Review by youngfrankenstein
"A superb, beautiful, meticulously crafted, replayable, fun portable MGS game- and I wanted to give it a 10 so badly."
I was excited when I heard they were making a Metal Gear Solid game for the PSP. I am keen on Metal Gear. But I couldn't imagine how they would've tailored the game to fit inside the PSP and could only imagine what ordeals Snake would have to go through this time around, what with the classic PSP complaints (only one analog nub, only two shoulder buttons) but it made me happy- mainly because a portable Metal Gear Solid game would just be so great, and that Hideo Kojima would be handling this one himself.
That's why I wanted to give the game a perfect score of ten SO badly, because on just about every level, its a joy to play with pitch-perfect presentation, gameplay, effects, replay and story. It really is that good, but it has a number of small flaws that take away from the score.
This is a Metal Gear game! Of course the story is nothing less than top-notch, with a whole new cast of way cool characters, which sets itself up perfectly for a sequel or two. All the MG staples are here: convoluted, war-torn story, suspicion and treason happening behind the scenes, a cyborg-ninja- there is even a phone call at the end of the end-credits starring Ocelot imself! The cutscene's and CODEC conversations move the story along just fine, but the cutscenes aren't the blockbuster movie-gold we saw is MGS3 and the CODEC calls aren't voiced- but all in all, it's obvious that effort and work went into this game.
While the story is well told, it doesn't show the tragedy of Big Boss' like advertised in the trailers, but the story is excellent and well told, and if you can believe it, makes the MG universe even more convoluted.
Bosses - 8/10
I had to make a separate section on the bosses. MPO has the least amount of Boss fights of all the MGS games, which is a bit of a disappointment after the wealth of fights in MGS3. They could've maybe thrown in a tank battle or a hind or something for us to blow up, but the PSP's limitations probably hindered any possibility of that happening. However the bosses themselves are so over the top and absolutely full of personality that, in the long run, it doesn't really matter. Each character has an important, integrated part in the story, unlike the Cobra Unit from MGS3, who were very cool but were void of deep personalities and lived only to follow orders and become defeated by Big Boss.
This new breed of FOX however are fully meshed and integrated with the story, and each one, as stated earlier, has their own superb voice and cool personality and back story. You have the very scary Lt. Cunningham, peg-legged interrogation and demolitions expert who makes Revolver Ocelot and Vulcan Raven look like pansies; the bizarre but deadly twin sisters Ursula and Elisa, who are capable of incredible acts of premonition and psycho-kinesis; a twisted, depraved man without warmth who is obsessed with Snake and matches him in terms of pure skill and soldiering instinct, known only by the codename of Python; the very cool, very sad but all around frightening cyborg-ninja of Naked Snake's timeline, Null, and finally the new leader of FOX and instigator of the San Hieranamo Peninsula's revolt, a deviously cunning and charismatic entity who has a strange connection with the Boss herself, Gene.
A warning though-- don't expect the beautiful flowery field where you fought The Boss in MGS3 or the monstrous arena of the End to be replicated in MPO. The environments are still great looking, and Python's stage is really atmospheric; but again the PSP can only do so much. Which is a lot- when your fighting Null, he stalks you all over the ENTIRE stage, and Cunningham's arena is constantly moving- it's very cool. However, the final fight with Gene was something of a disappointment. Although he's tough and all, it's nothing too deep or cool as any of the last boss fights of previous entries. The ending makes up for it though.
Another complaint on the bosses is you don't use CQC on any of them at all! Granted, you can punch and kick, IF you get close enough, but there was nothing cooler in MGS3 than getting Volgin in a chokehold and throwing him down.
One more compliant in this area is that there's no sniping sequence in the game. An assassination mission or a sniping duel would've been nice-- nothing fancy, even something basic like the battle with Sniper Wolf or the Emma/Vamp sequence in MGS2 would've been fine. I mean, what's any top-secret black ops mission without lying silently in wait on your belly, waiting for that perfect shot?
I'm sure you've heard of MPO's departure from the norm, if you can call the world of MGS normal'. Snake is left on his own this time around, and not just infiltrating a big military base but an entire peninsula. Realizing this is too big a job for even him, he teams up with a younger Roy Campbell and starts kidnapping in-game soldiers, coercing them to your side as playable characters. This adds layers and layers to the old MG formula, making this departure surprisingly welcome.
Some of these guys had jobs before the military, so you'll have special soldiers like athletes (can run faster), quarterbacks (can throw grenades farther) and spies and scouts and the like at your side. When kidnapped, they keep the uniform they were wearing, allowing you to sneak into areas of like-dressed individuals, allowing you to blend in like a CHEMELION and not getting detected. The soldiers come with stats for health, stamina and proficiency for each type of weapon there is in the game, adding lots and lots of depth. Part of the fun of MPO is sneaking around and kidnapping these guys to see how they can serve you, and as an added bonus, boss characters and allies/enemies from previous games can be recruited as well.
The CQC system has also been improved, in by pressing the roll (X) button while stalking, you WILL not crouch and lie down like in MGS3 but instead: do a roll! From the stalking mode! This makes sneaking up on enemies about a thousand times easier, as the roll is not only completely soundless but can be done while sneaking around.
Also something that's interesting is this is the first MGS game where if you leave the character alone long enough, he/she will do something odd, like the way Link hitches up his kilt and shuffles his feet in the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Even if you're playing as Snake this'll happen; which is surprising as he's always been too focused on the mission to do anything else.
Not only that but they've improved on the already great/fun to use CQC system. In the original MGS3 Snake could go up to just about any character and hold the CQC button, automatically locking them in a chokehold even if they were facing you. Not the case here. A chokehold will be initiated if you are behind the character as usual, but if you charge at their front side and they see you, expect some resistance. EVERYONE in the game seems to know how to defend themselves now, and your best bet is to CQC them, let them go and stagger and then quickly try it again, locking them in the staple chokehold. However, due to all the varying qualities of your soldiers, you can only stagger enemies if you have a perfect 'S' ranking in the CQC category. This makes the game in some ways more challenging, seeing as you have to be truly stealthy if the only way to interrogate someone is sneaking up out of nowhere.
I figured Metal Gear would shine on the PSP, because in the original Metal Gear Solid games the player did not have camera control- the only thing the second analog stick was used for was moving the camera around. Doesn't that like a great fit for the PSP?
Despite this however, the game retains the 360-degree camera of the superb Subsistence expansion of MGS3, which works fine as well, being controlled by the analog buttons. What's odd though is that in Subsistence the player was given the choice of choosing either the 360 free camera or the classic, mounted camera which game the player the best possible movie-like view. We're not given that choice here, and that is kind of a drag. Metal Gear Solid has always been a departure from regular gaming even back in its days of the PS1Kojima wasn't trying to make a game, he was trying to make an interactive movie! The cutscenes make up for this blemish, but it still takes away some freedom.
The weapons from MGS3 all make it in here except the C3, which doesn't really count as it could be used at only one sequnce in the game. You've got your revolvers, M1911's, M63's and some new weapons, like the Uzi, and the cool Spetnaz knife. It can't be used in the CQC chokehold; for the love of God be wary of that because if its equiped and your behind a soldier and try to get him or her in a chokehold and you hold down square, the spetznaz knife will instead be stabbed out, perfroming a gruesome looking, instant kill. You can imagine my surprise and shock, especially as I was trying to get through with no kills on my slate.
Also the stealth weapons', such as the handkerchief and the cigar-sprayers are absent, though it's obvious why. With the new CHAMELEON' sneaking system, these items would've made the game far too easy.
Wow. And I mean that. MPO is a game that NEEDS to be played with headphones. Good ones, to. The sound is like surround; you can hear a guard coming closer towards you, 20, 15, 10... feet away. Its perfectly intuned with the sound-surround indicator, and make me glad I've got a pair of perfectly working ears. The music is ambient with plenty of 60's sneaking themes mixed in, and although it's not done by that Williams guy who does the other soundtracks for Metal Gear, it's still very good. Not one track for MGS3 is reused for this game, reiterating how unique it is- this carries over to the game trailers; you'll like the music so much you'll realize and recognize these tracks from the game. The sound and music get a perfect 10.
Everything is a joy to listen to and fits perfectly- even minor, nameless characters are extremely well done. There's a scene in the game where a scientist or medical technician is briefing Lt. Cunningham on the status of Null, the 'Perfect Soldier.' The technician's voice has a high, nasal inflection, making him sound a bit nerdy. The voice actor knew he was playing a scientist-like character but didn't ham it up to a stereotypical, Professor Frink (okay, that's an extreme example) sounding fellow, but added a nice and subtle touch, which is all you ever want. Also the the grunts and privates in the game aren't gruff or by any means Rambo clones; they're young men, actual soldiers fighting for home or circumstances or whatever, trying to be the best they can be with history and war hanging over there heads. You can tell that some of these guys are NOT seasoned veterans like Snake is, and the again the voice work shows how inexperienced they are. It's a very nice touch.
Another thing I have to comment on is when you press the START button, all the action AND music and sound instantly cuts out. That. Is. Beautiful. If someone comes into the room, or they're trying to talk to you, or if your on the bus and they say something and you want to hear it, you can just put the game in temporary stasis, and resume at your leisure. Again, that is beautiful. It means you won't have to turn the sound alllll the way down, or hastily yank off your headphones in order to understand what's going on. It's a little thing, but a big thing- it shows Kojima fully understands this is portable gaming.
All the character sprites look as good as they did in MGS3, which is really saying something. Snake can roll and shoot and reload (which is cool to watch in FPV), and for the most parts the environments look cool and military-like. Character's mouths don't move and no one needs to blink, but this is tiny compared to the rest of the game. Snake himself looks really cool, in the 70's version of the sneaking suit, and he sports his trademark bandana, eye-patch and mullet to boot. The game never slows down, never pauses to load, and colours and animations are chosen perfectly. This is a hellofa good looking game, from the sheen on the barrel of your gun to the numerous character animations Snake and his unit can pull off.
A really, really nice touch is that Cunningham has a prosthetic leg, and he's animated differently when he walks. He has to shift his weight around it and move it differently to stalk; and it even has a little clink' noise when you're running. They could've made him like the other bipeds, but took the time to alter him a bit. Excellent.
As it's a MGS game made portable, a few things have changed from past titles, but actually improve upon replayability. The past Metal Gear games have been linear (but still fun) to a fault. It's not an issue, but once you beat the story modes you start right back again from the start. MPO is neat in that it plays upon the enormous nature of the San Hieranoma peninsula to its highest degree. The area is actually so huge that you need a truck to drive out to the area of interest (and the area of interest being a base with a map or secret documents or a government official) and then drive back to your base. There's no driving missions or anything; the point is that the whole act of outfitting your soldiers, gathering intel and going to the mission all takes time- there's a date keeper on the main screen and just driving to the mission takes half a day.
Something else that's impressive is that every door you see can be opened sometime in the game. Each individual environment is huge, and you can enter any building you see, and see the entire inside of that complex. If you've ever played a GTA game, you'll know that's impressive.
Again, MPO returns to MGS1 and MGS2, as the areas are mostly military bases and complexes, unlike the vast jungles found in MGS3. However when exiting a building and going outside, often you'll see the dusty, sun-kissed lands of Columbia greeting you, with stars in the sky and mountains in the horizon. Easily one of the best looking and thought out games on the PSP.
Like with the bosses in the game, I had to add a separate section on the load times. They are PHENOMENALLY good. There is zero loading times, which is a joy. Some games are made unplayable by these cursed NOW LOADING screens, but there is no pause or even a jitter when you enter an area, access a menu or save and quit the game. I knew Kojima wouldn't let down the fans- this is a quality title, and the load times show it. The only real loading is when you first turn on the game and wait for the Konami and Kojima logo to flash up, which you can skip by madly pressing START. Here's something cool- the Konami logo takes it's time fading in and out, but Kojima's logo fades away the moment you press START. He knows we want to start the game, and he doesn't impede us with vanity or whatever at all. MPO delivers a seamless, flowing experience and story and delivers it beautifully.
Some people say MPO is not as indepth or varied as MGS3, but it is. Kojima wisely drew upon the strengths of the PSP and created a living and breathing piece of art like he did with MGS3. First off, the game is portable, and features wi-fi play. Wi-fi is like it's own game. You can have local ad-hoc matches with friends, go online and duke it out on teams or solo, and you can even submit a team of your favorite, best out-fitted soldiers for a stats-based, tactical RPG game. Not only that, but you can play an extra mini-game at different internet hotspots to generate new soldiers (which is great if you live in a city like me) or attach the still un-released in North America GPS peripheral and gain them that way.
Personally, I've never been too keen on online play. Just a bunch of people who don't seem to know how to spell too well running and gunning each other down; but the online in MPO is really a superb addition to the already great title. They could've given us the single player campaign and said 'That's all yer gettin', customer!' but instead they've added the online mode from MGS3, and it is really cool. You can deploy the soldiers you've collected and use their skills to help you wage war. Online is also a bit more realistic, as a headshot WILL terminate you immediately, and it's always cool when you win. Plus, this November, they're releasing an expansion pack for MPO, focussing on the online play for those of us who liked it a lot, with the added bonus of importing our hard-trained soldiers into this new fray. It hasn't been released in Canada yet, but I will definitely look into it.
I think the big killer for MPO is the cutscenes. As stated, Metal Gear Solid is like an interactive movie, and the stuff we saw inbetween missions in MGS3 was jaw-dropping, cool and looked great. In MPO, the excuse is the memory limit and the PSP's cutscene-making ability wasn't up to snuff, but the UMD holds up to 1.8 gigs of space. They couldn't have made the cutscenes using the PS2 engine, then uploaded them into MPO as MP4's or something? In their stead are hand-drawn and heavily photoshopped comic-style movies which are thankfully fully voiced and packed with superb sound and music. These are just great looking and stylistic and unusual and cool all at the same time, but I'd take the fully-3D movies of MGS3 any day if given a choice. I do like the Wood's style though, they're expressive and help you get inside Big Bosses head. The story is told from his perspective, and you can't help but think 'Huh- so this is how Snake views the world.'
Another problem is the CODEC conversations. Para-Medic and Sigint are back, as well as a younger, incredibly randy 'free spirited' Roy Campbell and another new character named GHOST, similar in secret nature to DEEPTHROAT or MR. X from MGS1 and MGS2, respectively. Sigint and Para-Medic are optional recruitable characters; you can beat the game without obtaining them and thus they aren't nearly involved in MPO's story as they were is MGS3-- their main place in the game is telling varied facts about Columbia as well as other things. However these are very short and there only seems to be a few of them-- like 10 different factoids each. This is the 1970's after all; you'd think Para-Medic would've seen a bunch of new lame movies thus far, but no. Most of the time when you call anyone up on the coded except Roy Cambell, you'll get the NO RESPONSE screen. The CODEC script could've used a bit more thought.
Another thing about the CODEC conversations is there is no voice acting. As stated, the UMD can hold like 1.8 gigabytes, I'm sure they could've squeezed in some mp3 work if they wanted to.
My final complaint for the game is a small one. You can't play with the title screen! Yes, I know that seems a little small, but when I first turned on the game 11 months ago I was a bit disappointed- you could fool around endlessly with MGS3's screen and even MGS2 had that gunshot/flash mechanic, but that's not here. It's just a little a little that never made it in that I really liked.
All in all, this is a superb, beautiful, meticulously crafted, replayable and ultimately fun game, and welcome addition into the PSP's library. Personally, I like it more than MGS1 and MGS2, just for the fact that it's as deep as MGS3 (with the online) and has the CQC and fighting systems that MGS1 and 2 do not have. Plus- it's portable! This is a game that is really worth buying a PSP for, with the staying power that a lot of PSP games seem to lack. I really did really want to give this stellar game a perfect ten, but alas, it is not perfect, but still very fun and good and making me wait white-knuckled for the sequel. Thank you Mr. Hideo Kojima for the option of a portable, properly done Snake, and thank you Mr. Reader for reading my review.
-Features the superb, expanded gameplay from MGS3
-Great story furthering the backstory of Big Boss
-Sublime, over-the-top voice acting
-Superb sound, especially with the headphones
-Excellent new characters
-No secondary camera option
-No voice acting in codec conversations
-Can't play with the title screen
-No sniper sequence
-Missing the amazing 3D cutscenes of its predecessor
-Disappointing final boss fight
-'Tragedy of Big Boss?'
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/26/07
Game Release: Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (US, 12/05/06)
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