War has changed. It’s not about nations, or ideologies. It’s not even about profit, resources, or ethnicity. It’s an endless series of proxy battles fought by mercenaries and machines. War, and its vast consumption of human life, has become a rational, well-oiled business transaction. War has changed.
But that’s a tale for another time. It is now that I attempt to forget Metal Gear Solid 4’s chilling dialogue and venture into MGS4’s oft-forgotten sibling, Metal Gear Online. Does this title live up to the supreme standards of MGS4? Read on to find out.
Metal Gear Online isn’t the same game as MGS4. It has a separate rating with different descriptors, thus I’m treating it as a standalone product. Just to clarify, the price (or lack thereof) has no bearing on MGO’s score. I’m basing this solely on the game itself.
And what a confusing game it is. To begin, you’re asked to set up a Konami ID via a frustrating, convoluted web application. Once you’ve completed your Konami ID, you must then set up a separate Game ID. I won’t go into specifics, but just think of how Resistance: Fall of Man dealt with the PlayStation Network at launch (ex. non-integrated friend list). Nearly two years later, MGO ups the ante by providing an even worse experience. Funnily enough, the one feature that Fall of Man had right at launch, the clan feature, is also present and operational in MGO.
Once you finish struggling with all the riff-raff of the near-broken log in system, things change for the better. You’re walked through the competent character creation system, though admittedly the limitation of only one free character allowed per console is rather disappointing. All aspects except the name, face and voice of a character are adjustable though, so it’s unbeknownst to me why anyone would spring for an additional one, especially when it adds nothing to the gameplay of the title.
Speaking of gameplay, MGO translates most elements of MGS4 to the online arena quite well. Shooting, stealth, and, unless you’re playing Deathmatch, teamwork are all essential aspects that must be integrated into your play style in order to succeed. The one gripe I have with the overall system is the implementation of CQC. Although masters may be able to make use of it, close quarters combat in MGO just isn’t as effective as it is in MGS4. Shooting, whether it’s stealthy sniping or rambunctious run and gunning, is the preferred method of death dealing. Additionally, the “Drebin Points” system works brilliantly, offering a plethora of guns, add-ons, grenades and more as rewards for good play.
And if you can’t shoot? In that case you’re most likely controlling the robotic Metal Gear MK II during a Sneaking Mission (…or your controller is broken). Sneaking Mission is MGO’s stab at uniqueness, with its captivating three-sided battles. Snake, sometimes assisted by the electrifying MK II, must knock out other combatants and steal their dog tags. Meanwhile, a red and blue team clash whilst both attempt to decimate the octo-cam equipped Snake. While the tides seem a bit stacked against Snake, the mode stands out amidst the generic Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Base Capture and Rescue Mission (Capture the Flag).
The “starter pack” contained on the Metal Gear Solid 4 disc does lack an appropriate amount of maps, but that’s just it; it’s a starter pack. More will be available for download — though surely at a price — in the future. As for now, the maps are acceptable. While they look brilliant (as do the character models and essentially everything else within the game), no area particularly screams “amazing layout.” Don’t get me wrong, they play just fine, but it would have been nice to see a bit more Metal Gear flair in them.
For those that partook in the pre-release beta and are worried about game pacing, the average running speed has been increased, promoting more diverse conflicts. Still though, know that MGO is far slower than what you’re likely accustomed to. With scrolling weapon menus and an emphasis on stealth (plus a painfully slow cover system that should be avoided at all costs), your Call of Duty 4 skills won’t translate to MGO.
So, should you buy Metal Gear Online? Well, you won’t have to. You’ve already bought MGS4 (and if you haven’t, our review will convince you to), so you’ve got this game whether you like it or not. Here’s the better question – should you spend your valuable time playing it? Although it has some regrettable issues, the execution of Metal Gear gameplay in an online setting makes for an enjoyable experience that is, at the very least, worth sinking a few hours into.