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PSP  header logo

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus

For: PSP

Positively worthless

Product: Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus | Developer: Kojima Productions | Publisher: Konami | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, Shooter, Strategy | Players: 1-6 | Networking: wireless (adhoc), wireless (network) | Version: US
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus PSP, thumbnail 1
Take Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops – one of our favorite and highest rated PSP titles – subtract the story, minus the intrigue, and sprinkle the slightest essence of new multiplayer content and you're left with one of the most underwhelming titles of the year. Harsh as it may seem, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus attempts to expand the award-winning gameplay of the original but ends up a worthless cash-in instead.

Despite being a standalone title, Portable Ops Plus serves as more of a light expansion for the original MGS: Portable Ops released late last year in the US (and June this year in Europe). The core gameplay remains unaltered, a wise choice given how polished its stealth-action mechanics are, so most of the added content focuses on multiplayer – more specifically, on bolstering support for online play with new game types, maps, and playable characters. A sole single-player mode is offered (Infiltration+) but really the emphasis lies on broadening the online experience.

Five multiplayer game types reside in Match mode, which supports a maximum of six players in either ad-hoc or infrastructure modes. Standard deathmatch/team deathmatch are here, along with capture mission/team capture mission and shooting range. The latter is a new addition, and involves two teams competing for points by shooting targets. All of these games can be played on over a dozen maps, several of which are introduced for the first time here (such as the new Rex Hangar map fans of the series will recognise from the original Metal Gear Solid on PlayStation).

Arguably the most inventive element proffered by the previous PSP MGS game was the concept of recruitment and it returns in Portable Ops Plus. Well over 100 different characters are available for recruitment, including special new avatars such as Old Snake and biotic Raiden from the forthcoming PlayStation 3-exclusive Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

Either playing through Infiltration+ mode or pulling soldiers based on your IP address, you amass a squad that can compete against other players' platoons online. Win a match and you can take any of your competitor's soldiers. Cyber-Survival mode returns as well, enabling you to send a select squad out into the internet to randomly engage other squads in combat. Lastly, a new trade feature has been incorporated to allow soldier swapping with other players.

Much of what made the original game so successful was the fantastic way it balanced a compelling story-driven campaign with tight online functionality. That balance is gone now, replaced instead by a shift to multiplayer that doesn't work particularly well since the game only makes minor additions.

The problem isn't so much in a lack of single-player content. On the contrary, Infiltration+ mode provides plenty of gameplay – it just isn't compelling. Metal Gear Solid games are as much dependent on stealth-action as melodrama and without a story to back up its solo play, there's little incentive to slog through environments recycled from the first Portable Ops game.

A large part of what contributes to this effort's underwhelming design stems from needless complexity. Menus clutter the interface and options galore raise a barrier to quick play. The game affords an unprecedented control over match hosting thanks to numerous options on weapon allowances, rules, etc, but unfortunately, this makes hosting an ordeal. Navigating through a sea of settings screens only to sit on an empty map waiting for others to join your game is a real drag. There are more people playing Portable Ops Plus than its predecessor, but that isn't saying much – tens of players, not hundreds, are venturing online.

Additions to the controls also unnecessarily complicate things. Communication amongst teammates within matches is handled via unintuitive button presses. Mid-match chatting requires pressing the Select button, then Circle, and finally tapping away on an onscreen keyboard. Preset messages are intended to simplify the process, but even these demand hitting the Select button and multiple presses of the D-pad.

And because this is all done during gameplay, you're likely to be killed before typing out a quick "n00b" to a squad-mate. For whatever reason, Portable Ops Plus fails to support voice chat which would have done away with the need for these nonsensical button combinations.

The game redeems itself slightly by acknowledging its 'expansion' status with a cheaper price point. With this in mind, Portable Ops Plus becomes more attractive, if only to extend the multiplayer experience of the first game. That said, the cost still seems steep and the experience would have been best released as a PlayStation Store digital download, much like Syphon Filter: Combat Ops. Konami should have realized that anyone interested in accessing the online play of Portable Ops Plus would be savvy enough to peruse Sony's digital storefront.

At least the publisher has been prudent enough to knock a few digits off the price tag, although the deal breaks when you realize that for the same money you can get a copy of the first game (a situation that is likely to repeat itself when Portable Ops Plus finally arrives in Europe next March). And that's simply too easy a choice. Faced with the minimal additional content, a lackluster single-player game, and the complex interface on offer here, we can't possibly recommend Portable Ops Plus to anyone but the most die-hard of MGS aficionados.
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 3 December 2007
We're positive you'll want to avoid MGS Portable Ops Plus: a lacklustre single-player mode, unfriendly interface, and minimal new content make it comprehensively inferior to its predecessor
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