Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops PSP Review

Please be aware that if you haven’t played Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater on the PS2 and intend to, the following review has some spoilers about the said game.

The two Metal Gear Acid games may have retained their all important stealth elements and gruff hero, although they were turn based strategy titles nonetheless. This radical reworking of the popular gameplay plainly wasn’t going to appeal to everyone. But this doesn’t matter as Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is finally here and it’s much truer to the traditional Metal Gear gameplay that so many people cherish.

Portable Ops is actually a sequel to the magnificent Metal Gear Solid 3, and continues the story of Big Boss (Solid Snake’s father) and gives you the opportunity to learn more about the Patriots, the creation of Outer Heaven, and most importantly, the reason why Big Boss decides on a career change and we‘re not talking about a nice, cushy desk job here.

Rather then the usual mind blowing cut-scenes, the story is instead told by a more simplistic, but equally effective manner of beautifully drawn artwork, penned by the talented Ashley Wood, who diehard Metal Gear fans will recognise as the artist who drew the stunning art for the Metal Gear Digital Graphic Novel. The usual high standard of voice acting and decent storytelling, makes these scenes all the more pleasurable for the eyes and ears.

In regards to the narrative, everything functions to such a satisfactory degree, that once we learnt that the story was significantly trimmed down, when compared to its incessantly chatty bigger brothers we were left feeling somewhat disappointed. On the other hand, those who were frustrated by the lack of interaction in previous entries in the series will be glad of this uncharacteristic emphasis on gameplay.

The gameplay itself has you carrying out such sneaky things as hiding from patrolling guards, perhaps under a table, inside a locker or beneath a trusty old cardboard box, and plugging enemies (which behave in much the same way as previous games we’re happy to say) in the noggin with a tranquilizer gun. It’s very much a Metal Gear game and despite the PSP’s lesser power, it manages to feel like one.

But whilst it’s closer to a Metal Gear game than the two Acids that came before it, it also has some differences that set it apart from any other title that bares the renowned moniker of Metal Gear.

As it’s a portable version, Portable Ops is split into brief missions, that take fifteen minutes at the most to clear. Due to this structure, the game can feel a bit more like the bonus VR missions in previous games rather than a full blown Metal Gear adventure.

The biggest new twist to the gameplay is that incapacitated enemies can be captured by dragging them to your truck or the hiding spot of an ally, allowing for the use of them in later missions. New allies can work behind the scenes to gather intel, research new weapons and work as a medic to produce new medical supplies for example, but allies can also play a more direct approach in proceedings and up to three can join you on missions. Such Soldiers can be controlled directly by you, allowing you to make use of their differing skills and even walk amongst the enemy just as long as they’re identically dressed and you avoid wandering into a forbidden area.

Constantly dragging enemies around can get a bit tiresome from time to time and does slow the pace of the game down somewhat, but there is a strange addiction to building your army up and filling up all the vacant slots with your new troops.

Like the fantastic Subsistence before it, Portable Ops is also an online game. The game functions similarly to said game and if you so desire it can even be played over local wireless play. Like the single player component, once your soldiers are dead, they’re gone for good and your opponent even has a chance to steal them away and recruit them for their own ranks.

Portable Ops is an excellent portable iteration of Hideo Kojima’s masterful series, that isn’t quite up to the standard of the true Metal Gear games (at least in regards to the single player game) but if you’re looking for something similar, Portable Ops is a far better option than the two Metal Gear Acid games that preceded it.