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Metal Gear Online Review – The Phantom Matchmaking

Metal Gear Online is a game that doesn’t need to exist. Considering the length and quality of the outstanding Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, including a whole online version with the game seems like a fantastic bonus. After exhausting the single player exploits of Big Boss, there’s no question that you’ve already had your value for money, but Metal Gear Online provides an additional reason for players to return.

While many single-player-focused games feature unnecessary online modes, MGO is a whole experience in its own right, but somehow feels unnecessary for completely different reasons. Like a sandwich toaster, you’ll probably never use it after the novelty wears off, but it’s nice to know you have it.

The saddest element is that this apathy comes through no fault of the core mechanics of the game. For the most part, MGO plays exactly like The Phantom Pain in that CQC, taking cover and diving all play out in the same fashion. Once you’ve mastered the controls of the single player, you’ll find that these skills transfer over to the multiplayer, including the use of fultons. Attaching your online opponents to balloons and watching them sail off into the sunset is just as much fun as it is in the main game.

Kojima Productions presents, a remake of Pixar's Up.
Kojima Productions presents, a remake of Pixar’s Up.

The available maps in MGO are fairly-sized and detailed, supporting larger teams of around 8 per side. The Jade Forest is a personal highlight due to the different elevations of the terrain, plus the lush jungle setting that frames the edge of the arena. Most of the maps contain choke points where firefights will often break out, but these can often be avoided by climbing through windows or onto ledges to avoid detection. Using the terrain lends itself to stealthy play, meaning that players can hide in buildings, around corners or on rooftops to get the drop on their foes. In practice however, these instances are few and far between.

Before you get into a match, you will be given the choice of three different character classes; Scout, Enforcer or Infiltrator. Oddly enough, once you make your choice you cannot change this later, meaning that you really need to choose the option that suits your playstyle. Scout is recommended for new players as it seems to be the most balanced. Enforcer is effectively the heavy class, and the Infiltrator is basically the light, stealthy option. If you want to change your class, you’ll have to create an entirely new character. The magnificent face you sculpted in the hospital scene in the main game carries over and becomes your online avatar from this point, but don’t worry, as you can always hide your face with a balaclava if you’re regretting that furrowed brow or beaky conk.

The customisation doesn’t stop there. You have the ability to change your load outs, similarly to equipping yourself for a sortie in the main game. Many of the obtainable items from the single player can be used here, so it is a welcome sight to see people sliding towards their enemies inside cardboard boxes. You can customise your loadouts to include these items, but this ability is reserved for those level 4 and over. This seems slightly strange, and means that you’ll need a good couple of hours under your belt before this choice becomes available. Still, the option is nice to have once you’re allowed to use it.

There are three main match types available; Bounty Hunter; Comm Control and Cloak And Dagger. These translate to Team Deathmatch, Domination and Capture The Flag respectively. Bounty Hunter is probably the best and simplest of these modes in that running around and shooting people is a viable strategy. Each team has a certain number of respawns, and once this number is depleted, your team loses. The twist is that you can fulton enemies to earn another respawn for your team, meaning that a skilled team can replenish their respawns, and introduces a risk/reward element to any game.

Kills are good enough, but they ain't fultons!
Kills are good enough, but they ain’t fultons!

Comm Control has you working as a team to control certain parts of the map, but often devolves into mindless shootouts that don’t play to the strengths of the game. Cloak And Dagger can be hit and miss in that you are forced to play stealthily to steal packages from the opposing team. The problem with this is that the attackers are automatically invisible until they get shot, making it extremely difficult for defenders to find their opponents, especially on a night map. While sneaking is a major aspect of this mode, the game artificially creates stealth aspects for the attackers by making them invisible through stealth camouflage. Of course, this probably wouldn’t work any other way as the same stealth mechanics of the main game could never apply to an online match with human opponents. In the main game, sitting 5ft away from a solider in tall grass works fine, but would result in instant death against a living person with eyes and cognitive abilities.

Regardless of your match preference, joining a game can prove to be an annoyance. At the time of writing, matchmaking will often throw up an error, kicking you back to the main screen. While the matchmaking process is remarkably quick, you will find yourself having to restart the process several times before you find a game that you can join. You will probably have more luck browsing for available servers and attempting to join them directly instead. Also, if at any time the host leaves the match, the whole game bombs out and all players are disconnected. If this happens, players can expect to earn no experience or rewards from the match, even if the host quits at the very last second. This is the kind of online experience that shouldn’t be happening in 2015, so you had better hope that your host is on the winning team to avoid rage quits.

If only you could have Ride Of The Valkyries playing at this point.
If only you could have Ride Of The Valkyries playing at this point.

Getting a team together can also prove frustrating. You can easily party up through the standard PS4 interface, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will all end up on the same team. In fact, more often than not, your party will be split equally across both sides, making it difficult to play together and form any kind of meaningful strategy.

When everything comes together, and you get a match going with all of your reconnaissance cohorts, MGO can be a satisfying experience. While the modes are not that inspired, the general gunplay is as good as any other shooter out there. MGO is certainly not essential, and anyone considering buying MGSV solely for the multiplayer will feel short changed. Buy it for the single player experience instead, but feel free to enjoy this as a palatable bonus.

Nice But Not Essential

Like a flake of chocolate on top of an ice cream sundae, MGO is an added bonus, but little more.