A couple of weeks ago Konami launched Metal Gear Survive, the latest game in the massively popular Metal Gear franchise. As the first game in the series to be released without any input from Hideo Kojima, there’s a lot riding on this game. Unfortunately for Konami, the game has not gone down well. While the game has a Metacritic score of 60, the user score is currently at 1.6 (out of 10). This suggests that critics find the game a disappointment compared to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (which has a Metacritic score of 95) but more importantly the fans of the series are not happy. So, can the Metal Gear franchise survive Metal Gear Survive?
There have been over 30 releases bearing the Metal Gear name and up until Survive every one of them was either produced, written, directed, or designed by Hideo Kojima. After a falling out of biblical proportions between Konami and Kojima, the acclaimed creator/auteur walked away from the franchise that he created and was synonymous with. Konami, eager not to give up what is arguably one of their biggest franchises, they decided to move on with the series and passed the reins on to Yota Tsutsumizaki.
Metal Gear Survive arrives two and a half years after The Phantom Pain and moves away from the series stealth-based gameplay to a more survival-based theme. This isn’t the first time that the series has strayed into other genres. 2013’s Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, from PlatinumGames, was an action-packed hack and slash game. That game was received pretty well with the game having a Metacritic score of 82 and a user score of 7.8/10, so it’s not as though fans of the franchise will only accept pure stealth games. The problem with Metal Gear Survive is not that the game is not a stealth game, it’s that it is a bad game, a stinker of a game, and a blatant money-grab by its publisher, Konami.
The first thing you notice that’s wrong with this latest Metal Gear game is that the story is missing all of the intrigue, depth, and ingenuity of previous games. While all the other games have long cut-scenes that are thick with exposition and (let’s be honest) incomprehensible plots, they did so with panache, creativity, and the knowledge that it was all just absurd. Metal Gear Survive keeps the thick exposition, and that’s about it. There are long cut-scenes, but these are often stripped down at points to just a picture and some text to read rather than offering a cinematic experience (which always seemed to be Kojima’s intention). The incomprehensible plot has been stripped down to just ‘incomprehensible’ as there seems to be little or no plot and what is left is just plodding and stupid. The game also takes itself so seriously, there is no tongue-in-cheek and knowing winks to let you know that the game realises it’s taking things a bit far. This is a game that thinks it is bringing you something new, deep, and challenging, but is repetitive, dumb, and uninspired.
The next thing you’ll notice is the gameplay. The Phantom Pain featured the best gameplay the series had ever had. Survive keeps the basic mechanics of movement but seems to forget the rest and adds things that remove any enjoyment that could be had. I can see how a game mechanic that requires you to replenish energy and stamina with food and clean water would work, but this requires you to constantly look for these items. What’s more, you need a specific pot to gain the ability to make purify water, and you don’t get that until chapter 7! You spend a good portion of the game killing enemies by planting a fence in front of you and stabbing them with a pointy stick through said fence. Seriously, who came up with that in a meeting and thought it was the best combat system to go with? Fortunately, the enemies are so stupid they won’t figure out that they could walk around the side of the gate to attack you. This game really does feature some of the worst AI I have seen in a AAA game.
The most guiling thing in Metal Gear Survive, though, has to be the microtransactions. If you want a save spot to create a second character, that will cost $10! Want another storage spot for a crafted weapon, that’ll set you back another $5. Bored of grinding through the game to level up, well Konami will sell you a day of boosted XP for just under $2 or 60 days for $20! While these microtransactions don’t rely on the gambling mechanics that EA has wallowed in, they are still utterly grotesque and repulsive. I understand that this isn’t a full-price game (it’s a $40 game, not $60) but Metal Gear Survive is not a full title; it is a (bad) glorified DLC patch for The Phantom Pain.
Metal Gear Survive is a pox on the Metal Gear brand. It is lazy, stupid, ill-conceived, and boring. If this is how Konami is going to take the franchise ‘forward’ then they are going to kill off one of the few active franchises they still have. Metal Gear Solid 6 needs to be given time, space, and funding, to create something that is truly worthy of the Metal Gear moniker. While the franchise will survive the removal of Hideo Kojima and the travesty that is Metal Gear Survive, whether it deserves to, is another matter altogether.