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As I began to play the new Metal Gear Online the other day, I found myself frustrated. I began to write down some things that have changed since Subsistence and that are bugging me. As I played more I found myself adapting and finding options to better handle the frustrating situations, but there are a few things that I think bear discussion.

Lock-on vs. Over-the-shoulder

Rarely in Subsistence online did I use the two first person views to aim my weapons. The really good players were excellent at this, while I tended to favor taking people by surprise and utilizing the lock-on to get in that first shot and keep them from returning fire.

This is no longer possible in MGO. Auto aim has been weakened tremendously when using assault rifles, which is essentially the most versatile weapon class available to you. No longer does stealth pay off as reliably when you sneak up on someone from medium distance or the like.

Unless you’re extremely close and can use CQC, you must rely on the over-the-shoulder (OTS) aim to take down enemies. If you want to do so quickly and cleanly, getting that headshot on a moving opponent with their back to you can be frustrating. More often than not I would end up in my targets crosshairs after giving away my position.

Shooting skills are rewarded more now than before, where the playing field was kind of level thanks to the lock-on. If you had trouble aiming with the controller like in an FPS you could still have success.

This also makes the outcome of even lopsided encounters—say, you and a teammate against one guy—far from certain. Your teammate may get in the way, causing your weapon to lock; the other guy may simply headshot both of you with a single bullet; or mow you down while you’re trying to pick a shot. High level weapon skills make this worse as well.

More time with the handguns and submachine guns, both of which possess far better lock-on range, is needed, but I have doubts about how effective they might be against rifle users with heavy trigger fingers (something higher weapon skills lets you get away with). Switching weapons and auto aim on and off constantly is quite cumbersome. I feel compelled to have my handgun in the second slot instead of the knife, which makes me less efficient with CQC too.

While the OTS view is an excellent addition, I dislike seeing MGO turn in to a more standard shooter. It won’t appeal to that crowd for other reasons and it’s not playing to Metal Gear’s unique strengths. While I appreciate the OTS at longer ranges, close range has been turning in to a frustrating mess for me if I can’t land a grab.

Not being able to take out a sitting duck right in front of you half the time because they’re just running around in circles is horrible.

Versatile Sniper Rifles

In Subsistence, if you chose to equip a sniper rifle you had to really play the game differently—like using traps, and having a spotter or backup to assist you. That is no longer the case and it seems like the checks and balance of having a weapon very accurate and deadly at long range (but not so mobile) is gone.

I mentioned that the assault rifles are the most versatile weapon class. Given that they do have some limited auto aim functionality and CQC that may still be true, but sniper rifles look to be giving them a run for their money.

Theoretically being able to fire sniper rifles on the move and from OTS is perfectly fine with me, and it does change things a lot. This is apparent when looking at the M14, which is fully automatic, and the DSR-1, bolt-action but fatal even with a body shot. The SVD is quite effective also.

Time will tell. I enjoy the versatility, but it may make sniper rifles the new assault rifles.

Weapon Skills

The inclusion of skills is not surprising. Games like Call of Duty 4, Battlefield, and others have popularized this incentive to play and ability to customize not only how your character looks but how it plays.

A lot of the skills in MGO are really neat, involving close range fighting abilities and advantages attained through the SOP system. The weapon skills, however, are troubling. The playing field is no longer even and if two people are firing at each other, the person with a level two or level three assault rifle skill has a substantial advantage. In fact, even in close with the disorienting OTS aim, many seem much deadlier with the assault rifles than someone perhaps more fittingly trying to utilizing a short range handgun or SMG, auto aim, or CQC.

It’s up to play style, but I dislike frantically and inaccurately trying to aim OTS at that range with a primary weapon. It’s unreliable and frustrating. Against someone forcing you in to that situation though, you really have no choice but to try to get lucky with a headshot yourself before you go down. If they have a higher weapon skill they’re nearly certain to win just by holding the trigger down.

Most people may not find this an issue once they’ve raised their own weapon skill, but what if you’re interested in utilizing more CQC, SOP effects, or other tactics? You only have four skill points available to you, are you going to feel forced to use three of those just for a primary weapon just so you feel you can compete?

Again, it’s early to make a judgment and overall I like the variety of skills available—I just want to use some of them and not get dead. An even playing field, at least as far as weapon stats go, might end up being preferable.

Squad Character

While MGO allows you to create and customize your soldier, it’s hard to notice those details on the battlefield and everyone ends up looking kind of nondescript and similar. It’s bland and teams can’t really tell each other apart aside from the ubiquitous floating name tags that can be difficult sometimes to pick out in a cluster.

I loved the character and style that each of the GRU, KGB and Spetznaz squads had in Subsistence and their leaders. You could always identify them and their leading scorer. Those were really fun and unusual elements, bringing that unique Metal Gear character online. You had the option to turn leaders off if their special skills weren’t welcome, but no matter what your team had a uniform character.

There’s been mention of new characters among many other things in store for the upcoming expansions. Perhaps we’ll see leaders, special characters and new uniforms added. I hope so, but unless you’re playing with your clan or an entire squad of friends no one will really be coordinated. Still, it would be welcome.

A small thing, but I really miss it.

Keep an eye out for more on MGO as I continue to play, including some special tactics to deal with those tricky close range confrontations and other situations.