Metal Gear Survive's Beta Is Fun, But It's Not Metal Gear

Metal Gear Survive, the bizarre zombie horde survival game that really has nothing to do with Metal Gear, kicked off an open beta yesterday. It's surprisingly fun to play but lacks the heart and quirkiness that drew people to the series to begin with.

After Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Konami took a break from making pachinko machines to develop a nonsensical Metal Gear game about scavenging supplies and fending off untold numbers of nanotech zombies.

There's no stealth and pretty much nothing connecting it to previous games. Metal Gear Survive drops players into the shoes of a commando in an alternate dimension full of headless nightmare creatures. They must gather resources and protect key locations by building defences and fighting off waves of enemies. The challenge is more fun than it sounds but Metal Gear Survive's presentation is a crash course in cold, corporate design.

After selecting weapons and additional items like medkits, players are tossed into a wasteland and must start building up an impromptu series of defences around a central base. The goal is to protect a small generator that is extracting resources.

The opening minutes of most matches will be spent running around to gather materials such as iron and wood in order to craft fences, barricades, and traps that with help your team last against tons of zombies. Scrambling around to break down boxes before rushing to a crafting bench has an enjoyable sense of urgency.

Crafting is highly streamlined; if you have the materials, all you have to do is go to a workbench and select what you want to make. Chain link fences have openings that allow you to shoot or stab zombies while spiked barricades are good for trapping monsters who run into them.

It only takes a few moments to select your defences and build them. The process is snappy and fast.

Chaos erupts when the zombies arrive and while it doesn't feel like Metal Gear's normal stealth fair, taking down monsters alongside teammates feels rewarding in its own right. Survive lifts most of its gameplay from The Phantom Pain, which already boasted solid core mechanics.

Guns are easy to aim and have a strong punch to them when fired and while melee combat can feel slightly stiff, enemies respond with a satisfying friction, machetes and spears grinding against their metallic skin. Each match ties into an engrossing loop of resource acquisition, crafting, and combat. Every round rewards new schematics and a pile of supplies that can then be used to create new weapons and traps for the next match.

Successful outings help players develop a wider arsenal that allows them to fight off tougher enemies and craft more complex bases.

The entire affair suffers from a strange and clinical presentation. One of the most curious things about Metal Gear Survive is how clean it is. It's really apparent in the time between matches, where players wander a white void where they can manage equipment and sort through a tangled web of skill trees and crafting menus.

While functional, the end result is a lack of charm. Shifting from match to match and slipping from one white void to the next is dreary, as if the world of Metal Gear and all the associated soul has been vacuumed up.

Therein rests Metal Gear Survive's greatest problem. While the moment to moment gameplay is exciting, it stills feels like a stitched together chimera of ideas that never really combine into anything unique. Survive's gunplay and building are well implemented but there's a lack of ambition that's off-putting. Enemy designs feel like a greatest hits of well worn archetypes: fast minion zombies, fat exploding zombies, heavily armoured elite zombies.

Survive suffers from an unoriginality that's jarring given the series' pedigree. It's a glorified horde mode with branding, divorced from any of the quirky humour or considered encounter design that set Metal Gear apart from the pack. There's no dialog between characters to spice things up and no larger metagame akin to The Phantom Pain's complex and thematically dire base management.

Metal Gear Survive is one of the strangest games I have ever played. It is the definition of competent, with a mixture of combat and management that is rewarding in short bursts. But it lacks any larger aspirations other than mindless zombie bashing.

It marks a paradigm shift for the series, grinding down edges and ironing out oddities into something safe. Slicing through zombies can be fun but there's no shaking the feeling that something unique and strange has been lost forever.


Comments

    I'll pass. I've honestly had enough of zombie survival games. Slapping the Metal Gear name on it isn't enough to get me interested despite my love for the series.

    In this case, the author has reviewed a small segment of game available in the open beta, and not the game itself... but they appear to have mistaken it for the full game?

    There's no dialog between characters to spice things up and no larger metagame akin to The Phantom Pain's complex and thematically dire base management.
    The entire affair suffers from a strange and clinical presentation. One of the most curious things about Metal Gear Survive is how clean it is. It's really apparent in the time between matches, where players wander a white void where they can manage equipment and sort through a tangled web of skill trees and crafting menus.
    While functional, the end result is a lack of charm. Shifting from match to match and slipping from one white void to the next is dreary, as if the world of Metal Gear and all the associated soul has been vacuumed up.

    I'm preeeeeetty sure the author has not figured out that this is the beta menu's replacement for the staging area that you would normally use. It's kind of like the arsenal/loading area in The Matrix.

    The facilities you open in the white space are things that you would normally have to build and place into your slowly-growing base in the full game.

    Additionally, the only matches available in the beta are basically just wave defence. That's it. Because that's the only thing that's being tested. The exploration, story, scavenging stuff isn't available in the beta test, but it's been reviewed by other outlets, and clearly will be there when the game launches in the next two to three months time.

      You don't need to play games to be a games journalist.

      Yet this in no way replaces or changes my desire to see this be a horrible flop commercially and it get slammed into oblivion.

      I view this game a stain and an abomination and I hope is does terribly causing Konami to go fuck themselves.

        I hope not, they still own the rights to the Suikoden franchise. Hoping one day they might make Suikoden 6.

          Suikoden 6 Pachinko is on the way, im sure

        Heh. Fair enough. Based on what I've played in the beta, this looks like the next best thing since sliced bread and while I won't preorder unless there's some badass reward the day before launch, it's looking very likely that I'll be picking it up day one.

        It's good, man. Really good. I'm having a fucking blast with just the small portion on display in the beta. :)

        But I get the moral stand against the company. And hey... at least Konami didn't try to make us think their pachinko games were AAA console games.
        (Lookin' at you, EA/Battlefront 2)

          Ha! That's a fair point actually, for a company who does actually make gambling machines, they are well behind on stuffing that crap in their games.
          (Phantom Pains microtransactions are actually pretty tame in comparison to the current climate)

          Fine, fine!! If I ever see Konami with its teeth on fire, maybe I can cross the street and piss on them, it's a fair compromise.

            They are really behind the time I took them so long to stuff even horse armour into their games

      Regardless, I still feel like I've died a little inside....

    It's not a Metal Gear Solid* game.

    We've had different entries into the Metal Gear brand for ages now, I think I've seen this slander for each of them. *shrug*

    This might go the way of Final Fantasy: Spirits Within - a decent work that was sabotaged by shoehorning in a totally unrelated property for promotion.

    Ubisoft and EA have been churning out cold, clinical, corporate designed games for years yet people flock to those titles.

    Fun umbrellas construct knitted kites once nights associate metallic inchworms.

    Gets old quick but hopefully it has a decent story and the base building is in depth. Would love to have an open world in which to Fulton resources and weapon emplacements to place in my base

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