It’s understandable why some Metal Gear fans are writing off Metal Gear Survive. The game reuses a lot of assets from Kojima Productions’ Metal Gear Solid 5 games and is being developed without the input of series creator Hideo Kojima.
But Metal Gear Survive is an intriguing, entertaining survival-focused spinoff of the franchise that builds on The Phantom Pain and Ground Zeroes’ strengths; specifically that it’s still weird and plays very well, based on a few hours with the game’s single-player campaign.
Typically, I find survival games — or rather survival game mechanics, where food and water are a constant concern — unnecessarily frustrating and unenjoyable. And as you’ll notice in the gameplay video above, in which my survivor vomits over and over again after drinking a swig of contaminated water, I am clearly not gifted in the survivalist arts. But Metal Gear Survive has me hooked, thanks to its deep crafting system, its mix of single-player and cooperative multiplayer and the strong stealth-action foundation on which it’s built.
Metal Gear Survive puts players in the role of a soldier in Big Boss’ army, one who has been sucked into a wormhole and dropped into a mysterious land populated by infected, zombie-like soldiers. The player’s soldier starts off weak, undernourished and desperate for supplies; their first step into this world is finding food and water in order to survive.
From there, Metal Gear Survive throws players into scavenging and crafting missions. They have to hunt down scraps of metal, wood, cloth, wire and dozens of other raw materials in order to build weapons — initially a spear, later a bow and arrow — and defensive structures. A computer named Virgil AT-9 and a wounded soldier named Reeve guide the player on their way, showing them how to raid bases and warning them of the surrounding dangers.
Players’ safe space is a base camp that can be upgraded with defensive measures. While we didn’t spend any time or resources doing that during our hands-on session, it seemed pretty obvious that protecting your base camp will eventually be crucial to surviving the single-player campaign. Another component of survival is navigating a thick, poisonous fog that surrounds the game’s opening area. Players will have to craft an oxygen tank and replenish it as they explore the map looking for supplies and other survivors.
Perhaps the most intriguing design decision in Metal Gear Survive is the connection between the single-player campaign and the game’s online cooperative multiplayer mode. The latter challenges players with fending off waves of Wanderers, the crystaline zombie-like creatures that are the biggest threat in wormholeland. Players can build wooden barricades, chainlink fences and other structures to defend their collective base. They can also scour the surrounding environment for more powerful weapons, like a bipedal Walker Gear. The supplies, weapons and ammunition players have at their disposal in co-op is shared with what they collect in single-player, and vice versa. So if you’re underpowered or understocked, you can dive into the single-player mode and load up. Or you can take on hefty challenges in multiplayer to acquire loot that goes back into the campaign.
In our hands-on time, we tackled the easy co-op mission with a bunch of spears and bows, and ultimately survived. But jumping into a tougher co-op mission — Konami promises daily, weekly and special event Orders missions — showed that we were clearly unready to tackle the higher level Wanderers there.
That connection between campaign and co-op explains why Metal Gear Survive is an always-online game. Players will need a constant internet connection to play. It’s also the reason there are microtransactions; players with more money than time might want to buy some in-game materials if they don’t want to spend their days scavenging.
While Metal Gear Survive shows a great deal of promise, a lot of my interest hinges on just how much fun and how deep Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain was. Konami got to a point where Metal Gear’s stealth and action, combined with Phantom Pain’s deep upgrade systems, came together for an extremely satisfying gameplay loop. Metal Gear Survive simply pivots off of that, and when it comes to PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One in February, I’m fascinated to see where it goes.