Review by ricky_lo87

Reviewed: 12/11/06

(Beep beep) "This is Snake. Colonel, can you hear me?"

When gamers talks about snakes, usually they're talking about Metal Gear Solid. Many things has happened since the debut of the first Metal Gear Solid game for the original Playstation. Raiden was introduced into the mix in MGS2, whom I might add, had mixed reactions from the fans. MGS3 told the story of Big Boss (conveniently code-named Naked Snake) and the Cold War era and MGS3: Subsistence extended that game with an online feature as well as a few other goodies for the fans. Although MGS4 will make it's debut on the PS3 is set after MGS2, many fans began to think about the huge gap between MGS3 and the first Metal Gear game. Which brings this game, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, into the picture. Although some aspects of the game have changed, this game still captures that Snake spirit many fans enjoyed about the series.

First things first, MGS:PO is exclusively on the PSP. It is a Metal Gear Solid game, meaning this is part of the actual storyline of the series. This takes place in 1970, six years after the events of MGS3. Unlike the Ac!d games, this game allows you to do pretty much everything you would do in a MGS game. You can run, crawl, roll, use weapons, flatten against a wall, distract guards, use Close Quarters Combat (also known as CQC), and many other moves. Of course, due the lack of an second analog and two missing shoulder buttons, the controls are well-mapped for the PSP. It make talk a little time to get use to, but soon, it'll feel like second nature. You'll control the camera with the directional button, move Snake with the analog nub, the face buttons for various actions such as combat and item selection, the L and R shoulder buttons to lock-on and go into first-person view, respectively, while equipped with a weapon.

Gameplay: 9/10
As I stated above, the controls are relatively simple to use, provided you're willing to adjust your fingers. Instead of the usual MGS style (hearing your objective, then beginning your mission, see a cutscene, etc.), MGS:PO has a Mission Hub, where you'll pick where you want to go. The missions you'll undertake are familiar to those who've played any MGS game before (sabotaging, finding people, etc.), but you are free to decide if you want to continue with the story, or recruit soldiers. Wait, did I say RECRUIT soldiers? Yup, that's right. Snake isn't alone in this game. At least, in the field. You can actually capture enemy soldiers and convert them to your side. You can have up to 4 people out on the field at any given time and you can recruit 99 soldiers to bring your "army" to 100 (including Snake). That's the most you can have, but of course, they're not all the same. Each soldier have their own skills such as running faster, moving quicker when dragging an enemy, and being able to create items and ammo. It's up to you, the player, to decide who to keep on your team and how to distribute them. You can have up to four members in a sneaking unit, or the team out on the field. You can have up to four groups: Alpha, Delta, Charlie, and Bravo. Also, you can have four members in a spy unit, or the team that gathers intel for particular areas. The number of groups you can have is based on how many areas you can go to. The tech unit creates new support items and ammo while the medic unit can create recovery items such as rations. This is a welcome addition to the game as players are given a chance to really change their strategies on how to take on a mission. Using all your soldiers skills is crucial to completing your mission. Many can do the usual things like rolling and flattening against walls. However, if your soldiers die, they are incapacitated and are unable to rejoin you until they are cured. It is a neat change of pace and feels fresh so you're not playing just "copies" of Snake. Each soldier has their own personalities and qualities they bring and it's certainly unique and fun to mix and match units to see what works and what doesn't. The other thing that a great addition is your ability to go online against people like in MGS3:Subsistence. There are three modes of play when you go online: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture The Flag. It isn't much, but it is overall fun to play. Also, you can choose to fight a "real" fight or a "virtual" fight. If you fight a "real" fight, your opponent can take your fallen soldier as his own or vice versa. Also, the ability of Game Sharing allows you to play quick rounds of a Deathmatch with your friends. And you can trade soldiers to friends as well as scan AP (access points), scan with the GPS attachment, or enter passwords for new soldiers and even some secret ones.

Graphics: 9/10
The graphics look amazing for the PSP. That's because the game uses the same engine as MGS3:Subsistence. Although not as smooth as the PS2, the game holds surprising well on PSP. Details from the building to fallen soldiers and their bodies are just great. Also, the frame rate is very good while some spots such as lots of gunfire and explosions slows down a bit, but not much. The cutscenes have also been tweaked. Instead of full 3D cutscenes, the story is told through pictures by Ashley Wood, who also created the art for Metal Gear Solid: Digitial Graphic Novel. The cutscenes are still intriguing and are well-done. The artistic cutscenes really fit in well with the story. This game may have some of the best graphics the PSP has seen since Tekken: DR or Ult. Ghost and Goblins.

Sound: 9/10
Although not complete, but a good amount of well-done voiceovers are found in MGS:PO. David Hayter returns as the voice of Snake and many others such as Para-Medic return to reprise their roles as well as a couple of new voices for some of the game's new characters such as Gene, the new antagonist of the game and a young Roy Campbell, whom many fans recognize as the Colonel in the first two MGS games. The music, surprisingly, fit well with each stage, respectively. However, some fans may be disappointed to know **POSSIBLE SPOILER!!** that the music was not done by Harry-Gregson Williams. But in any case, it still manages to capture the MGS spirit. The sound effects are top-notch too. Gunshots to silenced gunshots to screams of soldiers taken down are great. Every aspect of the sound in the game, from the voiceover to the music to the sound effects are definitely classified as Metal Gear Solid material.

Replay: 9/10
The UMD will be spinning in your PSP for a while. This game has many things that will keep you playing for days straight. Although the story will take roughly 14-15 hours to finish, you'll still have things to do, such as recruiting new soldiers and playing online (or offline) with friends.

Overall: 9/10
This game is a true Metal Gear Solid in every shape and form. New features such as recruiting soldiers is an excellent addition to the game and the online mode is tons of fun. True that many elements from the console games aren't here, but Portable Ops is great game on its own and it is worth playing.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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