Metal Gear Survive is Konami's first big console game outside of PES since its infamous split with Hideo Kojima, and as if that wasn't enough to raise eyebrows, it has the temerity to carry on the lineage of Kojima's most famous creation, too. Metal Gear Survive is truly a demanding, oppressive, obtuse, and despite all of that being said above it is a very much enjoyable experience that it seems to many is not what they would traditionally think of as "fun."
If it's not a traditional-style "Metal Gear" game, then what is "Metal Gear Survive"?
Like Metal Gears Acid and Rising, Survive veers away from the series' staple stealth action, instead offering its own spin on the likes of Rust and Ark that have proved so popular in recent years. Start with a blunt stick and an empty belly, then struggle to stay alive until you've gathered enough resources and recipes so that stick might become something more powerful, and you've crafted a cooker and a farm so that you might never go hungry again. Metal Gear Survive is full of zombies (called "Wanderers"). There are loads of them, and you're in no position to fight off hordes of zombies. Your best bet, most of the time, is to either block off zombies temporarily with a wall of fence, or to simply run away.
It helps that it inherits so much from the series' past - the survival aspect isn't exactly new to Metal Gear, having featured so prominently in Snake Eater, and Survive takes the same fastidious approach to physical caretaking. What makes it, though, is how Survive is built upon the skeleton of the brilliant Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. During the siege on Mother Base, a wormhole into a parallel world appears, sucking in a chunk of Mother Base, along with the members of Snake's Diamond Dogs and the attacking XOF forces. Your character is seemingly killed or rendered unconscious while defending Mother Base, but is brought back by an enigmatic UN scientist and constantly frowning Laurence Fishburne look-alike named Goodluck.
There's more to it than mere frugality, though, and Metal Gear Survive has moments of genuine brilliance. Waking up, you're told you've been infected by a parasite that has overrun Dite, the world on the other side of the aforementioned wormhole. Your mission is to travel there to seek out a cure for yourself, and also find out what has become of your comrades, including a close friend. In typical Metal Gear Solid fashion, there's more to Goodluck than meets the eye, and since the parasite that transforms people into Wanderers first showed up during the Vietnam War, there's some questions around its true nature too. Dite also happens to have a special crystalised resource called Kuban, which can be extracted from Wanderers and harvested from the environment.
From the moment you land in Dite, you're on the back foot. Survive wants you to know that success in this hellscape will come through struggling and pushing forward in the face of overwhelming adversity, and to that end the game tracks hunger, thirst, and oxygen on-screen. These ever-visible bars are constantly depleting, counting down to death if not kept topped up. The food and water needed to replenish them are scarce, and even the act of seeking them out expends resources in a way that will make you pause and really think about if it's all worth it. It's a grueling grind where the material rewards offer just a fleeting respite.
But all this also serves to intensify that rush of satisfaction you get when you manage to complete a mission or successfully take a trip to gather edible herbs, meat, or dirty water that has a good chance of making you sick. By stacking the odds so heavily against you, these successes--big or small--feel like an act of defiance.
The story's true purpose, though, is excusing a very different type of Metal Gear - one steeped in horror and isolation, both of which complement the survival mechanics well. You start, abandoned and alone at the heart of the sizeable open-world map, with a thick fog enshrouding entire areas. Venturing into that fog eats away at your oxygen supply, and while in its midst your visibility is dramatically reduced; often, you'll navigate your way via distant lights, hoping that they'll offer shelter or escape once you reach them.
Metal Gear Survive is a surprisingly adept, competent package for a spin-off. As it turns out, it's pretty fun to sneak around zombies. Metal Gear Survive only became playable to press on its launch day, I haven't played enough to deliver a more comprehensive review. There are other aspects to its gameplay that haven't had the time to properly develop: the base building, crafting, and online multiplayer for example. And there are also characters who are slowly appearing that need the chance to grow before I can make a judgment on them. I'm still playing Metal Gear Survive and formulating my thoughts so Stay Tuned for my #DefinitiveReview after a few weeks with the game.