The Metal Gear Solid franchise has been one of the very few games in this industry that positively evolved with great consistency alongside progressing consoles every generation. It’s a series that has kept and gained a large following due to its cleverly saturated storyline, and a cast of characters uniquely astonishing and badass to the core. It’s one of the most exalted worlds in the PlayStation brand’s gargantuan library, and it’s a universe brilliantly crafted by Hideo Kojima – a man who has kept the series afloat with compelling storylines, immersive action, and more conspiracies than government agencies have with UFOs. Peace Walker diverts very little from the aforementioned qualities that the series perpetuates so well, and depending on your unique style of play, the game actually offers amendments on Sony’s handheld.
When the game arrived at my house, I literally kissed its tiny plastic – yet sexy – cover. Most people would question why a grown man would do such a creepy thing; but it has a lot to do with the history I have with the series. As an avid fan of the series (and yes, I have had my quarrels with some of the game’s releases), it was refreshing to see how Kojima cleverly, yet subtly, removed most of the attention somewhat from the series’ main protagonist Solid Snake and focused the attention on his father, Big Boss (also known as Naked Snake). If you haven’t paid too much attention to the franchise, in just about every single Metal Gear game, Big Boss somehow plays a role. His legacy shadowed Solid Snake in just about every single game that Kojima released, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see the game’s sudden shift in protagonists. It’s only fair we see who Big Boss (Naked Snake) really is.
Peace Walker sets Naked Snake in the lush jungles of Costa Rica in the 1970’s, taking place after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The Cold War crisis permeates the world during this time, and Snake begins working with the Militaires Sans Frontieres in Central America. The pudgy group somewhat acts as the country’s army. A mysterious group equipped with the “latest weapons,” called the Peace Sentinels (PS) has been deployed in Costa Rica. Because the country’s constitution doesn’t allow for the creation of armed forces, the Costa Rican government isn’t able to do much about the PS situation. Naked Snake and his band of helpers are to eliminate the PS presence, as they threaten the balance of power. The story gets much more complex. In fact, it gets really deep to a point where you’re constantly uttering the words “Oh my god.” If you’re a fan of plot twists and such, you’ll enjoy the classic cut scenes – which offer a graphic-novel style intermission which, on occasion, offer interactive moments – and missions that will have you going head-to-head with tanks, generally inept soldiers and giant robots. Like every other Metal Gear Solid game, you can expect a dash of comedy, with the political overtones that past Metal Gear games have captured.
If you’ve played the Metal Gear games religiously in the past, you’ll begin to figure out that the game isn’t your typical action game where you have the option of just running-and-gunning your foes. It doesn’t work that way in the Metal Gear universe. Instead, your actions are methodical and just about every step you take must be patiently calculated. Kind of a “What would you do if you were truly placed in this scenario” thing where your actions determine the absolute fate of the hero. It’s not to say that you don’t have the freedom to go nuts and kill enemies with a variety of weapons you obtain, but that will only set off alarms and swarms of other eager aggressors who get paid to kill for a living. I’m not too sure these are the kinds of people you really want to be pissing off. Metal Gear is a franchise that strongly encourages its players to be stealthy, and find subtle ways to eliminate (only if you have to) those standing in your way. As with previous iterations of the game, you’re able to do this with various tools or objects, or you can just revert back to good old fashion sneaking around.
When most people hear that a favored game makes its way onto a handheld, they usually tend to sigh in disappointment – and with reason. It’s a new generation abundantly imbued with the technological prowess of visuals emitting from our next generation consoles. Why would Peace Walker etch its way onto the handheld platform when it can shine on the PlayStation 3? Well, I’ll say this much: Although it is a portable title and is inferior graphically when compared to rich PlayStation 3 visuals, the game looks absolutely stunning for a handheld game – one of the best that I’ve witnessed to date. But what sets the stage isn’t the visuals, as it tends to get repetitive. It’s the little things that we don’t appreciate like the water, leaves, butterflies and occasional glare from the glimmering sun that gives this game life. With impressive sounds that perpetuates the breath of life as the lush jungles fill the surrounding environment with quiet footsteps, faint insect noises, and character voices.
Peace Walker is split up into multitudinous missions, most of which take roughly 15 minutes or so to complete, although there are quite a handful that tend to be a bit longer. Your hub offers up the available missions which you can undertake, a full-fledged staff research and development staff serve your appetite for knowledge and cooks even keep your sidekicks up and running. This staff of yours does everything from increasing your stealth ability, to healing your wounded party members, and even creating an arsenal of weapons and gadgets for you to use on your sneaky missions. Your recruits, those who you wish to bring on your squad, are obtained through the Fulton balloon, which bags POWs or enemies into your base. If you have a pretty hefty heroism score (which is awarded at the end of each mission depending on how you performed), new members will flock to your growing squad.
Ironically, although the game’s single-player campaign is tons of fun and offers some intriguing perspectives on the story, it’s the co-op that makes the game sparkle radiantly. You’re probably saying something along the lines of “WTF?” but it’s true, folks. The co-op is astonishingly a bag full of sweetness. There’s a lot of variety in this department, which will keep you entertained for quite some time. You’re able to trade gear, share missions, track down big bosses, and trade soldiers. However, with all this goodness there must be some kind of trade-off, right? Yep. While the co-op offers a variety of things to do, it can be quite difficult, and the ability to play with some friends becomes increasingly necessary, which can be both a pro and a con. Personally, I enjoy some challenge. Nothing says “I’m an awesome gamer” like completing a difficult game that others seem to have trouble with. However, it can be a bit frustrating when you’re basically forced to play with others because you’re getting trumped. In a sense, it somewhat feels like raiding in an MMORPG when you basically have to play missions with friends that require extreme coordination and strategy. “Then maybe you should lower the difficulty settings, Yaris.” I would, but it doesn’t exist. Your best bet is to get your hands dirty with a friend when you’re stuck on a difficult mission to reduce the difficulty. And this does help tons, believe me. God knows the amount of curse words my neighbors heard me yell. And, if objects could feel pain, I’d be a mass murderer considering the amounts of things I slammed and punched in frustration.
Aside from the co-op, other multiplayer components include versus play – which allows up to six players to compete in a death match – and base defense modes. Although these additional modes add some value to the game, they aren’t as persuading due to the game’s overall focus on reconnaissance/espionage, which doesn’t fair well when playing against other human adversaries.
Of course, if you’re a loser like I am who enjoys boosting their character’s traits, you’ll enjoy the side missions (i.e. Extra Ops). Although shorter, they are helpful in developing your character overall.
As I’ve stated to many people before, if you’re a fan of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, Peace Walker is definitely a game that you shouldn’t pass up. Although there might be some minor annoyances like finicky controls at times, difficulty and a slow camera, it doesn’t render the game anything else short of amazing. Like any other Kojima project, the only thing you can expect from Peace Walker is insanely well put together. From holding people up with bananas to taking pictures of ghosts, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker has all the treats you need in a game. You can definitely expect an immersive jungle – although limited by the platform it’s released on – and a very deep story that will, as usual, leave you perplexed at times. If I were to nitpick and write on all the wonders that exist within this game, I’ll be writing a magazine-sized review. I trimmed the fat to only cover what I personally felt was needed to provide insight on what the game is composed of, and what I most enjoyed and disliked (although not much on the “dislike” department).
I dare say that Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is, by far, one of the best – if not the best – PSP game I’ve ever played. It contains all of the elements that make a great game a masterpiece, aside from the controls, which is more the fault of the PSP’s limited design. If you’re debating on whether or not to pick this gem up due to it being a handheld release, chuck that thought out the window. It’s a game that shines through even most AAA next-gen games; and it’s probably the best Metal Gear games I’ve played. It’s a bold statement, but it’s also what I’d like to consider fact.