Metal Gear Online Beta Impressions

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Okay, so I’ve been hopelessly addicted to the Metal Gear Online beta since it began a little over a week ago, but now that I’m cutting back my play time some, as to not play it to death and possibly burn out on it before the full game goes live with MGS4, I thought I’d provide impressions of my experience up to now.

One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that Metal Gear Online, in a word, rocks! The initial setup is kinda a pain in the ass, what with the clumsy Konami ID registration process requiring you to make numerous log-ins just to be able to get into the game and a pair of patches that need downloading (the first of which takes forever), but once all that crap is out of the way it’s smooth sailing.

The beta allows the creation of one avatar, which can be outfitted and personalized rather substantially with a slew of head, upper and lower body, chest, waist, hands, feet and accessory gear. Once a character is set, though, there’s no going back to change wardrobe, which is a bit lame and hopefully not a restriction that’ll be in the full game. It’d be nice if there were unlockable pieces of gear that came as rewards for certain performance milestones, or something along those lines. Similarly to the Call of Duty 4 perks system, MGO also offers skills to equip and further customize your character with, such as various weapon masteries, improved lock-on, increased movement speed and so on and so forth, and these level up through extended use and can be switched around as desired in between matches.

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As far as content goes, the MGO beta provides plenty of material to get a clear idea of what the game will have to offer once completed. Included in this early build are three killer maps – Blood Bath, Gronznyj Grad and Midtown Maelstrom – and five play modes, including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture Mission, Base Mission and Sneaking Mission.

All three maps are outstanding too. Blood Bath is like a military training arena offering a close-quarters, claustrophobic environment with plenty of cover and ambush points along with a system of catwalks overhead for sniping and a tunnel system running underground. Midtown Maelstrom is the middle-size map of the bunch, presenting a Middle-Eastern town (just like the setting that’s been shown in all the MGS4 trailers) with lots of back alleys and buildings to sneak through. Then there’s Gronznyj Grad, a large military base with a hangar in the center, sniper towers in the corners and perhaps the oddest feature MGO has to offer: man catapults. They do just what they sound like too. Simply mount the catapult and it flings your solider up in the air, making it easier to get on top of buildings and move across the map in a hurry to take enemies by surprise.

Most of the game modes are self-explanatory, but not the Sneaking Mission. It’s unlike any mode you’ll ever see in an online shooter. In a Sneaking Mission match, one player takes on the role of Snake, equipped with the revolutionary OctoCamo suit, while the remaining players are separated into Red and Blue teams. Snake’s objective in the match is to stealthily steal a certain number of dog tags by holding up players from either team, all the while the Red and Blue teams are fighting themselves while also trying to hunt down and kill Snake more times than each other. There’s more to it than even that too. If more than 11 players are participating, one is put in control of Snake’s robotic sidekick, the Metal Gear MK. II, roaming around zapping enemy combatants to help him out. All this going on creates this multi-faceted war zone that is super intense.

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As for the gameplay, MGO is very much a strategic shooter requiring teamwork, tactical thinking and stealth to get the most out of it. If I were to compare it to another game, I’d say it resembles the SOCOM style of gameplay most, maybe with a dash of Lost Planet thrown in there too, all with the trademark MGS spirit and core functionality. There are a few interesting touches that do make MGO stand out from the crowd of online shooter though. The SOP system, for example, is the backbone of the game’s team-oriented design. It enables teams to link up and be constantly aware of where each individual teammate is on the map and what their current status is.

Another cool feature is the optional Drebin Points system. In matches with Drebin Points turned on, you earn points for each kill, points that can be later turned in (either after you die or if you return to base to resupply manually) for more powerful weaponry and even weapon mods like suppressors, better scopes and that sort of thing. It’s a very rewarding alternate way to play any of the match types.

And last but not least, the gunplay itself is downright brilliant thanks to what has to be the most flexible targeting system ever created. By default, the targeting is a lock-on system that ensures that you’ll hit the enemy, but doesn’t allow for any precision aiming to go for headshots. At the push of the square button, the targeting system changes to a manual over-the-should viewpoint akin to Resident Evil 4, only in this game you can click the right analog stick in to switch the camera back and forth over each shoulder. From there you can then go into a full-on first-person view by hitting triangle. Aim speed in FPS view is slower, but accuracy is at its highest, making it the choice view for the perfect headshot. Switching between each of these different targeting mechanics is vital to becoming a skilled player, and despite how complicated it may sound it’s actually quite fluid and intuitive. It just takes practice.

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Beyond everything discussed, MGO has pretty much everything else you could want in an online shooter. An advancement system whereby you earn experience based on how well you play, unlockable titles/icons, clans, leaderboards, personal stat-tracking, friends lists, quick and easy matchmaking, playable tutorials and a mail system. It’s also a gorgeous game with excellent audio — as expected from any MGS title — and despite performance worries after the initial delay, the game runs as smoothly as can be. I haven’t experienced even a second of lag during actual play and only been disconnected a few times. That’s pretty remarkable for a beta and a good sign that the game will run stable at launch.

All told, Metal Gear Online is already a well-crafted, finely-tuned online experience, and it’s got the unique touches to distinguish it from most any other online shooter on the market. It could easily hold up as a standalone product, no doubt about it, so the fact that it’ll be included free with MGS4 only makes it all the more impressive. June 12th cannot come soon enough…

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!