PSP owners already have two Metal Gear games on their system, and while they are both great, neither of them are Solid. Card-based, strategy role-playing games are all well and good, but fans have always wanted to play as Snake in a more traditional affair. Their prayers will be answered with the release of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops.
Portable Ops is not quite a pure Metal Gear Solid game. It certainly takes place after Metal Gear Solid 3 and deals with the ongoing exploits of resident gruff man Snake (aka Big Boss); and it certainly, for the most part, plays like a Metal Gear Solid title. However, it has many subtle differences that help it stand out as an independent title for the PSP.
The first change is that Portable Ops is an open-ended, mission-based Metal Gear Solid. Players will engage in a variety of short-but-oh-so-sweet missions while progressing through the story. It’s obvious that this is partly because such gameplay suits the portable nature of the PSP, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing – and Snake will still be putting his back against walls, tapping to create a distraction, and then ruthlessly snapping the necks of unsuspecting enemies.
Portable Ops will also include a multiplayer mode similar to that found in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. It won’t have all the modes included in Subsistence, but it will certainly provide some lasting appeal to the game, especially as you can use game sharing if you’re the only one of your mates with a copy of the game.
The only downside to the game could be the complex controls. Metal Gear Solid has always taken full advantage of the Dual Shock controller, and the PSP doesn't quite have as many buttons to offer players. It remains to be seen how they can squeeze Metal Gear Solid's gameplay into using the PSP controls, but hopefully it won't prove too cumbersome.
Of course, the gameplay is only one part of the attraction of a Metal Gear Solid game. The series is known for its melodramatic, philosophical narratives that often engage with topics that no other game deals with, like love on the battlefield or the nature of war. Portable Ops is no exception.
Taking place in South America, the game will see you teaming up with Roy Campbell to recruit soldiers from the enemy in an attempt to uncover the secrets of the current conflict. As you would expect, the game is full of double-crosses and waxes philosophical. It doesn’t spend any time holding the hands of players new to the series, so expect to feel a bit ostracised if you have never played a Metal Gear Solid game before.
If you’re a fan of Metal Gear Solid, you’re going to want to keep your eyes pealed for this one. Those who may be new to the series, however, will certainly want to stay tuned for NZGamer’s full review in the near future to discover whether this title is worth your money, or whether you might want to leave it hidden on the store shelves.
The Good: It's Snake as we know and love him.
The Bad: The controls might turn off some people.
The Ugly: Snake? Snake? Snaaaaaaaake!