This week, Yahtzee reviews Metal Gear Survive.
Due to technical issues this episode was released on the Escapist website several hours late, so it premiered on the nominally post-ZP Twitch stream, which was also late.
Well, Konami certainly seem to be in the doghouse still, going by the reaction to Metal Gear Survive when it first came out: a sort of collective, "Ooh, look what the cat dragged in! You sure you can deign to hang out in Video Game Land a moment longer? You wouldn't rather be making a fucking pachinko machine based on a property people used to like? Oh, look over there, Konami! An attractive, single Silent Hill game standing at the bar! Why don't you swagger over there, put your best game face on, and fucking cancel it?!"
But it seems, despite the ejection of Hideo Kojima, Konami still hates making video games slightly less than they hate not making buckets of cash, so annoyingly, the initials "MGS" now stand for two different things. But perhaps we should put our universal seething hatred for Konami aside, and judge Metal Gear Survive by its own merits. After all, Konami could turn all this negative feeling around in an instant; all they have to do is make Silent Hill 2, 3, and 4 available on Steam. Seriously, guys, Silent Hill: Homecoming's on there, but not the good ones? That's like giving extra pocket money to your stunted, brain-damaged child who lives in the basement with a cat on their head. The point is, if that happens, then we'll all feel pretty silly about this knee-jerk Konami hatred when historians of the future look back at Metal Gear Survive and think, "Well, it's not that bad; it's a little boring and old-hat, but burning down the studio is still pretty disproportionate."
Most of the objection to Metal Gear Survive seems to come from the description of it before anyone actually played the thing, and admittedly, it's not the kind of elevator pitch that makes the CEO slap the emergency stop button and drop to his knees there and then for a worshipful gob-job. It's a Metal Gear game without Hideo Kojima, which, in itself, is a sticky point, because Hideo Kojima's is an utterly unique mind that no one has yet managed to convincingly channel. Ho yes, it takes more than insane conspiracies, diarrhea jokes, and horrendously-abused women in completely inappropriate clothing; it's all that, but genuinely taking yourself seriously, as well. So it's Metal Gear without Kojima, and also, they've stripped out the traditional stealth action and replaced it with zombies and bog-standard survival crafting mechanics with the usual AAA "live service" quantification bullshit that means it can be a fucking micropayment safari, but hey, put those Molotovs down, 'cos we're only going to charge you forty bucks for the privilege of wasting your life with it! Talk about a fucking soft sell.
The plot is, you were one of Big Boss' pet gophers who hung around on his party boat at the time of MGS V: Ground Zeroes, when it got blown up by bad guys jealous that they didn't get invited to the pizza party. But it turns out, after Big Boss fucked off, a giant wormhole to another dimension opened in the sky and started sucking up the survivors. See, you fucked it up already, Metal Gear Survive! Hideo Kojima would've built things up for at least 45 minutes before he pulled out the trans-dimensional wormhole shit, with lots of stock footage of people walking down crowded streets, having very serious thoughts about trans-dimensional wormholes.
Our custom protagonist - although, whatever appearance options you pick, there is no escaping from looking like Generic Grizzled Person #84, because Big Boss' hiring practices discriminated heavily against the non-grizzled - must now mount an expedition into the other dimension in order to plunder its resources or something, 'cos that's American foreign policy for you. But it soon becomes clear once you get there that the other Earth is a desolate and hostile place with not much to plunder, unless you're short on zombies, and I think I speak for the entire entertainment industry when I say we really fucking aren't!
God bless 'em, they do try to keep the spirit of Metal Gear alive; most of the exposition happens in prolonged back-and-forth dialogues, there's still stealth gameplay, and the first major female NPC you run into wears a sexy nurse outfit for the whole game for no particular reason. But it's just not the same; the sexy nurse doesn't have an even remotely horrifically traumatic past, the dialogue seems to never take longer than a few minutes and don't always reiterate the same point over and over again, and as for the stealth, while you can sneak up on enemies and stealth-kill them with a knife to the bonce, they're fucking zombies! They're not going to call HQ for fire support. You can outrun them by maintaining a brisk walk. You can stealth-kill them even if they're alert, which leads to this humiliating little barn dance as you try to get behind them again.
So anyone expecting a Metal Gear game from such trifling evidence as the words "metal" and "gear" appearing in the title is probably going to be disappointed, because it feels like they scooped out about one-fifth of Metal Gear Solid V and tried to stretch it out into a full game till its bones snapped and its tights had more ladders than the clearance sale at the fire department.
So now that all the Metal Gear fans have pissed off to put on their best Otacon face and cry at the loss of their true love for the umpteenth time, let's consider Metal Gear Survive by its own merits. The core gameplay is the Subnautica model: explore hostile environment, find stuff, craft upgrades with the stuff you find that expands your base and widens the area you can explore, plot unfolds as you go; it's all about unfolding and expanding and widening like an American tourist taking their shirt off at the beach. The main difference between it and Subnautica, of course, is that in Subnautica, there are lots of pretty things to look at, whereas Metal Gear Survive's sightseeing tour covers mostly blasted, deserted hellscapes, occasionally livened up with featureless gray screen because the entire world is shrouded in dust, except for in a few rigidly walled-off fresh air ghettos where the last remnants of life on the planet live carefree lives of gamboling about lush meadows in the sun, until you track them down and knife them all to death, 'cos you need the meat.
Yes, the "survive" part of Metal Gear Survive really isn't fucking about; as well as watching your limited air supply in a dust storm, you metabolize like a fucking deep-sea oil spill and have to be constantly finding food, and animals don't respawn nearly as often as I'd like, the selfish, delicious little bastards. Besides survival and exploration, the other main mechanic is tower defense; every now and again, you have to defend a point from a fucking conga line of zombies by setting up barricades and chokepoints so you can stand just behind it and swat them off with a stick, like it's Black Friday at the crystal meth shop. And I have to admit, after one of these where I had to defend the point for a whole fifteen minutes and so I was down to holding them off with handfuls of gravel and tactical farts, I was pretty invigorated by my victory, if not by the thought of the subsequent prolonged shopping trip to the wilderness to re-craft all my fucking ammo again.
So if you can disregard the motives with which the game was made, i.e., "All the kids in the AAA Club are making loads of money with their shitty Skinner box live service games; let's stitch one of our own together from about 500 generic ideas that other games have done better, slap on the name of a franchise we haven't quite milked all the goodwill from yet, set up the micropayments, and hook ourselves a couple of whales," then Metal Gear Survive reaches the dizzy heights of "occasionally not boring". Nice work, Konami; who needs Silent Hill when your business strategy can make me scared, miserable, and occasionally covered in bloodstained filth?
- Driving to surviving: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Well I was going to restart the game to double check the points I raised but sadly my loan got declined
- More like Metal Gear: Contrived