This last weekend was a strange one for Metal Gear fans, as the beta for Metal Gear Survive (the first full-fledged Metal Gear without Hideo Kojima’s involvement) went live. Like many others, I held rather low expectations for Survive (and in some ways, I still do). The Kojima/Konami situation soured a lot of people on the future of Metal Gear, especially since Kojima’s influence has always been essential to the very spirit of the series. So when Survive went live, I jumped in almost hesitantly. Would I like it? Would I hate it? Would it feel like Metal Gear? Should it feel like Metal Gear? There were a lot of questions on my mind beforehand, each weighed down with apprehension. And though it’s not fun to admit, my biggest worry was that if I did like it, I wouldn’t be able to admit it. Like many others, Kojima’s work on the series has been a large part in my gaming career, so it would be difficult to shake that bias. After addressing this personally, I started up the beta, ready for whatever strange experience I was about to have.
For the unaware, Metal Gear Survive takes place after Ground Zeroes. You play as a soldier who was left behind on Mother Base when Snake and Kaz flew away from the crumbling fortress. Only, instead of simply blowing up or sinking into the ocean, Mother Base got sucked into a wormhole in the sky. All the surviving soldiers from Mother Base wake up in a desert wasteland full of broken buildings and crystal zombies. If all this sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. I mean, Metal Gear has a vampire and psychics and what not, so I’m not too bothered by wormholes. It’s more about how random these events feel, especially since they’re happening as Ground Zeroes does. There was a lot of potential to dealing with the emotions these soldiers have after being left behind by Big Boss, but unfortunately I don’t think we’ll see anything like that. I’m hoping the story can prove me wrong, but I’m not going in expecting too much.
The gameplay is the real focus of the Survive beta. Online multiplayer and single-player were both available to players, with a variety of different maps available. The beta primarily had players protect some kind of extraterrestrial drill as it mined energy, which I’m assuming will tie into Survive’s story in some way. After a few minutes of optional preparation, waves of crystalline enemies would begin to rush the area in an attempt to destroy the drill. While you could try fighting them off with just melee and gunfire, the most successful way to protect the drill is to set up a variety of defenses. Using materials gathered from all around the map, you can build things like fences, barricades, traps, and even turrets to protect the drill.
In between rounds you can gather materials and build/place these materials in whatever way you see fit. I was particularly fond of making a maze of fences to keep enemies from the drill for as long as possible, though I had to quickly rethink my strategy when a large group of zombies was able to crush my fences with their combined weight. There were lots of situations like this where I had to think of new ways to defend myself and the drill, which I very much appreciated. This is especially fun with groups, as everybody is trying to defend the drill in their own way, You can almost see everybody panic when something goes wrong, which makes it all the more exciting to see the rest of the team try to cover the endangered player or the drill.
There’s also plenty of depth to building up your own equipment outside of battle. By the end of the beta my guns, machete, and bow were all ridiculous killing machines. Using materials gathered and earned in each match, I made my weapons far more powerful. I found myself constantly trying to find materials to improve my weapons and equipment, as I just loved becoming more powerful with each improvement. There’s a lot to like in Survive’s gameplay, and I had a blast with it.
But there are problems. The weird thing about Survive is how little it feels like a Metal Gear game. There are elements of the series present, like boxes and some familiar logos, but the soul of the franchise isn’t present. In the beta, there’s no weird humor, there are no strange or compelling characters, there’s very little (if any) stealth, and there’s seemingly no commentary on war, society, or really, anything. While I understand that this is a different kind of game, I think it’s this lack of spirit that makes Survive so frustrating to fans. And really, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel any frustration towards the title because of it. This doesn’t impact my thoughts on the gameplay, which I do think is actually quite fun once you’re used to it, but it does make me feel as though the Metal Gear label is simply slapped on. This does feel like Konami’s Metal Gear, if that makes sense.
Survive also feels like a game that is ripe for pesky microtransactions, as weapons and equipment could easily be put behind a paywall. I’m genuinely worried about how quickly the game could become less fun when played with others who have paid to have amazing weapons and what not, but I’m going to try to be optimistic about this. Maybe Konami will have the foresight to avoid this kind of problem. Maybe.
Overall, I’m actually looking forward to Metal Gear Survive. I’m staving off the personal feelings I may have about Metal Gear, but I understand if others can’t. Survive just seems like a strange, fun game. I’m hoping and expecting it to be a good game, even if it’s not a good Metal Gear game.