Review by zxcvmnb
"Better than Acid, not as good as the main series"
If there is one thing the "port happy" PSP has proved, it's that little adjustments need to be made from a console game to make it work on a portable system. That's why it's strange that so many game play changes were made in bringing the MGS series to the PSP. Portable Ops loses a lot from it's predecessors. These loses are what keep this game from reaching the same heights as MGS1-3.
Being a direct sequel to MGS3, you would expect all the amazing game play innovations from that game to carry over here. Wrong. No camo. No hunting/eating. No healing wounds. All of that has been dumped.
And breaking from every other game in the series (other than the spin off title VR missions for the PS1), there is no "over world". Missions are segmented into separate "arenas" that are in no way connected, other than through story. Each arena has a mission attached to it, which most of the time require you to simply get to the "X" on the map. This can take anywhere from 45 seconds to 10 minutes, depending on the area and how good you area at the game. Occasionally, the game breaks from this "find the X" repetition and requires the player to blow up something or capture a specific type of NPC on the field. But those moments are few and far between.
There is some changes to be celebrated in MGS:PO. Playing some what like a gritty, Rated M for mature Pokemon, Snakes new goal is to not just "choke 'em all", but to "catch 'em all" as well. In a some what brilliant move, storyline progression and game play are at one, with Naked Snake making the transition from solo hero to leader of a rouge military group. In MGS:PO, he can't go it alone. He needs to recruit enemy soldiers for their knowledge of the enemy's plans, their info on the lay of the land, their weapons, medical supplies, as well as their specific skills, ranging from spy, tech, and medic.
Snake must choke, kidnap, and engage in a philosophical discussion on the meaning of war and being a soldier (only shown once), in order to bring enemy soldiers to his cause.
This is surprisingly fun, and I found myself on more than one occasion going back to already completed areas in order to capture than "cool officer chick with the red hair" or "that masked dude with the cool shield" not because I needed to, but because it was fun. Captured enemies all have unique names, and like Snake's buddy Ocelot, they are all named after generally weird animals. See that Blue Beret bad ass with the shot gun over there? Well, after you capture him, you find out he goes by the name "Sea Cucumber". Now that's hard core.
Furthermore, similar the PSP's Mega Man: Powered Up (one of the other few reasons to play games on the PSP) bosses can to be brought onto your team as well, either by password or in game methods like "stamina kills" or storyline based events. Again, this furthers the players interest in the game and gives one the sense that nothing and no one in the game can't be obtained. The only thing you never get to have for yourself in the game in is a actual Metal Gear. But other than using it to start a nuclear war, I'm not sure what one would do with it anyway.
The camo game play from previous games is replaced by a "chameleon" mechanic that serves to give captured soldiers some purpose. A captured soldier will not be identified as an enemy to soldiers of the same type. Unless you start crawling on the ground, doing gymnastics, or punch anyone in the face, other soldiers will not attack you if you look like them.
Although this adds dimension to the game play, it also causes the game to be somewhat broken. One of the last areas of the game is incredibly difficult, requiring the player to sneak by cameras, find keys, find codec numbers to dial in order to open doors, take on a huge amount of well armed, well shielded soldiers in a huge compound. This level serves as a great final challenge for Snake. However, if you play as a Blue Beret, the soldier type for that area, the level couldn't be easier. I got through the level on my first try via this method. Just like using a cheat code, it was fun to defeat the enemy so easily, but afterwards I felt like I deprived myself of a challange as well as fully experiencing the game.
Another big change is in the now famous Metal Gear cut scene. These changes are highly likely to spilt fans right down the middle. For starters, the love it or hate it 45 minute long rambling cinemas of MGS1, 2 and 3 are not present. This will probably disappoint many fans, but for the rest of us more "normal" human beings, this is a huge relief. The cut scenes here deliver a great story, and manage to do so with out ever going over 5-10 minutes at a t time. Another huge change is in their presentation. Cut scenes are no longer done with the in game graphics, and are instead presented in the "digital comics" format already seen in the PSP's Metal Gear Solid Digital Graphic Novel. It works very well, if you are a fan of Ashely Wood's artwork as I am. If you don't like his very distinct style of art, then you may find yourself hating these cut scenes, as they definitely don't look like anything else in this or any other Metal Gear game.
The game is also a bit short by Metal Gear standards, clocking in at 12-15 hours for the average MGS noob to complete. There are only four of five different sorts of enemies, and about five boss fights, one done twice. These bosses are not as inspired those from previous MGS games, and are generally a let down. Some of them do have cool designs though, like the Pin-head esque Python and the low tech ninja Null. But even come off as a bit lame, as they require so little strategy to defeat. Dodge bullets, wait for boss to reload, shoot them as they are reloading, repeat. This works for nearly ever boss in the game (other than Metal Gear). Not a Psycho Mantis in the bunch. :( Unlike other downgrades this game suffers, this one can't be blamed on dumbing things down for a portable system. It's simply out of inferior game design.
Lastly, there are the online battles. In short, they are identical to those of MGS3, except for the PSP's more difficult to manage "controller" making gameplay more difficult. They can still be quite fun however, especially with friends.
In conclusion, when it comes to the basics pf graphics, sound, and gameplay, this is a sequel to MGS3. It looks like MGS3, sounds like it, and on a basic level plays like it as well. But many of the more advanced gameplay aspects have been removed, presumably to make the gameplay "work" on a portable system. This was an unnecessary move and a definitive downgrade. However, the new capture gameplay elements are great fun, never before utilized in the series. It's fun to kidnap some due and get them to stop wanting to shoot you in the head, and instead follow every command. The "chameleon" gameplay that comes along with capturing enemies is also fun, but breaks the games challange on more than one occasion. And the shortened cut scenes and Ashley Wood's artwork are great for people like me, but may enrage diehard who love the traditional long winded, in game graphics cut scenes of previous games in the series.
And one final thing, for those who have never played a Metal Gear game before, don't assume Metal Gear is like other "gritty espionage" games. It features psychic powers, illogically immortal characters, and other deviations from reality which are much more inspired by Manga/Anime than James Bond.
I hope this review helps those considering buying this game. Thanks for reading!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/05/07
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