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Metal Gear Survive Preview: An Open Mind

/ Jun 22nd, 2017 No Comments

Metal Gear Survive

When Konami announced Metal Gear Survive at Gamescom last year, it provoked a violent reaction from fans of the series. The trailer wasn’t received well, likely due to the ugly breakup between Metal Gear series creator Hideo Kojima and publisher Konami. Regardless, the concept of stealth meeting survival and zombies was compelling enough to pique interest and spark debate.

Metal Gear Survive hasn’t been on my radar at all since its announcement last August, primarily because news has been sparse about the title. When I got invited to check out a co-op demo for Metal Gear Survive at E3 2017, I had to check it out — not necessarily out of anticipation, but more out of morbid curiosity.

I wanted to learn if the shade thrown at it after Gamescom was earned or if it was purely an emotionally driven reaction. How do zombies and survival work in a Metal Gear game? Most importantly, if the Metal Gear branding is removed, is Survive mechanically sound and fun?

After my time with Metal Gear Survive wrapped up, I found the answers for most of my questions.

Prep and Defend

Metal Gear Survive’s co-op mode pits a team of up to four players against hordes of crystalline zombies. The team must defend a generator from waves of these creatures for three rounds. It is a classic horde mode setup.

Before the mission begins, teams can practice in a lobby. There they can test out weapons, defenses and tools before heading into the actual mission. Experimenting with what works and what might need to be changed maximizes chances at victory.

Metal Gear Survive

Stealth elements didn’t make a big showing in the co-op mode.

During the practice round, friendly fire is turned off and unlimited ammo is turned on so players can unload shotgun blasts at each other without fear of consequence. However, when the match starts, friendly fire is enforced and ammo is scarce, meaning players need to think about each action.

Prior to the match starting, players have time to forage for resources around the base. Once one team member sets up the generator, the team has a short window to create their defenses before waves of creatures start coming.

Building defenses is a strategic play because they are scarce. Essentially, the defenses you begin with are what you’ll have for each round. Teams should coordinate which defenses they are using to avoid wasting precious resources.

It is doubly important not to waste resources in the first round because, after each successful defense, those resources are destroyed. This means you have to rebuild each round. Resource management is a major component of the mode.

Metal Gear Survive

Setting up defenses is important in the co-op mode, but conserving resources is necessary.

The first round starts off with enemies only coming down a few paths, but each successive round sees them coming from more directions. In the final round, more powerful enemies come from every direction in an attempt to take out the team’s generator. You don’t want to get to round three only to have no defenses and no ammo.

While ammo is limited (bows are a rare exception where you can retrieve arrows as long as they aren’t burned or destroyed), melee weapons last forever. Despite not degrading over time, melee weapons put you at risk of being attacked by zombies due to the close proximity. While no one in my match got overtaken, if you’re not working together, you could easily be taken out.

Weapons like spears can be used through chainlink fences, making them ideal for eliminating zombies trying to destroy barricades. It is a creative solution to save resources.

In spite of scarce resources, between rounds players can perform side missions that net additional ammo or, in the case before the final round, a special weapon that helps fight more powerful, aggressive enemies.

Metal Gear Survive

Fultoning enemies makes them easier to pick off.

The co-op mode didn’t leave much room for stealth maneuvers as your team is stuck defending the generator from constant threats. It also didn’t show off a lot of the survival elements besides the resource management necessary to win.

However, the combat felt good, especially melee. There is a good speed and variety to the different weapons. Setting up defenses and utilizing them to protect your generator is cool, too. It felt good to kill zombies and to find innovative ways to combine defensive tools to prevent them from destroying your base.

What makes the mode come alive is when you get access to special weapons like D-Walker or fulton an enemy. Still, it begs the question of if this needed to be a Metal Gear game or would it have been better served as some sort of Konami All-Stars hybrid.

Why Metal Gear?

In playing the co-op demo, I kept asking myself why this was a Metal Gear game. Sure, there are obvious nods to Metal Gear Solid V, it’s created using the Fox Engine, and there are weapons and mechanics specifically culled from the most recent games in the series.

Yet, taken alone or together, these elements don’t feel like a Metal Gear game. Do you get a pop when you run around in a D-Walker? Absolutely. However, would you get more joy out of being able to use that and say a melee weapon from Castlevania? Or being able to dress up like Bomberman and run around the Fox Engine-rendered world.

Metal Gear Survive

Imagine how cool the game would be with multiple Konami franchises as an all-star type game.

The truth is if Konami branded this as anything but a Metal Gear game, it’d have gotten a much better response and people would give it a chance. If the game was a Contra-meets-Silent Hill crossover with items and costumes from across all of Konami’s franchises and just happened to include elements from Metal Gear, the hype would be through the roof.


On co-op alone, Metal Gear Survive is a good amount of fun. It is a competent and, at times, exciting horde mode with solid mechanics. The use of the Fox Engine is not bad at all, even if it lacks some of the polish The Phantom Pain and Ground Zeroes had.

If this was the entire Metal Gear Survive experience, I wouldn’t be mad at it. What I’m still cautious about is the game’s single-player mode, which should see more of the exploration and survival elements incorporated into it. Fans expectations of what a Metal Gear narrative should be might cause trouble.

Konami’s desire to brand the game with the Metal Gear legacy has left Survive in a difficult place. With any other name or packed with multiple franchises, the response may have been vastly different and left players more curious than burned. Ultimately, though, I left the demo wanting to play another round to improve my score and better utilize my defenses.

Metal Gear Survive launches in early 2018 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

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Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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