Review by Tranzience
"So much potential, most of it wasted"
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, though not the first Metal Gear title on the PSP, was the first to return to an action/espionage gameplay system rather than a tactical, turn-based game as with the previous two PSP Metal Gear titles. The game also allowed players to take on the role of characters other than Snake, ranging from series favourites to your average grunts. But how does this game pan out?
Graphics and Sound: 10/10
To start with something positive, the graphics for Portable Ops are superb. The in-game graphics are definitely well-done and much smoother than most other portable games where pixilation and jagged polygons are evident all over the place. The levels' backgrounds and layouts definitely had some thought put into them and don't become overly boring to look at.
This is only improved by the cutscenes, which are done in an eccentric style much akin to that of a comic with a rugged and noir stroke. The beginning and end of the game and even a bit of the middle contain many of these scenes, which make the game much more interesting.
The music and sound for the game are also quite good, suiting the mood and helping to establish it rather than becoming annoying, distracting, and repetitive.
But these fancy decorations don't make up for some of the more lacking parts of the game.
The story of the game - like many games' stories - starts off strong, starts to sag, and picks up again towards the end. The player will take on the role of Big Boss who, with assistance from Roy Campbell, will recruit soldiers to help him stop a global crisis. Along the way the player will meet the usual fare of crazy villains and allies: telepathic twins, a soldier engineered to be the perfect fighting machine, a man with spikes all over his body that shoots ice out of his suit, and other such oddities. This diverse and strange cast helps capture the player in the overall plot.
In addition to this, the story is told through cutscenes that are presented in a fashion similar to a graphic novel. The touch of style this adds help keep the player immersed in the goings on by grabbing their attention with this unique story-telling method.
However, all isn't entirely well for the story in Portable Ops. Despite how great the story is when it's going somewhere, there are too many sections of the game during the middle that involve rather boring missions with uninteresting premises that don't do much for the plot. When you're not fighting the outrageous bosses or watching the odd graphic novel-esque cutscenes, you're sent out to gather intel, steal some documents, or retrieve some medicine. These parts usually serve only to bore and lengthen an otherwise overly short game, which will be touched on next.
While doing the usual sneaking around as Snake and choking people from behind is fun, and playing through a level is usually entertaining while it lasts, there are too many things that drag the gameplay down. The first being the incredible ease with which one can blast through the missions. Once the player becomes accustomed to the controls, most missions shouldn't take more than five minutes on normal mode (the hardest difficulty initially available), and some are easily done in less than a minute. All the story missions can easily be beaten within a day or two.
There is also a system for placing units into groups such as spies to uncover more side missions and weapons or medics to improve healing rates and produce healing items, but for the most part this does little to improve the game. The side missions, while they do add a bit more length to the game, are also mind numbingly boring, and for the most part not worth playing at all. This grouping system feels quite tacked on and does little to improve the game, especially during that slump in the middle when there is nothing of interest going on in the plot.
This, more than anything, should help the player decide whether or not to play this game. For all the fun there could have been, that it won't last very long, and is so easy that it makes the game dull really tears apart what could have been a great game.
Overall (not an average): 6/10
I did enjoy the game while it lasted, but there was just too little there, and it wasn't there for very long. Given that a game is meant to be played, it says something about the game that the part where you actually play was the worst part of the Portable Ops experience for me. There was a lot of potential, but the way they used it was so poor. If you aren't impressed by the story mode, you should try Portable Ops + instead, which features a much better multiplayer experience and better missions at the expense of taking out the story mode altogether.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 03/28/08
Game Release: Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (US, 12/05/06)
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