Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker basically opens with Kaz saying "Finally, we can leave all that crap in San Heironymo behind us." ...and the series has basically done that. Why? Why was Peace Walker included in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and Portable Ops was left to rot on the PSP?
We have an answer. Spoilers follow.
Kojima wants you to forget about this..
First off, Hideo Kojima didn't have an active hand in this game. Next, if you read any fan summary of the series (it's needed even if you're a huge fan; this shit is convoluted), Portable Ops seems to hold down a key plot point. So key that at one point in time, Metal Gear Solid 4's story was contingent on Portable Ops' story. Portable Ops is the story of how Zero secured the Philosopher's Legacy in order to fund the Patriots. Now, I just said a lot of shit and if you're not a fan you have no idea what the fuck I'm talking about. Basically, the Patriots are a shadow government that ends up significantly controlling the world and you sort of need a fuckton of cash to do that. That's what the Philosopher's Legacy is; a fuckton of cash. Sort of a dramatic name for a pile of benjamins so huge it would make Alex Rodriguez blush.
Solid Snake huh? Sounds kinky.
This eventually makes Big Boss go apeshit and the rest of the world collapse in insanity. You would expect this to be a plot heavy game. Not really.
I spent the first 2 and a half hours looking for a cure for Malaria. Cue white lady asking for money.
III WILLLLL REMEMBERRRR YOOOOOOUUU
WILL YOOOOU REMEMBEEEERRR MEEEEEEE????
Yeah, so you meet Roy Campbell in this game (the colonel from Metal Gear Solid), and he's some sort of.. haggard looking perv with Malaria. So, you have to find the cure and you need help to do this. This leads directly into the game's first huge problem. Maybe it wouldn't be so huge if I hadn't played Peace Walker first, but I did. Peace Walker features a really great base/army building mechanic. You use a fulton recovery system (that shit in The Dark Knight when Batman fucks up that Chinese dude's shit) to recruit soldiers to your army and build Mother Base. Portable Ops also has an army building mechanic. It fucking sucks.
See, Kojima was smart. He knew you wanted to build your army, so he made that shit like Pokémon. You were catching soldiers left and right. Portable Ops forces you to drag the fuckers all the way back to the truck, and dragging soldiers is slooooow. Yeah, you don't actually have a base in this game. It's a truck. I'm not sure where your army goes in the meantime. Are they all in the truck? Is it like the trucks in Metal Gear that are as big as a house on the inside? You can recruit soldiers who carry people faster, but it's still not fast enough. The time that you spend pausing the game, switching soldiers, walking to the soldier to be recruited and dragging them back will probably equate to the time spent carrying them back with Big Boss.
It puts a terrible damper on the game, and it's basically required. One clever aspect of this is that if you play as a recruited soldier, they'll retain their fatigues they wore when they were captured. This means you can walk right in front of enemies, and as long as you're not being suspicious they won't care. This has some odd caveats to it. Sometimes they seem to just attack you if you go into or out of some areas. I really don't know why. I guess you're just not supposed to be in there. What kind of a soldier just automatically shoots an apparent comrade for going in a room though?
That camouflage mechanic seems like it would make the game too easy, but it doesn't. You have to use it. The game is too difficult at times because the controls are the worst kind of asshole.
This kind. They flip-flop.
It's really sort of hard to explain them. Mechanically, there's nothing wrong with them. They're laid out correctly. They just do not work. I think it's because the game maintains the same difficulty as its console counterparts, but it's just damned hard to play on that level without a good way to manipulate the camera. The d-pad handles the camera, but it's just not easy to do while you need to think on your feet since the d-pad is above the stick which controls movement. Another huge problem with the controls is the aiming. You have never aimed a gun so slowly in your life. I cranked the sensitivity all the way up and I couldn't discern any difference in speed. This makes boss fights frustratingly impossible.
Anyways, once you're cured of Malaria the plot sort of starts. There's a man named Gene staging an uprising and attempting to use Metal Gear to nuke Russia. Of course Big Boss has to stop this. So, you start recruiting his soldiers and using them against him. This is actually clever. You can deploy spy units to scout locations and give you a view of the map. The spies will occasionally collect supplies as well. Everything in Portable Ops has an ugly downside though, and at times the game will force you to place spies to scout areas in order to find your next mission. The game makes it obvious that you should do this, but the location is sometimes vague as are the requirements. One mission arbitrarily requires you to place four spies in one area to proceed. Of course this loops back around to the problem with collecting soldiers; it is a requirement and it sucks.
Anyways, the story doesn't really become relevant until the end. The story is also ridiculous even for Metal Gear standards. We've got psychic girls running around, some kind of dictatorish guy who has special powers in his voice for people to listen to him, the somewhat odd introduction of Gray Fox, a last minute Ocelot appearance.. oh, and Malaria.
The title honestly says all you need to know about the game. Let's take a look...
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Okay, so the first three titles don't tell us much. Sons of Liberty, the group responsible for the Boston Tea Party (no libertarians, please). Also relevant to the title as the Patriots first become known here and the terrorists at the tanker refer to themselves as the Sons of Liberty. Snake Eater, sort of nonsensical but important. This apparently referred to soldiers who went into areas so deep that they had to forage for food, and sometimes ate snakes. You also do this in the game. Portable Ops. This has no meaning. Guns of the Patriots... I actually haven't played Metal Gear Solid 4. I'll assume it has meaning, though. Peace Walker refers to The Boss AI's self sacrifice at the end of the game in order to prevent nuclear war. I'm assuming Ground Zeroes refers to the start of Big Boss' active descent into villain (a ground zero of his life). The Phantom Pain refers to a pain felt in a limb that is gone, and Kaz can be seen in MGS V trailers missing limbs. Not to mention Big Boss' robot hand.
Notice anything? All of those titles have some bearing on the overall theme of the game. Portable Ops means nothing. That's really all you need to understand this game.
Portable Ops isn't worth it. The ending is really the only interesting plot of the game. Gene ends up giving Big Boss the necessities to found Militaires Sans Frontieres in Peace Walker as Gene notes similarities between the two of them. This is actually very interesting, as Gene's intention was to start an independent nation of soldiers called Army's Heaven. Big Boss' attempts at this are called Outer Heaven. I think this is an interesting plot point, but Portable Ops seems to be largely forsaken at this point in time. I doubt it'll resurface and it probably shouldn't since Gene wasn't terribly well developed as a character to have such a huge influence on Big Boss' psyche.
Go ahead, try to ignore the fact that I am Steven Blum and the only thing Steven Blum does is sound like Steven Blum.
I can't really recommend this game. Your time would be better spent just watching some YouTube videos with the cutscenes. It's a frustrating game that occasionally becomes incredibly enjoyable. There's really nothing more angering than a game that can go from brilliant to rage inducing.
I didn't even mention the fact that you can only carry four items at a time. That sucks too.
The Score: 6/10