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Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Review

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Developer: Kojima Productions Publisher: Konami
Release Date: December 5, 2006 Also On: None

After playing a few hours of the original PlayStation Metal Gear Solid and the PS2 follow-up, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, I quickly lost interest in the franchise. Plagued with a bad camera and a relentless barrage of cinematic cut-scenes, the series never caught my attention. That was until Snake Eater. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was the first Metal Gear that I beat outright. The Cold War-era storyline, obvious James Bond references, lush rain forest and innovative use of environment, Snake Eater was everything that I expected of a video game in the 21st century.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops follows the events set after Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Big Boss finds himself in a prison cell at the start of Portable Ops off of the coast of South America being tortured by someone that wants information on the now missing Philosopher’s Legacy. The base you’re located on is an abandoned base that the Soviets secretly built after their plans to position missiles in Cuba fell through during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Of course the troops on the island didn’t much appreciate Russia’s decision to all but abandon them, so they turn to the leadership of a rogue commander named Gene.

Storytelling has always been one of the most important aspects of the Metal Gear Solid universe. Portable Ops doesn’t stand up to my expectations for a couple of reasons. Using an almost comic book-like storytelling system, Portable Ops falls short in the area of cinematics that the series is well-known for. The thrilling and almost movie quality of Snake Eater cinematics just isn’t here. To make things more frustrating for series vets, Portable Ops uses subtitles quite a bit. To be fair though, Konami did put in overtime to make sure the graphics engine lived up to console-quality standards. The size of the UMD may not have accommodated the use of large flashy cut-scenes and voice-acting.

As for gameplay, unlike Ac!d 1 and 2, Portable Ops is a traditional Metal Gear game and the first on PlayStation Portable. Nothing against the card battle action of Ac!d, but I would take my third-person stealth action of Metal Gear old any day. Of course as in any PlayStation Portable game, it takes some getting used to the controls, especially the sensitivity of the analog nub in shooting situations (or lack thereof). Overall though, the system manages to pack in most of the elements from console versions: sneaking, crawling, peaking around corners, a first-person view for shooting, CQC, climbing over objects and hiding in lockers. There’s also a nice lock-on feature.

Just as the trade-off for better graphics was a lack of jaw-dropping cinematics and voice-acting, the trade-off for few load times and large areas is the axing of the open, connected battlefield. In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (or the other Metal Gear games), you could travel from one area in a base or outside of a base to another, pretty much anywhere unrestricted, unless by a locked or blocked area. Portable Ops uses a transport system where a truck drives you automatically to each area in the game.

The most radical change to the game though by far is the inclusion of a recruiting system. Of course everyone remembers playing as Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2, but now you get to play as characters that have almost no linkage to the story at all, other than that you make them a part of it by kidnapping them. Essentially all you have to do is incapacitate them (not killing them, obviously), drag their body and bring it to your truck. After a few days pass, they eventually will budge and join your team. You can now use them in levels.

Of course the recruiting and teammate system is deeper than that. The teammates you recruit all have special uses and specialties. Some can be used to spy on a particular area by putting them in your spy unit and setting them to an area that you would like more information on. Others can be put in medical capacity, and others will have varying abilities. The whole idea is to use teamwork to get a mission accomplished.

One of the neat ideas behind the teammate system is using it to infiltrate an enemy area without detection. Whereas Big Boss would gain the attention of any guard on the island without much effort, your team can aid you in this respect. By taking advantage of the different uniforms of team members, you can whisk past guards without effort. Unfortunately, the system can be unforgiving. There are many instances where the game inexplicably decides that your character is acting in an abnormal way, sounding he alarms and attracting all of the nearby guards.

Finally, the last major new addition to the Metal Gear Solid world is a new radar system. No longer are you just worried about guards seeing you, you also need to be wary of the sounds you make. This isn’t new to Metal Gear, but the sound radar is. This radar allows you to discern whether you are making too much noise, whether the enemy can hear you and how far the noise goes out. It also allows you to pick up the noise of enemy guards that you might not see otherwise.

Just as Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence brought the Metal Gear Solid universe online this year, Portable Ops is bringing the espionage action online through Infrastructure wireless multi-player. You can fight in both fake and action battles over the Internet. The difference between the two is that in the real battle, just like in the offline, your characters will be lost if they die. The cool thing is that you can either gain or lose players from how you play online.

With PlayStation Portable owners so badly neglected in the nearly two years that the system has been out, I have to say it is about time someone steps up to the plate. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops has its flaws: a lack of impressive cut-scenes, subtitles, poor camera and controls at times and the limitations of the PSP’s hardware in level size. For all that fell short, Konami went beyond what one thought possible in terms of the PSP’s graphical capability. They did a relatively good job recreating the Metal Gear game mechanics while including new ideas into the mix. This won’t go down as the classic that Snake Eater was, but it’s still a “solid” Metal Gear.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 8.7
Written by Kyle Review Guide