Practical espionage action.
In Metal Gear Survive, you play a custom character who is the physical opposite of Metal Gear Solid 5's Venom Snake. This spin-off is an exercise in constant deprivation, where your stamina is limited and you have to seek out food and water, which you have to cook and purify respectively if you don't want to get sick. This is assuming you have the proper camping tools to begin with, which you have to craft. There's also the matter of zombies infesting key mission areas, in a setting far away from what anyone would call "home". It's new territory for a Metal Gear game both literally and figuratively. And after a four-hour preview session with the single player story mode, plus one multiplayer session, we were left more curious than excited for the full game.
Almost every Metal Gear game has had some supernatural element, but Survive takes things to another level, or another dimension to be precise. Taking place after the events of The Phantom Pain, the soldiers of Mother Base--along with the base itself--find themselves transported through a wormhole into another reality. Tracking down your brothers in arms and finding a way back home is the main goal of the story.
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Our demo started in Survive's third chapter, about an hour after the start of the story. Based on our initial missions, you can expect a lot of training-style goals and on-boarding. Collecting motherboards and learning how to gather water felt like chores rather than the more engaging objectives you typically find in a Metal Gear Solid game. At least there were a ton of zombies in key areas to keep us on our toes.
As you try to stay alive, you learn early on that you lack the diverse skills of the Metal Gear protagonists who've earned the codename Snake. Your stamina is grossly in short supply and you start off with only basic melee attacks. And if the the mission requires exploration into the map's foggy sections, you'll also have to manage your oxygen. It's a relief that normal walking speed is sufficient in getting away from zombies, provided you manage your stamina well. It remains to be seen if the undead can run later in the game.
These persistent demands on your well being feed into Metal Gear Survive's crafting component which, if this preview demo was any indication, plays a huge part in the overall experience. As with many other survival games with crafting, what you think you'll need to construct first might not be the most useful gear. And naturally, what you make will be limited by the ingredients you have, leaving you wondering what components should be saved and what should be used immediately.
We found that crafting fences--which you can construct instantly, provided you have enough resources--are a huge help in corralling zombies for easy slaying with your starter staff. Depending on how to lure zombies in missions areas, you can reach your objectives without having to killing everyone, although it would be in your best interest to craft more efficient weapons like a machete or handgun. That's because vanquished zombies drop kuban, the currency you spend to level up. Given the wide and diverse skills you can unlock in the Survivor class--the first of four classes--there's the potential that your custom soldier can one day be as talented as Big Boss.
This character progression incentive paired with the appeal of the multiplayer mode is what Konami is hoping will keep players interested in the long run, especially since the story takes only 20 hours to complete. Our brief session with the four-player co-op online mode echoed the base defense aspects of Fortnite, while burdening us with the aforementioned stamina and skill limitations from the story mode. Moreover, we discovered that the zombies in the easiest difficulty are at level 10, whereas our team ranged from levels 2 to 4. We didn't last very long.
For as much as we're not yet convinced of the long term appeal of Metal Gear Survive, we have to give what we've seen so far credit for going all in on its demanding survival-centric gameplay. The level of resource gathering and crafting isn't unusual for an open world zombie game, but in the context of the Metal Gear franchise, it's the biggest design departure since Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. It was also comforting to see this spin-off retain some degree of the series' sense of humor, particularly when you send animals through mini wormholes rather than the Fulton balloon system from The Phantom Pain.
Check out our other coverage from this hands-on preview session: