First Exams
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Metal Gear Online – First Impressions (PS3)

Metal Gear Online was previously a packaged feature in the Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistance re-release, and was also featured in the PSP title Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. I guess if it works and works well, it’s a no brainer to use it again! Hence, Metal Gear Online will be featured in Metal Gear Solid 4 as well. Konami recently released a beta of their upcoming multiplayer mode. Its registration process is arguably one of the most harassing things gamers have had to put up with in recent memory.

When I first embarked on downloading the beta, I was a little confused. I had pre-ordered MGS4 so I received my pre-order bonus code, which I input on April 17th. I had little issue getting it downloaded and installing, but the process was understandably slow. Fans across the world were already attempting to thwart my mission of online domination. Well it was either them or the Patriots! To my surprise, after installation it asked me to download an update. The game wasn’t going to be available for 4 days and it wanted me to update already! That was new to me. I complied. Using the P2P method I finished the download in a little under 2hrs.

Just for kicks I tried to log on – it alerted me that to play I would need a Konami ID and a Game ID. Easy enough (or so I thought). I soon realized that the site was getting hammered. It was as if the entire world was trying to sign onto a single website. Rather than sit there and keep clicking register in futility, I used the iMacro addon for Firefox to do the dirty work. After a while, I had my IDs, and after clicking the link in my registration email 30 times, I was finished.

I had won the battle, but not the war. The beta did not go live on April 21st as scheduled. A crippling blow to loyal fans who had stayed up night after night in a froth filled daze of hype. By this point I wasn’t sure if this was a beta test or viral marketing for Pyscho Mantis’ torture techniques. After 4 days, the beta went live on April 25th. My time had come. After customizing my online character, LancerChameleon (name derived from the Metal Gear name generator no doubt), I took the fight to Blood Bath. After being owned in only one match, I stepped out to do that training missions the game suggested. Ok, right back to it.

I found that I got used to the controls pretty quickly, but my biggest complaint was that the actions, attack and grab, felt stiff. If you were to miss your target, your animation would continue until a split second later when you could reposition yourself. But by that time your opponent could easily turn around and blast you. I suppose this was just further incentive for you to play stealthy. Why risk putting your neck out if you weren’t sure you had the jump on a foe?

I found myself switching between Free Aim and Lock On some of the time, but I really did not like lock on. Being used to playing MGS1, I kept hitting the square button…Finally learned not to do that, and things became a lot easier. Drebin Points also added a more Counter Strike sense of reward system to the game. I did hate the fact that after spending 10,000 pts on customization, you could walk out and get picked off by a sniper and lose all that hard work. I did enjoy when I was the sniper though. So I guess I’m just selfish.

I saw a number of people trying to play MGO like it was GRAW, or Lost Planet, or Gears of War even. These were the people that made up the majority of my kills. My favorite part of sneaking around with pistol in had was finding a group of enemy players, grabbing the guy closest to me, and using him as a human shield while I shot his friends in the head. Such satisfaction. Since all of us were new, situations like this were confusing. They would simply stare at me, not sure if they should start to fire or run away.

After a while, I started playing Base missions on Gronznyj Grad. Taking to the high point of the map, I had an easy time picking off guys as they ran towards the “Man Cannon.” My funniest kill on the map was when I was on the cannon, and as I launched onto a building, an enemy soldier was crouch looking in the opposite direction. I landed on him, caught my breath, and then killed him.

And so did my streak of good luck end. With the release of Midtown Maelstrom, I found myself being pushed to the brink. I have to admit, I took a reprieve a couple of days during the initial launch of the beta. When I returned, the players skill had jumped exponentially. No longer could I sneak behind enemy soldiers. They were too good. No longer could I kill them with a Drebin Points pimped out M4 Custom, they always aimed for my head. I wasn’t sure if these players were using skills of levels I had not achieved, or if they had just played for far longer. Either way, something was out of balance.

There were moments when all I could say was “WTF?” as my character froze in place, jolted by electricity and fell to the ground, only to revive almost an entire 2 mins later. Rotating the left thumbstick had no effect. I had to wait it out. It was then that I realized there was something speeding across the ground. Something nearly invisible. As I raced to avoid it, thats when I saw him.

A moving barrel, behind a car so inconspicuously. He threw it off, and charged. Throwing me to the dirt, I stood confused and frightened. Then I realized who had just attacked me. Solid Snake. It was over before I knew what happened. I was respawning with my team. The clock wound down. We would win the match, but I was so confused I didn’t bother to move around the map after the menu popped up.

It is fair to say that I am an MGO n00b. I have accepted that. I had no idea what was going on near the end. Am looking forward to checking out the final version of MGO, if only for some more detail playing tips. It’s very likely that my difficulty with the game was due to inexperience. But the game did have some really big flaws that would deter would be players. Some of the most jarring nuances I’ve noticed in the game may be up to the stylized nature of it. Kojima has a sense of humor that I’ll never understand.

In conclusion, I think the strengths are mostly in the familiarity. It’ll be pretty easy for MGS fans to pick up and play, hard to master though. The environments are impressive. I don’t care what anyone says, the game has a good look to it. Character models are pretty unique and detailed, I look forward to the final game’s customization.

Players looking for a solid multiplayer shooter will most likely be turned away by the aiming and weak bullet damage. You really have to score a headshot for it to work out in your favor. The cover system is useless. It actually gets in the way more than anything. The death screams are really excessive. Really. Your character walks so slow, you think he may have already broken his legs in a previous fight.

I really have mixed feelings on this overall. The game really asks you to change your play style so much that you might not even want to play anymore. On the other hand, despite dying repeatedly, I would stay in the game and keep trying till I got some kills. So something must have won me over in it. I’ll definitely check it out in the main game, but even though the beta is still going on at the time of my writing this, the beta is over for me.