I have always been interested in games that cross between the virtual world and the real world. There’s something that really hooks onto me when there’s a connection to the world outside the console/network.
I recently picked up Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops; the first real Metal Gear game for the PSP (not that I minded the Acid series as a diversion). Despite playing like most Metal Gear Solid games, it doesn’t follow all the conventions – the most major diversion being that Snake has to recruit soldiers throughout the game to help accomplish his mission.
The primary method of “recruiting” is to knock out an enemy and then drag him back to your truck or other team members. This is certainly a workable method, but a little tedious depending on the level size.
While I was monkeying around in the menus, I noticed one labeled “RECRUIT”. The three options were:
- Access Point Scan
- GPS Scan
While the Password option is almost exactly what it sounds like, the other two are extremely cool:
The GPS Scan option requires the GPS add-on for the PSP, which just came out and thus I don’t have. But if you get said module, selecting this will show you locations you can go to with your PSP to acquire new soldiers. That’s right – you have to walk with your PSP to the right spot to acquire game resources. Essentially, you are participating in geocaching.
The Access Point Scan option does not require an add-on. The concept here is that every wireless router in the world “contains” a soldier. As you get your PSP closer to a wireless router you haven’t accessed before, the on-screen signal grows stronger. Once it reaches a certain strength, you receive the soldier. (If you can’t get close enough, it is possible to mash the Circle button to help “boost” the signal.)
Why is this cool? It’s wardriving to acquire game resources – except since you’re not actually connecting to the router, there’s no legal grey area. The soldiers you receive from this scanning are (apparently) generated based on the MAC address of the router; I’d love to see if there’s a pattern to the types of soldiers based on router manufacturer or model. Beyond trying to crack the system – searching this city for wireless routers is just plain fun. It’s a mini-game that gives me another excuse to roam the city. I’ve already picked up eleven soldiers from the elevated stretch of the subway I ride every day – I can only think of the possibilities.
(I realize that, in many ways, this is essentially a modernized version of the Barcode Battler. This isn’t a bad thing – the Barcode Battler concept was a good one, even if the execution was incredibly crappy. Yes, I owned one. Shut up.)
In closing – kudos to Konami for including two activities that I would’ve never thought to associate with gaming into MGO:PO.