_The first time I heard about the Metal Gear series, it was a cover feature by Gamepro on the upcoming Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation 1. I read how pretty it looked, shit myself upon seeing the screenshots, dug the general plot synopsis given, was WOW’d at the idea of stealth in a video game [That last one is kind of funny in retrospect, huh?]. I’d never played the NES Metal Gear until the MGS3 Subsistence release…and it’s quite amazing seeing how far the series has come. While I’ve yet to play MGS4 [Oh PS3, I do desire you in my life…], my acquiring last year of a PSP opened my door into Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Why don’t we take a stroll through the jungle and I can tell you how it fared, huh?
_My biggest concern going into Peace Walker was that it came out after MGS4 and that I hadn’t played MGS4 and that Big Snake would constantly be dropping S-bombs, like “Oh hey, I actually knocked up Eva and she’s gonna name the kid Meryl and train her to be a spy to hunt down Ocelot and the Patriots and she’s immune to his Liquid Snake Arm Powers for some reason, which is really strange cause I’m in the past and don’t really know any of that stuff myself…wait, who the fuck spoiled the arm thing for me? That didn’t even happen yet!” Thankfully…I honestly can’t say if Peace Walker spoiled anything from MGS4. I think you’ll be fine as long as you’ve played Snake Eater…but if you haven’t, you’re getting the piss spoiled out of that game from playing this.
_For not being a “main” entry into the MGS series, the plot is rather good. It’s actually…slightly more grounded in reality than any other MGS game. Granted, the idea or hyper-intelligent AI capable of piloting unmanned battle tanks in the 70’s might be a slight stretch, but boss fights are more “armored military vehicles” and less “spider guys who turn invisible while super-humanly leaping in treetops” or “magic brain powers.” Sure, fighting a bunch of guys popping out of an armored car like they were midget clowns isn’t quite as exciting as fighting a cyborg ninja or a fat guy on roller skates, but it keeps the game kind of grounded in a “Hey, I can actually see this kind of stuff happening, all the sneaking in the jungle and political intrigue” that you only kind of half got in the other MGS games. And shockingly enough, while there’s no legit codec, there are fully voiced briefing files with all of the major supporting characters, giving you a glimpse into their personalities. By the end, you get a feel for all of their characters, and they’re as fleshed out as any of the other supporting cast of the MGS games. There are literally hours of briefing files. The sheer amount and the length of them blew me away.
_The gameplay is kind of your standard MGS style game play. Two “slots” equippable at a time, one for equipment, the other for weapons. If you’re familiar with MGS, it’s familiar territory. The only thing you have to get used to is the controls, because somebody thought building the PSP with only one thumbstick despite the console being built to be “Playstation games on the go” was a good idea. Somebody should have mentioned to the designers of the fucking thing that even the Dual Shock on the PS1 had two thumbsticks and that before the PSP’s launch, the biggest consoles to have one stick were the N64 (which everybody looks back at that controller in hindsight and says “How the hell did I play anything with that?”) and the Dreamcast, which was the last console SEGA ever released [Though that wasn’t the thumbstick’s fault, R.I.P. Dreamcast never forget 1998-2001…wait a second, the Japanese release of the DC was November of ’98? It took 10 months to release the US version of the console? What the fuck?!] …thankfully, for an Analog/Face buttons camera scheme, it’s not too hard to get used to. Granted, the face buttons never give you the amount of control that you’d like, but it feels like the enemies have been toned down slightly to compensate. While “make shit easier!” isn’t the best solution, it’s very welcome with the loss of control by design. One of my favorite aspects about the game is the “bloom” [For those not familiar with the term, bloom is the popular term for when your HUD crosshairs grow larger as you fire shots in an FPS/TPS]. The bloom on the crosshairs don’t affect your shot spread in PW the way it does in many other games. Shots fired [for the most part] always go in the center of the crosshairs, so the bloom only makes it harder to determine where the center is. I LOVE this decision, as SOME games *cough*Reach*cough* have retarded bloom physics. Build the crosshairs right and add in recoil, it works. [Well, it probably wouldn’t work for PC games…but all anybody cares about in PC FPS games are getting collectable hats, so the actual game engine doesn’t really matter ;-D]
_The biggest issue I have with Peace Walker is the Japanese insistence on everybody getting together to play their portable consoles together. “Hey guys, why not come over and bring over your PSP/DS and we’ll play shit together!” “Couldn’t we do that on a console? Plus we’d all kind of be looking at the same TV, fixated at the same place, instead of being like…I dunno, doing the same thing but in different places?” “Nah man! We can play portable consoles ONLINE!” “…again, couldn’t we do that on our normal consoles anyways?” “Well, yes, if your argument is for the PSP, we could have very easily built this shit on the PS3 and all of the multiplayer aspects would’ve been better for it…but in the DS’s case, you can’t do shit online on the Wii, so got you there, motherfucker!” “Go fuck yourself, I have no idea why they keep making us do this shit on our handhelds.”
_Basically…in Peace Walker, you can play missions with anywhere from 1-4 people via…I dunno, LAN and maybe Ad-Hoc? You’d need a PS3 anyways for Ad-Hoc, so the point is moot. Anyways, I don’t visit a fucking train station every day, and even if I did, I’m not sure how many people would have their PSP’s with them and if there were a bunch of people playing PSP’s, what’s the likelihood that everybody’s playing Peace Walker? For me to play Peace Walker with 3 friends, it’d require me having 3 friends that all own PSP’s, all own Peace Walker on the PSP, and all of us getting together specifically for the purpose of playing Peace Walker on the PSP. Now, not to sound like a lazy fuck, but that’s a lot of work to play Peace Walker co-op. Most of the gaming I’ve done with friends? Friends come over, someone says “Hey wanna play DKC 2 player?” “Wanna play Street Fighter?” “Wanna play Halo?” All of these things only require one copy of the game and one console and no pre-planning on playing a specific game. Multiple controllers? Sure, but that’s a lot less stars aligning than for playing Peace Walker co-op.
_Man, I’m complaining about it so much, I felt the need to split it into another paragraph just for aesthetics. Anyways, is co-op NEEDED at any point? No, it’s not…but it makes a LOT of the extra missions MUCH easier, considering they’re fucking pains in a thousand asses to do alone. As opposed to any of the harder missions scaling down the difficulty, instead we just get “Hope you have some people to co-op with…cause this’d be much easier with some buddies. Maybe you should go hold them at gunpoint to play with you?” [They don’t really imply that last part, but if you’re feeling frisky, you could say it’s implied in the difficulty of the missions.] The thing that really annoys me is that different missions have different player limits. Boss fights mostly all give you a max of 4 people playing together…but some other missions give you a max of two. Now let’s say I did get 4 people together to play PW co-op and we wanted to do some co-op missions. We all couldn’t even play every mission as a 4 person group! If we got to any 2 person missions, we’d just say “Oh…well, um, we’ll pair off and you two pair off!” Now sure, that doesn’t sound too bad…but what about the 3 player max missions? “Oh…uh…sorry Billy, just go play with yourself in the corner while us 3 do this op real fast.” Ugh. Now…I don’t know what Japanese culture is like…maybe this shit actually makes sense for them. All I know is that it doesn’t really work for me. At all. Not even in theory. It’s retarded. [This issue even makes me wonder what the fuck is gonna happen with the HD console releases. What’re you gonna do with the 4th guy when a 3 person Op comes up? Or is the party system just gonna be awful and everybody gets disbanded after every mission so this “isn’t a problem”? Ugh, just let every mission support 4 players, please.]
_There’s other stuff in the game, like the fact that all of the best recruits are obtainable via random LAN searches best done while traveling around the city via a bus or slowly driving through a shopping mall, or the awesomeness that is the porno mag in this iteration of MGS, but I think I’ve covered the main points. My final thoughts…Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is a wonderful game, one of the best on the PSP…if you don’t already have it, it is very much worth…waiting for the PS3/360 HD releases packaged along with MGS2 and 3, coming [DATE NOT YET ANNOUNCED] 2011 to your local video game retailers. Pre-order today! Mention my name and get an enormous sense of self-satisfaction knowing that word-of-mouth advertising is still the most effective form of advertising in the world =)