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Konami  
Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops
From: Konami
For: PlayStation Portable
Genre: Action, Stealth, Tactical
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)
Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops
If your PSP has been gathering more dust in months past than even the glossy black casing of your bitchin' new PS3 has fingerprints, Solid Snake's newest portable-gaming opus is more than enough reason to bust it out, clean it off, and fire it up. Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops is not stock, downscaled console game schlock; it's a complete tactical combat action game unto itself. And a really, really good one, too. As good as it gets, in fact. And it gets great.
Posted January 23, 2007
By CHRIS HUDAK, EVERGEEK MEDIA
 
First off, Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops isn't the mere console-to-handheld port one might expect/dread of a super successful PlayStation series looking to bilk bonus bucks from the handheld domain, but rather its own muscle-flexin' thing; an entirely new package bristling with riveting solo campaign play, great online, a collection scheme that showcases what's best and text-book classic about Konami's beloved stealth-action franchise, and even an operational surprise: Snake actually needs help.

The setup: In the years following Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Solid Snake has left the slick-tech, super secret special forces unit, Foxhound, and the bad guys manage to kidnap Solid Snake (with an eye toward building a new Metal Gear robodoomsday, natch). Snake escapes (equally natch), saves his friend Campbell, and hatches a plan to stop Foxhound's new, decidedly unbalanced leader and, moreover, starts to do a little kidnapping of his own to recruit/convert new soldiers for the cause. The more -- and the more mentally broken -- the merrier!

From that, gameplay is pretty much how it sounds. During each mission players can incapacitate foes, haul them back to a special vehicle tucked away in some tactical crevice of the map, and start, well -- no other word for it -- brainwashing them. A few missions later and hey-presto, you've got new guys, each ready and rarin' to bring their garden-fresh and sundry skills to your side. The command menu serves as an abstract operational map, and players can send recently-converted troops/spies to different areas of the map, covertly walking among the enemy's main-force regulars and automatically doing fun, helpful things for you, like providing crucial intel, using their medical skills to heal (when you're in their vicinity), boosting ammo and/or weapons and adding them to your cache, using the enemy's R&D to create new items, etc. This is not traditional Metal Gear-style skulk-and-psychomanagement we're talking here; it all happens automatically; simply put your operatives where you want and they do their thing independently of your control. Spiffo.

Snake himself, meanwhile, is still Snake: He can still sneak around and fight, scuttle through air ducts, use the ever-questionable MGS melee combat system to klonk out any enemies unfortunate enough to encounter him, stealthily snuggle up to walls and what have you. You'll be using every controller button and nub the PSP has, but the system is remarkably clean and functional. Further, special characters -- I'm looking at you, Ocelot -- can be unlocked or captured.

Up to three captured characters/units can be slotted to join Snake's team (as opposed to simply sent to an area as an automatic operative, above). Once a mission is begun, players can choose between active control of Snake and the others, which can be handy if you want to move about a level with impunity, double/brainwashed-agent style -- to a point, anyway, as long you avoid doing anything actively stupid in the view of other enemies, thus raising he-doesn't-seem-himself suspicions. Anyway, once you're sure the coast is clear, you can commence to sabotagin'; plant something that goes boom and then casually stroll away before the main event. It's more than sweet, it's subversilicious.

Portable gaming is often understandably geared toward short sessions, and Portable Op is that. Each level is its own modular self, completed in less time than you might expect. And if you get stuck, it's a completely viable option to either bail on the mission entirely, or save your progress and re-start from there some other time. Functionally, such encapsulated brevity does take away, just a smidge, from the Metal Gear franchise's typical sense of start-to-finish immersion (mayhap the jaded gamer protesteth too much?).

Then, Portable Ops brings in the multiplayer noise (and, to a lesser extent, the funk). "Free Versus" is similar to that found in the earlier Subsistence console game, but also allowing for the use and potential loss of your captured units -- if you kack the other player's primo special unit, wellnow, he ain't their special unit any more, is he? Pretty cool, any way you laser-sight it. If that's not your bag, you can choose basic deathmatches (with only one copy of the game) or ad hoc Versus matches. To sum up: Multiplayer online supporting six players = sweeeeet.

It's not all perfect, of course, but in order to even start finding flaws of note, you'll have to dig down into dubious areas such as text-intensiveness (the game can get a little quiet, when you move away from what voice-acting there is and start flipping through chunks of written intel) and occasional story-delivery hitches... and that's just desperate.

All told, it's been so long since any given PSP title could be so unreservedly recommended that doing so is surely something akin to editorial toxic shock, but Portable Ops is simply a must-play, a must-have, and possibly the straw that un-breaks many a PSP owner's sensitive back.
 
 
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Bang for your buck:
Excellent New Purchase 
Excellent Pre-played 
Excellent Bargain-bin Buy 

Score:  4.75  (out of 5)