There was a time around halfway through the PS3/Xbox 360/Wii generation when it seemed like every game that was released had to have a multiplayer component. It just did. Think of it like a checkbox that had to be ticked and you weren’t far off. While all of these multiplayer modes weren’t necessarily winners, sometimes some decent gaming sprung from this; in fact, it actually led to some interesting takes on multiplayer gameplay, like Assassin’s Creed’s stealth-based deathmatches.
Even Metal Gear get some multiplayer attention; Metal Gear Online, which got its start with Metal Gear Solid 3 on PS2, grew in popularity thanks to releasing with Metal Gear Solid 4 on PS3. Today we’re talking about the modern iteration of Metal Gear Online, released shortly after the launch of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
The Metal Gear Online we’re discussing today is basically the multiplayer component of Metal Gear Solid V. If you’ve got the latter, you’ve got the former, and I believe that while this is a standalone game, if you’re playing on Steam (at least) you need MGSV to play MGO. We’re talking about the PC version today, so just proceed under the assumption that you’ll need to buy the full Metal Gear Solid V if you want to get in on the action. You may or may not actually want to get in on this, honestly, and we’ll get into why later.
When Metal Gear Online works, it’s actually kind of cool! You choose from one of three classes – a snipey mans, tanky mans or sneaky mans which you can customize to your liking, including spending real money on microtransaction cosmetics. You’re then pitted against others who have chosen from the same. Game modes are all twists on team deathmatch; Comm Control is your usual control-point capture setup, Bounty Hunter encourages you to capture specific enemy targets in return for earning additional “lives” for your team and Cloak and Dagger is essentially an asymmetrical version of capture the flag where attacks are encouraged to be stealthy and defenders given big, scary guns to shoot them with. Eventually there’s said to be a Survival mode launching as well. All of these modes are tied into a standard shooter leveling system where you’ll gain new gear by playing often and winning matches.
The usual multiplayer team-based shooter caveats show up here, of course. In particular, this game rewards a little more thought than running and gunning, which means that random players tend to be absolutely awful. Bounty Hunter mode is usually a complete disaster as your team simply murders the player you’re trying to capture. Comm Control has your teammates being picked off in droves by snipers and spies. Cloak and Dagger usually goes really well for the defenders because the attackers don’t quite have the brain cells to use stealth correctly. C’est la vie.
That’s not the real issue here, though; that lies in the bizarre choice to use a P2P infrastructure for hosting matches. This has a variety of implications for your play experience. For one, it means that during any given match, one player is hosting all the others. If that player decides to leave for whatever reason, the match restarts and a new host is selected. That’s actually an improvement over MGO’s launch on PS4, which simply ended the match if the host left.
But even if that doesn’t happen, crippling lag infests most matches and makes it difficult to enjoy doing anything. It’s also common to be disconnected from matches entirely, at which point any experience you’ve managed to gain is gone. Don’t worry, though, Konami is hard at work…adding new microtransactions. Hooray.
Honestly, the gameplay in Metal Gear Online, while decent, isn’t enough to make up for the technical issues. I’m completely open to the ideas here, but the implementation has to be done well to keep my interest. At the moment Metal Gear Online just isn’t there yet, even as a straight expansion to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Continued work on improving the core mechanics and squashing the bugs and glitches could theoretically turn it into a must-play, but given Konami’s decreased focus on gaming in general, I wouldn’t count on those improvements anytime soon.