2007 was a big year for gaming, there were so many games that every time a title originally scheduled for 2007 slipped into 2008 gamers around the world breathed a suppressed sigh of relief, with so many games to play and so little time games like Metal Gear Solid 4, Burnout Paradise and Devil May Cry 4 would have certainly cleaned out bank accounts, and probably have caused a number of other games to be relegated into the ‘play later’ pile.
While a number of ‘triple A’ titles from 2007 have been released the details on when Metal Gear Solid will finally be unleashed have remained hidden in a bullet riddled barrel, until now.
According to information released at the ‘Playstation Destination’ conference (a conference for retailers focused specifically on Playstation products) Metal Gear Solid 4 will hit retail shelves on June 12th.The Kojima Productions teams have made it clear through announcements, trailers and their podcasts that MGS4 would receive a simultaneous worldwide release so it’s safe to assume that American and European gamers will be able to get their hands on the game on the 12th.
Many Playstation 2 owners have not as of yet made the leap into the next generation, those not persuaded into investing in Sony’s monstrous third generation Playstation by games like Resistance, Heavenly Sword and Warhawk are probably stubbornly sitting on the fence in anticipation for Metal Gear Solid 4, Sony have welcomed those patient few with open arms and announced that a MGS4 PS3 bundle comprised of an 80GB Playstation 3, a copy of MGS4 and a Dual Shock 3 will be available all for a meager $499, the only remaining question is…is it backwards compatible?
As of yet Sony hasn’t stated whether Europe would be blessed with this package, but it would make sense for the package to show up in Europe, then again, the logical step isn’t common territory in the video games world.
Expectations are high for MGS4 and from what we’ve seen so far it is shaping up to be a great game, unlike the main game which has had extensive coverage (too much in my opinion) the online component of the game has had very little, which makes the announcement of Metal Gear Online beta all the more sweeter, SCEA revealed today that those who pre-order the game will be treated to a beta in April.
Kojima Productions have taken some positive steps forward to make the game the best that it can be, much of the changes can be traced back to the influence of Ryan Payton (host of the Ryan’s Report podcast).
As an avid video game enthusiast who has to pay upwards of £30 for each of my games I’m not too keen on the Idea of paying an additional sum of money for the supplementary online component, especially when it’s Metal Gear, not because I don’t like Metal Gear - on the contrary, it’s my favorite video game series…of all time, but if the online aspects of MGS3 and Portable Ops are any indication of how MGO will turn out I’d rather spend my money on a new Xbox Live subscription. So when MGO was announced as a separate product I was actually quite excited, since it was being sold separately maybe it would be given the appropriate attention in development, instead of being developed as an afterthought all things point to it being developed as a fully fleshed out multiplayer experience, if this turns out to be true, I will gladly pay for it.
One of the biggest barriers that new MGS players have had to overcome is the controls, the muddled and overcomplicated controls reflected the somewhat archaic and uncompromising nature of Japanese development, but when hands-on reports from TGS cited newer streamlined controls as the most impressive part of the demo this indicated a change in the way Konami have been developing the game. During the Demo run-through by Kojima he showed off the first-person combat and it looked much more refined than the previous games, while the previous titles featured a first person perspective it was the weak link in the game, sure it got the job done but it just wasn’t developed enough to depend on in combat, a point made most clear by the online components of Snake Eater and Portable Ops, the cumbersome controls (along with the camera) would often make killing the enemy a far more arduous task than it should have been, needless to say it sucked the fun right out of the online component.
The gameplay and overall enjoyment of MGO hinges on how well the controls are implemented, but from what gaming journalists have said so far Konami have taken the right steps to ensure that the controls won’t have a negative impact on the game anymore.
Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 are the most successful online consoles games and other than their genre the games have one important thing in common, they both had a beta for their multiplayer component, purchasers of Crackdown were able to play the Halo 3 beta before the games launch and Infinity Ward released a beta for Call of Duty 4 for download over Xbox Live. Both Bungie and Infinity Ward used the data gained from the beta and opinions and suggestions from various forums to refine and fine tune the multiplayer and it clearly has paid off, the beta will provide Kojima Productions with the same opportunity to gauge how well the MGO final product will be received and ascertain what they can do to ensure it is the best multiplayer experience it can be. The beta gives credence to the idea that Kojima Productions is taking the multiplayer seriously, which just means that more people will be willing to buy it come release time.
The shift in Japanese game development can be seen most through the inclusion of a multiplayer beta in the development cycle, traditionally Japanese developers have kept their games locked away until the release with only the development team and higher-ups able to provide input on the title, so the plan to have a beta for MGO is a step in the right direction for Kojima Production.
Clearly Ryan’s western influence has had a positive effect on MGS4 and MGO, hopefully other Japanese developers will take notice and let their audience have more of an input on their games, once they start caring about online multiplayer that is.
Update: The PS3 in the MGS4 package will be backwards compatible.