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This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Konami's Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, the PSP's first traditional Metal Gear title, and a title that's been receiving positive feedback from the online press.

Danny Cowan

December 6, 2006

4 Min Read

This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Konami's Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, the PSP's first traditional Metal Gear title. Konami's Metal Gear series has enjoyed nearly 20 years of success across several major consoles. The series' recent PSP entries, however, have been far from what fans have expected. Though the Metal Gear name is most often associated with the stealth action subgenre, the PSP has so far only received a Metal Gear-related digital comic title and the Metal Gear Ac!d series, which places gameplay emphasis on turn-based strategy. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, on the other hand, offers a more traditional take on the Metal Gear series. Featuring stealth-based action reminiscent of previous Metal Gear Solid titles for the PlayStation and PS2, Portable Ops serves as a direct sequel to 2004's Metal Gear Solid 3: Sneak Eater, and promises appropriate complexity in gameplay and narrative. Though fans have expressed concern as to whether such complexities could translate well to a portable system, Portable Ops has thus far earned high marks from the gaming press. As of this writing, the title currently pulls in an average review score ratio of 86% at Gamerankings.com. 1UP's Thierry Nguyen scores Portable Ops at a 9.5 out of 10, the highest score recorded for the title thus far. "For all of you Metal Gear Solid fans who were shocked that the last two Metal Gear titles for the PSP were turn-based strategy games," he begins, "here's Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, an actual third-person action title that's closer to what you wanted -- and a whole lot more." Nguyen predicts that many Metal Gear fans may be surprised at the effectiveness of the gameplay's new focus on enemy recruitment. "This one gameplay mechanic introduces a host of changes that makes MGS: PO feel like a mix of 'tactical espionage action' (what people expect from an MGS title) and strategy (what people actually got with Metal Gear Acid)," Nguyen reports. With regards to how well Metal Gear Solid's controls mesh with the PSP's button layout, Nguyen remarks: "Most of the time, the control scheme works. Sure, it takes some getting used to (...), and it still has some faults (...), but it's a lot better than expected." "All this translates into a game that essentially pushes the PSP in all of its features: graphics, portability, Internet, extra hardware doohickeys, and multiplayer," Nguyen concludes. "Sure, it might have hiccups (occasional ghosting, quirky A.I., the one analog nub), but Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is not only a fine MGS title -- it's also a damn good showcase for the PSP." "DFS" at GamePro agrees that Portable Ops' straying from its source material works out to its advantage. "[Portable Ops] succeeds because it boldly strays away from the familiar path that was forged by its big console brethren," he says in his 4-out-of-5 review. "It's a risky strategy that ultimately pays off, and it is proof that being the black sheep of the family isn't such a bad thing after all." "DFS" notes that a number of smaller changes to Metal Gear Solid's gameplay also prove to be helpful, mostly in regards to the in-game camera. "Portable Ops uses a behind-the-back viewpoint with manual camera controls, much like Splinter Cell," he explains. "Combined with some traditional Metal Gear moves, like flattening against walls to peer around corners, it makes for a big improvement on the old top-down camera." A few drawbacks relating to combat controls and difficulties with multiplayer games are also outlined, but regardless, "DFS" feels that, "there's enough new stuff here that hardcore fans and the casually curious alike should take a look." Games Radar's Mikel Reparaz also feels that Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops has a lot to offer, even if it might not live up to the fanbase's lofty expectations. Rating the game at 9 out of 10, Reparaz writes: "Portable Ops feels like what you'd get if you took the Metal Gear Online game from MGS3: Subsistence, simplified it for the PSP and then built a single-player adventure around it. The game is mission-based and nonlinear, the missions themselves are short and to the point, the camera is fully controllable and the action is less complicated and faster-paced." "Oh, and there's a huge emphasis on multiplayer deathmatches," he adds. This stands in stark contrast to most other titles in the Metal Gear series, which are chiefly single-player experiences. "That might sound a little disappointing to series fans," Reparaz admits, "but rest assured that Portable Ops is anything but shallow. It delivers all the story, character development and tense action fans have come to expect from Metal Gear. And as an experience tailored to the PSP, it works beautifully, packing in more features than perhaps any other handheld game to date." It can be argued that the many gameplay changes present in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops are inevitable, due to the need to accommodate the limitations of a portable system. It's fortunate, then, that Portable Ops is able to so effectively duplicate the feel of a console Metal Gear Solid title, even after these required modifications. Critics seem to think that the game loses little in the transition from console to portable. Hopefully, Metal Gear fanatics will agree.

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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