Head To head graphics comparison.
Metal Gear, as a franchise, is primarily known for its engaging storyline and brilliant stealth gameplay mechanics. However, besides all of that and Kojima’s crazy idea of blending humor with gameplay (the fultoning mechanic, anyone?), the series is also known for its cutting edge visuals. We first witnessed that in 1998 with the intricately crafted cutscenes in Metal Gear Solid on the original PlayStation which was followed up by the Hollywood inspired opening of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. It’s kind of a norm then to expect each subsequent entry to look and feel better than its predecessor. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was perhaps the zenith of the franchise’s technical prowsess with phenomenal voice acting (specially by the artists behind Kaz Miller and Huey Emmerich), brilliant lighting, and fantastic camera work in cutscenes.
Much of that has to be attributed towards the massively underrated Fox Engine. Let’s be honest here, there are some brilliant engines out there but no one does lighting better than the Fox Engine. So it’s natural to expect that Metal Gear Survive, despite being a spin-off, will build on the framework of The Phantom Pain and take the series’ visuals to atleast an incremental stage if not to a new level. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Compared to Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain which emphasized so much on creating an atmosphere that matches the gameplay, Survive feels like a really “dark” game. And by the “dark”, I mean dark. The use of lighting is pretty much underutilized in Survive and this is down to its somewhat ridiclous use of hunger and thirst mechanics wherein the screen will start to blur if you start running out of them. Then there are dust zones where the visibility is extremely limited, further blurring the environment.
Needless to say, Metal Gear Survive does its very best to act as a underwhleming showcase for the Fox Engine. It puts a hard limit to the engine’s capability and to be honest, it’s rather disappointing. We all know what the engine is capable of and there was potential here to take things ahead with Survive’s lighting but it feels like a missed opportunity overall. However, not all is not “dark and gloomy”. When the player explores the areas besides the dust zones and have their hunger and thirst levels refilled, the game definitely looks on par with The Phantom Pain. Like its predecessor, the world of Survive is mostly empty, and is merely used for traversal but there are moments where the world is filled with flora and fauna which adds a bit of color to the depressing environment the developers were aiming for.
Just like any modern title these days, Survive is enhanced for the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. There are some interesting differences between the two versions in terms of resolution and visual parameters. Both versions target a frame rate of 60fps, just like The Phantom Pain, but most of the time the game seems to be running below that. Both versions run at 1440p resolution without any sort of checkerboard rendering. However, there are differences in the way each consoles handles their shadow quality and anti-aliasing , both of which appear to render better on the Xbox One X compared to the PS4 Pro. Other than that there isn’t much to choose between the two versions so you will be good to go with either platform.
Metal Gear Survive adds and builts upon the mechanics of The Phantom Pain, but we can’t help but feel that something is missing here. There is a strong emphasis on story-telling in Survive, I really appreciate that codec screen is back and it has a simple tale to tell but its lacking the panache of the previous games. Granted Kojima’s writing has been on the downward trend post Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater but there were always moments of brilliance through excellent choreographed cutscenes, emotional conversations and a score that moved you. Even The Phantom Pain, a game that is divisive among fans had moments of excellence. Surive, unfortunately, is lacking that magic.
I am not completely sure about the direction Konami wants to take with the franchise with Survive, but from a technical standpoint, the visuals are on par with The Phantom Pain, with a few compromises here and there.