#716 Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

Posted: 5th October 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1005th played so far

Genre: Stealth/Action
Platform: PSP
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Konami

I don’t think there’s a better series to look at for stealth gaming than the Metal Gear Solid series. Obviously Metal Gear Solid V wasn’t out when the list was made. It seems to have been, in part, an example of Kojima’s scope and movie inspiration in its storytelling, but clearly with Konami’s compromises in there as well. It felt right, then, to leave the final entry I had to play in the series as my final stealth game.

It does feel like it’s going to be awkward to play this on the PSP, as it won’t give us the time for the lengthy, drawn out conversations that are one of the things that define the Metal Gear Solid series in my head, but I hope that this means we’ll actually get to play the game itself more.

Stealth

For some reason, stealth games just didn’t end up agreeing with me. In theory, for some of them, there’s a neat puzzle elements – how do I get through this area avoiding guards and other threats, take out lights or other systems and reach your goal. To make it more than a puzzle, there tend to be more complicated systems that raise complexity. It’s neat, but somehow it always ends up as a big mess of bad fighting for me. It might be a lack of patience as well as insight in how the system works. When it works, though, and you can learn the paths through, it’s incredibly satisfying and fun.

Our Thoughts

I wondered how well a stealth game on the PSP game would work and… well, perhaps Portable Ops suffers in part from its existence on a handheld. The controls are awkward and, in a game where positioning and getting a good view of your environment really matters, the lack of a look thumbstick is quite frustrating. It makes it difficult to get a feeling for the area around you and to get the information you need to be stealthy. I just never felt like I really got a feeling for what’s going on in the area and where I should be going. It felt clear even in the first stealth section – while I assumed it’d be easier, I ended up just triggering some violence and running to the end. It doesn’t help that as far as I can see, there are no alternative routes, so you’re just forced down this single funnel.

Similarly, firefights are difficult. You get dropped out of first person view when you get hit, which means you have to re-aim in third person. That’s really hard to do as you get no crosshair or other feedback, so you’re just firing randomly. That felt difficult as well.

It does feel like the game innovates in other ways. The squad system is one that I believe in more recent games, but here it’s quite neat to have multiple options to play to arise from that, although I don’t think I really got to experience that. At least the monologues are shorter and less self indulgent, which meant I at least got the core of the gameplay, rather than having to deal with the story and gameplay diversions I see too often in the series.

Final Thoughts

One of the things I’ve learned through the past decade is that that controls are the main thing that matters in keeping a game playable. There’s a lot you can forgive, but if you can’t play the game (and that isn’t the focus of the game), it gets incredibly frustrating and something I’ll skip sooner.

With that said, the game doesn’t quite feel like Metal Gear Solid anyway. Part of this is how different the game’s storytelling feels from the rest of the series, but it also comes down to the series just not adapting to the PSP as well as it probably needs to.