Review by meteoricness

"Finally, Metal Gear without Trading Cards"

When the PSP was first released, many fans of the Metal Gear Solid series were excited. After all, a new Metal Gear title was a launch game. It was perfect...except for the little bit about cards. Metal Gear Acid, while a good game, was so obtuse and confusing that you practically needed a degree to understand it. The game did a terrible job of explaining everything, and it didn't help that the names of game mechanics had absolutely nothing to do with their actual functions. This is actually one of the problems with Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops: the steep learning curve. However, you will have at least figured things out after a couple missions.

So, on to the review.

Gameplay: 9/10

The most important part of any game, so it goes first.

MGS:PO is an extremely fun game to play. It is exciting and suspenseful, and it can be very satisfying at times. This game uses a modified version of the MGS3: Subsistence engine, so it plays a lot like that game. Unfortunately, the PSP lacks a second analogue stick so the developers had to make do with a fairly clunky control scheme. It detracts from the game, but not much. It is mainly difficult to deal with when an enemy discovers you, as it is impossible to move in the first person mode and difficult to lock on in teh third.

Another problem with the control scheme is that it is not well-explained at first. You may find yourself having difficulty with the first few levels because you do not know how to sneak up behind and choke an enemy, for instance. I highly advise that you read the entire manual before you play, or at the very least the section on different techniques that can be performed.

One interesting new facet of gameplay is the ability to have multiple squad members. In previous MGS games, Snake went in alone, usually with nothing but some binoculars and cigarettes. In this game, it is actually possible to recruit enemy soldiers. This is achieved by knocking them unconscious and dragging them back to a truck, and organizing squads based on strengths and weaknesses is an interesting mechanic. For instance, enemy soldiers recruited will generally dress similarly to their comrades. This means that if you recruit a soldier you can have them simply waltz into a level without any danger, as long as they behave normally.

Recruitment becomes important during online play, as your squad online is based on the characters you have unlocked ingame. If you lose a game online, you lose some characters that you have recruited. This isn't a big deal-- unique, one-time-only characters come back to you after a certain period of time, but it does make the online play fairly worthwhile.

Another interesting aspect of recruitment is that you can connect to different WiFi points to recruit new characters (each wifi point only works once, so connect at as many places as you can). You can also plug in the japan-only GPS attachment and travel to different locations to net new recruits.

A major complaint of many longtime fans of the series is that the new mission-based format makes the levels too short. I have no doubt that Kojima and Co. designed the game this way to make it better for a portable format, as no one wants to spend three hours with their psp going through a huge, detailed level. Short missions are nice: they retain the strategy necessary in a stealth game while allowing you to stop and start easily. Another interesting aspect of missions is that each takes half a day-if you go to one mission and it is night, the next will be daytime.

Graphics: 10/10
Amazing. Probably the best on the PSP so far. Not much more to say.

Sound: 9/10
The music is excellent and fits the mood. The voice-acting is also good, although Snake sounds...really, really odd. I like the fact that enemy soldiers actually talk when they see you.

Replay: 10/10
The recruitment options are amazing as far as replay value goes. The benefits from having other Metal Gear games for PSP (Acid 1+2, and the graphic novel) mean that you could get some extra bonuses on your second playthrough. The online play will keep you enjoying this game for some time, even after beating the main single-player mode.

I have only one major problem with this game that keeps bothering me. On the back of the box, it says "Stealth Action Redefined". That is Splinter Cell's slogan. Why a Metal Gear Solid game would steal it is beyond me. I really hope it was an accident.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/02/07

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