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tgs 2015

The Surprising Ambition Of Metal Gear Online

by Matt Miller on Sep 17, 2015 at 04:57 AM

Metal Gear Online has been something of a mystery for some time, so the opportunity to play a few rounds of the competitive experience at TGS earlier today was both exciting and revealing. The free add-on to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is set to release on consoles on October 6th, with a PC release next year, and its unusual and intriguing gameplay loop offers something many competitive online shooters lack – meaningful gameplay choice.

The new Metal Gear Online has at least three revealed game modes. Comm Control offers a twist on traditional domination play, in which two teams fight to control several zones around the map. Unlike traditional domination modes, each team has a separate objective. Attackers aim to complete a hack before the time limit ends, while defenders aim to slow down the hack.

Cloak and Dagger mode is modeled closely on the old Team Sneak mode from the previous online Metal Gear, in which one team is aiming to infiltrate using sneak techniques, and the other side has lethal armaments to hold them off.

Finally, Bounty Hunter mode has an interesting system of scoring, in which kills on enemy players build up a bounty on your head, making you both more valuable to kill, and easier to find on the mini-map. Players can target high bounty enemies, knock them out, and then use the Fulton balloon to lift them away for big points.

No matter your mode, up to 16 players can go head-to-head in either matchmade or custom matches. All three modes play out in two rounds – if the mode includes attackers and defenders, each team gets to take on each role a single time. If your team wins two rounds, it’s a clear victory. If each team wins one round, then final victory is determined by a range of other score factors within the game, such as kills and extractions by individual players. 

For the TGS gameplay session, Konami sent us headlong into matches of Bounty Hunter, a mode that best illustrates Metal Gear Online’s potential. Assault-oriented players can do a lot of damage, but non-lethal combatants turn the tide of battle by taking out high bounty foes and extracting them via balloon. The dynamic is fun and varied, and encourages players to try out different approaches to play with each new match.

The large, complex maps further encourage choice and exploration, offering numerous hiding spots, raised vertical sniping points, and ample cover-to-cover opportunities for assault squads moving in unison. Walker mechs pepper the environment, offering a high-impact way to breach enemy positions. These gatling gun-powered walkers can devastate exposed targets, and are well protected in the front, but if an enemy gets behind, he can pull you right out.

The character you created in MGS V carries over into Metal Gear Online, and offers a sense of continuity between single-player and multiplayer. You choose between three classes. The infiltrator class is fast, with low armor, and is good at staying hidden. Scouts excel at long range attacks and support, by marking enemy targets for fellow team members. Finally, enforcers act as a heavy class, with a focus on demolitions. In addition to your created characters, random players in the match occasionally also get to play as team leaders Ocelot and Snake, each of whom come equipped with some cool powers. Ocelot can bounce weapons off walls to hit targets behind cover, while Snake gets his rocket-powered arm.

With only a couple of matches under my belt in a single mode, it’s hard to make concrete judgments about the long-term viability of Metal Gear Online. However, what I did play revealed an online competition decidedly different from the standard fare, with an interesting focus on asymmetrical play, team cooperation, and a variety of viable play styles. Perhaps most importantly, Metal Gear Online feels like a natural extension of classic Metal Gear gameplay, and coming as it will several weeks after the launch of the single-player campaign, it may pull in players at just the right time as they finish up the story and are hungry for more.