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Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

Whatever magic Kojima Productions possesses for making PlayStation Portable games needs to be passed onto other developers. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops not only expands the stealth-action series with its first real-time handheld action title, it innovates with new mechanics and great visuals. Even better, the game stands among only a few games that actually fit the handheld with bite-sized missions and interesting multiplayer options. While the controls mar an otherwise great experience, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops could certainly be tagged one of the best games for the system.
Portable Ops follows from the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, once again putting you in the role of Snake. A clandestine Soviet base in South America has been taken over by a group of disgruntled soldiers threatening to bombard the Russian homeland with a nuclear assault. Unless the Soviet government grants their demands, the rebel militia will launch a nuclear strike via a new type of Metal Gear. Working with American spy Roy Campbell, Snake must disarm the rebels and prevent use of Metal Gear.
Departing from the turn-based tactical gameplay of the two Metal Gear Acid titles, Portable Ops returns to the stealth-action mechanics for which the series is famous. All of the stealth-action mechanics found in main series are intact here—close-quarters combat, first-person shooting, non-lethal combat, etc. You’ll control Snake in a variety of missions that focus on stealth; of course, plenty of weapons and equipment are at your disposal should things go awry and you need to engage the enemy. Portable Ops feels like a full-fledged installment of the series, packed with equal amounts of stealth and action. You’ll also be treated to loads of lengthy cutscenes and endless strings of dialogue. While the cutscenes are a joy to watch thanks to the beautiful artwork rendered by Ashley Wood, the incessant philosophizing by Snake and company not only tiring, but it drags down gameplay on the portable platform.
Unlike the open environments of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, missions are selected from a tactical map of the Soviet base. Not only does this enable an open-ended style of play, but it also complements the limitations of the hardware. Levels are fairly small, meaning missions usually consist of a single, easy-to-digest objective. Missions vary from collecting vital intelligence to locating an important object to confronting rebel leaders head-on. It’s entirely possible to pick up Portable Ops for a few minutes and complete a mission or two; this is easily one of the game’s greatest strengths in catering to the handheld’s pick-up-and-play nature.
New to the series is the concept of recruiting soldiers. By knocking an enemy unconscious and taking them back to Campbell’s truck, you can coerce them to join your cause. You can also recruit squad members by connecting to a WiFi hotspot; each hotspot offers a unique soldier to recruit. Once a captured enemy has been imprisoned for a sufficient length of time, they will align with Snake and can be assigned to one of four units: sneaking, spy, technical, or medical.
Sneaking units actively participate in missions, hiding in cardboard boxes until activated. Spy units will gather intelligence in the area which they are placed; new missions, items, and weapons can be procured in this way. Technical and medical units augment your proficiency in both skills respectively. Since soldiers differ in their combat abilities and attributes, recruiting a wide range of soldiers via WiFi and during missions not only makes Snake’s operation easier, but provides an incredible amount of variety. It’s easy to spend more time recruiting soldiers and taking on side missions than on the main story.
Multiplayer comes into fruition in Portable Ops with full online play. You can compete in either Ad-hoc or Infrastructure modes against up to five players in a variety of modes. Deathmatch and team deathmatch make an appearance, as well as capture and team capture modes which have you battling for possession of a Kerotan frog. Rounding out the list is respawn mode which queues up players and deploys them as each proceeding player is defeated. Portable Ops doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of multiplayer, but it does offer one of the few compelling online experiences on PlayStation Portable; moreover, it’s a nice complement to the rich single player campaign.
From a technical standpoint, Portable Ops is quite impressive. As previously mentioned, loading times have been kept to a glorious minimum by means of small levels; however, there isn’t any loss of quality in the presentation. Konami claims to have ported the graphics engine used for Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater for Portable Ops, but the presentation seems a little less detailed than that game; nonetheless, the visuals are among the best on PlayStation Portable. If anything holds Portable Ops back, it would be the controls. The lack of a second analog stick makes controlling the camera problematic. The audio design is quite good as well, with fantastic music and voice work. Without question, Portable Ops possesses an outstanding presentation that has few rivals in the handheld space.
Joining only a handful of titles that make purchasing a PlayStation Portable worthwhile, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops offers fantastic stealth-action gameplay. Rather than simply porting over the Metal Gear Solid experience from console to handheld, much effort has been made to tailor to the platform with unique mechanics and a snappy presentation. Even if issues with controls prevent it from being perfect, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is one of the best games on PlayStation Portable, if not the series.

Overall: 9.0
Undoubtedly one of the best games available on PlayStation Portable, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops does nearly everything right. Other than slight problems with controls, the game is worth every penny spent for its solid presentation and great gameplay.

— Tracy Erickson

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