9

The long-awaited "true" Metal Gear game for the PSP is here and it's definitely worth it.

It had been a long time coming, but PSP owners now finally have the first real Metal Gear game for the system. While the previous games, the Ac!d series were not too shabby, they weren't the game that fans expected. This is what I thought of the game after a thorough playing.

The gameplay surprisingly gets the weakest of my score mainly because of the limitations of the PSP. While most of the moves and commands are in the game, several didn't make the transition from Snake Eater. There is no neck snap and a couple of other moves from MGS3. Enemies seem a bit dumber than their console counterparts and the short mission style, while great for the PSP, also can lead to reckless playing as one can just attempt to make a mad dash for the goal in some levels rather than tactical sneaking. Hopefully, purists of the game will avoid doing that, but I indeed did it just to get through the game for the story itself. Aside, from the minor issues, gameplay is very impressive. The control setup for the PSP works very well with the occasional camera problem that you can self-adjusted in a couple of ways. There are actually two first person modes. One that allows you to hold the R button and move with the directional pad while aiming with the nub and firing with the square button, and the second that gives you a closer of view of the gun allowing for a more fine tuned aim. The second is really only important in tagging far range individuals since anyone with a decent (A rating or better) gun rating can just press L to auto aim at the nearest enemy. Normally, I would just jump to the graphics at this point, but a special mention goes to the recruiting system. The largest change to the series thus far is the ability to recruit additional soldiers by "persuading" them to join. Basically, it means kidnapping them and moving time forward till they crack. The game implements this feature in a variety of ways. The first being to go to a level, knock out a soldier and drag him to your truck. You can also drag him to a hiding teammate and dial a codec frequency to have them do it. There is also a GPS function that means nothing right now since the receiver has yet to hit the USA. However, the access point scan does work for anyone and doesn't actually require you to get on the web, just find a signal. It's basically like a mini-game that forces you to tap O to boost the signal in order to obtain the soldier. Each soldier you recruit has all the various ratings that Snake has: health, stamina, varied levels in each ability such as medicine or tech. In addition certain members have extra abilities such as scout allowing them to sneak faster. You build a team of four members with a total of 4 teams that can be used for sneaking into enemy territory. You also can have teams of 4 spy on various areas. Spying will occasionally procure more ammo for you and open up additional missions. You have a tech and medicine team that can go as high as 8 in each. Depending on the people that you place in these two areas you can actually heal your team faster and develop better medicine and technologies. You also have a spot for independents, rookies, and prisoners. Prisoners are unselectable until you convince them to join you. Additionally, you can have certain people enter sneaking missions with a chameleon symbol in the upper left hand corner. This means that member will not be caught by the enemy in most cases provided you don't try to interact with higher authorities or do anything out of the ordinary. Most missions are short and to the point. Usually involving getting from one place to the next or rescuing a soldier or destroying something. Load times are excellent in the game.

Graphically, it looks like a scaled down MGS3. The graphics take a hit here and there with some collision such as Snake's bandanna getting stuck in his head. There's also some slowdown like when too many objects are moving on the screen. This isn't actually a PSP issue, but a problem that the Metal Gear Solid series has had. Aside from the minor issues, it's hard to believe that this is for the PSP. The graphics are crisp and vibrant. To compensate for the lack of disc space, Portable Ops forsakes cut scenes in favor of mildly animated comic scenes. These are actually quite interesting to watch and I don't feel cheated by the loss of the cut scenes. Soundwise, the game is pretty amazing. There's only a limited amount of voice acting, but what there is quite impressive. The background music deserves particular mention as it varies from a strange jazz funk to dark and ominous to traditional MGS fair. Many of the sounds from previous MGS make their way into this game along with just about all of the voice actors from MGS3.

A special mention goes to the online play mode. The cyber survival mode is basically where you upload a team to a MGS server and they are unusable for the time being. During this time they are sent in automated matches against other teams. If you lose, you lose one or more of your guys. If you win, however, you return with a brand new person. As far as player controlled online, the game is very fast and furious and suffers very little lag. There is VR and RC mode. VR being and virtual reality where you don't lose players if they die and RC is real combat where it is possible to lose players. However, I believe even in real combat you can't lose unique characters. Similar to games like SOCOM, there are various different mission types such as Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. All in all, the online mode adds quite a bit of value to the game.

I would have to say that Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is a definite AAA title and must buy for the PSP. It excels at using almost every feature of the PSP that previous games have yet to take advantage of. The Good: Solid core gameplay with interesting mechanics, beautiful graphics and sound, excellent use of PSP features, online mode adds replay value.

The Bad: Couple of graphic glitches and occasional slowdown, couple of minor gameplay issues, some items don't feel useful such as night vision goggles, mine detectors, and thermal goggles.

Discussion