Metal Gear. A bipedal mechanical nightmare, that bridges the gap between armory and infantry with the ability to launch a nuclear strike from anywhere in the world. The weapon of mass destruction has been the key focus in many games on the home consoles, makes its debut on the PSP. When I heard that Metal Gear Solid was coming to the PSP back in 2006, I was excited to see what was next for the series. I had just finished Snake Eater on the PS2, and while a great game in its own right, left me with more questions than answers. After playing Potable Ops, most of my questions were answered, yet new ones arise. Now with a sequel, Peace Walker, coming out in 2009, I just had to replay it again to get myself refresh with the story of the rise of Big Boss and the beginnings of Outer Haven.
After leaving the Fox Unit in 1964, Naked Snake aka Big Boss, wanders around the globe, the Boss' words echoing in his head: "What emotion do you bring into the battle?" Six years later Snake finds himself in a South American prison. Turns out that after he departed FOX, the unit when rogue and took up residence in an abandoned Soviet military complex in the San Hieronymo Peninsula, Colombia. Here is where Snake first meets up with a young Roy Campbell. They escape and proceed to radio for help, only to find out that Snake is being framed for the FOX uprising and is tasked to bring a stop to the unit once and for all. Since Snake and Campbell are out manned and out gun, they have to implement new tactics. These new tactics in Portable Ops are important to the gameplay mechanics of the game. Not mastering them will lead to mission failure.
The gameplay for Portable Ops plays similar to Snake Eater, which is a third person action. What makes this Metal Gear different from its console counterparts is the obvious lack of the two extra shoulder buttons and the right analog stick. Taking a cue from MGS 3: Subsistence, Portable Ops lets you control the camera by using the D-pad. At times trying to get the camera in a certain spot while sneaking into an area can be frustrating, but once you get the feel for the new style infiltration will be a snap. Speaking of sneaking and infiltration, Snake is not alone this time around. The San Hieronymo Peninsula is divided into different areas that FOX and the Soviets occupy.
Now since Snake is out numbered, he's going to need help with the missions that come in the form of enemy soldiers. To do that, all you do is knock them out, and then carry them into the truck where Campbell is waiting and presto, instant follower. If this sounds familiar, it should be because it's borrowed from Pokemon, but with a twist. Each recruit has their own individual special ability, which gives a wide range of possible squad formations. So you catch a couple of guys, but you can only control three at a time, four including Snake. What do you do now? The answer? Have them develop weapons, or send them to scout out areas before you deploy your team. Putting recruits that you are not currently using in different squads will greatly increase the chance of mission success.
Now with all this going on, and it being on the PSP leads to some to wonder, how good does it look being on a portable? When it comes down to it, graphics can make or break a game. From how the textures look on the environment, to the character models looking too square, graphics matter. Add the fact that the game is from a series that prides itself in making you sit through almost an hour of cut scenes (which is not bad in my opinion since they are done with almost Hollywood quality) would led to a lot pressure. Luckily, Portable Ops does not disappoint. The game looks like it could have been made for the PS2 since MGS3 and Portable Ops share the same graphical engine. Although due to the space limitation of the UMD, some objects do stand out bit. Like the tires on the transport trucks look more hexagonal than round. Will that affect gameplay? Not really, but you'll be too busy in the load out screen, trying to decide who to send out with you on a mission. Another space restriction is the cut scenes. What is a Metal Gear game without epic and twisted cut scene? Now again due to the space limitation there is no movie cut scene. Instead the game is given graphic novel style frame by frame scenes. A bit different from the hour long scenes we all love to hate and hate to love, but this is a breath of fresh air for MGS. The scenes where all hand drawn by the talented Ashley Wood, who has also worked on the Metal Gear Solid comic book and the digital graphic novel.
This is no silent movie though, this is Metal Gear. And when that giant nuclear weapon starts moving out to strike, you want to hear it. The sound of gunfire, ominous music slowing building up as Metal Gear makes its appearance, the voice of Snake instilling courage and wisdom into others. These are the sounds of a Metal Gear game. And boy do they sound great, but I do recommend that you use headphones when playing. The PSP speakers do not do the game justice. Although it is missing the epic score from composer Harry Gregson-Williams, the team that composed the score for Portable Ops all worked with Williams on the previous MGS titles, so you know it will be epic. Of course with all sound and music, the voice acting steals the show. All of the original voice actors from MGS3 reprise their roles, with additions to the new cast.
Now this boils down to a very important question: Is there enough to keep me interested? The answer is yes. Now what to do after collecting all those soldiers after beating the game? Why find someone and battle it out of course. The game features a Wi-Fi multiplayer mode that lets battle with your friends and trade soldiers, just like in Pokemon. But be careful with who you send into battle, because if you die, its game over for that character. Game over as in that you lose that solider forever. Also another feature that uses Wi-Fi is the ability to recruit soldiers from hotspots or a GPS transceiver. These soldiers are only available through these means, so going to different Wi-Fi areas is a good way to build up your personal Outer Haven. The length of the game is your standard MGS length, which really depends on the skill of the player. On average it would be around 10 hours. For me, I personally took about 10 to 15 hours, that's including watching the cuts scenes and building up my army.
Like I said in the beginning, after playing this new Metal Gear left me with even more questions. Like what happens to the soldiers Snake recruits after the story ends? How did Snake, now fully taking the name Big Boss, start up Outer Haven? All these questions and more will be answered in October 2009, when the next game Peace Walker comes, out. Playing this game has gotten me excited for what's next for Big Boss and I can say without a doubt that this game is one of my personal favorites on the PSP.