You Don’t Have to Wait for Old Snake
I can’t wait for Metal Gear Solid 4. I have been saying this for a long time, and every time I hear about a delay and whatever reason they give for it not coming out for a long time, I am a little saddened. I can admit it and not think low of myself. I also happen to be very meticulous when it comes to stealth action games. Granted, Metal Gear may not be the “be all, end all” stealth games series for everyone, nevertheless, to me it is the one that I measure all others against. It takes a lot for me to get into stealth games that do not have the MGS initials associated with them. Last year, after an absence filled with a trading card game of sorts, I had another example of stealth action to compare to all others. Except this time, it was on a handheld.
When Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops arrived on the PSP, I was skeptical. I had no idea what it would look like on the PSP or even what it was going to be about. From the first few missions of the game, I figured out how much I had a need for a Metal Gear game that was travel ready. The story was deep, slightly complex, featured several gameplay variations, and fell into continuity of the series nicely. Literally, I played that game for several months and now I will still occasional boot it up to begin the experience all over again. It was a great game.
I think that it was the interweaving storyline that made a lot of us enjoy it and enjoy it repeatedly. Unfortunately, this is my biggest complaint with the latest iteration of the Portable Ops subgenre, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus. I love the storylines of games sometimes more than the game itself. Therefore, in that regard it is a huge let down that Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops Plus has a slim almost non-existent story-arch. In fact, there are few games that I would say that even attempt the slim / non-existent story-arch approach and get by with it. Well, without being obliterated by fans and journalists for being a shallow shell of a game. You might be asking, “Well, if there’s no storyline, then what the heck are we doing in the game?”
If you played the original title, it will come as no surprise to you what the driving force behind this game is. For those of you needing a Snake fix and discovering this title, you quickly discover that your main focus is collecting intel about your surrounding and enemy. However, this is not how some will view the point of the game. Instead, it is all about how many soldiers you recruit into your ever-growing army. The joys of this little gameplay aspect are vast indeed. For instance, you can knock enemies in stages unconsciousness, drag them yourself or eventually have your teammates drag them to the truck and capture them. If this seems like too much stealth action for you, there’s another way. You can, using the WLAN on the PSP, search various wireless connections around you to find some good soldiers that will join your squad. However, this has been tweaked a little from the first title. When you find a potential recruit, what kind of members you have in your recruiting squad will determine whether they join you or not. This increases the joys of finding various new recruits; it may also increase the frustration levels in some players if they don’t have the required characters to obtain these really good soldiers.
While recruiting various soldiers through different methods is great, there were also characters you could unlock in the first title that made it feel more rewarding for gamers have wrapped themselves in the Metal Gear universe for 20 years now. Portable Ops Plus has a few nice rewards as far as this goes as well. For example, you can unlock Naked Snake, Raiden in the Ninja suit, Roy Campbell, and even Old Snake from MGS4. This is great for those that can’t wait to get an idea of how Old Snake will play. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really bring anything extra to the game after being unlocked. Maybe a harsher slap in the face for extensive gameplay like the first is the Infinity Missions. Great for repeat play through to build your characters attributes, but having the difficulty settings determine the amount of stages you play through seemed a little uninspired. It is very misleading as well. Hard feels like normal and the Extreme setting feels like hard.
Linking up with a few other strategy enthusiasts works the same as it did before and plays the same as well. Not changing the online play was a smart move in my opinion. It wasn’t broken before so why try to fix it? One of the things I loved the most about the online play was the inclusion of some new maps. Moreover, it will make several fans happy to hear that an updated version of the REX Hangar is a new playable map. It was this nostalgic map that made me want to play more, and I don’t think it would have mattered as much if the graphics were not stunning.
Just like the previous installment, the graphics are great to look at. Capturing the world of Snake to a T. Plus, it also helps secure the PSP as the best graphically charged handheld system out there. With character models and environments like this, it makes you wonder just what else can the PSP do. The sounds of the game also bring the Metal Gear Universe to wondrous eardrum numbing perfection. Even though most of the dialogue is not spoken, it is at least nice to know that David Hayter has once again reprised his role has the graveled voice of Snake. Couple that with the orchestral edge-of-your-seat score that has become associated with MGS, and you should already be on your way to the store.
Portable Ops Plus feels a lot like an expansion pack. Unfortunately, for an expansion pack to be worth the money there needs to be a lot of context for you to feel justified. While Portable Ops Plus doesn’t offer an incredible amount of new things, it does do an exceptional job at recapturing the elements we loved in the first title. If you are brand new to the handheld world of Snake and friends or if you have been playing Portable Ops to the point of walking the maps in your sleep, then at 20 bucks there’s no reason for you to snub this latest title. In addition, it will help fill in for however long it will be before MGS4.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.6 Graphics
The same great graphics that were on the first Portable Ops. 4.4 Control
The controls still are a bit to get used to, unless you just finished the original title. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
All of the sounds from the series that we love are packed in this little UMD, again. 3.5 Play Value
Even though it has a lot of new tweaks here and there it really is just the same title without a real story. But it can’t be beat for the price. 3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.