Metal Gear Online
Finally up and running, Metal Gear Online is back, and this time with a different take on things. While the last two entries were more like a simple multiplayer version of Metal Gear Solid, this one takes things up a notch and makes this entry feel more refined and competitive than ever before. Coming out as a full game in the Fall, the first MGO release will come with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots, which is due in June. It will come with a “Starter Pack” that will have just a few levels, and later down the road you can get the rest once the full game is released; this is similar to Gran Turismo 5: Prologue’s original release scheme.
Following a rough release schedule wrought with sign-up issues, the beta has begun and it certainly is exciting to finally see the game in action. After you’ve done the fun process of getting a Konami ID and Game ID from Konami’s site, which you can also do with-in the game itself via a link on the main menu, the next step is to create a character. There are a few faces and character voices to choose from, and the voices can be altered by pitch to customize it even further. You are not able to alter the name, face, or voice of a character once you create it, so you need to make sure you’re happy with what you made. Once you’ve done all this, you can then proceed choosing your character’s outfit and accessories, which again you can customize with different colors. Finally, the last step is to choose your skills, which affect your character in a manner that works like an RPG, with leveling up, etc. These are able to be swapped out either during an intermission or from the main menu, so don’t worry about this part too much.
Now that you’ve got a character you can proceed to the actual game. There are three ways to get into a game: Free Battle, which is a server list of all the games you can join, Automatching, which works like any other matchmaking service on consoles, and Training, which allows you to mess around alone in an area that is reminiscent of the VR missions in the canon games, save for the fact that these still take place in the Middle Eastern setting. In any case, you have to choose a lobby, and each one is named after a character from the series. Overall, the Automatching feature works fairly well, though I’ve heard reports of it taking quite a long time too. I prefer to use Free Battle simply because it allows me more freedom to choose, and also lets you filter out certain options to make it easier to find games you want to join.
There are five gametypes to choose from: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Bases, Sneaking, and Capture. Bases requires each team to try and capture different points as the clock runs down, and the team who captures all the points, or has the most points captured by the end of the round wins. Capture requires both teams to gather two objects (toys) and take them back to their base, and the team with either/both toy must protect them in their respective base as the timer runs down. Finally, Sneaking pits Snake against everyone in a mission where he must complete an objective before the timer runs down.
In all five gametypes, you start in your team’s base will continue to do so, unless you are playing Bases, which allows you to spawn from the various points your team has captured. There are three maps included in the beta: Blood Bath Gronznyi Grad, and Midtown Maelstrom; the final version will include two more. Neither of the first two stand out as special, and both are fairly generic all things considered. However, Midtown Maelstrom is really enjoyable, and definitely the best designed of the three, due to its size and layout.
Most games I’ve played have been on Blood Bath. It’s a tad small with 16 players, and doesn’t have much room in terms of area, but it has a lot of height going for it with an underground and an outpost that overlooks the entire level in the center. The only notable thing to say about Gronznyi Grad is that it has a “man canon”, similar to the one in Halo 3, that will launch your character high up onto the rooftops. While this game is supposed to take place in the same universe as MGS4, I generally dislike the environments being used in these maps. The desert setting has potential, but not when used the way it is with these maps. Overall they’re playable but not great. I hope to see a lot more variety in the final version.
Controlling your character is quite similar to any of the previous games, with a new function added to Triangle that allows your to stay in First Person mode simply by tapping it once. Off the top of my head, nothing else seems changed from the last games in the series save for some of the CQC motions, so most people should be able to jump right in without problems. Aiming in First Person mode can be sluggish and frustrating at times, especially sniping. I’m hoping the sensitivity levels are tweaked so that you can adjust them higher than you are currently able to.
When you start each round, you get to choose your equipment, and obviously you want to choose stuff based around your skill sets. There are various non-lethal weapons in the game for those that don’t want to kill, including a sniper rifle, pistol, stun grenades, and dirty magazines which lock anyone to that area while their character peruses the fine ladies. From what’s been said in interviews, this selection is nothing compared to the final version of the game, which will apparently boast quite a bit of kit taken from Metal Gear Solid 4, though it is not decided whether or not all of the 70 or more weapons will make the transition to Metal Gear Online.
Graphically speaking, this game is quite good looking, and much better than I originally anticipated. However, it seems there are some laggy spots in some areas, such as First Person mode in an area with numerous enemies. The game itself is running at 30FPS, and other than said problems runs fairly well, and everything looks and feels as it should. A lot of people are disappointed in the lack of 60FPS, but if the game works without needing to run at double the speed, then I don’t see a problem. Gears Of War is locked at 30FPS on the 360, and it does its job just fine, though admittedly I have not had the chance to play it on the PC to compare. In any case, Konami just needs to fix a few things and everything will be working smoothly.
So all in all, how does MGO perform? Perhaps the biggest thing to take notice of is the fact that it definitely will take time to get used to the gameplay, even if you’ve played the other two games. While the controls are easy to get into, the game itself plays a bit different that before, and figuring out what kind of player you are will definitely not be something you’ll understand right away. I started out specializing in different things, but I really enjoy sniping and handguns now, but then again a lot of other players focus on CQC or assault rifles.
These skill sets really diversify the whole persistent character idea, and thankfully you aren’t locked into the skills you originally choose. I’m really enjoying the game itself, with a lot of time being spent on just exploring different play styles; that alone is worth trying the game for. Sometimes the gameplay can be a bit dull and slow, but usually this is not the case, though I wouldn’t compare MGO to something like Call Of Duty 4 in terms of pace or action. This is probably the main reason many people won’t “get” how to play, since it looks seemingly straightforward, when in reality there is some finesse involved.
However, as much as I enjoy everything, I don’t think this is worthy of being a stand-alone game. While it will certainly sell well enough to sustain a community on its own, I really feel that Konami should scrap the entire idea of selling it on its own, and just include it as the multiplayer component of MGS4. Another issue I have is the lack of worldwide play. In the year 2008, do we really still need region-based servers on consoles? There are quite a few other PS3 games that come to mind where I can play Americans and Europeans from Japan and have very few issues with lag in most cases, and while obviously it can get slow or there are disconnect problems at times, usually it works great. In any case, take a look at this game when the first official release comes out with MGS4, as it’s definitely one of the few unique online multiplayer titles coming out for the PS3 this year.