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“Metal Gear Online”: Impressions

I’ve been a big fan of developer Konami’s Metal Gear Solid series for quite some time, so I’m naturally excited about MGS4. Although I’m in it for the single-player campaign, that didn’t stop me from trying out the Metal Gear Online beta.

For those of you that haven’t gotten a chance to pick up a beta key, you lose. The registration deadline has passed. But I’ll outline the experience for you:

When you boot up the game after registering, your first task will be to create a character using a huge variety of customization options. I have yet to see two characters that look alike. Strangely enough, once you create your character you will not be able to customize him further except to add or remove your chosen accessories. After character customization you will choose four skills from a list for your character to specialize in, depending on what type of play style you prefer. You can specialize in handguns, sniper rifles, hand-to-hand combat, trap detection, etc.

I chose to increase my character’s running speed and hand-to-hand expertise in order to bum-rush some poor sap and garrote him into submission. That’s what gets me off.

Anyway, MGS veterans will notice some significant changes in the control scheme. Moving from third-person to first-person view has never been as simple as it is in MGO – while you are aiming you simply tap triangle if you wish to enter first-person. In addition to the streamlined controls, your character has some neat new moves. If you go prone and tap triangle your character will flip on his back. Hold triangle while he is on his back or on his belly and he will play dead. It’s pretty damn fun to ambush some noobs using that technique.

One thing that I don’t understand is the cover system. It’s almost entirely useless. Popping around corners is sluggish and it’s much more difficult to aim. Then again, it IS only the beta.

In addition to these new quirks, players are able to use some of same techniques you’d find in Solid Snake’s classic playbook. Want to hide in a box? Go ahead – you start with one at the beginning of each match. In fact, you can even hide in an oil drum if you find one. You can also choose which weapons and gadgets you want at the beginning of each match, which includes assault rifles, machine guns, handguns, sniper rifles, a riot shield and a plethora of traps (including everyone’s favorite: the pornographic magazine).

MGO beta features two maps (Blood Bath and Groznyj Grad) and four different game modes (deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture and bases). The game modes are pretty much self-explanatory. However, I must admit that I was disappointed to find that none of the game modes encourage stealth play. Everyone pretty much runs around like Gila monsters on PCP trying to tear each other’s faces off.

I have no right to judge a game in its beta stage, but I’m going to anyway. Things are looking good so far, but Konami needs to be sure to add some stealth action into the online experience. Otherwise MGO will be at risk of remaining quite bland.

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