I’m not going to mince words here: Metal Gear Survive has issues. That’s probably what many Metal Gear fans were expecting, considering that the project is the first entry after Konami’s acrimonious split with series creator Hideo Kojima. But even apart from all of that drama, Metal Gear Survive fails to entertain as a survival experience. If Konami wants to salvage this title and turn it into something players can enjoy, here are five big changes that might turn it around.
1. Less eating and drinking
Managing hunger and thirst (among other resources) is a core component of many games in this genre. That Metal Gear Survive makes you balance these demands isn’t a problem. However, the aggressive pace at which your hunger and thirst deplete means that you spend too much time worrying about food and water. Getting excited about an expedition into the unknown is tough when you never feel like you have the freedom to explore, or the breathing room to enjoy the items you collect. I’m not even suggesting removing these restrictions entirely, but they are too oppressive in their current form. If Konami made tweaks that allowed you to devote less effort to keeping your hunger and thirst under control, you could have more fun with the upgrades, base-building, and other parts of the experience.
2. No more drip-feeding
Metal Gear Survive has a bunch of interlocking systems, but introduces them way too slowly. Why deliberately prevent players from accessing the full complement of features that make the experience interesting? For instance, Metal Gear Survive has different classes with different abilities you can invest in. The only problem: You are stuck with just one class until you finish a short series missions after beating the campaign. Other parts of the game suffer from this clumsy pacing too. Rescuing and recruiting new staff members, generating your own food, and base-building are all fun, but you shouldn’t have to play the game for 20+ hours before you start getting a taste of the good parts. Make the road to these things shorter and less of a slog, and you’d have a game that comes closer to realizing its potential.
3. Don’t hold multiplayer hostage
Prior to its release, Konami placed a huge emphasis on Metal Gear Survive’s multiplayer. It’s what I played at E3 last year, at a time when the company only vaguely alluded to the presence of any single-player content at all. That’s why I felt tricked when I first started playing Metal Gear Survive after its release. I had to play for almost two hours before any multiplayer opened up. When it did, I was hilariously under-leveled, and had to be carried by my teammates for several matches until I reached a point when I could actually contribute. Beyond that hurdle, the game also has an issue with the breadth of content. The modes and maps are disappointingly sparse, even when you have them all unlocked – which only happens after you reach the final stretch of the single-player campaign. Multiplayer (and the various options associated with it) needs to be separated further from the solo content. If people want to play co-op, they should be able to do that freely without clearing various arbitrary hurdles in the story mode.
4. Ditch (or at least fix) microtransactions
I had hoped that Konami would take a more sensible (or at least less exploitative) approach to microtransactions after the FOB debacle in The Phantom Pain. That did not happen; Metal Gear Survive’s implementation of premium currency is sinister and awful in a variety of ways. The worst is how the core gameplay drives players into a frustrating loop of hunger and thirst management (see above). This throttling of progress leaves you thinking, “Wow, this sucks. I wish I didn’t have to deal with this.” The game’s response? “You don’t have to…just spend some real money on this boost!”
This also comes into play in the late-game as you wait for new waves of zombies to attack your base; the wait between waves can take up to an entire real-time day… but not if you pay to speed up that timer. You also need to use premium currency to get additional character slots beyond your first. Of course, you can’t buy the number of coins that you actually want to achieve your goal; you have to buy them in pre-set packages that inevitably leave some small and practically useless amounts unused and wasted. Here’s the bottom line: The whole structure bears a striking resemblance to the slimiest free-to-play mobile games, except in this case, you’ve paid $40 for the base game already.
5. Offline play
If you’re not online, you can’t play Metal Gear Survive at all in any game mode. It doesn’t matter if you are only interested in the single-player campaign; the whole game requires an always-on connection. Why? Obviously, you need to be online to use the cooperative multiplayer, but the solo experience gains nothing from this restriction, so why make us put up with the extra complication?