Metal Gear Survive
trades tactical espionage action for zombies and survival, with mixed results.
On the edge of my base camp is a vast wall of poisonous dust. Stretching for miles into the sky, this gray, churning cloud will kill me if I set foot in it. But when I build an air tank, jury-rigged from a broken one carried by a less fortunate survivor, I’m finally able to venture inside. I could stay out here in the sunshine, but in there I’ll find rare materials and blueprints for better weapons and gadgets. It’s a risk worth taking. As I cross into the dust, the sun disappears and I’m surrounded on all sides by an oppressive grey fog. And through the gloom I can see the telltale red glow of wanderers— aggressive zombies with glowing crystals where their heads used to be. These are the most common enemy in Dite (pronounced dee-tay), and they’re a constant threat, lurching out of the dust to attack any reckless survivor who bothers them.
Journeys into the dust are when Metal Gear Survive comes alive. Getting in and finding something useful is only half the battle; you also have to find your way out without being mauled by enemies or getting lost and dying of thirst or hunger. It’s an ordeal made more stressful by the fact that your character has to eat and drink pretty much constantly.
Survive kicks off immediately after the events of Ground Zeroes. As Big Boss escapes in a chopper, a regular grunt in his army (that’s you) is left behind on ruins of Mother Base, only to be sucked into a wormhole and transported to another dimension. That dimension is the aforementioned Dite, which is a desert littered with rubble, wrecked cars, ruined outposts, and enemies.
As exciting as forays into the dust can be, Metal Gear Survive’s world is uninspiring. Compared to the lively, colorful ocean of Subnautica or The Long Dark’s haunting Canadian wilderness, it’s a shit-brown sea of sand and rocks that I never once felt compelled to explore. And when you do find something, it’s usually just a scattering of rusty old shipping crates or a grey military outpost.
In its favor, the environment does feel dangerous. Whenever I leave my base behind and head deep into the desert, I get nervous about what lies ahead. But mainly because I know that if I die out there, I’ll lose everything I picked up and have to do it all over again. It’s frustrating pretty much all of the time, but if you like grueling survival games, you might enjoy how little the game cares about entertaining you.
Fashionable PC survival games provide the template for Metal Gear Survive, which means gathering materials, killing animals for meat, and crafting gear. You’ll start out hunting sheep with a rusty spike, but later you’ll have an animal pen in your base and a selection of guns. It’s a tried-and-tested core loop, but rendered insufferable by how miserably slow everything is.
Your character runs like he’s wading through treacle, and runs out of breath after about five seconds. Harvesting Kuban energy from fallen enemies—an important in-game currency that’s used for everything from crafting to refilling your air tank—takes ages.
On the Fence
I do like its willingness to be silly, however, which is when it feels the most like a Metal Gear Solid game— albeit superficially. I love being able to craft objects during combat, throwing up a fence to stop a group of charging zombies, then poking them through the mesh with my spear. And I’ll never tire of sprinting towards a sheep or deer and knocking it out with a wild punch.
But just as I’m being charmed by these glimmers of personality, they’re smothered by tiresome busywork and a confusing mess of a UI. There are a dozen better (and cheaper) survival games on PC that do almost everything Survive does, and better.
The inevitable presence of microtransactions, including paid-for additional character slots, also means the endeavour reeks of cynicism. More than anything, Survive feels like a business decision to me. An attempt to cash in on the survival game craze using a familiar name to lure fans in. Don’t be fooled.
In its favor, the environment does feel dangerous