Really, if there’s one thing that’s burned into our cerebral cortex after hours spent in front of Metal Gear Online, it’s the harrowing sound of a faceless private military soldier dying a grizzly, agonising death howling through four different sets of speakers, with the nanosecond’s lag between each set ensuring an eerie echo.
What makes it even worse (but really even better) is the sound of the Metal Gear soldier’s death being chucklesomely subverted - by a quacking rubber duckie. The thing to remember is that despite the screens, which depict the Metal Gear world in drab, oppressive, industrial tones, there’s an underlying current of pure fun coursing through the game - and it only takes a couple of seconds’ play to tap into it. The quacking duck, and its cute MGS3 frog companion, are the most obvious indicators. The very core of the game messes with your mind: War is grim, war is a right giggle. Shooting people in the face is a symptom of man’s primal self-preservation instincts, shooting people in the face is retribution for being called a nasty name earlier.
Metal Gear Online won’t be breaking any necks. It’ll be encouraging you to take it nice and slow thanks to some deceptively clever level design and Kojima humour - not to mention the classic ‘stooped jog’ associated with Metal Gear NPCs. There is slaughterhouse action, and plenty of it - as the echoes of garbled screams testify - but there’s also lots of scope for outflanking, pincer movements and good old sniping.
There are no character classes as such, you just refine your soldier somewhat and then get on with the business of laying waste to the competition as efficiently as possible, using teamwork and MGS gadgets to gain an advantage. The first map we played was set in a small section of Grozny Grad where a three-on-three Capture the Flag-style of game was on offer, featuring the aforementioned bath toys. The duck and the frog were hidden somewhere in the shelled-out buildings and corrugated iron walkways, and it was our job as Team Blue to get them both back to our holding area before the Reds. Having chosen Claymores as our third choice of weapon, behind an M16 assault rifle and a tranquilising handgun, we left the other Blues to locate the targets while we went straight for Team Red’s holding area - marked on the map along with the duck and the frog - to set down anti-personnel mines. Then it was a case of lying in wait as two enemy soldiers returned to their holding area, all smug, to be greeted by a loud bang, leaving us to guffaw and return them to our base.