18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A Great Game, But Only If You're Hardcore,
This review is from: Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops - Sony PSP (Video Game)
What made the Metal Gear series so wonderful was the concept of a lone operative sneaking into a base a la James Bond, but doing it realistically (crawling, hiding, sniping) instead of getting invited to a white-tie dinner by the bad guy. In the first PS1 game, you could be a novice player and still make it through the game, each time you play making you better and better. The PS2 games got more and more complex, sort of bloating up the concept with more complex controls and quick reaction scenarios where the average player would get creamed over and over again until the learning curve was passed. These "frustration points," as I call them got more and more numerous until MGS3, where the entire last third of the game was essentially one long frustration point (e.g., oops, stepped wrong, you die, oops, didn't make the shot, you die, oops, didn't lead the girl through 5 screens of bad guys safely, start over, etc.) To a hardcore gamer, these challenges are meat and potatoes, but to a casual gamer that can't play daily, the fourteenth time that 3 Metal Gears blow Snake into atoms is the time that the game gets shelved permanently. This is where MGS:Portable Ops puts itself: it's JUST hard enough to make the hardcore MGS fans want more, but JUST hard enough to frustrate the casual gamer into just shelving it.
First off, the game looks great and the sounds are perfect. How they crammed all of this into a UMD is spectacular and shows how well software developers can compensate for poorly-designed hardware. The controls aren't too bad, but the analog nub can be hard to control at times. The real permanent frustration point in the game comes with the camera, which seems to have a mind of its own. Dragging enemies (a HUGE part of the game) becomes a comedy of errors as the whirling camera causes you to spin around while you get used to the analog nub...you look like you're tangoing with a drunken partner! The camera likes to sit right up against your active man, so you can't pan out and get a wider view of things...this is especially fatal when going through doors, where you can see an all clear and pop out right into a guard's line of fire. For me, the camera is enough to make the game unpleasant...but I suppose it can be gotten used to. The missions are broken up into little ones (UMD format again) and they seem fine. They make sense and you do have some sense of time in the game. Well done!
MGS games are all about sneaking and infiltrating. Well, this MGS takes it one step further by allowing you to recruit soldiers for different teams (this has been explained in other reviews.) This is sort of a tactics-style development where you can outfit the troops, put them in squads and deploy them as a team. However, the developers decided to hamstring this potentially fun feature by making it so killed soldiers never return...so you can get a secret character for a major accomplishment...and he gets an unlucky camera angle on the next mission and ends up getting jumped by 3 guards. Well, your hard-earned man is now gone forever unless you reload. By making the risk too great, this keeps casual gamers from risking hard-earned troops on the battlefield. They should have an option for an easier mode where the soldiers can be brought back. However, the saving grace is that the unique characters (such as Snake) can be brought back and recover slowly.
This game is very complex and mastering it, or even proceeding in it takes a large time investment...unfortunately, it's not one that most casual or older gamers might be able to make. The manual only tells you how things work on a basic level and, like ALL NEW GAMES TODAY, you can't just have fun and play through...you've got to have the FAQ/game guide/cheat sheet with you or you'll never get 100% complete and the best ending. Lame.
With very little to reward the casual gamer, I can't recommend this as a 5-star pick. I'd rate it a 1. However, since it's so appealing by its tough nature to hardcore gamers (5 stars for them!), it DOES merit a 3 on the fun factor (1+5/2). The polish of the game is super and only the whirly camera demon knocks it down to 4 stars.