Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker review
Call me... Big Boss!
Kojima really raised the bar with his latest gift to the Playstation Portable, hoping to rise above the disappointing Portable Ops, which had built up a lot of hope for the series on the Playstation Portable but really failed to deliver. Its arrival did provide the portable gaming community with its own slice of Metal Gear heaven, however, it seemed very short lived and quite frankly unsatisfying. The expectations of Portable Ops were sadly not met, and some could say this was due to the fact that Kojima had minimal involvement with the project's development, merely acting as a producer. Suffice to say, Peace Walker has come to redeem its predecessor, with Kojima taking the reins in a more hands on approach as Director, Producer and Writer, to bring a true Metal Gear Solid game to the PSP and share with us a truer Metal Gear Solid experience than we could have possibly hoped to have imagined before.
Peace Walker is set 10 years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3, in the year 1974. Located in Central America, Big Boss appears to have become more distant with the government which set him up. Loosely following off from where Portable Ops ended, Big Boss has begun development of his own Mercenary unit, endeavouring to create his own and very first Private Military Company, the Militaires Sans Frontières (Soldiers without Borders). Big Boss, in partnership of the unit with Kazuhira Miller, are contacted by a Costa Rican professor and student from a 'Peace' university, to deter the invasion of a mysterious military force called the Peace Sentinels from invading Costa Rica.
The game is set up to play exactly as a Metal Gear Solid game should. Stealth, Action, Adventure. Despite the lack of a 2nd Analog stick on the PSP, the incorporation of FPS style controls on a PSP works quite well. Within no time you'll be sneaking around just like Big Boss does best. There is also a very well devised 3rd Person viewpoint, and works effectively in enabling a broader perspective of the surrounding areas. It looks and feels like a Metal Gear Solid game, exactly what you want when playing to reassure you that it won’t be a big let-down, which it most definitely isn’t.
The story is very well worked, but however suffers from the Kojima plague of being somewhat too complicated. At times the story can become a bit overwhelming and you’ll find yourself a lost on what is actually going on, especially with the use of multiple social theories relevant to the time. Despite this, the game's overall message still isn’t lost, it’s just that to read further into it you’ll have to read very deeply in order to fully understand the game’s immense plot.
Characters are extremely well created and crafted within the game. Each has their own personality, allowing you to easily become acquainted with who you are working with and against. There are personal elements added to every character, allowing you to really connect with them and to understand each individual and their importance throughout the story, all with varying levels of relatable aspects and styles.
Weapons and Items are taken to the max. There are multiple weapons you can wield to suit any occasion and you’ll never feel like you’re out of choices. Upgrading weapons is a nice feature, as you can opt to add suppressors, improve stocks or add grenade launchers (all to specific weapons), to ensure that you have the right tool for the job and allowing for indulgence on what you will be bringing with on those cold late nights. The same goes for items which can help you immensely if used right in the battlefield, from hiding in the jungle to scoping out your enemies from afar. Aside from this there are also the numerous special items thrown in just for fun. Secret items and weapons can be obtained, as well as product placement (Japanese version) to show the sheer scale of the game and add that little touch of reality.
Control movement is easy to use, and despite the complexity of the button allocation on some levels (Due to the lack of buttons, most are used and all have specific tasks), the control scheme can be quickly adapted to and optimised efficiently by any user. Sadly there are no customised controls, so you’ll be required to pick one of the control schemes and stick to it. Sensitivity can also be a slight issue, as a slight touch is required for the character to sneak effectively. Those with a busted Analog stick could become frustrated with the inability to pull off sneaking, however, there are sensitivity adjustments that can be made in order to counteract this problem, unless the problems relating to the Analog stick are far too severe.
Despite the fact that game marketed it's standard Cooperative mode, it doesn't provide much depth at all. The game runs far better in Single Player, and despite Co-Op providing very minimal benefits, the majority of the time you'll be more frustrated in fighting as a team than you would alone. The cooperative play doesn't make up for the fact that missions are made much harder and that you'll most likely be reviving your friend every five minutes, making it more of a chore than an actual enjoyable experience. Never the less, the fact that they bothered to add Co-Op mode is still exciting none the less.
One of the most confusing and disappointing of the game modes, Versus Modes inclusion in the game has me wondering. They've opted to recreate an almost similar Versus mode to that of Portable Ops, yet the game has no Infrastructure support. The overall control scheme doesn't work well for fast paced versus action, and no doubt you'll want to be taking on missions together with your friend rather than fighting them in a somewhat boring game mode.
Graphical improvements have really had an impact. The quality of textures and designs place it very close to the standard of quality which could be seen on a Playstation 2 console game, if not better. Comparison to generic PSP games would also show that Peace Walker is definitely ahead of the pack, with the team at Kojima Productions really adding finer detail to all aspects of Peace Walker. Emphasis is put on every item, from the intricate design features of specific weapons or even the ammo belt of a enemy soldier. Every effort to make the game feel clean and developed has really paid off as it seems there hasn't been any lacklustre design put in place.
Cutscenes take on the Ashley Wood Digital Comic style approach and work miraculously well, better than any CG Animation cutscene could. The perfection of the artwork makes every custcene a marvel to view, and also allows for interactivity in some cases, allowing you feel more immersed than ever before. The quality provides much more detail and allows for more expression of the characters and events. In some aspects it's helping to improve the output of the game and allows the game and its messages to have a more profound impact through the course of the story, where other alternatives would only deteriorate the experience and leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Kojima and the team once again deliver a fantastic array of music and a comprehensive soundtrack to yet another one of its superb games. Despite being on a portable console the soundtrack seems like that of a blockbuster movie. Music is tied in with almost scary precision to perfectly suit the scenario at hand. Whether you're trawling stealthily across a bed of leaves in the mist of the morning, or running towards jaded cover whilst evading the spray of bullets from a pursuing enemy unit, you can't help but feel captivated at the intensity and impact of this profound soundtrack. Cautious moments are elevated with cautious music, where you can feel the beads of sweat run down your forehead, just from the sheer captivation of the game. This is not to say the game is in any way frustrating, just that you’ll always become caught up in the moment. Alongside the serious, dramatic music there are also a few catchy Japanese pop songs to bring a little bit of light-hearted humorous entertainment to the series, much the same was as Metal Gear Solid 4 had.
Quality is definitely a highlight of this game. Sound effects must have been miraculously researched. Bird calls, gunshots, footsteps (to name a few) all have their own little miracle about them. The immersion leaves little to be disappointed about as they tie in so seamlessly and add to the feel of the game. It almost feels as if this standard is beyond the capabilities of the PSP, yet somehow Kojima Productions have managed to pull it off. The use of the clichéd classic Metal Gear Solid sound effects return against and don’t feel over used or under appreciated in any way. Getting caught and scrambling still has the same effect that it has always had, and every little detail that has been placed into the game's sound help to provide the full experience of a Metal Gear Solid game.
This is definitely a game with extras. The sheer amount of additional features included will provide even more hours of gameplay. Aside from the story mode of the game, you can indulge in additional missions, different game modes or just expand on your unit to improve the weapons and items you already have. Each additional feature has its own perk, providing an even broader experience of the game. Extra Ops gives you more missions to behold, some with their own quirks, but still allowing you to hone your skills and play VR like missions.
Extra Ops ranges from simple target practice to total stealth missions and even assaults on armed units. The exploitation of certain missions can help to recruit more soldiers, Mechs (such as Tanks or Helicopters) or even the designs of new and exciting weapons. There are over 120 different Extra Ops to divulge in.
Outer Ops is another fun little game feature that is more out of the way. Its main purpose is to act as a side mission which is used to fuel the main game experience. You send off some of your troops and captured Mechs to other countries to fight off opposing Mercenary units. If you succeed, your troops will return with battle experience and items, some rarer than others.
Briefing files provide one of the best features of the game possible. The section provides hundreds of recorded tapes which provide discussion between Big Boss and the respective character on multiple topics, such as the climate, weapons or even the character themselves. Not only do they provide us mission information, but allow us more insight into the characters and learn more about the Metal Gear Solid universe. There are the slight occasions where a bit of fun is thrown in and we can hear about Big Boss’s allies getting into rather hilarious situations or being put on the spot.
Outside Game Tie-Ins
It must also be mentioned that the game has had some rather extra ordinary tie-ins with multiple brands, most prominently across Japan. Peace Walker has taken a leap forward and collaborated with the likes of Capcom’s Monster Hunter, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed, Uniqlo clothing, AXE Body Spray, Doritos, and Mountain Dew. These tie ins range from finding the respective products in the game to separate game modes, the most significant being Monster Hunter, which allows you to take on the mighty Rathalos, Tigrex and new (Peace Walker created exclusive) Gear REX, a Monster Hunter variant of Metal Gear Rex. An Assassin’s Creed straw box can be found for use in the game, as well as Doritos chips and Mountain Dew recovery items. One of the more extraordinary tie ins is with the clothing brand Uniqlo. A special deal has been made where Uniqlo is selling Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker clothing. Aside from being able to buy extremely fashionable shirts, you are also presented with a pass code upon purchase of a shirt, which will allow Big Boss to wear the exact shirt design in the game.
What makes this game great
The sheer amount of additional features is definitely a great feature to behold. There's also no lapse in quality, so the whole time you’re playing you’ll have an extremely satisfying experience.
Improvements that could have been made
The lack of infrastructure support seems to be the only disappointing factor of the game. Even though the quality of Portable Ops was somewhat poor, infrastructure worked well with such a large Metal Gear community. Despite this, Peace Walker works remarkably well within it’s limits and slightly redeems it’s lack of support for real online gaming.
This is one of the most meticulously well designed PSP games created to date. It is perfectly suited for the portable console and should not be missed by any self respecting Metal Gear Solid fan. It is a testament to the series and the genius of Hideo Kojima, with his capacity to work with whatever he can get his hands on, to truly create a masterpiece. Newcomers should also invest in this game, as it expands beyond the fan-base and would still be extremely enjoyable even if you’re only just a shooter fan and haven’t had much involvement with any of the Metal Gear Solid games in the past. There are some underlying problems which might factor into the gameplay, but they are very minor and won’t impact on the overall enjoyment which is to be had whilst playing.
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