This morning at Gamescom, the big European video-game conference, publisher Konami announced a new title that fans were simultaneously expecting and dreading: Metal Gear Survive, a sequel/spinoff/side story to Metal Gear Solid V, the latest in the beloved long-running espionage franchise and one of the best games of 2015.
In the prelude to MGS V, the oil-rig base of protagonist Big Boss is attacked and destroyed. In Survive, members of Big Boss’s crew are sucked through a wormhole — stick with me here — into an alternate reality where they must defend themselves against zombies.
Response to Metal Gear Survive, less than a day out from its announcement, has been, let’s say, tepid. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, it looks, at best, generic. The type of co-operative, “hold off the zombies” game play depicted in the trailer is rote now, as is the boring, standard, paramilitary cast of characters.
But even setting those issues aside, the main problem with Metal Gear Survive is that it wasn’t created by Hideo Kojima, the longtime mastermind behind the Metal Gear series. Over 30 years, he crafted an epic, problematic, often incoherent, always entertaining saga that asked the important question “What if the U.S. military was anime and fought with giant bipedal robots?”
Metal Gear Solid V had a protracted, complicated development history that ended with Kojima being forced to ship a game that was not fully realized and often felt rushed and unfinished. Then he was booted from the company entirely. His name was also removed from game’s box art. A small contingent of die-hard fans believe that all of the drama was a hoax, and that the rest of the game is still on the way. Kojima has a long history of screwing with his audience, so this is not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Highly unlikely, sure, but not impossible.
First-glimpse impressions of Survive indicate that it’s the game equivalent of reheated leftovers. Konami has already said that it won’t retail for $60, the standard price for a major console game (the use of “Metal Gear” but the absence of “Solid” in the title also indicates less-than-flagship status). The game’s description sounds like the developer tweaked some already-existing assets and made do — Konami explicitly describes it as “a new addition to the Metal Gear Solid V experience.” Hell, they might even be working off of a Kojima-authored design document — in 2013, he tweeted the innocuous message, “Want to make a genuine zombie game.”
All of this is to say that there are many reasons to be skeptical of Survive, based on the limited information available. It’s a seminal video-game franchise trying to make do without its driving creative force. It sounds generic and boring. It hardly seems a continuation of the sprawling storyline that players care about.
Much remains to be seen, but the game’s mere existence is a sign that even without Kojima, Konami believes there is more money to be wrung out of Metal Gear. As a first move, Survive isn’t really instilling confidence.