Metal Gear Solid Noob Diaries #17: Portable Ops
Welcome to the Metal Gear Noob Diaries. This is the recounting of my experience through the MGS series from MGS2: Sons of Liberty all the way to MGSV: Ground Zeroes. I’ll be updating every so often with new thoughts on sections of the games and taking a look back at memorable and enjoyable moments. I’ve never played the series before, so for the fans out there it could be an amusing tale of one noob’s journey, while those as green as myself could well learn a little about the mad world of MGS. Enjoy!
Remember I said I have a surprise? I’ll be honest, it’s not that surprising: I’ve gone and bought another Metal Gear Solid game. Noticing that there’s a game chronologically, both story-wise and in real life, between Snake Eater and Peace Walker, I dug out my PSP (which I was amazed to see still works) and bought Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops on Amazon for a rather friendly £4. So consider this a little interlude, as I’ll be providing general updates on the game rather than the detailed entries I’ve been writing so far - I’m on holiday, give me a break!
I’ve played the game for a few hours in total so far and while I’m glad I bought the game and brought it with me on holiday, I’m not wholly impressed as of yet. I’m finding certain elements of the game rather frustrating and others a little boring. On the whole I’ve enjoyed it, but after very recently finishing Snake Eater this feels like a bit of a come-down.
The presentation itself is very good: the game doesn’t look much worse than the PS2 games and works very well for a now archaic PSP game. I’m glad to see that the game includes an actual plot that’s given legs through comic-style cutscenes, the scenes even feature the original voice cast as well as a young Colonel Campbell (well, obviously he’s not a Colonel just yet). The opening plot is a lot easier to digest than that of MGS3: Big Boss/Snake has been captured by members of the now rebellious Fox unit, from which Snake retired shortly after Snake Eater. The independent Fox unit has decided to form a soldier’s nation in South America, although Snake’s role in the whole affair is unclear to start with.
Naturally, Snake busts out of prison and begins a self-imposed quest to take down the rogue Fox unit with Campbell by his side. The game is set out very differently to all the previous Metal Gear games. As opposed to a rather simple linear structure within a restricted but expandable environment, Portable Ops allows the player to choose small individual missions from a central menu system, making it more ideal for portable play. From that menu system, the player can also manage their team of soldiers - obviously another new concept to the series.
It’s an interesting system that sounds good on paper, but I’m not getting on with it at the moment. For one thing, actually capturing guards in the field and dragging them back to the truck is a bit of a laborious activity. Once they’re part of my team, it’s all a bit basic - just place some men in each section (out of Sneaking, Spies, Technical and Medical) based on their skills and try to keep them alive. There’s not a whole lot of tactical complexity, but perhaps the MGS/X-Com hybrid I’m clearly imagining is a tad overzealous.
That unusual mission structure I mentioned before is also causing me some issues. There seems to be this unspoken rule concerning games on handheld consoles: broken up and playable within a short period of time. That’s not necessarily how I actually play on handheld. I have, admittedly, had smaller sessions than I would on console but I’ve tended to play far more than a few missions at a time, and these can often feel a little too small and too quick.
So far then, I’m not so sure about Portable Ops. I’m very, very glad that I’ve got an MGS game with me on holiday, I fear I would have suffered from withdrawal symptoms otherwise, but I’m hoping that the experience improves somewhat from here onwards. Right now, it’s feeling rather like a poor man’s MGS, and I’d much rather be playing Snake Eater again. There’s plenty of time for me to warm to it though, and I have faith that I’ll be won over by the end of my holiday.