When all else fails, throw zombies at it. That seems to be the maxim of the current world. Konami was always going to have a tough time what with Hideo Kojima leaving the Metal Gear franchise, but were zombies really the answer? Ok, they're not zombies, more like crystal headed ex-humans called walkers (sorry - 'wanderers'), but effectively they are. Metal Gear Survive follows on from the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes after the fall of the besieged Mother Base, and sees the surviving members of the MSF burying their ex-comrades. Then in some loose story link, they end up sending a soldier through a wormhole to defeat the wandering dead on an alternate reality planet called Dite, and as such Survive plays more like a spin-off than a sequel. Not all spin-offs are like Joey, though, as some are more like Frasier and go on to be good in their own right. For many fans, though, this new addition has been a controversial shift away from the norm of Metal Gear and had been criticised before a button had even been pressed.
Before we get into it, we need to say one thing; this doesn't really feel like a Metal Gear game. It feels like they made the game and then added the title to help it sell. There are some familiar elements, such as the shrill noise when enemies see you, but the action has moved away from stealth and more towards boom boom, kill 'em all. Therefore it shall, from here on in, simply be referred to as Survive. The titles were always about politics and shadow organisations, which even saw Kojima asking why zombies had made their way to this new game. That, however, doesn't mean that Survive is automatically bad, rather that we had to judge it on its own merits rather than view it as a straight-up continuation of the series.
Upon starting the game we had to create our own avatar and saw our creation transported to an alternate ruined world where zombies had destroyed everything. Survive is what you must do as you're walking around in a stunning desert setting, looking for memory boards and other survivors, trying to find your way back home. You've got to watch your character's hunger and thirst and keep them nourished during this time, although the food and water bars ticked down way too quickly for our liking and a number of times our character dropped dead in the middle of a mission from dehydration. Add to this the fact that it's hard to find clean water before a certain mission allows you to boil it and the game can be a bit of a slog at the start. Drinking dirty water can make you sick and vomiting while being chased by a freak show of zombies with crystal heads is by no means fun. You don't see Rick Grimes with this problem. After a while, you start to see other enemies and not just wanderers, some of which come with an element of horror. We found ourselves jumping from random shocks, which seemed a little... unlike Metal Gear. The surprises were welcome at first, but they soon became a little predictable and lost their novelty. We found ourselves running away more times than actually fighting, just to get to the next location.
Simply put, Metal Gear Survive is a third-person title where you collect stuff to build up your base and create new weapons, recruiting survivors and killing zombies to do so. There's a single-player mode, along with online co-op where up to four players fight off the hordes of the crystal dead, and the single-player campaign contains one of the longest tutorials we've played in some time. Along the way, you rescue new characters who join you at your base and help run things or go on expeditions. It's a good feeling to come back to your base and see your people at work, especially since some of the NPCs communicate with you, although the dialogue and personalities feel a little bland and soulless at times. For example, one of them drifts from being caring to an arse in the same conversation.
The story itself is a little underwhelming and it's not the most exciting of adventures. It's not bad, but it just doesn't do itself any favours either. The early stages are really grueling with you dropping dead from hunger or not being strong enough to kill the monsters and having to do the same sections over and over until you get them right. You level your character up and teach them new skills using energy which is harvested from the corpses of wanderers. Once you get strong enough, life gets much easier and you can whip through the challenges and start having fun. Either way, it gets a little bit repetitive after a while as you go out and collect things/people or look for energy sources, although the sense of routine almost becomes comforting. The progress you make carries over from your single-player to co-op and vice-versa too, meaning that any item you find in co-op appears in your single-player game as well.