This week I’m reviewing “gaming on the go” with Playstation Portable’s (PSP) “Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops.” Konami Entertainment’s hit series finally comes to a portable system in its true essence. No, this isn’t a sorry excuse for a “Metal Gear Solid” game like its strategy/card game predecessor “Metal Gear Acid.” This is a full-fledged stealth title that most “Metal Gear Solid” fans will feel right at home with.
Taking place some time after “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater,” you control Snake once again. However, there’s a new formula to the “Metal Gear” gameplay this time through. Instead of just controlling Snake, you can now “recruit” members of the opposing force, creating an army to assist you. However, recruiting in “Portable Ops” means knocking out enemies and dragging them ALL the way back to your truck in the beginning of the stage or to a fellow squad member hiding in the area. This is a cool feature in theory, but lugging bodies around the map gets tedious quite fast. I began wondering if it was really worth it, considering some of your new “buddies” are next to worthless, with little health and no stamina. Whoopie, the new guy I just dragged around for about five minutes has the special ability to display little dots on the map that show me where more useless guys are hiding. Joy!
The camera is also a big problem. You’ll control Snake, and the rest of your army, with the control stick of the PSP (or as I like to call it the “nub”). This leaves the camera movements to the directional pad. In essence, you can’t control your character and your camera at the same time, unless you have some really fancy (and uncomfortable) finger work. This led me to many untimely deaths. Keeping the camera directly behind your character by holding the L button does help some, but it’s certainly far from perfect.
Multiplayer is this game’s highlight. “Portable Ops” includes a full online mode, so you can challenge the world and see who has the best “Metal Gear” skills. This is where all your “recruiting” from before will come in handy. If you’ve managed to collect a few worthwhile players, they’ll be of great use to you now, as you can bring them and the weapons you’ve collected into combat, allowing for full customization even on the net. With multiple play styles such as capture the flag and death match, online play can provide hours upon hours of fun. Honestly, this was one of the best organized and well structured online experiences I’ve seen on a portable gaming system ever.
“Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops” is a solid game (pardon the pun). It definably contains that certain element the PSP has been missing. Compared to other “Metal Gear” games like “Snake Eater,” it falls short. But hey, this is a PORTABLE game, and it does satisfy that stealth-action craving. The online mode is simply amazing, and the game is worth checking out just for that feature alone. PSP and “Metal Gear” fans will flock to this title undoubtedly. However, if you’re not a fan of the franchise and want a satisfying one player “Metal Gear” experience, I suggest trying “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater” or its remake “Subsistence” for the PS2. Complaints aside, a worthwhile portable game, and at this point in the PSP’s lifecycle, it’s a must have. The bottom line: “Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops” for the PSP 8/10.