With the release of Metal Gear Survive, Konami arguably had something to prove. As the first game since the series' creator Hideo Kojima split with the publisher in what is perhaps one of the messiest video game divorces in recent memory, expectations were not set particularly high.
Conversely, one could also argue that Konami doesn't have anything to prove when it comes to Metal Gear. It retained complete ownership over the property and, aside from the most dedicated fans, most consumers will be blissfully unaware of Kojima's sudden departure, let alone what that means for the franchise.
As our own Rob Fahey suggested, Konami was astute enough to know hardcore fans would be un-receptive to a game that didn't bear the distinct DNA of Hideo Kojima. As such, Konami embarked on the most subtle marketing campaign of all, by simply not having one. If no one knows your game is coming out, no one can tell the Twitterspehre if it's bad or not.
That said, Konami does need to prove to itself and its investors that funnelling wheelbarrow-loads of cash into future instalments is worth it. Metal Gear is, after all, one of gaming's most iconic franchises, and Kojima's absence does little to change that fact.
So what's the verdict? Is the world ready for a post-Kojima Metal Gear game, and does Konami even have what it takes to make one without the auteur's influence? Well, the short answer is no. The long answer, while still ultimately being no, is a little more balanced.
Attracting lukewarm reviews across the board, Metal Gear Survive would appear to be more inoffensive than either good or bad. That said, more committed fans will no doubt baulk at the whiplash inducing shift away from Metal Gear's core of tactical espionage into a world of paranormal wormhole shenanigans. Replacing the core tenets of stealth, killing dastardly terrorists, and attaching balloons to sheep, Survive opts instead for clumsy base-building, survival mechanics, and spooky shambling monsters.
This departure into the realms of horror was not an entirely disagreeable one, with many reviews welcoming the change of pace but lamenting its under-development. In his review for Eurogamer, Martin Robinson described the latest entry as a "surprisingly enjoyable horror spin-off".
"That faint shadow of familiarity can be a little disconcerting at first in what's clearly a relatively low-budget outing for the series," he noted. "It's as if Konami got together on the abandoned backlot of the MGS5 set and banged this out in a weekend - and whether you find that cynical or charming depends very much on your own point of view."
The presence of microtransactions also attracted a worthy level of scorn, with Robinson commenting: "Having them tied into XP boosters feels like a tacit admission that the progression is plain broken. While having an additional character slot unlock only for real-world cash would be comical if it wasn't so offensive."
Meanwhile, Matt Cox from Rock, Paper, Shotgun found Survive ultimately frustrating more than anything else, and criticised the lack of gameplay variety.
"It's as if Konami got together on the abandoned backlot of the MGS5 set and banged this out in a weekend "
Martin Robinson, Eurogamer
"Metal Gear Survive is the game I want it to be about 10% of the time... Most of the time though, it's a game that goes out of its way to be repetitive, frustrating and dull," he said.
Much like RPS and Eurogamer, The Telegraph offered up a very tepid review, awarding Survive three and a half stars. In his review, Joe Parlock was also quick to draw attention to the game's more frustrating elements.
"While there are upgrades available for the base of operations to help farm for food and purify water more easily, having your exploration cut short for snack time every few minutes is at best an annoyance that pulls the player away from the infinitely more interesting zombie survival elements," he said.
The presence of microtransactions were a "significant sticking point" for Parlock, though he did offer a reasoned defence of the game, noting that it's not as bad as fans anticipated, and even has moments of shining brilliance.
"Survive isn't the lifeless husk of the Metal Gear series many thought it would be with its creator no longer running the show," he said. "When it gets its groove, it's something very special indeed - its story, world, and freedom for exploration and creativity are all remarkable. The problem is that it's difficult to ignore the malingering corporate influence that has filled the gap in Kojima's absence."
One of the rare positive reviews came from Liam Croft at Push Square, who awarded the game an almost unparalleled eight out of ten, praising the story's "wild supernatural occurings" and the combination of survival and base-building mechanics.
"Survive isn't the lifeless husk of the Metal Gear series many thought it would be with its creator no longer running the show"
Joe Parlock, The Telegraph
"Metal Gear Survive is not what many envisioned the follow up to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain to be, but that doesn't inherently make it a bad game," Croft suggested. "This is definitely a different experience, thanks to the introduction of survival mechanics and the extensive base building, but these aspects actually benefit what the title is going for.
"With a punishing but fascinating open world to explore, a crafting system that allows for all manner of items to be fashioned, and a suitably bizarre story that is sure to surprise even series veterans, Metal Gear Survive is likely to please those that give it a solid chance."
Michael McWhertor from Polygon was less enthused however, awarding the game 5.5 out of 10, and noting that buried inside there are "flashes of a great survival game," but fundamentally it's a very stagnant experience, lacking in variety.
"These moments, when you're fighting for your life with limited ammunition and supplies against a flood of angry zombies, can be thrilling," he said. "But as the game progresses, and even as your abilities and arsenal evolve, the action doesn't change much, and the fight for survival starts to feel repetitive... The mechanics never progress in the same interesting fashion they did in The Phantom Pain."
Leon Hurley at GamesRadar echoed these sentiments, offering Survive three-and-a-half stars and describing it as a "decent survival game with a rewarding, if uninspired, grind" with sound mechanics but little variety.
"Like in most survival games the zombie managing and base building ramps up constantly and it'll be your limit for the demands this makes of you, against the increasing work it requires, to decide when you've had enough," he noted.
"As the missions, demands and responsibilities get harder it all depends on how much you want to push through that barrier."