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PSP Preview - 'Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Oct. 28, 2007 @ 3:41 a.m. PDT

MGS Portable Ops Plus adds new multiplayer modes, characters, maps. While the focus is on multiplayer, the new version will also feature a single-player portion with familiar characters such as Roy Campbell, Raiden and MGS4's Old Snake.

Genre: Action/Online
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Kojima Productions
Release Date: November 13, 2007

Be forewarned, Metal Gear enthusiasts: Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus isn't a new addition to the franchise's story line. There is, in fact, no new plot to be found within at all, so gamers who are simply dying to find out more hints about Solid Snake and the rest of the Metal Gear Solid cast will have to wait for the PS3-exclusive Metal Gear Solid 4. However, fans who are looking to expand on the online gameplay found in the original title should find Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus to be right up their alley.

Portable Ops Plus is built around continuing the online play found in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. Right off the bat, it introduces a number of new characters to the available soldier pool, including Metal Gear Solid 2 co-protagonist Raiden, a younger version of FOXHOUND Commander Roy Campbell and even Old Snake from Metal Gear Solid 4. This is, of course, in addition to a number of new generic soldiers, ranging from sword-wielding Tengu Elite Guards to the Genome Soldiers who battled Solid Snake in the original Metal Gear Solid. Naturally, each of these soldiers has his own unique attributes and abilities that make him a worthy addition to your army. For those gamers who've spent hours and hours building the perfect team in the original title, don't worry about losing your work: All of your old characters can be transferred over to Portable Ops Plus, and in the process, you may even see a few with improved abilities!

Portable Ops Plus' offline content is best described as a training simulator for online play. The single-player story mode has been removed and has been replaced with a number of randomized missions. Divided by difficulty, these missions involve going through a number of stages in succession without dying, failing or any weapons. The stages are all fairly simple and involve reaching the "exit point" of each area successfully. The catch comes in the occasional special mission that pops up, which forces gamers to react and adapt to sudden changes in their objectives. Such missions can involve surviving an enemy onslaught, eliminating every foe on the stage and just finding the exit within a strict time limit.

The entire Portable Ops ability system has received an upgrade. All of a character's stats can now go as high as an "S3" ranking, significantly boosting the overall effectiveness of that ability, and certain lucky soldiers can even go beyond where they could in the original title. Weapon skills, for example, do more damage and are even more accurate than the already-powerful S ranking; support abilities, such as medical or spy attributes, provide even greater bonuses. There are also a significant number of new traits available to the soldiers, which grant them even greater bonuses. While all of the traits from Portable Ops make their expected return, they're joined by new abilities. The Headhunter ability, for example, allows the character to spy on the stats of enemy soldiers — ideal for figuring out which ones are worth capturing. Others can replace their weapons with long-term healing abilities or gain improved athletic abilities that allow them to survive situations most soldiers couldn't.

The prize for completing a level in Portable Ops Plus is experience points, and each run-through gives experience to everyone involved in the mission. With enough experience, the characters level up and gain new and improved attributes. Every single soldier has different growth levels, so one who appears to be a weak soldier could level up into a powerhouse. Some, especially the named characters like Snake, have excellent basic stats but take a long time to level up and gain little from improving; regular soldiers are easier to level up, but each has different maximum attributes. Since the characters you train can then be taken online, Portable Ops Plus' best feature is that it provides a much more enjoyable and easier way to increase the power of your army than Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops did.

While the ability to send non-combatant soldiers to levels has returned from Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, stages are no longer selectable, which makes a few significant changes to the overall formula. Spy units now improve the quality of the in-game map. The better spies you have working for you, the more detailed it is, including enemy and item locations. Since items can no longer be brought into the stage and the time system has been removed, Medics and Engineers have been toned back a bit in usefulness from their Portable Ops counterparts. However, anyone on the Spy, Medic or Engineering team receives experience points just like their more active counterparts, making these passive roles a great slot for characters in need of leveling up.

Once you've built up a worthy team, you can send your soldiers to battle other opponents online, almost identically to the original Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops' mode. Players take their teams and battle each other online in a high-stakes deathmatch through a number of stages, some returning from Portables Ops and others exclusive to this new title. While battling online is fun by itself, especially with a new and improved team, the real challenge comes from the Real Combat mode. Unlike Virtual Reality combat, Real Combat is ... well, real. Soldiers who are killed or defeated may be permanently lost, depending on the actions taken by you and your opponent, and sometimes, you can even capture enemy soldiers and add them to your own team.

Portable Ops Plus' presentation hasn't really changed much from the last title. All of the models are the same; most of the stages are similar, if not identical; and, for the most part, there is little sense of this being a separate game from Portable Ops. However, these are minor complaints, as Portable Ops was easily one of the best-looking titles on the PSP, and age has done little to mar its looks. Unsurprisingly, the same musical score can be found within, and it still sounds great.

By this point, players have repeatedly torn through the original Portable Ops. Every character has been unlocked, every weapon mastered and every stage memorized. Luckily, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus is coming to offer a new set of features that gamers can adapt to and learn, and it significantly expands and improves upon the online content. While it may not be the Metal Gear Solid 4 that so many gamers are awaiting, Portable Ops Plus is certain to attract a loyal following when it sneaks into stores this November.

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