When Konami announced the incongruous-looking MGSV spin-off Metal Gear Survive with a cinematic (if not, story-led) trailer, fans worried. Mother Base soldiers being sucked into a wormhole to fight zombie creatures with melee weapons? It’s about as far removed from Metal Gear as you could possibly get. I said about as much; Kojima even weighed in during the Tokyo Game Show earlier in September: “The Metal Gear games are about political fiction and espionage,” he said at his KojiPro presentation for Death Stranding. Where do zombies fit in with that?

He’s right, of course — the game’s premise is ridiculous, and that’s in a series where the supernatural has often butted up with the sci-fi espionage that Metal Gear dealt in for decades. But after Konami’s own TGS stage show for Survive, it also looks like the game, which will reportedly be packaged as a standalone product coming in around the price of Ground Zeroes, is probably more DLC than full-fledged sequel.

For now it’s a hunch, but based on the gameplay Konami showed, it feels relatively safe to say that Survive won’t be much more than a glorified new multiplayer mode for MGSV (player emotes included), sold as a standalone addition a in about a year. Survive’s world leans heavily on previously existing assets, for one thing. During one segment of Konami’s demonstration, players that know every square inch of Phantom Pain’s Afghanistan will quite clearly recognize an aesthetically modded version of a remote outpost from the game, right down to the same L-shaped base building.

Gameplay is similar enough too. The co-op mission shown was, from a visual standpoint, virtually indistinguishable from anything related to MGSV proper, minus the open-world map and crystalline undead things lurking about. There are the aforementioned melee weapons, as well as new R&D wrinkles, and an unexpected system wherein players can wormhole in barriers like chain-link fences and barb wire obstacles to stop hordes from pouring in during apparent raid-esque moments. But in practice, none of the systems are so far removed from anything in MGSV thus far. It may as well just be a strange new type of mission.

If the wordless cast (who appear to be nameless, customizable soldiers à la Metal Gear Online) and general side-story feel weren’t a strong indicator, the game is also due out next year. Konami did mention players would go through a story, indicating that you can potentially play outside of co-op; still, if co-op is what they’re leading with — and how the game is broadly being presented — the script is unlikely to be something intensive. (Remember, Ground Zeroes’s Side Ops had “story” components too, if you want to get technical.)

All that being said, taken as a new “what-if” mode for MGSV, Survive looks better in terms of play than I might have imagined. (Kudos for bringing back MGS3’s injury system in a way that actually affects animations — that would have been amazing in MGSV.) Granted, Konami is working from KojiPro’s rock-solid design baseline, but they’ve added their own layers to it.

Is this something I’d want to devote long hours to in order to follow an attempt at an exhaustive Kojima-style narrative? No. No one cares about anonymous Mother Base survivors that much.

Might it offer some incongruous short-session entertainment as powered by the Fox Engine? I won’t rule it out, especially at the right price. Survive may not be real Metal Gear, but it was never going to be, anyway.

Photos via Konami Digital Entertainment

Steve Haske is a Seattle-based writer and sometimes a creator of stupid art. His work can be found on VICE and Playboy. Iain Glen is his Virgil.