E3 06: Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops First Look

[Updated] Finally, an honest Metal Gear Solid on the PSP, and it's even more intriguing than we would have expected. We view the first footage.

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Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
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LOS ANGELES--At Konami's annual pre-E3 media briefing today, Kojima Productions took the lid off Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, the first true-blue MGS game to hit the PlayStation Portable. But what about Acid and Acid 2, you say. Duh. Those are card-battling games, and while those certainly involved Solid Snake in a significant capacity, they didn't have much neck-snapping. Well, they did, but you snapped necks by playing cards rather than by grabbing an unsuspecting soldier and twisting his head around.

Anyway. Portable Ops looks like it'll play just like the console Metal Gear Solid games, which is exactly what fans have been waiting for. What's even better is that this game is considered part of the core Metal Gear Solid timeline as defined by Hideo Kojima, so it counts as an installment in the saga of Solid Snake. The game is set in 1970, six years after Snake Eater, and rejoins Naked Snake (nee Big Boss) now that he has split away from the FOX unit. During the trailer, Para-Medic informs Big Boss that his former FOX unit comrades have started a revolt, and that Big Boss himself is now being charged with treason. You'll have to fight your way through any number of heavily guarded compounds and take out a number of renegade FOX agents to prove your innocence. To do so, you'll need to recruit a group of soldiers to help you, which will then form a precursor to the Foxhound organization.

No Metal Gear Solid trailer would be complete without portentous text, and indeed the trailer for Portable Ops is rather full of it. During it, Big Boss is interrogated by an unseen character, and being asked whether the country he represents really deserves the loyalty he shows it. He's also told that he'll have to choose between loyalty to his country and to himself, and between his mission and his beliefs. Heavy stuff, and definitely the kind of thing that Hideo Kojima would seem to have had a hand in.

The most intriguing things about Portable Ops were revealed in the trailer we saw at the press conference. Essentially, this looks like Big Boss's Darth Vader story. If the seeds of his descent into villainy were sown at the end of Snake Eater, he'll be right on the brink of the dark side by the time Portable Ops is over, since references are overheard in the trailer to "the tragedy of Big Boss" and the rise of Outer Heaven, the mercenary state established in the first Metal Gear. References are also made to the necessity of destroying the "ultimate weapon", presumably a reference to the first real Metal Gear.

Taking a cue from the recently released MGS3 Subsistence, Portable Ops will also include a multiplayer mode with some unique features. Not much info is available about the core gameplay here, but we imagine it will be similar to the shooter-style matches found in Subsistence. You'll be able to recruit other players into a squad, including characters that are available only in multiplayer, and there will even be a "white flag" system that lets you surrender to other players rather than fight it out to the death and lose. We're not sure what benefit surrendering will provide, though.

We are sure that Portable Ops looks awfully good for a PSP game; from the trailer we saw, it's almost as good looking as its PlayStation 2 counterpart. And with cutscenes provided by the same comic artist who illustrated the Metal Gear Solid comic book, the game ought to be an aesthetic tour de force. The game is due out in the winter 2006 time frame, so we'll bring you a lot more on it as soon as we can. Stay tuned for more from E3 and beyond.

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