Like most MGS fans, I was torn apart when I heard that Snake Eater, perhaps one of the greatest games I've ever played, was going to have a follow-up on the PSP. "Why? Why would they do this to me?!" I retorted out of my cubicle that mellow Monday morning. It just didn't make sense to serve such an injustice to Metal Gear Solid by putting it on a "lesser" system. Surely, I never took the Ac!d series into account, since to me, those were irrelevant and not integral to the MGS storyline whatsoever.
Portable Ops is the first chapter of the series to finally explain what happened between Snake Eater and Metal Gear. For the first time, fans will be able to witness what caused Big Boss to slowly wittle away from his patriotic heroism and fade into the persona we more commonly are acquainted with; Big Boss & Outer Heaven. What should be understood from the get go is that this is a legitimate follow-up to the console Metal Gear Solid series. It's the same classic MGS storytelling, the same quirks, spoilers and awesome plot twists we love about the series magically on a handheld. Skepticism be damned, because it manages to almost perfectly pitch the same ambience players get when playing the console games.
Wipe that thick coat of dust off your PSP and show Big Boss himself a little Outer Heaven.
It's admirable to discover how Portable Ops was specifically designed for the PSP and not reeking of the quality of a slapped-together PS2 port. For a PSP game, it looks fantastic, with detailed character models that come very close to what you'd find on the console games.
Persuasion is the name of the game, as you and a much younger, fitter Roy Campbell set out to convince soldiers of the opposing force on your team. Usually, this would be borderline suicide, but since morale is low and times are rough (hint: Cold War and such). Each soldier is different, which is why it becomes addictive recruiting more and more soldiers to until your own miniature armies skills are tailor-made for any battle. You can recruit new soldiers by knocking them out using CQC and bringing them back to your truck or even better, recruiting soldiers online via Wi-Fi.
There have often been difficulties translating gameplay from PS2 to PSP, not because of the hardware, but because of the controls. Many games on the PlayStation 2 that have utilized all four shoulder buttons and both analog sticks had shortcomings on the little handheld. And as magnanimously awesome as Portable Ops is, it isn't as if it can materialize a second analog nub once popped in. Evidently, the controls tend to become a huge hassle from start to finish. I can't even count recall the amount of times I was noticed by a handful of guards or fumbled on my own feet because my fingers accidentally hit another diamond button, crouching or deploying a weapon by accident. It's extremely frustrating and can't be completely blamed on the game itself, but it is highly recommended to fiddle with the options prior to playing a game to minimize the chance of throwing your PSP across the room in a fit of rage.
It's hard to realize that I'm the same person who completely hated on Portable Ops in the first few hours of gameplay and now am completely in love with it. Change can, evidently, be good, granted it crafts the original content in a way that doesn't stray it too far away from the essence of the series. It's an extremely well-polished, consistent and fun title that not only lives true to its console brethren, but shows that a little change in gameplay mechanics isn't half bad, either. Wipe that thick coat of dust off your PSP and show Big Boss himself a little Outer Heaven. Go on, you know you want to.