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Metal Gear Survive is an unusual spinoff for the franchise

There’s promise in Konami’s co-op survival game, despite its quirks

Metal Gear Survive
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Metal Gear Survive is an odd, intriguing thing. It’s one of the few Metal Gear projects created without some level of involvement from series creator Hideo Kojima, and the first Metal Gear game to be released since his very public departure from the company.

It’s also a game that has been routinely met with dismissal from Metal Gear fans bitter not just over publisher Konami’s treatment of Kojima, but also for continuing the franchise without its key creators.

And it’s hard to tell whether Metal Gear Survive will ultimately be any good, based on a brief demo we played at E3 2017 earlier this week. Metal Gear Online in its many incarnations has never quite done it for me. It’s always felt a bit messy, clunky and stiff. Kojima Productions managed to get pretty close to good with Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain’s online multiplayer mode, and Survive plays similarly.

The goals and the setting, however, are pretty different.

Metal Gear Survive takes place in an alternate reality, where members of Big Boss’ Militaires Sans Frontières have been transported via wormhole. The world in which the soldiers now find themselves is infested with crystalline zombie-like creatures. Players will attempt to survive in that world in a single-player campaign that Konami describes as “dense,” and in four-player co-op battles against waves of enemies.

Konami showed off cooperative multiplayer at E3 this week, dropping four of us into a level that looks very familiar to anyone who played The Phantom Pain. Prior to that, we picked from one of four pre-made characters, each with their own loadout. In the final game, players will be able to create and customize their own soldiers, outfitting them with weapons, armor and tools that fit their play style.

I chose a female soldier who was armed with a bow and arrow, pistol crossbow, assault rifle, and an electric baton. She could also deploy mortars and electrified land mines as offensive measures, and had the option to build chain-link fences and guard tower-like structures. My teammates had their own loadouts, with the option to build things like barbwire fences and machine gun turrets.

And, borrowing a beloved mechanic from The Phantom Pain, players can use Fulton balloons to quickly remove enemies from the battlefield.

A player Fultons enemies in Metal Gear Survive
Metal Gear Survive

Our mission at E3 was to protect a wormhole generator in the center of a small base camp. Waves of enemy creatures, walking through pre-defined lanes, were coming to destroy the generator, and we had to work together to prevent that from happening. That’s a tough task during an E3 demo, when you don’t have good communication and are being introduced to Metal Gear Survive’s complex UI and controls for the first time.

Anyway, we lost. The generator was destroyed, but I learned a few things about Metal Gear Survive in the few rounds that my team was alive.

Metal Gear Survive players will need to pay close attention to their status during matches. There are meters for thirst, hunger and oxygen intake, and players will need the proper consumables to stay at peak health. In addition to a life meter, there’s a stamina meter that quickly drains as players run and sprint. Run out of stamina, and you’ll need to pause and take a breather. Other status effects, including bleeding and laceration, affect health recovery.

We saw a handful of enemy types during our session, including Wanderers, the most common type of creature. They’re headless, effectively, with a glowing crystal spike instead of a head. Some of those Wanderers wear body armor, making them tougher to take down. Bombers are top-heavy creatures that, as one might infer, explode when they reach their target. The trick, I was told, was not to aim for their crystalline covered top half, but to take them out at the knees.

Metal Gear Survive

When players aren’t battling an incoming horde, they’ll need to scavenge the play area for supplies and craft new items. In our mission, our first optional goal was to secure an ammunition cache. That only requires one player to do it, but in theory it could be risky to send a member of the team off on their own. In between later rounds, we secured a couple of Walker Gears, which came in handy when ammo started running low.

In fact, without much familiarity of Metal Gear Survive’s crafting mechanics I found it pretty easy to quickly run out of ammunition. With no bullets by the third round, I found myself resorting to arrows, bolts and mines to stay in the fight. When I finally had to resort to my stun baton, I was pretty much useless.

Even though our base and wormhole generator was overwhelmed, we didn’t come away from the battle without anything to show for it. Items that we’d scavenged from the battlefield — source materials like wire, rubber, cloth and iron — were doled out to the group. We’d also unlocked a pair of “recipes” for building new gear, like gloves and body armor. Players can turn these materials into crafted goods. And since items have durability and ultimately break down, players will have to keep on crafting to improve and survive.

At the end of my session with Metal Gear Survive, I found myself feeling the way I do after most Metal Gear Online experiences: There’s something good at the core of this, buried beneath a wide array of menus and the Metal Gear weirdness that’s always been inherent in its DNA. The developers recently announced that Metal Gear Survive has been pushed back a few months, so there’s opportunity for polish and improvement.

Metal Gear Survive will be released in early 2018 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. Check out some new screenshots of the game in the gallery below.

The next level of puzzles.

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