Metal Gear Survive

I bought a game I claimed I never would, and now I’m going to write about it.

Welcome to the world of Dite (dee-tay), a mysterious realm of lost art assets from Metal Gear Solid V. Amidst all the controversy of Hideo Kojima’s somewhat acrimonious departure from Konami, David Hayter being replaced by a movie star, and the demise of Silent Hills, I swore never to purchase a Konami game ever again.

When I heard the concept of Metal Gear Survive, I scoffed. I’m fairly certain that everyone did. Sure, Metal Gear had its wacky moments, but a wormhole sending a bunch of soldiers to a zombie realm seemed like a very odd direction to take the series. It didn’t review particularly well on release (except for this one article I found that was practically bursting with suspicious enthusiasm), yet the screenshots interested me, and steadily I found myself seduced.

So here we are. But where are we, exactly?

Well, the game starts off between Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain, as Mother Base is attacked by an organisation called XOF. A few shots of the battle’s aftermath are interspersed with footage of Boss fighting off troops (I think this latter cutscene was lifted from MGSV, but it’s been a few years). Fortunately, it doesn’t take long before Boss gets booted out of the frame, and we can get back to Metal Gear Survive’s story.

Look, I was never particularly taken with Naked Snake/Boss/Big Boss/Whatever. My problem was primarily not with him, but the world surrounding him in his various games. The amount of worshipping thrown his way got a bit tiresome, and eventually he just felt like some sort of power fantasy. I was still subjected to my new character in Survive screaming out for him as she was dragged into the wormhole, so it’s not like I got to escape it even after the Kojima era was over.

Anyway! Much as I found the premise to be a little “out there”, I was relatively pleased with the care and attention given to the story’s opening. It’s clear that there’s been some effort made to keep up the Metal Gear tradition of lengthy cutscenes, and they’ve treated their odd subject matter fairly seriously, rather than just handwaving it as an excuse and diving into the game.

Your character is an infected soldier sent to investigate the mysterious world of Dite, where it seems some sort of plague is transforming people into zombie-like “Wanderers”. The agency wants you to scout stuff out and recover data from the Charon Corps, a group of soldiers and researchers who were sent to investigate initially, but lost contact with the normal world. I’ve not finished the game yet, so I haven’t uncovered whatever malevolent conspiracies lie behind everything, but I’m certain a couple of betrayals are coming.

Now, I’m not much for playing survival games. I’m frankly a bit of a lightweight. I hate fiddling around with endless item management, and I despise trying to build safeholds only to get attacked every five seconds until eventually I give up on that and find a nicer game to play (like Spyro 2).

For better or worse, Metal Gear Survive seems to have neatly avoided these issues for me so far. Yes, I’ve had a base defence or two to deal with, but nothing incessant, and you choose when to initiate them. I can mostly trust my base to carry on fine while I head out into the wilderness.

Similarly, I’ve not had to flick through colossal lists of items and decide which to store where, or pick ones to dispose of, so I’m quite satisfied on that front. While I’m happy to have limitations and such when tackling survival games, I’m more concerned with what’s happening in the field, not in menus.

I say this all, having not yet finished the game, with a mild suspicion that I’ll later hit a wall and all this constant-attack/item-management will kick in with a vengeance.

But for now, I’m positive. Collecting food at the start of the game was somewhat problematic – there never seemed to be enough, and it was tempting to use the filthy technique of save&quit and restarting the game, which would repopulate the nearby animal resources, but now I’m at a stage where I’m generally easily able to restock (which is, oddly enough, something of a shame).

So obviously you have to deal with Hunger, but there’s also Thirst, a dreaded feature I think I last encountered in Dark Cloud. There’s not too much to say on this front, since it’s basically the same as managing Hunger, but with a couple of acquisition differences.

The other big thing to track is Oxygen. You see, Dite isn’t all sunshine and bright skies – the majority of your time will be spent venturing into the dark world of the Dust. When I was first introduced to it, I figured it was going to be some annoying place I’d have to drop into later in the game for small sections, but very early on you’re sent in for a recovery mission, and from there you’re pretty much always heading back into the Dust for something or other.

Unlike in the open world, when you’re in the Dust, your map won’t show where you are, unless it’s a place you’ve already visited. You have to return to Base Camp to update your map, so you can’t just do that on the fly. Consequently, if you’re reckless, and bad at following the green or blue lights from landmarks, you could find yourself lost and out of oxygen.

I played it relatively safe, but on one occasion, I found a little mini-Metal Gear vehicle to drive around, and somewhat foolishly drove around blasting everything in sight, until its durability hit zero and it exploded. At this point, I wandered off towards what I thought was my objective, only to realise I didn’t recognise anywhere, so I changed direction and tried to find my way back. The map below shows my objective circled in red, while the green line shows my route.

So yeah, don’t be like me. It’s potentially an indicator that the game’s too easy, since I survived.

The basic gameplay is smooth and works relatively well, though I suppose the credit for that resides largely with the team from MGSV (and all the prior Metal Gear games that laid that foundation). You’re not completely overpowered, though the unusual Wanderer AI combined with power creep eventually makes fighting Wanderers relatively comfortable. I’ve got sidetracked a lot in the fifteen or so hours I’ve played so far, so perhaps some unpleasant surprises are coming my way, but for now, I’m quite happy heading back into the Dust for more supplies.

To clarify about Wanderer AI, you have the ability to summon in defensive walls while out in the field. From a gameplay perspective, it works fine as a way to lure masses of Wanderers together to ease your struggle a bit (fighting like eight at once isn’t always the easiest, though it could be argued that you shouldn’t have alerted that many in the first place). However, it’s always a bit weird to see Wanderers converge on a fence and claw at it fervently, despite there being perfectly good routes round to either side.

I haven’t really used guns much so far, since I don’t fancy making that many replacement bullets, but I have a suspicion that they would make a lot of the fights very easy indeed.

Things get a bit more hectic when it comes to the tower-defence sequences. It’s probably just a sign of my inexperience, but I never quite seem to have enough walls available to set up, so I tend to get stuck in a sort of triage system, where I leave a route open and try to ignore Wanderers clawing down the other walls while I fight in the empty zone. One time wasn’t particularly helped when I built some backup walls too close to the drill I was protecting, and the drill rather rudely blew all those walls up at the end of the first wave of three.

I did actually win that one, though, which again might be an indicator that Metal Gear Survive is a little bit on the easy side.

However, of all the mechanics designed to wear you down over the course of your adventures, the most effective would have to be the “help” dispensed by the mission AI overseeing your operation. Hit 50% Hunger, Thirst, or Oxygen, and the complaints will start rolling in, and they’ll keep going for every few percent from then on.

My “favourite” has to be when the AI notices your oxygen is getting low (around 40-50%), and it complains that you need to watch it. Invariably, at this point, I’ll grumble at the TV that I don’t need it to badger me every five seconds, but it’s not done. A moment will pass, and then the AI says, insistently, just “Captain”, as though interrupting my rant, before rolling into another tutorial about how to refill your oxygen. And this never ends, either – no matter how far into the game you get, the AI won’t stop bothering you. And I don’t think there’s a way to turn it off!

And don’t forget that you have Stamina and Health too – so that’s at least five different stats that your AI will complain about, so invariably you’ll get stuck in a chain of complaints if you dare to venture out into the Dust for longer than two minutes. I really don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but it was not.

Speaking of bad ideas, I suppose I should touch on the microtransactions system. But there’s really not much I can share about it, because I’ve not paid much attention to it. The game doesn’t feel pressured enough that I’d ever want to fork out extra cash for benefits, even if it was something I did in the first place. But to give a general idea, one of the items is a “Premium Boost Pass (60 Day)”, which grants the following:

-          Kuban Energy acquisition booster

-          Shared resource production booster

-          Battle Point acquisition booster

I don’t know – maybe at the higher end of the game, or in co-op, this sort of thing matters a lot more, but I can’t say that I see any real benefit to buying these things. Is there a leaderboard somewhere? I’ve certainly not seen one advertised in-game. If there is, maybe they should add it to the AI’s list of badgering commentary (any Konami employees reading this, please do NOT implement this idea).

It’s also online-only, which feels pretty pointless for the single-player stuff. There are daily and weekly missions you can do, but they’re not so essential that I’d require a connection for them. It’s not caused me any problems so far, despite my lousy wifi, but it’s just one of those things that doesn’t seem particularly necessary.

While I’m on the subject of complaints, let’s look at your home base too. The idea’s sound to start with – build a bunch of conveniences, and populate them with people you find in the wilderness – but it’s mostly just a hassle spending resources to heal people who fall sick/get injured. This can be tempered through sensible base management, I’m sure, but I got this game to fight zombies in the wilderness, not to micromanage a bunch of copy-paste men with small, fuzzy beards.

I’ve tried to keep these articles relatively family-friendly, but let me just say that the feature below can **** right off:

Haven’t we seen enough of these wretched timed mission systems by now? I’ve put up with them in two expansions of World of Warcraft, a handful of Assassin’s Creed games, Monster Hunter: World, and I dread to think how many other games, and I can honestly say that I despise them more than Quick Time Events. I’ve sworn to completely ignore it this time around, and I look forward to suffering immensely for it later.

If you’re looking for anything revolutionary in story-telling, you probably won’t find it here. I did enjoy the opening sequence, but that falls by the wayside a bit during the main part of the game. You get this game’s equivalent of Codec conversations, with inanimate nameplates talking to each other, and there has been some effort put into giving at least the main three or four characters something resembling a personality. When the AI isn’t bothering me about every minor aspect of how I play, it’s relatively entertaining, and Reeve’s grouchiness is amusing. The solitary female character so far is a non-combatant nurse who has to be saved on more than one occasion, and one guy I rescued immediately hit on her and ignored everything else she had to say, but I guess it is set several decades ago.

Well, I suppose we’ve reached the part where I summarise my feelings about Metal Gear Survive so far. Decent gameplay, inventory isn’t too fiddly, team management is a bit dull, weird microtransactions available, and story is alright but not amazing.

Oh, and I totally forgot about co-op. I don’t know anyone else who’s playing it (and I don’t have Xbox Live Gold membership), so that isn’t happening. But apparently it’s really good!

So now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d better go refill my oxygen tank with Kuban Energy before someone gets angry with me…

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