Sunday, August 16, 2009

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (PSP) Guest Review

A Portable Party

At E3, Konami made the not-so-shocking announcement that they were continuing the Metal Gear Solid franchise. While console gamers will get MGS: Rising in the future, I found myself more intrigued with the PSP title, Peace Walker. It’s not the first stealth-action title to sneak its way onto Sony’s handheld, either. A couple of years ago, Konami released Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops onto the PSP. This one may have fallen off the radar at the time, but if you’re looking for a decent action title to pick up and play, this one may very will be the title that you’re looking for.

Don’t be confused. Even though this is the third Metal Gear title on the Playstation Portable, it was the first to ditch the card-based system and go back to what made the series popular in the first place. You play as Snake, a man not to be confused with Solid Snake. Already confused? Don’t worry about it. Just know that this is a sequel to MGS3, a game that’s setting took place in 1964. This particular title happens to be set six years after that, and it starts off with Snake being wrongfully imprisoned for supposedly stealing half of a very large fortune that could fund an army for years to come. His captors? An uprising army that seeks to gain that fortune. Uh-oh.

It’s not long before Snake gets help from a veteran of the Metal Gear series and plans his escape. This is where you take over and begin to notice some changes. First off, there is a radar system in this game, but it works with sound. In other words, if you’re running around like a fool and there’s a guard nearby, he’s bound to hear the steps and take a look at what’s causing all that racket. By pressing down the triangle button, you can eliminate that sound and either go on a stealth attack or just make your way past the guards. It’s not long before you reach your objective only to find out something else that’s new about this game, and that’s the map system.

After every mission is completed, you’re taken to an intermission screen where you can see the places you’ve visited or should go to next. It’s empty at first, but you’ll be filling that place up to over twenty different areas in due time. It’s pretty standard stuff at first, almost making you wonder why there’s a need for this screen in the first place. That question gets answered very early on, and you’re going to like the answer.

Once you’ve completed the first few storyline missions, you’ll find the game’s main gimmick kick in. The soldiers that are stationed in this secret South American facility can be captured and recruited on to your side. All you have to do is find a way to drag them back to your transport jeep without alerting everyone to your presence. This is what makes Portable Ops so much fun. For a change, it’s not just Snake against the world. Anyone that you try to go after whether it be guards, Foxhound members, or even doctors, you can add just about anyone to your team. . .and I do mean anyone. Once you’ve done that, you can take up to a team of four with Snake included on your next mission. Just when you think you have to drag everyone back to the jeep, you find out that you can let an ally in a box serve as an instant transport system. That works for me!

All of these soldiers have their own sets of stats from how well they work with weapons, in close-quarters combat, to off the field activities such as research and development, spying (which lets you see where items are on the map), or serving as a medic. Placing your on-site armada into their right roles is a key to your success. For instance, if you know there are going to be Foxhound members there then you can bring along one of your own that will blend in perfectly. As long as you don’t do anything stupid such as pointing a gun at them, you can waltz through certain missions without any trouble whatsoever. I love having multiple ways to play through the game, and this is one MGS title that truly focuses on the gameplay over the story.

It’s not to say that the story is weak, either. During the course of your game, you’ll go through the usual twists and turns (even the slightly ridiculous ones) that a Metal Gear Solid title brings to the table. The cutscene count is definitely down from its console brethren and the lengths of these sequences are also appropriate. The in-game dialogue sequences, which aren’t voice acted by the way, also do their best to not overwhelm you. There’s a nice balance here between game and story, and I think you’ll enjoy that fact.

It’s not a perfect game, mind you, as I found myself having occasional issues with randomly dropping out of first-person view and having trouble entering a vent unless I crawled in just the perfect line, but for the most part, this game succeeds in its console to handheld transition. If you want a game that can give you a decent challenge and a good amount of playtime, then you should check out MGS: Portable Ops. It’s just the kind of stealth-action experience I was hoping for.

[Overall: 9.0/10]

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