Review: Metal Gear Online (PS4)

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If you thought strapping a Fulton balloon to an S-Rank soldier was satisfying then wait till you try it on an enemy player. Seeing them soar upwards with an affirmative chime is almost meditative. Metal Gear Online, with all of its quirky charm, is pretty good.

This free multiplayer component to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain went live for consoles last week (PC owners will have to wait until January 2016). And while you don’t have to complete the single-player beforehand I highly recommend doing so anyway, including an FOB infiltration or two, just to get extremely familiar with the controls.

Metal Gear Online takes everything we’ve learned from the campaign, tosses it into a blender and turns it up to 11. You’ll have to learn new tricks as the old ones don’t cut it anymore; enemies won’t be lured away by a man prone in the dirt, and nobody’s going to fall for a suspicious cardboard box.

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Well, most of the time.

I was lucky enough to rack up a high bounty on my head once. Getting captured would turn the battle against my favor, and I knew someone wanted me alive judging by the tranquilizer shots. In single-player I would have waited to CQC the entire patrol, but online that will just make me a standing target. Instead I planted a Fulton cannon which fired as soon as I turned my back on it, and then dived down a long flight of stairs in my trusty box, barreling right into two enemies for a quick getaway.

I could have stayed and fought but MGO is so much more rewarding when you indulge in its cat-and-mouse nature. And for every amazing moment I’ve pulled off on someone else, I’ve seen an equal share of attempts on myself too. I ran into a player that actually wrestled my entire team into the ground, while being the sole survivor on his.

To give some context, there are three game modes available: Bounty Hunter, Cloak and Dagger, and Comm Control. The first is a modified team deathmatch where players who scored kills have a corresponding bounty value attached. Should they get Fultoned, the enemy team replenishes their respawn tickets by said value. It’s an exciting back-and-forth exchange that can lead to hilarious CQC pile-ups, though not all players will dance along – it’s far easier to just shoot somebody.

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Cloak and Dagger is a personal favorite. It’s an asymmetrical mode where one team, armed with non-lethal weapons and stealth suits, must capture and return a data disc, while the defenders are outfitted as usual. It kind of simulates how the guards in MGS V must feel, just more chaotic. The stealth cloaking momentarily lifts whenever one of the attackers is hurt, so simply running to the goal isn’t as viable as it sounds. Besides, the cloaking silhouette is really obvious when moving.

Unfortunately the last mode is a typical capture-and-control romp with three bases. It works and it’s fun from time to time but, compared to the others doesn’t feel as inspired or entertaining. It’s a shame as I was expecting something befitting of the series – perhaps a hostage rescue scenario, with the prisoner equipped with only CQC and his rescuers coming in quiet or as loud as possible. Plenty of other ideas they could have gone with, honestly.

The games are all peer-to-peer based but I haven’t had much trouble with disconnecting hosts, only two instances out of countless games so far. The latency is fair too as there’s a large pool of Asian players, predominantly Japanese. Interestingly we’re incentivized to use the Automatch feature, seeing as it gives a flat income bonus – 100 GP for winning and 50 for losing – so rooms fill up pretty fast.

What bugs me however is that that I sometimes find myself unable to connect for up to half an hour or more sometimes, forcing me to just leave and try again later. I’m chalking this up to launch network issues which they have since acknowledged and compensated for with in-game currency.

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If you’re wondering about the special characters like Snake and Ocelot then I’m afraid there’s not much to say. It’s completely random who gets to use them, provided the host has the setting enabled in the first place, and they honestly don’t bring all that much to the table. Compared to say Darth Vader in Battlefront, it feels more of a fan novelty than a real game changer.

I find the standard classes sufficiently segregates different playstyles. The game recommends the Scout sniper for beginners but I believe the Enforcer, the standard rifleman with more health, is the better choice for versatility. I’ve taken a liking to the stealth-cloaked Infiltrator since I enjoy sneaking better, though their fragility really turns encounters into a thrill.

At level 37 there’s Ascension, which resets the character back to level 1 in exchange for a class-specific suit upgrade and a bunch of GP. Let’s just say that heavily armored Enforcers with riot shields are a nightmare dealing with head-on.

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The first thing I’d ask anyone new to do is to hop into the options menu – press and hold the button, otherwise you”ll just open up the party screen – and increase the camera speed. The free roaming area that serves as your personal lobby is a great for testing modifications made to your controls or loadout, and if the rumor mill is true it’s actually a map from the scrapped Mission #51.

Metal Gear Online may be incredibly addictive but it won’t be for everyone, not even Metal Gear fans should they prefer purist stealth runs or harassing the AI. The purchasing decision should instead lie with MGS V: The Phantom Pain itself, and even then it’s a strong recommendation, especially for newcomers. Now go show them how it’s done.

Verdict: ★★★★☆

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Ade Putra

Ade thinks there's nothing quite like a good game and a snug headcrab. He grew up with HIDEO KOJIMA's Metal Gear Solid, lives for RPGs, and is waiting for light guns to make their comeback.