keep hunger and thirst levels from dropping to dangerous lows (which they like to do rather rapidly), leading to early moments where you'll be forced to chug down filthy water at the risk of disease just to stay hydrated. The stress of managing these gauges while exploring is slowly mitigated as you find watering holes and animal grazing spots on your travels, or expand your base with facilities that let you harvest your own sustenance, but it's rough going in the early hours. As you start to get on top of that, though, new problems start to surface – old food goes bad after a while and rescued survivors may need some of your provisions, meaning there's always something to manage here. And on top of that, there's a third factor that quickly gets brought into play in the form of oxygen levels, another percentage to watch decrease faster than you'd like, but only when exploring areas known as the Dust – zones where the air is thick with toxic particles, making exploration of such sectors a race against time. While that's hardly conducive to the kind of slow, methodical approach to stealthy combat Metal Gear fans have come to expect, it gels well enough with the tension produced by the game's other mechanics, and it's not like sneaking around is the only way to get things done here, either.
Decoy OctopusThe regular zombie-like Wanderers that make up the core of your opposition in the hellish world known as Dite don't have the smarts of your regular Metal Gear guards, so stealth is vastly simplified. Tossing a handy crystal into an open area will have hordes of enemies flock to its location ready to be annihilated with one well-placed grenade, for instance, while many can be lured away from the pack and back-stabbed one by one simply by moving close enough to get their attention then circling around them as they approach where you just were. When a fight does break out, your options are plentiful – there are four classes of melee weapon (one-handed, two-handed, poles and heavy weapons), bows, the expected array of firearms (though ammo is scarce) and all the gadgets you could ever want. It's these that really make combat interesting, adding tons of possibilities. Chuck up a chain fence and you'll hold the horde at bay until they can break it down, while you poke or shoot through the gaps to thin the pack from relative safety; throw down shock decoys, balloon traps or land mines as you retreat to make enemy numbers more manageable; lob a molotov into a thicket and watch the braindead goons charge through it and set one another ablaze; place towers, steps or other obstacles to funnel and manipulate enemy movement. Both melee and ranged combat are largely unremarkable in isolation, but both are at least functional enough to produce some really cool moments and possibilities in tandem with the arsenal of gadgets on offer. You can't rely on the same tricks forever, either. New enemy types, which are arguably introduced a little too slowly and infrequently, range from walking bombs that do a number on your fortifications to leaping ninja zombies and from heavily armed and armoured threats to packs of toxic spider-like creeps. Each is just about manageable on their own, but when they all attack en masse, you'd better be ready to mix things up on the fly.
Tossing a handy crystal into an open area will have hordes of enemies flock to its location ready to be annihilated with one well-placed grenade
That part about controlling enemy movement is a crucial skill to master, since most actual missions (and the entirety of the co-op side of things, which we'll come to shortly) take the form of wave-based tower defense-style affairs. Incursion routes are shown, with prep time before each wave used to fortify enemy approach points with whatever you've learned to craft up to that point. Whether it's a few simple wooden fences, an elaborate string of traps and obstacles, or a mess of sentry turrets waiting for any uninvited guests, your efforts slow or halt enemy progress as you run around mopping up stragglers and preventing the blighters from smashing up your stuff. A shockwave at the end of each round obliterates all nearby threats and gives you a moment to craft new gadgets and shore up defenses before the cycle begins once again... it's a simple loop but a largely satisfying one, even if the last couple of such encounters in the solo campaign massively outstay their welcome.
Diamond DogsUnsurprisingly, that format lends itself particularly well to multiplayer – from Gears Of War's Horde mode to the recent success of Fortnite, it's a tried and tested formula. Enemy counts are absurd and maps are elaborate enough to facilitate numerous approaches to holding down the fort, whether it be heading off to stake out enemy spawn points or sitting behind countless barriers as the last line of defense. Good teamwork is crucial for getting top honours on the tougher levels, but the rewards are certainly worth it – cardboard boxes (what else?) loaded with loot rain from the sky following a victory, often bringing rare gear and recipes that can't be obtained anywhere else. While thematic links between solo and co-op play are loose at best, they play into one another pretty well from a gameplay perspective, with each able to unlock rewards that can help progress and performance in the other. If you're only interested in one of these two aspects of the game, you'll be missing out on a lot.
Controlling enemy movement is a crucial skill to master, since most missions take the form of wave-based tower defense-style affairs
That said, each component has its own form of end-game grind that may well appeal to certain players. Fully exploring the map and dealing with the powerful new foes that roam it after the credits roll is a decent loop for solo players, while multiplayer fanatics can chase ever-higher scores and ever-shinier loot with better stats and perk rolls, with more maps and modes coming down the line to help improve longevity. If either loop hooks you (or indeed if both do), there's a fair amount of bang for your buck here, but that only makes it all the more galling that the game is so eager to thrust a begging bowl at you in search of a little more loose change. In-game currency SV Coins – used to speed up expeditions (which otherwise take ages), purchase useful buffs and even unlock additional character save slots beyond the first – are earned crushingly slowly and seemingly only via daily login rewards, effectively placing these features behind a pay wall. It's a practice that gets a pass in free-to-play games as that's how they make money, but it feels like a cynical cash grab in a paid release such as this. Couple that with the always-online nature of the game (it won't even launch without a server connection – it is, as Metal Gear's painfully unsuspicious soldiers might say, 'just a box') and it's clear that at least a little of the bile aimed at Survive might actually be justified.
- Plenty of options for creative play
- Decent value for money
- Great fun in co-op
- Functional-at-best in most regards
- Incredibly convoluted systems
- F2P-esque elements reek of greed
Metal Gear Survive Review (PS4)Metal Gear Survive is a somewhat problematic game, then, but that's due to its own inherent issues rather than any of the circumstances surrounding its existence. Some features like the aforementioned free-to-play similarities are rather gross in their implementation, other gameplay elements like base-building and the extremely late-coming class system feel painfully underdeveloped, and carrying the Metal Gear name means Survive can't help but be compared to the mechanically near-perfect The Phantom Pain, which paints it in a pretty poor light.
But underneath all these issues lies a game with some neat ideas and one that can be a lot of fun when all of its elements actually harmonise with one another as intended. The pre-launch beta didn't really give an accurate impression of the full game, and the vast majority of the criticism being aimed at and around the game by people who haven't even played it sure as hell doesn't, either. All we can suggest is that anyone in the market for a new survival game or horde-style multiplayer shenanigans should open their minds and give Survive a crack to make up their own minds. It's not Game Of The Year material or anything, but nor is it the dumpster fire it's being made out to be by so many dissenting voices online – taken on its own merits, Metal Gear Survive is a decent enough survival game and an entertaining co-op experience that might just pleasantly surprise you.
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