After tearing into Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence upon its Japanese release--at which time we gave initial impressions of the Metal Gear series' first-ever foray into competitive online multiplayer--we've since jumped back into the fray to give some of the unique game types a more thorough evaluation. We've already spent a big chunk of time with the game's most team-oriented (and quirkiest) mode, capture the frog (referred to within the game simply as "capture mission"), and, of course, the deathmatch and team deathmatch are as entertaining as always. They're also quite self-explanatory--but then, if you don't know how deathmatch works by now, go download the Doom shareware or something.
At any rate, the two most distinct online modes in Subsistence are the rescue and sneaking missions. As we detailed previously, the sneaking mission pits one player as Snake against up to seven other players controlling guards. There are two vital objects and two delivery points, and to win the round, Snake needs to deliver only one of the objects to the appropriate goal. Of course, the other players' sole win condition is to kill Snake, and that must be a cinch, since it's seven versus one, right?
Not necessarily, considering Snake begins each round with an impressive weapon and equipment loadout, which, most importantly, includes stealth camouflage much like the ninja used in Metal Gear Solids 1 and 2. This camo isn't perfect; it will run out of power after a while, and the camouflage effect is lessened if Snake attacks, takes a hit, or moves around too much. Regardless of these limitations, we've found it darn near impossible to spot a camouflaged player from a distance, and the only surefire way to track down the Snake player is to simply roam around the level and hope you can catch a fleeting glimpse of him. Of course, you can also hope to see other players winging Snake with a stray shot, which will make him become somewhat visible for a moment.
The rescue mission is another team-based mode that so far has seemed a little less strategic than the capture mission. In this mode, one team starts out with a rubber ducky (not unlike the keroppi from the capture mission) in its possession, and the goal for that team is to defend the duck for the duration of the round. The other team's goal, then, is to seize the duck and deliver it to a goal point. This is the one mode we've noticed where you can't respawn after you die. Instead, you'll become an ethereal, bluish ghost character that can run around the level and view the action without actually interacting with anything. Of course, since there are no respawns, either side can win the round simply by killing all the players on the other team.
Finally, we've seen several players using some of the hidden Rumble Roses player models. So far we've noticed Reiko and her "heel" alter ego running around among all the Snakes and guards. Obviously, this is really just a cosmetic change, although you can hold down the triangle button to make the character do a rather lascivious taunt move involving some shaking of the derriere. The efficacy of this taunt as a strategic gameplay maneuver is questionable--we don't imagine too many players will be so distracted by it that they forget to shoot.
We can't say just yet whether Subsistence's online component will become a mainstay for competitive PS2-owning online gamers, but we can say that the game seems to be thriving in Japan at the moment (we've routinely encountered hundreds of players engaged in all the game types at several different times of the day). Eager American gamers won't have long to wait to see how Subsistence plays online--and how well it catches on with the greater PS2 community--as the game is due out on these shores in mid-March. Stay tuned for more.