Review: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
It’s been a while since I’ve picked up my PSP. No, seriously. I think the last time I turned on my mini-Playstation system, Bush the Second was still in office. However, after hearing that a new Metal Gear game was being released specifically for my oft-neglected handheld, the PSP was no longer a system to be ignored. Returning at the helm of Peace Walker is original series creator Hideo Kojima, who had previously planned to retire from Metal Gear duties following Guns of the Patriots in 2008, only to renege on his initial plan and commission Kojima Productions to helm another Metal Gear game (not that we’re complaining at all).
After playing Guns of the Patriots, I was pretty torn about the Metal Gear series. Guns of the Patriots served as an excellent conclusion to the series, one that tied up most of the convoluted loose ends in as bombastic and clumsy a way as possible. The game was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but it played less like a game and more as a form of narrative entertainment, succumbing to the trappings familiar to the series through lengthy monologues and endless cut scenes, including a 90 minute finale that oughta come with popcorn and a soda.
Surprisingly, then, Peace Walker seems like such a breath of fresh air for the series, a refreshing change of pace in comparison to its predecessor, a game that seemed to just get larger and larger. Peace Walker takes place shortly after the events from Snake Eater, setting Naked Snake (voiced once again by the returning David Hayter) in Central America in 1974 as he forms the mercenary outpost Militaires Sans Frontieres set to defend the Costa Rican government from a mysterious army gathering in the jungles. The series adopts the mission selection structure first introduced in Portable Ops and thus abandons the more linear structure from earlier games, thus allowing players to customize their armor, fatigues, weapons, and equipment in between missions. The mission maps are particularly smaller than their console counterparts, but that’s to be expected due to the PSP’s limited hardware capabilities. Maps are not as large and fleshed out as before; instead they are a series of interconnected spaces divided by loading screens.
Another limitation placed on Peace Walker is the game’s combat system. The original Metal Gear was groundbreaking in its emphasis on stealth, utilizing camouflage, fake-outs, and boxes for evading enemies. Players can still stun enemies with tranquilizers and even choke them out, but due to the limitations of the system, you’re unable to crawl under objects and hide. Missions are pretty much spent running through and gunning down every enemy in sight which, as fun as that is, does not play like a Metal Gear Solid game should. This is less a slight on Peace Walker and more a plea for Sony to create a new handheld system because really, the prospect of playing a portable Metal Gear Solid game that looks, feels, and plays like a Metal Gear Solid game is just too good to imagine.
As you progress through the game, players are able to upgrade weapons, armor, and equipment through Snake’s own private army; by capturing enemies in-game, you can set up research and development, intel, and medic teams to better manage your resources throughout the game. For stat-heads, you can tinker with the different teams to develop the weapons and items you feel would serve you best, but for those less inclined to sort through menus and just want to get to the action, you can auto-assign your teams and resource developments. If you run low on resources or have a few team members killed, you can have a friend send a care package through an Ad Hoc.
Speaking of multiplayer, the game offers several multiplayer modes that can be played with several people: Versus mode allows you to play in either a Snake vs. Snake deathmatch or a defense-type mode which centers on completing a certain objective (each mode can play up to six players). While the Versus mode feels rather anemic in comparison, the game’s true multiplayer offering shines in co-operative play, allowing two players to play nearly the entirety of the game together while accessing areas previously inaccessible in single-player modes. However, co-operative play can only be accessed through ad hoc mode, meaning the player you are playing with must live close to you.
All in all, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is an excellent game for the PSP and definitely worthy of a pick-up. Now we just can’t wait for a proper Metal Gear game on a new iteration of the PSP.