Metal Gear Survive is wild, irritating, thrilling, familiar and incomparable

mgs

The obvious worry for a Kojima-less Metal Gear, even before it staggered into well-worn zombie survival territory, was that there was no way it could be anything like as off-the-chain ridiculous as a true Hideo joint. I think that’s true whether you’re one of those who considers him to be the auteur’s auteur or one of those who reckon his stories are equivalent of giving an 11-year-old infinite money to play with.

Funny thing about the newly-released Metal Gear Survive though, based on around a day in its dusty deathscapes: ‘ridiculous’ is very much the operative term. It’s just that it’s a very different kind of absurdity to Metal Gears past.

I haven’t got into the co-op or competitive element of Survive yet – not sure when that happens, but for now I’m noodling around gradually building up my own wasteland base made from string and bits of a bin I hit repeatedly with a machete. The whole thing’s a sort of sequel to Metal Gear Solid V, though it makes the sensible-despite-superficial-absurdity decision to swiftly have a ruined Mother Base and your nameless footsoldier dragged off to another dimension so that the whole thing doesn’t stand on any toes.

I may have misinterpreted the plot, by the way, which is a consequence of the dozen-odd early cutscenes being entirely tedious – the flab of Kojima’s notorious storytelling for sure, but none of the flashes of maniac brilliance with it.

Anyway, there’s just you and a tiny handful of apparently ex-Mother Base NPC colleagues out there in a desert surrounded by a lethal fog of dust and filled with magic alien crystals that you can build stuff from, in tandem with scavenged scrap.

mgss

It’s almost instantly illogical in that iron and wood can only come from specific items that you either pick up or smash, depending on size, but you can’t do anything with the vast number of smashed-up metal crates lying all over your starting base. Point being, you’ll pass by a lot of stuff that would give you exactly the materials you need to make a new spear or bit of zombie-proof fence, but just have to accept that you’re not having it unless the game says so. A familiar trope of survival games, but perhaps a touch more glaring than usual here.

Still, it’s all so silly that it’s not hard to accept this particular oddity. I mean, there you are being given mission objectives by an obelisk-like AI that seems to be part of the Mother Base crew, collecting magic crystals and backstabbing wild deer and, most of all, stealthing your way past hordes of headless zombies and using sky-portals to teleport animals into your base.

teleport

Squint and you can see most of MGSV’s systems powering it all – the portals are obviously the legendary kidnap-balloons – but to Survive’s great credit it feels like its own game, not a reskin.

A lot of the mechanics might match up, but creeping along with a rusty pipe, knowing that if you’re spotted by one zombie you’ll almost immediately have twenty of them lurching after you, is a very different sensation. Then there’s the focus on unlocking melee skills capable of handling big crowds like that, and the whole thing almost takes a tilt into Dead Rising territory. That sense of pervasive silliness is also heightened by the ability to immediately build a honking great fence slap bang in the middle of a fight. It fits MGS’s warped internal logic, somehow.

So the tensions and thrilling farce of a stealth-based zombie survival horror are well-realised thus far, though I can’t speak to how compelling sneaking into yet another small based filled with yet another horde of deadheads will be 10, 20, 30, 100 hours down the line.

metal-gear-survive

I’m less convinced by the pure survival side of things, which is to say the gathering of food and water. It’s straight from the familiar survival playbook – creep up on animals, take ’em out, collect their meat and cook it to replenish the hunger meter – but having it happen in tandem with zombie missions is getting a little grating. In practice, it means you’ve got four meters to worry about while you’re sneaking or fighting – health, stamina, hunger and thirst, and if the latter two run low, you get blurry screen effects and staggering.

I imagine that, later on and once I’m fully specced up with decent cooking supplies and a whole shipping container full of mystery meat, it’ll be a matter of just coolly selecting a hearty meal from my inventory during a quiet moment. Right now though, it just means a lot of back-tracking between animal spawn points and the base (home of the campfire required for cooking), and usually losing half my hunger meter just in the process of doing that. The schlepping also takes forever because a limited stamina meter prevents me from sprinting too long.

It’s all a bit too much like having to take the dog for a walk during the end of the world. If this were a pure survival game, sure, resource-gathering busywork would be my sole focus, but I’m not entirely sure it serves as much more than an annoying complication during the combat/stealth element.

Yet it all feels just the right amount of bonkers to get away with that modicum of tedium. Here’s my hat, for instance:

metal-gear-survive-hat

Right now, I don’t really know what I’m ultimately trying to do or why (beyond ‘survive’), but I’m having a compelling enough time that I don’t really mind. Noodling around slowly building weapons and upgrading my base either side of tackling missions that can suddenly and terrifyingly escalate from trying and failing to backstab a solitary zombie into finding that my sole way out now looks like this…

metal-gear-survive-2

…is keeping me happy. It’s a bit like a post-apocalyptic Hitman in some ways. I don’t believe I’d ever have guessed this was a Metal Gear game if I didn’t already know and it didn’t make that iconic BLOOP sound when I get spotted. It’d just be this hybrid stealth-survival game that felt fascinatingly peculiar from moment to moment. How it’ll shake out long term I just can’t say, but right now I’m definitely keen to find out.

Metal Gear Survive is out now for Windows and is available via Steam for £34.99.

51 Comments

  1. Babymech says:

    “there you are being given mission objectives by an obelisk-like AI that seems to be part of the Mother Base crew, collecting magic crystals and backstabbing wild deer and, most of all, stealthing your way past hordes of headless zombies and using sky-portals to teleport animals into your base.”

    Well yes, but what happens in the game?! Is that too much to ask from a review?

    • Creeping Death says:

      Did you see the word review anywhere outside your comment?

    • subactuality says:

      I chuckled :)

    • poliovaccine says:

      Wait, how do any of those things *not* occur in the game? I mean if not in the game then where do they happen? Detroit?

    • Beefenstein says:

      You can find out what happens in the game by playing it.

      If you don’t want to, or can’t afford to buy it then don’t.

      In either case try to limit your regrets about the option you did not take. There is nothing valuable in such clinging. Cultivate equanimity.

  2. poliovaccine says:

    Yknow, as much as my initial impulse was to scoff this thing off the face of the planet with some sort of super-breathy Skyrimesque shout-scoff of the Thu’um (the three words being “oh,” “come” and “on”), but then I realized that, hey, if this were just some guy’s wacky MGSV mod, I’d probably download it. Then again, that charitable view kinda runs out its chain at the point where, unlike a mod, this thing is gonna cost like sixty dollars, but I’m trying to see the world thru kinder/dumber eyes here…

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      If you want your cynicism in Konami restored I suggest you go and watch the Jim Sterling video on this. It’s fucking awful

    • upupup says:

      Pretty much my reaction as well. It looks like a fun mod, not a game that can stand on its own at full or even ‘indie’ price. Microtransactions on top of that make me even less enthusiastic.

  3. JustaFleshWound says:

    You CAN do something with all the metal rubble around your base. At your construction terminal, just hover over them and dismantle. Now your base looks nice and clean and you just gained 500 iron.

  4. Tomhai says:

    Dear RPS… Please do not cover games that let you buy save slots. Only we as consumers can take steps against an industry that is systematically trying to screw us over. Best way to do that is not to buy, to play and or talk about these games.

    • MaxMcG says:

      I read about this earlier. It sounds so blatantly greedy, opportunistic and anti-consumer, I’m hoping that it’s not quite true or that there’s more to it than exploiting customers.

      If it’s true though, then I’m passing on this game, which is a shame, as it sounds like fun.

    • yoggesothothe says:

      I’m curious, is it an additional save slot which preserves progress for the same character? Or is it actually a new character slot which allows you to make a separate character with non-interchangeable progress preservation?

      That is, what’s the difference between this and extra character slots you have to pay for in MMOs?

      By extension, should we also protest games that only ever provide a single character slot, and thus require you to purchase multiple copies to have multiple characters?

      • MaxMcG says:

        This line of argument just perplexes me. Charging people in MMO’s for a second save slot is also a complete load of exploitative bullshit. At least with MMO’s you can raise the defence that there is usually a significant amount of ongoing development and content.

        It’s like people defending micro-transactions with the “it’s only cosmetic” argument. Since when are paid-for mtx’s perfectly acceptable in a full-price game?

        What is wrong with everyone?

        • yoggesothothe says:

          I’m also perplexed at the hostility of this response (@MaxMcG); I don’t believe I was indicating support in any direction for any monetization scheme, merely asking questions about their specifics and whether it’s a matter of perception that some are given a pass where others are not. That is, my motivation here is genuine curiosity–my questions were actually questions.

          • Babymech says:

            Watch enough Jim Sterling and you too will become convinced that the only proper way to communicate about these things is through angry, sputtering shouting.

            59 FPS?!?! ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING IN MY CEREAL YOU SCUMSUCKING CONSUMER HATING TURDMEAT?!

          • ColonelFlanders says:

            In all fairness, when an industry ignores, exploits, and basically sits in its ivory tower laughing at how stupid their customers are, the ‘nice’ approach is already a little too late to try. I’m going to angrily tell Konami, Activision, WB, EA etc to fuck themselves as hard as they can until they either run out of money or their respective CEOs melt themselves down like the replicants they are.

          • upupup says:

            There is a consistent need to downplay consumer rights when it comes to video games, with there always being people to defend the actions of a company no matter how cartoonishly selfish they are, which can make people more than a little upset. This explains why people can blow their top at people who appear to be doing that but are actually asking genuine questions, though it doesn’t justify it.
            However, MaxMcG is hardly ranting and throwing around profanities, so treating him as if he’s openly hostile and crazy angry is quite disingenuous.

          • Babymech says:

            (to be clear, I didn’t literally mean anyone here was going nuts and shouting profanities. I’m just weirded out again and again by how the starting point for almost all discussions on gaming consumer rights start out with the assumption “I have to buy these games; why are they so expensive / unethical / inconvenient?” I can’t think of many other products where consumers feel that a poor product is a hostile insult to them that needs to be fought tooth and nail)

          • upupup says:

            That would be a misconception. The crux of the matter here is that it is not about a particular product, but about the consumer having the right that products across the board be held to certain standards. That nobody is forcing you to buy the product in question doesn’t matter as looking at ‘need’ would be questioning consumerism itself and no longer applies when you’ve reached the point of agreeing to this kind of exchange, the same way that a shop selling products that turn out to be broken wouldn’t be able to excuse it by saying that you didn’t have to shop there. Appealing to it is a poor excuse championed by companies to convince others that they have no responsibilities towards their consumers.

            Big entertainment companies have over the years pushed to normalise incredibly substandard consumer rights when it comes to videogames and digital goods in general, which is why push back is necessary to avoid this getting worse and to inform people that they have more rights than they are aware of as people are rarely taught this in school, which is something exploited by companies.

          • Babymech says:

            There are a few cases in gaming where that analogy (the shop selling broken products) works and where I entirely support the rights of the consumer to take action. However, many of the consumer rights complaints in gaming are not about basic product standards (broken or not broken), but about issues that by any reasonable measure have to be solved by not purchasing products – protests against social themes in games writing, against sub-60 fps games, against cosmetic in-game purchases. I can’t think of any clear examples from other industries that are sane parallels, though I’d be happy to hear them.

          • upupup says:

            A faulty product is merely one aspect. Ownership of the product, false advertising, EULA exploitation, misuse of copyright, gambling, etc. are others. The law is still catching up so all of this is still being hotly debated.
            FPS rates or social themes I haven´t seen brought up related to consumer rights, as they are not inherently right issues. Cosmetics are a big discussion, but part of it is not providing the full product that is owed.

          • upupup says:

            Edit ran out, but one aspect of cosmetics is charging you the full amount for the product but then denying you the full value of it by hiding it behind further purchases, such as selling you shoes at full price while withholding the laces. As something that people spend money on, cosmetics are clearly a part of the game that has value, leading to this objection.

          • Babymech says:

            I wish this comment system worked better, because this is an interesting discussion. The thing you touch on now is, I think, part of it – the value that is owed. With gaming, more than many other products, there seems to be such a strong sense of what the ‘actual’ value should be, even if much of the experience is subjective… and a strong fear that some of the ‘actual’ value is being withheld from the buyer. If I watch the Avengers and think that the script is awful, or the movie is too short, or that they could have spent the music budget more effectively, I still don’t feel that there is some ‘real’ value that I am owed – I just feel that it was a shitty movie. Of course, if the studio releases an ‘enhanced’ edition three weeks later for an extra €20, and it’s obvious that that version could have been made available on day one… well, I’d be surprised, but I think my reaction would mostly be “oh. they missed their chance to make a good impression when they could have. I’m certainly not spending the extra money.” I can’t think of any good comparisons, really.

          • upupup says:

            I think they are still using wordpress, hence why everything is so awkward to use.
            To be clear, by value owed I don’t mean that the product is good or bad, but that it’s the complete product. As you say, whether you get your moneys worth is subjective, but the product being complete is only about whether every part of the intended full product is present.

            Comparing this to material goods is difficult because these practices quickly get dog-piled when it comes to material goods, like the shoelaces, but to use an absurd example, imagine buying a train set that is advertised as being a complete station. However, you find that upon opening the box that parts necessary for completion have been locked away in boxes that you need to pay additional money for to have the shop open without damaging the contents, which would seriously piss people off.

            In regards to content produced after release, such as the enhanced edition you mention, the question would be whether the company knowingly released a subpar and effectively unfinished product, only to release the ‘fix’ afterwards for more money once people had already bought it. The answer in the case of your enhanced edition would be yes, as the period is too short to suggest that they did not anticipate this, which is not allowed and would cause consumer groups to come after them.

        • MaxMcG says:

          @yoggesothothe – I wasn’t being hostile to you but I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear. That said, your question as to why this situation is any different to an MMO implies that you think it’s OK in an MMO. Perhaps you don’t think that but if so, it’s not clear from what you wrote.

          That people increasingly appear to have accepted the notion that it’s OK to have normal features and content locked away behind paywalls is incredible to me. To take your MMO example, you can just about defend the practice if the MMO in question is free-to-play (personally I still have an issue with it) but if you have paid €60 for it or pay monthly subscriptions, it’s absolutely reprehensible.

        • FeepingCreature says:

          For comparison’s sake, in Path of Exile you can buy character slots as a microtransaction.

          So after you’ve made 25 characters for free, you can keep going if you really want. (Or you can delete one of your previous ones to free up a slot.)

          In my experience, I run out of free variations of my nick before I run out of slots.

          • Daymare says:

            Ye, been playing that game since before the second half of act 3 in Beta came out. Slots were never an issue. Spent some money on different stash tabs, but it’s mostly convenience.

            The thing is, PoE is such a unique product in how its MTX are tuned. Most are highly expensive but cosmetic, pretty much all are optional — but the game plus all expansions (it’s such a big game now) are always free.

            I wonder how they do it. I assume that it works because people just … like their game so much that they spend enough on it, and GGG are afaik independent, so maybe have less pressure from more financially-oriented people?

            Those gambling boxes are an absolute no-go imo.

          • yoggesothothe says:

            [I see Daymare has already covered many similar points while I was typing this]

            Path of Exile is indeed amazing–to the point that replicating its ability to generate voluntary “donations” to the devs in another game almost seems unimaginable.

            But they also never give away character slots (or rather, currency) for free. (Of course, that’s rather moot when new accounts can be created for free, and running two clients to facilitate muling isn’t considered a breach of the EULA.) And, anecdotally, I do always end up buying stash tab bundles on my accounts over time; even personally tailored and build specific loot filters can’t mitigate how much of a time drain it can become to work with just 8 tabs once you start doing the maps. Just the sheer number of cards and currency alone… That seems rather deliberate, as generous as the game is in regards to everything else. But yes, that’s rather minor compared to what’s given away freely in terms of content–it feels as if PoE is worthy of defending, despite using the same monetization strategy (making paid account upgrades available), albeit a far more generous version of it.

            As a thought exercise (that’s all I’ve been trying to do here, really), at what point would we consider PoE as equally exploitative? If GGG reduced the number of free tabs to 3? 2? 1? What standard are we applying? How are we measuring when it’s okay to sell account upgrades and when it’s not? Have any of us even played MGS enough to say whether there’s even a reason to have multiple characters? [Daymare makes another excellent point about the gamble boxes as well–that’s about as “black hat” as you can get in terms of mtx design.]

          • Daymare says:

            Don’t know what the “treshold” would be, but 1 char slot, 1 stash tab, that would certainly feel quite little to me.

            I’d say it’d also depend on the price, considering stash tabs are among the cheap things you can buy in the store, especially considering how useful they are compared to cosmetics. A stash tab bundle (6 tabs) is only about 10€, though you’d have to cash in at least 15$ to get the 100+50 points.

            If I compare that to say, a rune page bundle in LoL (7 rune pages), that costs about 20€.

      • elevown says:

        The ONLY mmos that do that are F2P ones! They are FREE! We accept they have to charge for various stuff to make any money. They also want to keep server costs down for free accounts not making them any money – which most do not. It is NOT accepable in a game you have already shelled out 40 quid or whatever for!

        • yoggesothothe says:

          Right, broadly speaking I would agree. It seems, though, that the player gets enough free in-game currency to be able to purchase a character slot for free after 34 days of play. That doesn’t seem too terribly egregious (although perhaps my perspective on this is skewed by the overall egregiousness of mtxs. Their modern incarnation, after all, began with freaking horse armor in Oblivion.)

          • upupup says:

            I…can’t tell if you’re joking there.

          • yoggesothothe says:

            Not being facetious; this is about the same amount of time it takes to earn enough gold through gameplay on Guild Wars 2 to purchase a character slot without using real money (only, in the case of GW2, you don’t earn currency just by logging in.)

          • upupup says:

            In that case, having to log in on a daily basis for 34 days before being able to afford a second save file without other means of earning it, and without spending it on other necessities, or be forced to pay in a full-priced game, is very egregious.

          • MaxMcG says:

            Again, this is another frustrating defence to an egregious practice. Why does it take hours and hours of game time to earn enough game currency to buy some content or feature? So some people will get impatient and buy it with real money. Yes, if you’re sensible you won’t succumb but enough people will.

            The whole thing is so unethical.

            Most sensible people would agree that shelling out money to buy overpriced skins, paintjobs, hats or whatever is objectively pretty stupid. Some MTX’s are worse than others, obviously – I’m not saying the content never has value proportionate to its price.

            You might say: if people are stupid enough to buy this stuff, that’s their problem – which is true. Nobody is forced to buy this stuff, which is mostly true also. Yet it’s stupid. The games companies know it’s stupid. They know a certain percentage of their players will act stupidly and pay money, often well beyond what its worth, for this stuff and they don’t care. They know they are exploiting people’s stupidity and momentary weakness. They not only don’t care, they employ psychologists to help them exploit those weaknesses more. It’s absolutely reprehensible.

            That this stuff is objectively bad for consumers should be a total no-brainer – yet people still defend it. Not only that, they will attack people who voice their concerns. Boycotting these games only does so much, you need to speak your mind if anything is to change.

          • yoggesothothe says:

            Err, this example is concerning Guild Wars 2, which has continuing server costs and provides the base game for free. Being able to get more character slots also for free seems to be a good thing?

            I feel it is more productive to question whether some of these games need to have continuing server costs at all. Again, that seems questionable with regards to MGS.

      • upupup says:

        That it’s not an MMO. Putting aside that it’s a bad thing when done there as well.

        Like, if NieR: Automata had had a monthly fee, the counter to that wouldn’t have been “well, MMOs have monthly fees, so what’s the problem?”

        • yoggesothothe says:

          A very relevant point, though I understand that this game is always online, and hence functionally the same as a heavily instanced MMO without a social hub. In which case, it also seems functionally the same as other pay-to-play monetized games with server costs being the “justification” (or excuse) used for mtxs.

          Of course, whether or not it needs to be always online, or gains any gameplay value from being such, seems rather questionable from outside appearances, especially assuming that content updates will be perfunctory and sparse going forward.

          Speaking of counter-examples, I would, however, suggest Elder Scrolls Online and Guild Wars 2 as examples of pay-to-play MMOs (with purchasable additional slots) that provide fair value for their asking prices. Those games don’t seem particularly anti-consumer to me, though I tend to be rather agnostic on this topic, as is probably already apparent.

          • upupup says:

            Metal Gear Survive is not at all functionally the same to what you’re describing, nor would that be called an MMO. An MMO is typified by having a persistent world and potentially thousands of players within said world, which is what is used as the justification for server costs. Downscaling the definition simply gives you multiplayer and would apply to a game like Diablo 2, Mario Kart or Overwatch as well. Requiring being on-line does not make a game an MMO.

          • yoggesothothe says:

            Right, but it does have persistent data that’s only stored and accessible through their own private servers, without which the game cannot be played, yes? My only point there was that the comparison to Nier doesn’t really work because of this. (Again, not arguing that this design decision is justified; given that I haven’t played the game, I wouldn’t know in any case.)

            And, as you’re mentioning Overwatch, yes, they’re also functionally doing the same thing. The loot boxes are there/tolerated because all of the active data is stored server side on closed servers.

            (Presumably in the case of Overwatch, the always online is justified as a means of providing low latency multiplayer service and cheat prevention. It’s less clear what the justification for MGS is to me.)

          • upupup says:

            That is not what functionally the same means. You’re making a generalization and then stating that things vaguely looking like each other makes it that they are doing the same thing. This is not case; that your line of reasoning leads to you concluding that Overwatch is an MMO should make this clear. MMOs can be run on a server owned by the company or by players, this does not matter in regards to whether it is an MMO but is a matter of control.

            Data stored on servers isn’t persistent in the sense of how it the word is used in regards to MMOs, it is just data stored on servers. Leaderboards also rely on data being stored, but having them does not make a game an MMO. Nier was used as example of how absurd viewing it like this would be and the same applies here, as there is also data for it registered for it on servers (cloud saves, pre-order bonuses).

          • yoggesothothe says:

            Hmm, okay you’re definitely reading what you want out of my posts so I’m not sure I can clarify further, especially in regards to what I am purportedly claiming is and isn’t an MMO.

            If you re-read my comments, I actually haven’t categorized _any_ game discussed as an MMO. I’ve merely pointed out that publishers are using the fact that they are providing (or unnecessarily imposing) server based services and then supporting (or exploiting) these services with microtransactions. All “games as a service” designs are functionally “games as a service” designs in that regard…

            We can agree to disagree about what is or isn’t egregious, but this semantic mixup seems rather futile and unproductive on both our parts, particularly given that we’re not actually in disagreement about what constitutes an MMO. If you want to really hash it out, Vindictus is also considered an “MMO”–but that’s not really the point here anyway.

            I’m merely questioning if the reaction would be different if a few labels were changed. If MGS decided to call it “new character slot” instead, and then noted that you get a free character slot every 34 days, would the reaction be the same? I somehow suspect not, but that, of course, is mere supposition on my part.

          • upupup says:

            If the point you had in mind came across differently than intended, then you cannot fault me for misunderstanding you when you never state it and start by asking how the game is different from an MMO, functionally equate it to an MMO, involve games in the comparison that you explicitly categorized as MMOs and then extrapolate from there. No need to discuss it further then though.

            If they had stated that you got an extra save slot if you log in daily for 34 days, unless you pay $10, I would expect the reaction to have been even worse as that removes the feeling of slowly making progress that they bank on by making it part of a daily reward system, turning it into a raw time barrier.

    • nottorp says:

      If this game has any of the IAP crap, no matter for what, it would be nice if the article mentioned it so we can have another reason to avoid it (besides the Kojima thing, that is).

  5. thekelvingreen says:

    It’s probably worth pointing out that the sky-portals are available in “normal” MGSV too.

  6. glueface says:

    Is it still 3rd person stupidness?

  7. bill says:

    Is that Charlize Theron in the picture?