Nov 13, 2007
Given that it's been almost a year since the awesome Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops came out, you could be forgiven for thinking that Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus is the expanded edition that seems to follow every MGS release. It's implied right there in the title, after all. In reality, though, Portable Ops Plus is more of a companion to the original; it features the same fully 3D, stealth-action gameplay, but ditches the story mode in favor of a ton of improvements to the game's multiplayer modes. Which isn't a bad thing, so long as you're not looking for the definitive PSP Metal Gear.
In place of a story is the new "Infinity Mission" mode, which puts players through a set number of short, randomly generated missions set in partial levels recycled from the first Portable Ops. Although these still put you in control of four-man "sneaking teams" (which you'll control one at a time, while the rest hide in boxes), most of them just revolve around finding an exit while evading (or killing, or recruiting) guards. A few will require you to take down every enemy in the level, stay alive through a timed alert or try and find the exit while sneaking through a ton of automated traps, but in general they're pretty cut and dry.
The problem with all this is that, while it's fun in short bursts, Infinity Mission gets boring after a while. This is partly because all the sneaking and shooting is really just a means to an end, which is the amassing of cool new characters and interesting junk to equip them with. Like in the first game, your main goal is to build an army, which you can do by knocking out your enemies (ideally with badass Close-Quarters Combat moves) and dragging them over to a waiting truck for re-education. (You could also just kill them, but that's kind of a waste.)
Assuming you already did that a lot in the first Portable Ops, you'll be able to import all your old troops into the new game. And because you probably don't want to give any up, Portable Ops Plus expands your available roster to 200 soldiers, enabling you to start recruiting like crazy regardless of how many you'd collected before. You'll also be able to bolster your private army just by completing missions, which nets everyone experience points and boosts their stats, giving soldiers with puny health and stamina (which is most of them) a chance to toughen up.
As for the new soldiers you'll be able to recruit, they run the gamut from slight variations on the first game's troops to masked stormtroopers who look suspiciously like the Genome Soldiers and Gurlukovich mercenaries from earlier Metal Gear Solids. They'll also have new talents for you to exploit; the Headhunter ability, for example, will enable you to see exactly what talents your prospective recruits have, just by looking at them in first-person mode. (Alternatively, you can just interrogate them at knifepoint and they'll sometimes give you cryptic hints as to what their abilities are, like "I got a rocket for an arm!" or "I can maintain your weapons!"
You'll also be able to recruit new faces by scanning WiFi hotspots, although it's a little more complicated now; you'll need to meet certain criteria before they'll come aboard, like putting a person with glasses into your Alpha sneaking team. Additionally, there are a few characters that can only be found by accomplishing certain goals - finishing Infinity Mission on normal difficulty, for example, will enable you to add Old Snake from MGS4 to your roster, while hard will net you Raiden. And, yes, you can put them on the same team as Naked Snake/Big Boss, although they'll never be onscreen at the same time - except in multiplayer, of course.
Aside from all the cool new stuff you can wade into battle with, the kickass, online-enabled multiplayer mode features a bunch of new additions, like seven full new stages (including a hangar containing the colossal Metal Gear Rex, which you're free to climb and fight on). There are also a couple of new modes added onto the existing deathmatch and capture-the-flag variations, including Shooting Range, which splits players into two teams and tasks them with shooting targets, and Chat Room, which is self-explanatory. If all the new modes and leveled-up characters leave you wanting something simpler, Portable Ops Plus will also let you connect with players of the original Portable Ops, although you can't take your new, Plus-exclusive characters or beefed-up abilities into battle. So much for impressing the noobs with Old Snake's mustache.
Had it included the full, original MGS: Portable Ops in addition to its expanded modes, recommending Portable Ops Plus would be a no-brainer. As it is, though, its appeal is limited to those who played through Portable Ops and want more, or to those who love playing Metal Gear, but skip through all the story bits. Either way, Portable Ops Plus offers a ton of deep, versatile fun for its $20 price tag; just don't go into this expecting the complete package.