Army man solid

If it wasn’t abundantly clear from the article I wrote about it, I have a few issues with Metal Gear Solid 4. (And for the hundredth time, no, it wasn’t an awful game. It was merely disappointing.) No aspect of that game is safe from my venomous spite, not even the online component, which — while not the biggest disappointment the game had to offer — probably hurt me the most.

I should start out by saying that I played the original MGO — Metal Gear Online, for the uninitiated — that came packaged with Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence a lot. Like, I (along with our pal Tomm “I so damn much. I mean, it was Metal freakin’ Gear. But online! With your buddies! And with MGS4, the online component was supposed to be a big focus right out of the box, offering more weapons, more stats, more abilities, more clans, more downloadable maps, more character customization, and more players! Great, right?

[[image: ar_100308_mgo_01.jpg:Nanomachines!?:center:0]]
Well…no, not exactly. I played the new one for maybe a month, and it just didn’t click. I’ve given it a lot of thought, but I’m still not 100% sure why a more robust and refined version wasn’t as good. I have a few suspicions, though.

First of all, the way the game looks didn’t do it any favors. MGS4 — including the MGO bits — has fantastic graphics, but when you sub out Snake for a bunch of soldiers in Call of Duty 4-style outfits, it loses something. Sure, you can be Snake (or Metal Gear Mk. II) sometimes, but it wasn’t often enough to get rid of that bland look. The problem with the series’ ultra-realistic style is that the soldiers look like regular ol’ army guys, whereas in MGS3 they looked like distinct Genome Soldiers (which was very “Metal Gear” and made me happy).

In fact, not being “Metal Gear” enough is probably the best way to sum up my complaints. I don’t enjoy most online shooters, and I think this game was too similar to those other (for me) uninteresting offerings. Yes, technically you can still roll into your opponents, still use CQC to grab ‘em, still hide inside cardboard boxes and barrels and use riot shields. The problem is that most players don’t do these things, and the way to win boils down, unfortunately, to using the most conventional guns and not messing around. Unlike an NPC patrolling an area, players are sporadic, so normal stealth tactics are out. Rolling is ineffectual now, and it’s pretty hard to use that drum can to knock guys over because, again, they’re all over the place. And unlike the last MGO, the cardboard box seems to offer far fewer advantages, other than the occasional hiding spot — often rendered ineffective with certain abilities of the SOP system, anyway.

[[image: ar_100308_mgo_02.jpg:What was that noise?:center:0]]
Yes, the biggest problem is that the absurdity of Metal Gear is now absent from Metal Gear Online, and that’s what makes the series so easy to love. For all the hard action and drama, there are cardboard boxes, exclamation marks, and crazy stunts that keep things fun. The real problem with MGS4’s online component, I think, is that it provides a look at how the zany Metal Gear quirks would be received in an actual war zone: everyone’s busy being a hardened, grim soldier, bent on reaching some objective or other before the other guys do, and you’re the guy being muted by everyone else because you won’t shut up about the damn man-sized barrel you found.

8 thoughts on “Army man solid

  1. I played the MGS4 MGO during the beta, and the Konami ID / Game ID / Playstation ID / Blood Type sign-up process was so onerous and off-putting that I decided to forego the retail game. The fact that I had bad experiences in the beta and all the FUD online about the laggy experience even in the final build also kept me away.

  2. See… I actually don’t mind that everyone else runs around gung ho. It makes the stealth aspects that much easier to pull off… it may not be the way to win, but it’s fun. Especially when you start irritating those kinds of people. I witnessed someone bitching at my roommate and calling him a “camping noob” today because he kept nailing people with claymores and C4 then running up and stabbing them before they could get up.

  3. I played the MGS3 online component quite a bit. That said, my issue with the MGS4 online is that there are practically NO advances in gameplay since MGS3. Aside from a few new gadgets and a bigger arsenal of guns, the things plays exactly like the MGS3 version. It’s not a particularly strong 3rd person shooter, and because it gives you the option, it’s that a strong 1st person shooter either.

  4. Good observations…how would you propose they get that fun absurdity back in the game? What made MGS3 online so good and MGO so…meh?

  5. I think the “fun” from MGS3Online is still in MGO. Laying magazines in a small alley and then preying on the unintentional perverts is still a joy. Heck, MGO even has the best stage from MG3Online! MGO is “meh” because, since MGS3Online, online shooters have advanced, and MGO completely ignores them and just serves us the same ‘ol same ‘ol.

    It’s the same reason why accolades were showered upon Katamari Damacy and Beautiful Katamari got the cold-shoulder.

  6. If it makes you feel any better, I used the barrel to launch an enemy off the top of a building earlier today as soon as he climbed up the ladder.

  7. As I said, I think it isn’t that you can’t have the absurdity still, it’s that there’s much less of a focus on it in favor of being a serious army man. It just didn’t feel right to me, and I’m not sure how they could have fixed it.

    Brandon – a little, yeah.

  8. weird… i never liked the online metal gear… just seemed clunky (?) i did play the beta… but didn’t really have fun… i have had mgs4 since launch, and have yet to go online in the retail mgo… just doesn’t do it for me.

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