Metal Gear Online Preview
The most popular online games are usually FPSs, but that doesn't mean other genres can't be a blast when experienced multiplayer over the Internet. For the first time, stealth/action fans got a chance to head online with Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, which proved to be a huge draw...and in retrospect, it was no real surprise. A bit of patience, a lot of determination, and plenty of ingenuity was all you needed, and you'd be primed for a singular style of entertainment. Konami recently shut down the MGS 3 servers, but with the advent of Konami's 20th Metal Gear celebration, they announced Metal Gear Online. It builds on the option from MGS 3 by offering 16-player support along with a major focus on team mechanics, so take heart: Metal Gear is going back online!
Kojima Productions was good enough to display a demo of the new game, and it showed a 6-on-6 match between members of the development team. Now, the core gameplay of Metal Gear Solid has always centered squarely on hiding, sneaking, and in general, becoming the epitome of a killer ghost. And despite the team-based gameplay shown in the demo, that classic format remains a cornerstone of the experience; running and gunning didn't appear to be advisable. Thankfully, just because it went online, Kojima Productions didn't opt to increase the hectic action simply to satisfy certain Internet "twitch gamers." No, they're not about to compromise the beloved MGS tradition of stealth, so die-hard fans don't have to worry. This doesn't mean Online will be recycled, though; Konami has several surprises for us!
In the MGS 4 E3 2007 trailer, you hear talk about nanotechnology and how nanomachines injected into soldiers plays a major role in the plot of the game. This concept is on display in MGO, which coincidentally gives you a sort of "link" between you and your teammates. Not only will you know exactly where they are, but you'll also be able to view their current physical condition, which sounds like an immensely significant feature. They call this system "SOP," although we're not sure what that stands for just yet, and it's a complete and fully realized gameplay option that goes full circle. We say "full circle" because your enemies will have the same technology, and if you can incapacitate a foe and successfully hack into that technology, you can read their team condition in addition to your own. How great is that? Just think of the strategic possibilities something like this affords...
Of course, you still have the traditional stealth options, many of which were initially pioneered by this very franchise. You can hide in boxes, distract guards with a variety of techniques, and use close quarter combat techniques if things have to get messy. There is one new enhancement we heard about, and that's the ability to pause when climbing a ladder, giving you the option to execute a grenade lob (or something else) before finishing your climb. Other than that, success will rely on your craftiness in the shadows as well as your ability to work well in a team environment. We're wondering how many different maps will be available in MGO, though, primarily because we can see how one team could gain a tremendous advantage once they've memorized a particular layout. Hopefully, we'll see a nice assortment of balance throughout, because its essential that any online match be 100% equal...victory should be decided entirely by the players.
We're also hoping to hear about a public beta for the game in the U.S.; one has already been confirmed for Japan. Given the popularity of the series in just about every region around the world, we would hope Konami hasn't forgotten their friends over here in the good ol' U.S. of A. Remember, they've already experimented - and succeeded - with the online element from MGS 3, so the foundation is solidly in place. All they're really doing with MGO is providing an upgrade, and with the multiple gameplay elements (some established, some new), it should be an even more engrossing experience. Include the fact they're using the MGS 4 engine, and you've got no excuse to pass on this one when it finally releases. Just imagine- it looks like MGS 4 and plays like Subsistence online, only with more enhancements and additions. Is it just us, or does that sound crazy good?
We expect to hear more about Metal Gear Online in September at the Tokyo Game Show, and maybe even another quick glimpse at next month's Game Developers Conference. What we'll be looking for is a possible release date - none has been set; it's just a big TBA for all territories - and more specific details concerning the online battles. Stay tuned for all of that, because we're not about to skimp on the info for something as huge as Metal Gear!
7/25/2007 Ben Dutka