The dust has settled, and Metal Gear Survive is just fine.
Now that we are a solid two-months removed from the Metal Gear Survive announcement, it’s high time for a fair assessment of what the game actually is and what it is not. Though, yes, its very existence can be seen as insulting to Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series, this game is not nearly as flagrantly offensive as it could have been. Konami’s business and creative decisions regarding Metal Gear Survive show an awareness of what they should and should not do that has made this fan, if not happy, certainly pleasantly resigned to the future of Metal Gear.
To get this out of the way, Metal Gear Survive is, for all intents and purposes, not an actual Metal Gear game. The series was Kojima’s creation above all else and, without him, the series has effectively ended. In the past, Kojima took on at least a supervisory role for every game in the franchise, even those that, like Metal Gear Acid, were not really his games. Now that the progenitor of the series is gone, that which remains can hardly be considered as cut of the same cloth.
When this is said on its own, Konami’s reuse of Metal Gear’s name and the engine and systems of its last installment can be seen as money-grubbing and, get this, it totally is. There is no way to construe this as anything other than an attempt to capitalize on the wild, six-million copy success of Metal Gear Solid V, but Konami is more than aware of that. Just the price tag itself shows that they are cognizant of this fact; shortly after the game itself was announced, it was revealed that it would retail at only thirty dollars. Obviously, Konami’s reuse of the Fox engine developed for Metal Gear Solid Five helped keep down costs, but, if they truly thought that they were continuing the series in a meaningful way, rest assured that the announced cost would have been double what it is. As was previously mentioned, this is not an actual Metal Gear game, so anyone who wants to try it out won’t be charged like it is.
The restraint exhibited in the game’s price tag is echoed in the game itself. When the first trailer hit, much ado was made of the fact that all of The Phantom Pain’s central characters left by helicopter in the opening seconds of footage and, presumably, the game. That any Metal Gear fan would complain about this baffles me. It was evident from the very moment that Kojima cut ties with his publisher that said publisher was going to make full of use of said developer’s most well-known creation; anyone who was hoping otherwise was nigh-delusionally optimistic which, when it comes to Snake Eater Pachinko-era Konami, is not a great course of action. If they have to slap Metal Gear’s name onto something, why not make it a spin-off game that relies mostly on the gameplay of its predecessor over its story? The overarching narrative of Metal Gear is the main reason why I like the series. The gameplay has always been degrees of fun varying from pretty good to exhilarating, but what separates Kojima’s creation from other stealth series out there is its sometimes serious, sometimes zany, but almost always interesting plot. Though I personally feel that the tale told by The Phantom Pain was by far the weakest in the series, I still recognize it as a part of the Metal Gear chronology, for better or for worse. It fits with the architect’s intent. Konami seems to know that they can’t hope to build on the very intricate world of Metal Gear sans-Kojima, so they aren’t even trying. As bad as it may seem to have a Metal Gear game without any of the characters that make those games interesting, would it not be infinitely worse to see one in which those characters are left undeveloped at best and debased at worst for the sake of Konami continuing the story that keeps players interested?
Though Metal Gear Survive’s general presence is no way an ideal situation, I think fans’ hatred is unwarranted when judging the game by itself. The quagmire of vitriol surrounding this title seems to have been conjured out of principle rather than anything else. The anger is about Kojima’s unpleasant exit from Konami rather than what Metal Gear Survive actually is. For what it’s worth, I thought the TGS demo looked decent; the gameplay is just that of Metal Gear Solid Five with a couple of additions, and it’s visually on the level of The Phantom Pain. The fifteen minutes of gameplay wasn’t the greatest thing I’ve seen all year, but it was harmless, dumb fun that put the gameplay systems of its predecessor into a new context. Metal Gear Survive is nothing but the lesser of two evils; if Konami is going to carry on flogging the horse that they themselves shot last year, I would much rather it be in the form of a cheap spin-off with virtually no ties to its namesake’s signature plot threads than a half-baked attempt at making the true Metal Gear follow-up that everyone knows only Kojima can do justice to.