To say that fans were confused by the announcement of a new Metal Gear game, Metal Gear Survive, taking place in an alternative universe and featuring zombie-like creatures is something of an understatement. With the series’ visionary designer Hideo Kojima out of the picture, the news that Konami was taking a beloved franchise and turning it into a survival game made many fans... well, let’s just say ‘unhappy’ and let you fill in the gaps, okay?
However, we sat down with producer Yuji Korekado, a man who's been with the game from the very beginning, to talk about this new chapter in the series.
“The story begins from the fall of Mother Base at the end of Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes,” explains Yuji Korekado, “but from that point on, the plot is unrelated to the saga of the series.” As Mother Base collapses at the end of that game, a wormhole opens and sucks in debris, corpses and even a few unlucky soldiers that were still alive. Your character avoids this fate by clinging heroically onto some scaffolding but, six months later, you are sent through the wormhole by a mysterious organisation.
You land near a wrecked Mother Base in the middle of a desert, and discover a base camp set up next to your old home. Here, you will need to find food and water if you want to survive; a small number of animals can be found (and mercilessly slaughtered) here, including sheep, vultures and bears. As you explore the surrounding area you’ll also need to grab as many resources as you can to sure up your flimsy defences, because you aren’t alone in this world...
“We wanted to take what players enjoyed about [MGS] and come up with a new way to experience those elements"
What would you like to say to the fans that responded negatively to Survive back when the game was first announced in 2016?
At the time, fans of the series and gamers in general seemed to take Metal Gear Survive to be a continuation of the Metal Gear series saga, so I regret that we caused that confusion. But after the title was announced at Gamescom in 2016, we gathered a group of hardcore gamers in Canada and did some focus- testing of a prototype of Metal Gear Survive. The results were really positive. We were actually taken aback by how well it was received by those players.
Are there any aspects of the game you are particularly proud of?
The game retains the stealth action that has made the series such a success and adds new gameplay elements – including survival. The result is a Metal Gear title unlike any before.
What do you think players will be most surprised by when they get their hands on Metal Gear Survive?
A core concept of Metal Gear Survive is being able to place Interceptor and Defense units wherever you like. This allows for all kinds of strategies, and I think utilising these while fighting alongside teammates is going to be unlike anything players have encountered before.
This is where the stealth elements of the series come into play. You’ll encounter ‘Wanderers’ as you traverse the area to find resources, and taking them out quietly is certainly the safest option. Creep up behind them, or deliver a swift arrow to their crystalline neck stump, and they’ll go down silently, but start beating on them with a baseball bat and they’ll call for assistance – not a situation you want to find yourself in.
“In addition to Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain’s story, a lot of players enjoyed its systems and action elements as well,” says Mr Korekado. “We wanted to take what players enjoyed about its gameplay and come up with a new way to experience those elements. So Metal Gear Survive started as a project to adapt TPP’s gameplay.” The result is a combination of sneaking, action and base-building that feels like MGS5 crossed with Fortnite’s ‘Save The World’ mode.
The main game is made up of missions, such as placing a beacon to send a distress signal back through the wormhole, or finding specific resources to expand your crafting capabilities. First, though, you’ll need to find the resources needed to craft an oxygen tank, as a wall of poisonous mist surrounds your home base. Once you’ve got an oxygen tank you can travel into the mist and explore the world beyond it. Just stay on top of your oxygen level – when it hits 0% you’re as good as dead. Thankfully, a polite American lady will tell you when you’re dangerously low.
Beyond the wall of mist you’ll find new resources, tougher enemies, and you might even find the odd survivor. Bring these all back to your base (even enemies can be used as resources when they’re dead) and you can upgrade your home, your gear, or even build new weapons and tools... if you know the recipes. You can make up recipes yourself when it comes to cooking simply by combining obvious ingredients. When it comes to more powerful tools and weapons, however, you’ll need to learn the recipes as a reward in multiplayer.
Co-op is obviously a massive part of Survive, as demonstrated by the betas - jump into a game with up to three friends and you can explore the world as a foursome to tackle missions specially designed for more players. You may encounter stronger enemies or hordes that cannot be defeated alone in these cases, so working together will be essential to success.
Don’t worry about having to tailor loadouts for playing with friends, though – all the weapons and items in the game appear in single player and co-op. The two are designed to work in sync, so players can use materials gathered during the campaign and rewards earned in co-op to further develop base camp, reinforce weapons and items, and beat the hardest missions.
You’ll have plenty of toys to help you, too. Melee weapons will be your most common form of attack, at least early in the game, and the selection is huge, including pokey sticks, enormous hammers and giant blades. Each one has unique characteristics, so whether you choose a specific weapon for a job, or just stick with your favourite (a flaming baseball bat, say) will be up to you.
Of course, there are more traditional MGS weapons in there as well. You’ll be able to find or craft guns, but ammunition is limited. You can build complex defences later in the game, including large gun turrets, to defend your home base from attacks. And then there are the other tools from MGS5 that have made their way to this title, including a robot that looks very similar to D-Walker. That should come in handy during those multiplayer hordes, at least.
“In the past, as with Metal Gear Online, we tried to give the player a fresh experience that was based on the latest title released at that time,” says Korekado. “Metal Gear Survive makes use of the beloved game system and action gameplay, and adds survival elements and co-op to it, making a new and fun experience that we hope everyone will enjoy.” The team has clearly worked hard to bring as much over from MGS5 as they could, but will it be enough to convince fans of the series?
“Survive makes use of beloved gameplay, and adds survival elements and co-op to it, making a new and fun experience that we hope everyone will enjoy”
One big change comes in the form of wormholes that will randomly drop materials, items and even people from different times and places into your world. We know what you’re thinking – yes we did say people. Does this mean we might see some familiar faces appearing as we explore the world? We asked Mr Korekado, and his answer was just vague enough to give us some hope... “Some familiar faces from the series appear in the MGS5: GZ scene at the start of the game,” he said, “but they don’t play a role in the plot this time around.”
Hmm, maybe they won’t be involved in the main plotline, but could we see Snake, Silent or D-Dog (good boy!) dropping in through a wormhole? Only time will tell. What we do know is that these random drops will allow you to expand your base using items and materials that you might not normally find, so scouting them out and grabbing them when you see them will be vital. Vehicles will help you travel around the world more quickly to make that easier.
It’s not all about defence, though. Inside home base you can build all kinds of things, from workbenches to more homely choices. Kitchenette, anyone? A grid-like system allows you to manage how your areas are set up – yes, part of the game is all about building the perfect home. Metal Gear Solid meets The Sims? We didn’t see that one coming.
The crafting will also change the way you move around the game world, and interact with areas around you. You can place items anywhere you want, allowing you to build defences on the fly. Alternatively, you can craft larger objects like crates and place them near walls to help you reach higher areas that would otherwise be inaccessible. The point is to make you think differently about how you approach situations – it’s not all about sneaking this time.
The question now is whether that’s going to sit well with the longtime fans of the series. Will this spin-off bring new players to the series, or just alienate those that just want to play through the next chapter in Snake’s story? We don’t have long to wait to find out, and Mr Korekado’s fingers are crossed. “I really hope that players give Metal Gear Survive a try.”
This article originally appeared in Xbox: The Official Magazine. For more great Xbox coverage, you can subscribe to OXM here.