The Metal Gear Solid series has given the world some of the most engrossing, cinematic, (and yes, at times batshit crazy) games in history. The original Metal Gear Solid for the original PlayStation ushered in a wave of stealth/action clones, and offered a unique mix of engaging gameplay and interesting story. This game spawned a remake, spin-offs and four direct sequels, culminating in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, a last-hurrah masterpiece from franchise creator Hideo Kojima that sent the series out in a blaze of glory, offering an open world epic unlike anything the franchise had ever seen, while still maintaining the roots of what made it so appealing in the first place.
The games were also inventive, thinking outside the box to deliver gaming experiences you couldn’t find anywhere else. In the first game, the only way to get around Psycho Mantis’s mind control was to physically unplug your controller from the first slot and plug it into the second, and he would even read your memory card to see what other types of games you liked. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty got so insane toward the end, making references to the NES origins of the series, spouting screwy dialogue and flashing intentionally messed up screens (remember “fission mailed”?) that as a kid I genuinely thought something was wrong with my PS2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots continued the innovative gameplay while attempting to make sense of the sprawling, disjointed narrative the series had been spinning since the 1980s.
Yes, the stories are some of the most convoluted of all time, and after multiple playthroughs it’s still almost impossible to get a full grasp on everything that’s going on. But the series dared to go all-in on the type of story you just didn’t see in video games at the time, and did so in such an impressively cinematic way that even if it didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense, it captured your attention.
Which is why it’s so sad to see such a daring, risk-taking franchise immediately devolve into a zombie survival game — a genre that went out of style years ago — and a s----y one at that. Konami has been almost cartoonishly evil since the release of The Phantom Pain, barring Kojima from accepting an award for MGS5 at The Game Awards, cancelling his highly anticipated game Silent Hills after rave reviews of the demo, and later firing Kojima altogether. So of course Metal Gear Survive never had a chance of living up to past installments of the franchise, but the game that’s been released is even more of a tedious failure than anyone could have predicted.
Being a survival game, extra focus is given to basic needs like stamina, hunger, and thirst. That makes enough sense given the genre, but it just plain isn’t fun to only be able to run for five seconds before taking a breather, or constantly foraging for food in the endless sea of fog. And when it does come time to finally hunker down and kill some zombies, even something as primal and basic as that has the fun sucked out of it. Your character woodenly pokes a stick in front of him over and over, hoping to make contact with a zombie. This bears so little resemblance to the franchise that essentially invented the stealth/action genre and delivered some of the most cinematic moments in video game history that it’s straight-out insulting that they slapped the Metal Gear name on the cover.
The most egregious action taken by Konami in this game, following the most pervasive problem the gaming industry is facing as a whole, is the absolute deluge of microtransactions. It’s actually a bit generous to even call them “micro” transactions — unlocking more than one save slot will cost you $10 a pop. Ten bucks! For one of the most basic features a video game can have! There are tons of other ways the game attempts to siphon money from your bank account as well, through an in-game currency known as SV coins that do everything from give players more food and water to increasing the productivity of your teams.
No one expected Metal Gear Survive to be successful, or even all that good. But somehow, Konami has moved so far past the point of incompetence in managing one of the most well known brand names in video game history that the only reasonable explanation is straight up malice. This goes beyond putting out a bland product to ride the wave of brand recognition. It’s almost as if Konami is spiting Kojima by publishing an offensively bad game that has almost nothing to do with his creation on purpose. Either that, or they are just profoundly bad at what they do.
Whatever the reason, it pains me to come to grips with the fact that one of my favorite game series of all time is now dead. I always knew in the back of my mind that was the case as soon as The Phantom Pain was released, but Metal Gear Survive‘s very existence forces me to come face to face with the fact. The best we can hope for now is sales so poor that Konami moves on from the franchise altogether.