Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker Review

Posted on September 6, 2010 by

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This is really more Omnilion’s area of expertise. It’s not that I don’t like MGS as a series, I love it, though I have to admit that Guns of the Patriots gave me serious cutscene plot fatigue, clocking in at 28 straight hours of game time on my first run through. But I’m gonna endeavour to do my best to tell you about MGS: Peace Walker without spoiling things…

Originally slated as MGS5 (Now the title being given to a new secret project, I’m betting someone just clones Big Boss again, but does it better this time so there’s none of that premature ageing rubbish), Peace Walker is the second MGS game on the PSP, and the fifth handheld entry to the series in general (I know AC!D and Ghost Babel (fish) aren’t technically canon, but meh) and improves vastly on the previous PSP entry, Portable OPS, which was pretty good in its own right, but came off as being an obvious beta, plus it lacked true involvement from Hideo himself which resulted in a very lacklustre story. For the purposes of this review, I’m going to assume you’ve played MGS before in some iteration, given that Peace Walker is the sort of game that only MGS fans are gonna consider buying, so a lot of the comparisons I make here will be to MGS4 (Where much of the new control scheme is copied from) and MGS:PO.

So, MGS4 was (Apparently) the final game in the series to feature Solid Snake (I say apparently, because Hideo is a tricksy bugger), so Peace Walker returns to the adventures of Big Boss, picking up pretty much where Portable OPS left off, and filling in the gaps between Snake Eater and Metal Gear, telling the story of how Outer Heaven came to be. Now, as the complex characters in the Metal Gear series go, Big Boss is one of the best. Watching BB’s story over the series as he’s constantly manipulated by everyone around him is akin to watching the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars.

So story-wise, Portable OPS is basically dismissed with a few quick lines at the start, although it stands to reason the Militaires Sans Frontiers (Soldiers with borders or MSF) exist is due to BB acquiring Gene’s funds at the end of that game. The basic story is that BB and the MSF are hired by the KGB to investigate a mysterious (CIA) ‘security firm’ turning up in Costa Rica, and from there, things get very… Metal Geary. I can’t really talk about the story because if I do i’ll almost certainly spoil the plot, because even the smallest things tend to come back with a vengeance later in the game. If you’re thinking of buying this, you know what MGS games are like story-wise, so all I’ll say is that the story here is as complex, engaging and mind-screwy as ever.

Gameplay, then. Now that, I can talk about. There are three control schemes. ‘Shooter’ works like Syphon Filter did on the PSP. Moving with the analogue nub, moving the camera with the symbol buttons, accessing inventory, action commands and crouch with the D-Pad, and aiming and shooting taken up with the shoulder buttons. This is the default setting, and by far the best. It’s as close as you’ll come to having a second analogue nub on the PSP (A subject I could rant about for some considerable time) and it works well. The second setting is basically identical to Portable OPS, which is okay but far from perfect, and the third is ‘Monster Hunter‘. Yeah. Why is it called that? Well, if you didn’t know, Peace Walker is, for some reason, A CROSSOVER WITH THE MONSTER HUNTER GAMES. I HAVE NO IDEA WHY.

The shooting has gone from third-person/first-person to MGS4’s over-the-shoulder approach, which works very well. Also implemented in the ability to move while crouched, though you now cannot move while prone, though it’s not an ability I missed at any point. Also like MGS4, action commands (Contextual, all working off one button, but changing depending on the circumstances, equipped items, position etc) perform the vast majority of special actions like pressing against a wall, looking at things and using items. One thing carried over from Portable OPS is the recruitment system. MSF needs men, so BB knocks them out and abducts them, although now he doesn’t need to drag them to a van, he just sticks a fulton recovery balloon on them, and they get whisked off.

Outside of the missions, you have to deal with the day-to-day running of the MSF, who are living in an oil rig known as the Mother Base, which gets expanded and improved over time as you recruit new men, acquire new tech or steal new vehicles. From the Mother Base, you can perform R&D into new tools, weapons and vehicles, send out mercenary squads to make money, organise your base personnel and check out mission briefings. This is streamlined from Portable OPS and requires much less work to keep things running as you can just set things to sort themselves out automatically.

Graphically, it looks amazing. I would have to say, it looks as good, if not sometimes better thanSnake Eater. This is a game (Along with God of War: Chains of Olympus) that really shows what the PSP can actually do, vis- match the PS2. No mean feat for a device you can hold in the palm of your hand. There are a handful of fully CG-rendered cutscenes, but for most part (Presumably to save space on the UMD) the majority of cutscenes are done in the style of the Digital Graphic Novels (As used in Portable OPS), which look animated and vibrant, but do include a number of ‘Press X not to Die’ moment, which I loathe on principle.

The score is pretty much the same stuff we’ve come to expect from Harry Gregson-Williams, which is epic, catchy and always very fitting. It never really stood out for me, but it was there, it was noticeable and it did it’s job. The voice acting (For there is voice acting in this, unlike half of Portable OPS) is provided by the series regulars David Hayter and Christopher Randolph as Big Boss/Naked Snake and Huey Emmerich, who are as usual, excellent, alongside veteran voice actors Tara Strong and Steve Blum.

The one thing that disappointed me about this game was the platform choice. I love Big Boss, and I want to know more about him and his exploits. He’s far more engaging than grouchy Solid Snake with his goofy, geeky personality, and I really want to see future games with him getting the full console treatment, but it seems unlikely for the time being, with Kojima focusing on MG: Rising and his secret MGS5 project. As it is though, Peace Walker is an excellent addition to the series. The plot is far less cluttered and expositional than Guns of the Patriots, the controls and gameplay are vastly improved on Portable OPS, and it comes across in general as being a very polished professional package. It might as well have really been MGS5.

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Posted in: Games