Metal Gear Survive is a new spin-off title from the Metal Gear franchise, focusing heavily on base defence, simulation and FPS action. Moving away from the previous Solid series, Survive puts you in the shoes of a more everyday guard from Big Boss’ faction on Mother Base, instead of the normal boots of clones or cyborg ninjas. With a horrendous amount of stigma and bad-blood thrown in the direction of Konami over recent events and the dire shift in genre, Metal Gear Survive will seemingly need to live up to its name and survive in the game market.
Thankfully, Survive had an open beta recently, offering players a chance for a more hands-on approach before a final judgement can be made against their new game. With 3 missions on offer, alongside a new daily for each day of the beta itself, players could defend against waves of infected beings.
“This preview is based on the PS4 Open Beta, and thus reflects those controls and experiences”
The beta itself started off with us creating our own soldier, allowing both male and female characters. We could choose from around 28 default face shapes, 4 hairstyles, 11 eyebrows, 6 facial hair styles and length of the facial hair. There was also plenty of paint, scars, eye colours and the like on offer. It was a bit more than I expected for an open beta, though seemingly short for a full-length release within the next month. As I went through these selections, the characters I saw seemed very familiar to that of MGS5, possibly pulling a lot of resources from the game and engine that Survive is based on.
After making our soldier we are dropped into the lobby, a grey void of space, with a large plane in front of you, detailing your character stats. In this lobby, we could access our equipment, create weapons and items, load up some practice dummies or start a match. I really loved this approach to a lobby, feeling very stylish and akin to MGS VR.
Your basic soldier has 4 stats, Strength, Vitality, Dexterity and Endurance, increasing the damage with melee weapons, max life, movement and readying speed, and max stamina respectively. These started around 13-15 each, with life and stamina being around 3300. As you played matches you would gain Kuban Energy that could be used to level up your current class, only Survivor was available in the beta, which in turn gave you skill points. These skill points could be spent to increase your base stats, unlock new moves with certain weapon types or abilities like leg sweeps or faster pickup speed.
Just like in MGS5 you could equip your soldier with a plethora of weapons and items. Primary weapons were your melee weapons and bow, whereas secondary weapons were your guns. You could have 2 primary weapons and 2 secondary weapons, alongside 4 gadgets, like Molotovs and first aid kits. Besides your arsenal of weapons and gear, you could also change your clothing, gaining higher defence against damage, as well as add-ons for more ammo packs on your person. Finally, you had survival equipment, from more quivers to a small bag that allowed you to carry more items in combat.
Controls in Survive felt very, and I mean very, weird at first, becoming almost too complex and jam-packed. You could aim with L2 for your weapon, L1 for your thrown weapon on the left, or R1 for the right with R2 being your shoot or slash button. You would change between primary weapons with the up directional button, with secondary’s being swapped with the down directional button, though they took up the same slot so only 1 could be used at a time. Circle allowed you to crouch or go prone, double tapping x for a dodge, square for interactions and sprinting by clicking in the left Thumbstick.
Thankfully the control system becomes very fluid and second nature after 2 or 3 matches, though I still found myself throwing a Molotov here and there. Getting into matches was rather easy as well, simply select a map to play solo or go into matchmaking. I found no issue staying in a match, nor did it take long to find a group. The game kept me within European servers and players, and I generally had a good experience with connectivity, surprising for a beta.
Survive really throws you into the thick of it, you are teleported to the level with 5 minutes to scavenge for supplies to start building a defensive position. Infected do prowl the level, but you can crouch up behind them and stealth kill them with R2. The way that Survive is designed, however, leans more in the direction of quick movement and simply attacking them straight up. Once you have picked up plenty of supplies on the map with square you must rush to the defence area, marked with a yellow box on your HUD.
Getting to the defence area is rather simple, but then comes the main part of Survive, defence building. You can go to local workbenches to craft fences, turrets and sandbags, or create ammo for your weapons. The materials you pick up in the level are shared between the 4 members of your team, so everyone will need to work together to make something worthwhile. After you have crafted defences you can select them with left or right and plant them around the area by holding R1 and pressing X.
Within the beta, each match had 3 waves of ever-increasing hordes of infected, with varying types. Each wave ended with a pulse from the machine that was digging for Iris energy, destroying nearby defences. You would need to rebuild your structures or build far enough away so that the end burst would not get them. This repeat of phases allowed players to mess around with new forms and tactics for the maps, refreshing any badly placed structures. You were given 3 minutes to prepare for the next wave, even giving you some side-missions on the map to gather refills of ammo or walkers to help out.
Iris energy was farmed through each wave, and during the beta, was Survives form of point system for the match. The higher your points, the better your ranking, with 100,000 points being an A rank or 200,000 points being an S rank. These ranks would determine the quality and quantity of loot gained at the end of a match. Resources farmed during a match were shared, including Kuban energy, but these winning resources were personal to you, being saved to your survivor for use in the lobby. Resources in the lobby allowed you to bring in defences to a match, or improve your gear beforehand, but the resources themselves would not come into a match with you.
The music in the beta wasn’t too obtrusive, giving plenty of room for ambient noises and that of the infected to immerse you in the gathering of materials. When a wave spawned, however, you were treated to more action-packed tracks to build up the tension and follow your path of destruction or defence against a seemingly unlimited attacking force. The soundtrack did seem a bit small for the beta, but it never really felt off or broke immersion, so it wasn’t much of a hindrance in my mind.
Higher level play did make the matches easier, from both your personal stats and that of your equipment. You also unlocked new defences through the end-match loot, like turrets and traps, allowing for further customisation of your defence. At times I just tested out the emergency help from the digger, like interceptor units and even summoning Metal Gear Ray to shoot a beam at all of the entrances for the infected.
Overall, I had a blast with the open beta for Metal Gear Survive, even more so when I got my friends into a match with me. The gameplay is fluid and engaging, with rewards given to those who plan properly or pay attention to the ongoing events. The controls did feel weird in the beginning, but can be learnt rather easily, with higher level play requiring some good positioning and tactics. I found little to no bugs, with the difficulty curve feeling on point for the majority of my play time. Stealth aspects do feel a bit underutilised, but their purpose was made clear pretty easily when used with tougher enemies or bombers for more loot. I am heavily anticipating if the full release can continue what the beta showed off.
Survive is a much better game when you view it as just what it is meant to be, a spinoff title. Just like Rising was with its cyborg ninja action game, Survive is just a defence game based on the Metal Gear lore and world. Plenty of companies have done similar, like Square Enix with their Tactics spin-off from Final Fantasy to Atlus with their dancing rhythm titles or Arena fighting games from their Persona series.