February 23, 2018

Franchise Zombies: Konami, Metal Gear Survive, and Horses

By Adlai Rosh

One of the most poignant moments in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was a scene where Big Boss has to euthanize a horse after it broke its leg in a bad fall. Not just any horse – the horse owned by his mentor The Boss, whose sacrifice in Metal Gear Solid 3 influenced the story of every game in the series in one form or another. In this moment the player is treated to flashbacks of the final battle against The Boss culminating in her lying on the ground, telling Snake to kill her. This is when the scene begins to switch between the past and the present, with Snake standing over his former mentor and her horse. The player can do nothing but press the on-screen prompt to kill both of them.

The Metal Gear series is looking much like The Boss’s white horse – a once beautiful symbol of the past that now lies broken and dying.

Konami hasn’t had the best track record lately when it comes to beloved franchises. In 2014 the stunning P.T. was released for PlayStation 4, which served as both a tech demo for the Fox Engine and surprise Playable Teaser for the then-upcoming Silent Hills. In 2015 they announced the cancellation of the project and pulled P.T. off the PlayStation Store. They assured fans that the Silent Hill series would live on, and live on it did – in the form of a pachinko machine. Casltevania, another beloved Konami franchise, also received a Pachinko makeover with erotic, barely-dressed vampires moaning into the camera to colorful flashing lights and spinning slots. Konami is a mad scientist eagerly bringing dying franchises back to life in the most perverted ways possible.

Metal Gear is a franchise that is near and dear to my heart. The Metal Gear games were some of the best stealth games I’ve ever played. MGSV, despite its faults, was a spectacular experience with twists and story beats that were a genuine surprise. When Konami announced Metal Gear Survive, I was apprehensive at first but willing to give the game a shot.

Now that gameplay has surfaced I want to regret ever entertaining the notion.

When it all went wrong

Short answer: everything in Metal Gear Survive is wrong.

The story was a bit ludicrous with Mother Base soldiers being transported to an alternate reality because of wormholes during Skull Face’s attack at the end of Ground Zeroes. Survive wasn’t certainly the strangest spinoff, like the card-battling Metal Gear AC!D released on the PSP, or how Snake spoke with a talking cat and battled creatures from Monster Hunter in Peace Walker. I also had to admit that interdimensional zombies was a cool concept – we’ve fought ghosts in MGS3 and almost-kinda zombies in MGS4.

I don’t want to seem like an overwhelming pit of negativity but its similarities to Metal Gear are in its reused assets and its occasional reference to previous games, with the most obscene, heavy-handed references being a corrupted Sahelanthropus and summoning Metal Gear RAY to obliterate hordes of zombies (here called Wanderers). Everything else? It looks and feels like a cynical Steam Greenlight title, checking all the boxes for an obnoxious, unenjoyable “survival” experience – a mostly empty, open world, generic kill-loot-craft gameplay loops, an almost nonexistent story you can safely ignore with no consequence, and a character that plays more like a 3D tamagochi with how frequently you need to take care of virtual needs like hunger and thirst.

I would have appreciated if this game brought anything new to the table, but as it stands it’s a generic open-world crafting game with zombies and survival elements but with Metal Gear assets. It very lightly tackles the series’ usual anti-war themes but in a contrived way that involves time travel, alternate dimensions, and a child being teleported onto a ship in the middle of the ocean. It’s a world where sentient nanomachines attempt to make wormholes into other worlds. It’s a place where you can wear a silly mask and smash zombies over the head with a hammer. But it’s not Metal Gear. With the current gaming trend edging towards PUBG-style Battle Royale games, you have to wonder if Konami should’ve just scrapped the concept and made Metal Gear Battlegrounds.

With Kojima’s departure from Konami, the company is looming over Kojima’s dying horse with a loaded gun in its hands. Only time will tell if MGSurvive’s reception will finally push Konami into putting the series out of its misery.

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