Metal Gear Survive beta impressions: Is it only Metal Gear in name?

Metal Gear Survive is an upcoming spin-off of the core Metal Gear franchise. The open beta for the game took place between Jan. 18 through Jan. 21, 2018, on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

When Hideo Kojima first created the Metal Gear franchise, his vision was easily noted. He was working hard at offering experiences unlike any other; experiences drenched in tactical espionage mechanics, where stealth served more rewards than going in with guns blazing and karate chopping enemies to the floor. But it seems Konami’s latest attempts, the days of stealth over action is just a mere memory we should hold onto rather fondly.

Much like Kojima’s relationship with Konami, Metal Gear Survive seems to be a husk of the franchise it inherits its name from. Over the past few days, I decided to opt in and participate in the open beta, which I participated in over the past few days. I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that I enjoyed it in a few ways and grew as equally frustrated with it in several others. Now before we begin, I do need to make this extremely clear. The beta didn’t allow us to play the game’s single-player mode in any shape or form.

Instead, Konami left us with a multiplayer portion only, letting us partake in a handful of missions over the course of two maps, which played out on repeat over the course of several days. Thankfully, I decided to test the beta out across two platforms: Xbox One and PlayStation 4, both of which required a subscription to their services in order to access the online cooperative modes. Even then, players were still able to partake in the game’s online events, giving them a chance to try out each of the missions and maps in solo play.

Credits: Konami

When talking about a game such as Metal Gear Survive, which will be launching under tedious amounts of scrutiny by former fans of the franchise, there’s a lot you have to discuss. Whether it’s the performance of the game, mechanics within the game or if it’s even worthy of having Metal Gear within its title.

Metal Gear Survive is all about resource management from the very start. Upon starting your first mission, you’ll quickly become introduced to the games resource scavenging elements. From there, you’ll graduate to placing defensive barriers about the map, including barricades, spiked walls, barbed wire fences, fire traps, ice traps, oil traps and even automated turrets.

Combat is fast, frantic and it leaves little room for players to debate what weapons best for them.

Once the base is established, you may seem ready to roll out, but that can quickly change due to one fact that isn’t provided to the player at the start: all resources during a mission are shared between party member. Luckily, the ones you leave at the base remain yours.

Due to this element of resource management, communication becomes key, which provides a deeper sense of cooperation between players. Once your teams Iris Drill begins its job, that is when chaos begins to ensue. As one would expect, combat is not like what players may be familiar with from previous titles such as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain or its online component Metal Gear Online.

Combat is fast, frantic and it leaves little room for players to debate what weapons best for them. Instead, this is where bullets begin to fly and provide an exhilarating experience for just a mere few minutes. Toss in speeding up the drilling, and that’s when things get a bit more chaotic for lesser experienced players.

Unlike its predecessors, Metal Gear Survive does away with any form of stealth gameplay across the online cooperative mode that the public was given a chance to experience. In past games, Metal Gear heavily emphasized use of tactical espionage and stealth like mechanics. Combat was rarely as it is in Metal Gear Survive. It never was chaotic outside of a select few moments nor was combat truly emphasized in the core series. While the tactical gameplay was certainly well delivered during the Metal Gear Survive in multitudes of ways ranging from limited supplies to shared resources. Sadly, this reaffirms that Metal Gear Survive is only Metal Gear by name.

Due to limited ammunition at your disposal, unless you’ve been hoarding from the moment you’ve started, melee weapons will be your best friend. They become key to survival in more ways than one, but so does ensure you’ve kept them in tip-top shape. This is where ensuring that your gear has been properly maintained, upgraded and situated sot hat it may provide the best survival capabilities it has to offer.

Unfortunately, after the missions are over and it’s time to learn how to craft and upgrade your gear, this is where problems began to become commonplace. The menus are overwhelming; the stations themselves are even more overwhelming, as the game just has too much to offer. Rather than following in the footsteps of Metal Gear Online or Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Konami has ditched the minimalistic approach to menus and has since implemented multiple crafting stations. While these are highly appreciated, too much can sometimes be just that, too much.

Fortunately, since this was the beta, it does give time for Konami to improve how players will access crafting gear, upgrading gear and leveling up their survivor. Unfortunately, there are more flaws than just the overwhelming amount of congestion learning what each crafting table does, how upgrading works, what resources you have and where the resources you need can be obtained. One such flaw just happens to be the overreliance of an overly foggy atmosphere, one that takes away from any color the game may have in favor of a “horror”-like setting.

While the atmospheric presence is unsettling to some extent, one has to admit the fact that this technique can be troubling in many ways. Not only does it wash out any color that these maps have to offer due to its hazy appearance, for those with visual disabilities, the game is going to be hard as ever living Hell to see. For those with color blindness, the trouble could present itself in more ways than one. Long gone are the days of “zombies” having flesh-toned skin or bloodied tissue. Instead, these guys are completely exempt of any color outside of hints of subtle greys and reds.

Credits: Konami

Because of this approach, it is somewhat difficult to distinguish enemies from terrain from time to time. That does little to help solve an issue that I heard several others discussing during our matches: the A.I. is dumb. It’s one of the dumbest A.I.s you will see. Over the course of the beta, it wasn’t uncommon to see players build simple blockades in the middle of a hordes path, lining it with traps, automated turrets, and their own gunfire.

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This wasn’t just a once in a while thing. Even during harder missions (normal being the highest available) the hordes of “infected” would line up one by one, pounding their fists against chainlink fences, smashing their faces against spiked wood as they attempted to push on towards our Iris Drill. But why weren’t they programmed to simply go around the obstacles placed before them? Why didn’t they just simply go off the beaten path in order to pursue their ultimate goal?

The only assumption that can be made is simple: Konami wants them to be brainless undead. Whatever their reasoning is, let’s just hope this gets sorted out and quick. The zombies in Left 4 Dead are scarier, meaner and more menacing than the ones encountered during the open beta for Metal Gear Survive.

Unfortunately, stealth has become a fallen victim when it comes to the online multiplayer. It isn’t a necessary element like it is in the core games; this time around, it seems that it’s merely a secondary thought for the multiplayer portion. That’s quite a shame, as multiplayer itself would have been a blast with espionage-like elements made available for players to utilize.

Even with these subtle elements, Metal Gear Survive isn’t a lackluster experience. It’s actually quite fun when working with your fellow friends or gamers. Each mission is adrenaline-inducing bouts of anxiety induced combat scenarios where one minute could determine whether or not your team will fail. Even with its overwhelming amount of menus and options, Metal Gear Survive is a worthy experience and shows no signs of being filled to the brim with loot boxes or microtransactions.

Luckily for us, that’s at least one thing we can scratch off our lists of things to worry about for this upcoming release. Metal Gear Survive is set to release on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on Feb. 20, 2018.

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