The core gameplay here will be quite familiar to Subsistence players, as you still run around and shoot in third-person much like in the single-player MGS games. Gone is the stilted, immobile first-person aiming mode, though. In fact, the controls and basic shooting mechanics are lifted right out of Metal Gear Solid 4, the gameplay improvements of which we detailed in our hands-on report yesterday. So here you'll use the triangle button to perform a lot of environmental interactions, like vaulting over obstacles and backing up against flat surfaces to take cover.
More importantly, you've got the new shooting controls in here as well. The auto-aim that we found a little easy and unnecessary against MGS4's AI opponents seemed much more useful in this multiplayer setting, since you can use it to shoot at other players while you're fleeing from them or trying to dodge their shots. Like in MGS4, you'll hold L1 to lock your aim to the enemy most directly in your line of sight, then you can fire at them at will while moving. Also like in MGS4, you can turn the auto-aim off and use the L1 button to go to a Gears of War-esque over-the-shoulder aiming view for precision shots. This makes you move more slowly, so you'll have to use it somewhat sparingly to avoid getting blasted by other opponents due to your sluggishness.
We found the aiming mode difficult to use in fast firefights because it currently seems to snap to the direction your character is facing, rather than the direction the camera is pointing. It's disorienting when your guy is facing to the left but your camera is centered on the enemy pursuing you, and you hit L1 only to find yourself aiming at a dead end while your enemy is suddenly to the right of your perspective. Hopefully the developers will change this behavior to make the aiming more intuitive before the game releases in the future.
Just prior to the match, we were able to choose a primary weapon from a group that included a couple of rifles, a shotgun, and a submachine gun; a GSR pistol or silenced pistol; and a number of tertiary items including claymore explosives and various types of grenades. We jumped into the map, which Konami has shown off in demos before, to find a battlefield covered with tightly packed buildings with massive bombing damage. We're talking missing roofs and entire walls, so there were a lot of hiding places and vantage points here and there. We were instructed on some basic tactics, but amid the overwhelming din of the TGS show floor, the match quickly devolved into a haphazard frag-fest with members of both teams mixing it up inside and outside the many buildings.
Before we sat down at the controls, we were briefed rather sternly by an attractive Japanese woman in faux military duds on some of Metal Gear Online's more advanced features which we unfortunately didn't get to try out during our roughly five-minute match. First, there will be 15 specialized skills that you can equip, which will give you benefits like steadier aim or a faster run speed.
From what we could tell, you can have four of these skills equipped at one time. Then there's the SOP system (still no word on what that stands for) which allows you to establish a link with your nearby teammates that lets you share some sensory information and even your special skills--though we didn't get to confirm exactly how that worked in our entirely Japanese-language demo. The SOP link seems to have a limited range, and will be broken when you die, requiring you to reestablish it after respawning. Hopefully, we'll get to try out an English demo of the game soon to clarify the details of these unique customization features.
Other than the above new controls and unique mechanics, it was pretty much kill or be killed in Metal Gear Online. We expect there will be some more involved modes in the final game, but as mentioned, we only played a vanilla team deathmatch (with our team coming out on top, natch). The game runs more smoothly than the MGS4 demo we tried yesterday, though to be fair, frame rate is much more important in a multiplayer setting than in a single-player game, and we also couldn't confirm what resolution MGO was running at, whereas MGS4 was definitely doing its thing in full 1080p. No information was available yet on when the previously announced MGO beta program will begin in Japan, but when it does, we'll do our best to get in on it and deliver more detailed information and some of that sweet HD direct feed your heart so desires.