Released in 2006, Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops (abbreviated as MPO) was the first Metal Gear Solid game for the PSP, it was also the first canonical installment in the series for a mobile platform (if you count Metal Gear Solid Mobile as non-canon).
It also marked the first important game in the series to not be directed nor written by Hideo Kojima.
MPO takes MGS3′s entire engine and reworks it for the PSP, removing things that are no longer needed like camouflage, and adding things that are the core basis of the game, like the Chameleon System and the Comrade System.
One of MPO’s importance in the overall canon is showing how Big Boss went from a solo-sneaking agent to a commander capable of leading a group of soldiers, which also explains how Big Boss overthrew the FOX Unit and formed Foxhound.
The game not only uses storytelling elements to explain this transition, it also incorporates a new gameplay element named the Comrade System, which allows you to recruit enemy soldiers to your side, improving their stats and form groups that you can later send into battle.
Another important aspect that differs from MGS3 is the idea of using the Chameleon System instead of camouflages.
The Chameleon System is a simple idea: if you are using a certain of soldier, other enemy soldiers of the same type will think you are part of them, as long as you don’t do weird stuff. There’s an indicator on screen that shows you when you are being stealthy with the Chameleon System.
The cutscenes is another thing that changes, rather than using real-time animation, it uses Ashley Wood’s stile art as seen on the Digital Graphic Novels. This is mostly due to the small space of the UMD disc rather than the PSP itself.
Another thing affected is the radio conversations and most other non-cutscene conversations, they have no sound, just text.
When it comes to soundtracks and ambient music this game is considered by many to be flawless, it’s not the music made by the great Harry Gregson-Williams, but it’s pretty damn good.
Overall the game is a port of MGS3 to the PSP, taking the system’s limitations in mind and adapting the gameplay mechanics to the needs of the storytelling.
The game got an expansion in 2007 named Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops Plus, which centered around recruiting soldiers, leveling them up and then battling them online. Although this game was mostly based around multiplayer online play, with singleplayer being left aside for leveling up, I still find this game’s single player mode to be extremely fun as you are going through a bunch of randomly created missions where you never know where they will take place, which soldiers you’ll encounter, where the exit is and if they will need certain criteria to be met.
All this aside, let’s see what the storyline brings up.
spoilers for a 7 years old game coming up!
The game is set up in 1970 and we find ourselves with Naked Snake mysteriously locked up in a cell he awakes up in, having no clue what’s happening and how he got there. In the cell enters a man by the name of Cunningham, who tortures and interrogates Snake, asking him about the Philisophers’ Legacy. Cunningham explains that one half of the Legacy is in America’s hands, and he is looking for the other half. Snake genuinely has no clue where the Legacy is.
Once Cunningham leaves, Snake manages to escape with the help of another inmate in the cell in front of him.
Snake reaches this inmate, who explains on the situation of both soldiers. The inmate is the last surviving member of a team of Green Berets sent to investigate an uprising done by the FOX Unit, a Unit that Big Boss used to be a part of. This man explains that they are located in the San Hieronymo Peninsula, known by the locals as La Peninsula De Los Muertos, located north of Columbia, just south of Cuba. The peninsula was used by the Soviets to build a military base and nuclear launch silo, but due to the SALT negotiations, the Soviet government decided it was best to abandon it.
The man then advices Snake to go to the communications room to try to call someone for help.
This man then reveals himself to be named Roy Campbell.
Snake heads to the communications room to try to contact his former commander Zero but finds himself contacting Paramedic and Sigint instead, both assisting characters in Operation Snake Eater. Paramedic explains that Zero has been arrested and that both him and Snake are being charged for treason, believing that they are in charge of a FOX Unit uprising that happened in San Hieronymo. Snake’s only way to clear his name is to kill the leader of the FOX unit.
Snake manages to free Campbell, who is suffering from Malaria and a broken leg, and they both gather intel on the FOX Unit leader, Gene and his plans to use a nuclear weapon he stole to blackmail the Soviet Union. Snake and Campbell start recruiting enemy soldiers to their side, but it becomes more apparent that they need to cure that malaria, so they head out to the hospital.
On the hospital Snake meats a young doctor named Elisa, who is in charge there. She has some sort of physic powers and decides to help Snake, first by giving him the malaria cure they need and secondly by telling him to go to the harbor, Snake will find the info he is looking for there. Snake is curious about a soldier in a tank and Elisa explains that he is the Perfect Soldier Project, a man undergoing intense training, including being secluded in a tank with all 5 senses shat to have his memory clean, to achieve being the Perfect Soldier.
Snake heads to the harbor where he watches how a man that goes by the name Python, and who apparently used to be a friend of Big Boss, confronts another man named Colonel Skowronski and imprisons him. The man is completely crazy and Snake sets him free. Snake then finds a crate in the cargo ship that looks different from others and says “Made in USA”. Snake inspects the contents and finds some plated armor and some machine guns, as if it were a tank. Snake receives a call from an unknown man that goes by the name Ghost, who informs Snake that the weapon Gene stole was a Metal Gear that was being developed using Granin’s original blueprint. Ghost tells Snake that the nuclear missiles are being held in the warehouse.
Snake and his team make a plan to infiltrate the warehouse and blow it up with some C3, that should prevent the enemy from transporting the nuclear missiles. Snake plants the bombs but finds that they won’t detonate. Python makes an appearance, showing Snake that he has frozen the bombs and explaining that the walls of the warehouse were too thin for the explosion, which would have caused the whole warehouse to collapse, killing Snake in the process. Snake tells Python that he thought he was dead, but Python explains that he was heavily wounded. Python’s body lost his natural ability to regulate the body temperature, which was increasing constantly, he would have burnt himself to death. But thanks to his suit filled with liquid nitrogen, he is able to survive. He also explains that he was given smal-time assassins jobs to keep his killer instinct intact to have him prepared to face Snake and kill him. Snake battles Python and beats him, it is unknown if Python is still alive or not as both him dying and him surviving are possible scenarios right after battling him, and he is not seen or heard of from again.
Knowing that he didn’t stop the nukes from being transported, Snake needs to find where they are transported to.
After interrogating the high ranking officer that helped move in Metal Gear, Snake finds that the nukes are in a missile silo. Snake attempts to infiltrate the missile silo but is ambushed by the Perfect Soldier, Null. Snake mentions how he has seen Null’s moves and attacks before, be he can’t figure out well. After a brutal battle, both men end up tired and Cunninham shows up with a bunch of soldiers, who knock Snake unconscious and take him prisoner.
Snake is interrogated by Cunninham and Gene, who reveals to Snake that he was the product of the successor project, a project that worked on creating the perfect commander by making a genetically superior soldier using the genes of The Boss herself. On another place, Null is wrecking havoc, being traumatized by the fact that he was unable to kill Snake, cause he’s the Perfect Soldier and all, but Gene manages to subdue him and place him back in his tank. Gene is also seen talking to an unknown man. In the interrogation Gene reveals that the entirety of what happened in Operation Snake Eater, including The Boss’ death, was all planned by a single cunning strategist, leaving Snake to shock as he always though that it was because of Volgin’s firing the nuke that caused the US to prove its innocence, but now it seems even that was scripted. Elisa visits Snake in his cell and informs him that Metal Gear has been moved to an assembly plant.
Snake is rescued by his comrades and they head to the assembly plant. There they are attacked by Metal Gear being controlled by Ursula, Elisa’s evil alterego. Snake blows up Metal Gear but Sokolov, the scientist from MGS3, who is now shown to be alive and behind the work on Metal Gear and who reveals himself to have been Ghost, tells Snake that he has not destroyed the actual Metal Gear, he only destroyed Raxa, a test model made for evaluation purposes. Gene starts speaking to his men and uses his charming voice to cause havoc amongst men, who start shooting each other, in the process, Johnathan, Snake’s first recruited soldier and friend, gets in the way of between Snake and a bullet, receiving the bullet straight in the head and saving Snake. Meanwhile, the real ICBMG is being carried to the nuclear launch silo.
Snake, by means of his spy unit, finds out that the entrance to the silo is an armored door being locked by a powerful magnet and it was impossible to open by normal means. The only way to get through that door is to cut the power supply, which would give them 5 minutes to enter through the door before the auxiliary power goes on. Snake plants a time bomb at the power station but is ambushed by Null, who can’t still get over the fact that he couldn’t kill Snake.
Snake then remembers who he is and explains to Null that he used to be the little boy Snake met in Mozambique where Null was fighting with a guerrilla group. There he killed dozens of soldiers with a single knife, throwing them offguard with the innocence of a child, and then killing them with the cold-blood of a hunter. Since he spoke a little German they called him Frank Jaeger, the Frank Hunter. Null starts to get a headache from remembering this, but then tells Snake that he didn’t need a name, he is simply Null. Snake and Null have a battle where Snake is victorious. Null kneeled down and remembered his past, he remembered that back then Snake saved him, to which Snake replied apologizing for sending him to rehab as he didn’t know he was going to be used for the Perfect Soldier project. Snake takes Null back to base camp and continues with the mission to blow up the plant.
Snake blows up the plant and infiltrates the silo, but when he is on the cargo elevator heading to where the nukes are located, Cunninham appeared. Cunninham explains that he didn’t answer to the Gene, nor the CIA, he answered to the US Department of Defense. The USDD was afraid of the CIA’s growing influence on the Army and military affairs, so they cmae up with a plan. They gave Metal Gear to Gene so he would fire it to the Soviet Union, tarnishing the CIA’s popularity. Since to the public’s eyes Gene was a renegade and the weapon launched into Soviet soil was Soviet-made and used Soviet missiles, the Soviet Union couldn’t blame the US for anything. Cunninham also revealed to have a Davy Crockett with him, which he will use against the base once Gene launched Metal Gear and asked Snake to leave, as he has already played his allotted part in the whole plan. Snake, worried about all the soldiers in the base, including his base, refused to escape the base and confronted Cunninham, saying that he will not allow Metal Gear to be launched.
After defeating Cunninham, Snake reaches the command center where Gene is inputting the trajectory data for Metal Gear, Elisa tries to stop him but he kills her, with which Snake gets really angry. Gene reveals that his target is not at all the Soviet Union, but the US itself. Firing a Soviet-made weapon into the US will cause a nuclear fall-out.
Snake tried to stop the launch sequence, but Gene says that once it’s already entered it cannot be stopped. Gene wants to fight Snake to see who the true successor to The Boss is, but Snake wins. Once defeated, Gene gives Snake a microfilm containing all the funds and data he amassed to build his military stronghold. Snake tries to destroy the ICBMG at all costs with RPG rounds and succeeds in the last minute.
Once home, Snake uses the funds he gathered from Gene to start his own Special Forces Unit that replaces FOX, named Foxhound.
At the same time, Ocelot, who managed to lure the DCI (Director of Central Intelligence) out of his hiding by making it seem like the nuclear warhead was directed at the CIA, kills the DCI and obtains the other half of the Phylosopher’s Legacy, who he later uses along with Mayor Zero to start the Patriots.
end of spoilers
Many people have problems with this game, starting from the bad control scheme to plot elements that lead to retcons.
Personally, I can easily get over the bad controls, specially on the vita where the game plays exactly like MGS3, and MPO+ kinda fixes the controls by having the camera move automatically behind the player.
As far as retcons are concerned, only one is done and that one is about Gray Fox’s backstory as Null, which retcons what the original MSX titles said, but at this point Kojima has retcon the original MSX titles so much I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t consider them canon anymore :P, other than that there aren’t that many plot elements that mess with the overall Metal Gear mythos, the game is pretty loyal to what is already established and does a good at explaining how two things happened: Big Boss becoming a commander, disbanding FOX and establishing Foxhound, and the founding of the Patriots, including clear hints at who founded it. Even Kojima itself said that this game’s story is needed to understand what MGS4 reveals of the Patriots, and personally, it is also needed to understand why Snake is in Columbia at the start of Peace Walker and why he is a commander instead of a solo agent.
Overall this game delivers a lot of good, it’s the masterpiece that previous games have been, but it’s a great game, it’s fun, it’s stealthy, it has a nice storyline with cast of interesting and charismatic characters. The game is all we could hope for when it comes to Metal Gear Solid on a portable device. I strongly recommend this game for PSP and Vita users, I will give it an 8 out of 10.