Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Reader Review
Jonathon's dead. Can't believe it. Staring at the screen, the text informs me Jonathon is dead, but I still don't believe it. I move to the 'manage' screen, and there is now a gap in the Alpha Sneaking Unit where he used to be. I can fill it with another solider, sure. I have plenty in Beta, Delta, etc - but his/her stats aren't as good, and they are not Jonathon.
How did this happen? How did I get to care about a character within a Metal Gear game that is not Snake? It's a clever element to introduce: sneaking about - knocking the enemy out, and then dragging them back to the van to 'recruit' them (I'm a one-man press-gang). You then decide where to place them - medical team, to build up your medical supplies; tech, for weapons; spy, to gather information; or in the sneaking unit - the unit you actually get to control, where you can use the various attributes of the squad to get the job done. You equip the soldiers, you play as the soldiers, and when they die as a result of something you've done - whilst you were in control - you care.
Snake is still the main man, the Big Boss, don't get me wrong. It's great to be back straight after the end of MGS3 - and great to be playing real, sneaking, MGS on the move, instead of some form of AC!D (although I enjoyed them too). The first time you move the camera around you breathe a sigh of relief - finally Metal Gear Solid has come to the PSP. Soon Snake is hanging off ledges, knocking against crates to distract guards, and has his back against a wall to peak around the corner. Later, as your team builds, the spy units tell you where all the decent weapons are, and you start having some real fun. Have no doubt, almost all of Metal Gear Solid has been squeezed onto a PSP.
Almost. The camera still has occasional issues, due to being mapped to the d-pad in third person (analogue nub with right shoulder pressed) - but nothing major, and I soon learned to adapt. Also the cut scenes, the bane of every MGS critic/player, are here - but shorter for obvious reasons (these ones don�t go on for 10 minutes) and are presented in a stylised comic-book fashion. This works extremely well, and is a great example of how the MGS developers have really looked at how to make the most of the game on the PSP format. Another example is being able to wander around places (such as Canary Wharf), find access points, and being able to recruit soldiers from each and every one. It�s meant that my PSP really has been out and about after months languishing at the bottom of my bag. It adds an element of unpredictability - and if only I could encourage my PSP friends to get the game, we could have some serious multi-playing action. (They are all sensibly waiting for the more feature-packed UK release, so that needs to be fleshed out in another review.)
It's a shame I haven't been able to try multiplayer yet - as the maps do appear to lend themselves to that sort of play. They are tight areas, but have plenty of levels to sneak around in, with loads rooms to explore that certainly lend themselves to portable play. I can often complete a couple of missions on my train journey to and from work. Getting to the goal comes with a great sense of achievement, and after a lot of exploring (and dragging knocked out 'recruits' back to the van).
But for now, back to the game. I don't want it to end, and have to seriously resist going back to my saved game to bring Jonathon back. He's gone. Deal with it. There's still a Metal Gear to stop, and now Snake has a team you built to help stop it. The story is Metal Gear, and this time the game is Metal Gear - real Metal Gear, complete with memorable boss battles, sneaking depth, and cardboard boxes to implausibly hide in. And as such, this is pretty much the best game I have played on the PSP. Big words, for a big game - but as a MGS fan I couldn't ask for much more.
Jonathon R.I.P. - I'll complete this game for you soldier.
9 / 10