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Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Review
developer: Kojima Productions
genre: Action Adventure
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Dec 05, 06 (released)
|» All About Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops on ActionTrip|
The Metal Gear Solid series has always been a favorite of mine, so I have been salivating over pictures and movies of the long anticipated PSP version, Portable Ops, for months. I am glad to report that it was more than worth the wait, especially since it bridges a lot of the story gap between Snake Eater and the creation of Outer Heaven, which leads up to Snake's turn to terrorist and the establishment of FOXHOUND.
I always thought Snake was queer sort.
Snake, now also known as Big Boss, has left FOX and has been under the radar for six years since Snake Eater, but soon surfaces as a prisoner in an abandoned Russian missile base in South America. He awakens from a drug-induced sleep in his cell only to find himself being interrogated and tortured by an ex-CIA agent and FOX operative for the location of the Philosopher's Legacy, of which Snake has no knowledge. Another soldier, Roy Campbell, in an adjacent cell helps Snake escape, and the two of them decide to work together to figure out what's going on, and put a stop to it if necessary. What then follows is another compelling, if convoluted, tale that you will gladly let yourself get immersed in.
The main stealth gameplay is much like its console cousins, but there are some great new additions. In a major change for the series you can now capture and recruit dissident soldiers, who are unhappy with FOX's command of their base, and then use them during sneak missions (cardboard boxes here I come!), or place them in technical, medical, or spy groups, where they will garner bonus items and intel for your squad. The technical group will even research and eventually develop optical camo! The main story is already a decent length to begin with, but I found myself spending a lot of time just capturing soldiers, trying to fill out my ranks.
Another neat feature is the ability to snag new soldiers by scanning for wireless access points; however the way you do this (having to press circle repeatedly) is an annoyance. You can also send a squad out into cyberspace combat to find soldiers and volunteers with the Cyber Survival function. It's great to see a game that shows that wireless and Internet connectivity can mean more than just a few downloads or multiplayer, and can really add to a game's overall experience. Developers, take note!
The mission structure is very on-the-go friendly, set up in bite-sized chunks. Instead of walking from place to place you now have a map screen where you select your next mission, or revisit locations to seize more soldiers for your cause. The levels themselves are smaller, tighter venues compared to the previous games. Load times are also, thankfully, fast, which means you can get to the action quicker than some PSP games out there (you know the ones I am talking about...).
Players will be glad to see the return of the third-person camera from Subsistence, but with the lack of a second analog stick on the PSP camera control can be annoying. Kojima Productions has created the best control sets they could, but it still takes a while to get used to. The PSP's reduced button set strikes again!
Multiplayer in Metal Gear Solid is a relatively new concept, but, just like Subsistence, it has been fully fleshed out, and is not just a tacked on afterthought. While with GameSharing you can play a basic deathmatch game, if you select Match from within your current game you can then utilize your current squad in four different versus modes with up 5 other players, either in Ad-Hoc or Infrastructure. One great feature of the multiplayer mode is the ability to capture your adversary's soldiers if they fall in battle against you. However, the same applies to your team, so there is a constant, tense risk/reward feeling. You can play in Virtual Combat if you would rather not lose any of your squad, though. There is one fly in the online ointment, however. No matter what settings I used for my PSP or wireless router I was unable to host a game myself and Konami was no help either (Well, that sucks - Vader).
What, you're gonna hide behind that shield for the rest of your life?
I never let go of my trusty AK-47.
Portable Ops is another testament to the amazing graphics ability of Sony's little system, with excellent texturing throughout (oddly, though, some aren't filtered...), a high poly count, great character models, and even some nice environmental effects, like dust billowing. I am still amazed at the clarity of the 16:9 screen on the PSP and this game is so sharp looking, though some slowdowns do mar the overall experience. Kojima has always been able to push systems farther than anyone before, and MGS: PO is no exception. And to top it all off, players are treated to the cool animated MGS: Digital Graphic Novel style story sequences, which look fantastic.
The music in the Metal Gear Solid series has always been a great high point, with purchase-worthy scores that really create a great atmosphere, and Portable Ops follows suit, with tunes you will never tire of. Another great aspect of the series has been the spectacular cast doing the voiceovers, but for this entry things are a little disappointing, with most of the spoken dialogue only in the story animations, and text for the rest. Also, a little variety for the enemy soldier dialogue would have been nice. Sound effects are, of course, great quality, and the sound design is excellent, par for the course with this series.
Many people complain that there just aren't any compelling reasons to own a PSP (to which I disagree), but if there was just one game that would make a system purchase worth it, this is the one. Even with its minor control gripes Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is another fantastic game in the incredible Metal Gear series that no gamer should overlook.
8.8 Very Good
Excellent graphics engine, unique gameplay, addictive multiplayer, first-class voiceovers, great music, more Metal Gear story!
Awkward controls, problematic camera, infrastructure, game hosting problems.
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