Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops+ Preview
Metal Gear fans were ecstatic to learn their favorite franchise would be going portable with Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops on the PSP. Not surprisingly, that title did very well, so Konami decided to go with a sequel: Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops+. Prior to these games, stealth/action aficionados only had the Metal Gear ACID titles on the PSP, which - while still solid in many ways - weren't exactly "Metal Gear Solid." This is why Portable Ops+ will be one of the biggest games of the holiday season, and possibly the biggest for the PSP. Therefore, we dive in and take a closer look at this highly anticipated sequel, hoping to find Konami has once again pushed the limits of Sony's handheld to the breaking point. Back during the PS1 days, when the original Metal Gear Solid was introduced, could we really have imagined seeing something even better on a handheld? ...this is one fast-moving industry, that's for damn sure.
There is something that concerns us, though. While we always love MGS, one of the reasons we appreciate such titles is because of those fantastic storylines. However, Kojima and Co. are apparently going in another direction with Portable Ops+, as most preview reports say there isn't much in the way of a plot. In fact, the game only features Infinity Mission mode, which places your team in a variety of extended mission situations that consist of randomly generated stages. Of course, the game will get progressively more difficult the further you go, and your objectives will change, too. It's not always about reaching a certain goal on the map or eliminating one particular foe; you might have to even kidnap enemies in order to score a victory. Perhaps Konami is simply working to keep the storyline under wraps at this point, but we've found no evidence of the enduring and engaging storylines MGS is so well known for. However, some may like this new gameplay-oriented style.
But remember, one of the most significant differences between the home console MGS titles and Portable Ops is the fact that it's not a lone adventure. Quite the opposite, actually. In this sequel, you will be able to capture and keep up to 200 soldiers in your squad repertoire, and the entire purpose of the game is to execute team victories. It's not all about Snake and his solo quest to save the world; it's about a team of elite soldiers working together to stop a major threat, and if they perform admirably, they will be rewarded. Once a stage is complete, the game will evaluate how well your team fared; it will count how many times you were detected, how many kills each soldier scored, and maybe other facets like time, accuracy and stealth vs. open-fire kills. Once "graded," each teammate will receive an appropriate classification, which can improve over time. See, soldiers gain experience during battle, and the more they get, the more they can up their statistics. In this way, Portable Ops+ adopts some standard role-playing features in an effort to appear more realistic.
Veteran RPGers will recognize the almost-obvious set of skills used- Life, stamina, and a variety of individual abilities. After you've gained a sufficient amount of experience, you can then pick and choose which parts of a soldier you wish to "buff up." By the time you near the end of your quest, there's a good chance previously mediocre privates have transformed into effective and deadly warriors. And even though you can have 200 soldiers at once, you can separate them into four separate teams: Echo, Foxtrot, Hotel and Golf. This allows you to have full control over the battles and lets you switch soldiers in and out when needed. The recruitment system from the original - Access Point Scanning - has returned, but you're gonna have to work a bit harder this time around to land new allies. Some may actually refuse your proposal, so you'll have to scramble to cater to their needs (although we're not sure exactly how just yet). Lastly, if you didn't already know, the AP Scanning and Infinity Mission options are entirely separate; one is used for recruitment, and you can use those newly acquired soldiers in the Mission.
Oh, but it doesn't end there. You probably could've guessed, but one of this game's biggest positives is its multiplayer feature. Not only will we get a chance to play as Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Old Snake from the forthcoming Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for the PS3 (sweet!), but there will also be plenty of new maps and additions. Brand new gameplay modes await the multiplayer-oriented gamer, and we'll even have the opportunity to recruit soldiers directly from Konami's servers! Of course, you can probably expect many of the same maps you grew familiar with from the original title, but don't think for a second you'll be stuck with those. This is a true-blue sequel through and through, so don't make the mistake of assuming this is some kind of remake just because of that misleading "+" in the name. We don't know how long the single-player Infinity Mission will last, but with all those soldiers to recruit via AP Scanning and quite literally a limitless number of deployment possibilities, this one should last you a good long time.
No, we don't get the real GPS positioning as we had hoped for, but can you really complain? If you want the standard, story-driven, solo MGS quest, you'll have to wait for MGS4. But if you want the stealth/action goodness only this series can deliver, than feel free to pick up Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops+; you don't have long to wait: it'll hit stores next week, on November 14.
11/7/2007 Ben Dutka