Hideo Kojima may have left Konami, but that doesn’t mean the end of Metal Gear. Or, potentially, Metal Gear’s reanimated corpse. Last week at Gamescom, Konami showed its willingness to take it into unexpected places. Metal Gear Survive abandons the cinematic, single-player focus of the previous games, twisting the series into a 4-player co-op stealth action game.
Konami is withholding the details of Metal Gear Survive but, between the trailer and an interview with one of the company’s community managers at Gamescom, I’ve put together a picture of what the game actually is.
The story of Metal Gear goes that at the end of Ground Zeroes, a special forces group called XOF attack Mother Base (the base of operations for Big Boss’ mercenary organisation Militaires Sans Frontières). The attack destroys the base and Big Boss attempts to escape in a helicopter but an explosion downs the aircraft, leaving Big Boss in a nine-year coma. Metal Gear Solid 5 kicks off with Big Boss awaking from that coma.
Metal Gear Survive has it that there is more to that night of the XOF attack. While Big Boss tried to escape Mother Base, a great many MSF soldiers were left behind and - this is where it gets a bit weird - they were sucked into a dark swirling portal that appeared above the burning base. The portal transported the troops to a strange desert world and your goal is to get the back to Earth.
Let’s not skip over that whole portal thing. This seems like a bit of a departure from the standard fare of the Metal Gear series, which is saying something, considering the main villain of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4 is a man being controlled by his arm transplant. And we shouldn’t forget the fiery demon who stalks you throughout Metal Gear Solid 5. Or the myriad of bosses throughout the series who have psychic powers and vampiric abilities. Portals aren’t entirely new to the series: the Fulton airlift system of Peace Walker and The Phantom Pain evolved through Metal Gear Online to let you transport soldiers through dark portals to get them back to your base safely.
So, yes, the whole portal plot is silly. But what happens when you get through there is even more of a deviation from the Metal Gear we know.
Metal Gear Survive plants you down on the world on the other side of this portal in a desert filled with chunks of destroyed mother base, a few MSF survivors, and, as the trailer shows, a whole host of crystalline zombies. (While the enemies looks similar to the parasite-infected troops in The Phantom Pain, a Konami rep confirmed that they weren’t linked.) These brainless enemies fill the open landscape of Metal Gear Survive. You can see in the trailer that they flock to fenced walls that surround the ruin of mother base, acting as a constant threat to you and your team.
While the focus of the trailer is on action, Survive can be played more stealthily. Its levels will be large and open to give you the opportunity to avoid enemies. And, as you can play in a team of four, you’ll be able to use each other as a distraction, with one player making themselves known to draw enemies away from the other still hidden players. Iron pipes can be picked up from the environment and used to spar with the zombies. Later shots in the trailer show what may be the results of crafting, a spear made from a combat knife strapped to a pole is one example, an arrow with a drill bit tip is another.
Konami wouldn’t confirm this, but I suspect the Mother Base ruin will act as a hub where you’ll be able to research and craft new gear from resources you find out in the wild. So, basically, we’re looking at a Metal Gear version of Left 4 Dead meets Dead Island.
The trailer ends with the suggestion of an enemy much larger than the zombies on show. The Konami rep confirmed this, saying you would fight enemies of a massive scale in Survive. Considering this game is, according to IGN, built in the same engine as The Phantom Pain, a game that let you battle the four-story tall mech Sahelanthropus, I expect we’ll have to fight some massive crystalline monsters. Doing this in co-op is a pretty exciting prospect.
The Konami rep at Gamescom wouldn’t say if Survive was being made by the same people that worked on Metal Gear Solid 5 - only that it was a Tokyo-based team. Clearly this game will not have the input of Hideo Kojima, the best-known name attached to the Metal Gear series, but he was part of a much larger team. Metal Gear has always been made at Konami, and it might comfort concerned Metal Gear fans to remember that there are still plenty of developers at the publisher who have a long history with this series.