Thursday, June 17, 2010

Video Game Review: Metal Gear Solid: Peave Walker

I've been around and about these past few weeks, and thanks to the gaming news storm that is E3, more of my time and updates are spent there, as you can very well see from the recent posts. Gaming has really gone up a notch with all of the exciting announcements made by the big three companies, and I'm looking forward to a lot of things this year and next.

On the flip side of the coin, I finished Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker a few days ago. As another installment that chronicles the saga of Naked Snake/ Big Boss, I thoroughly enjoyed this game, especially with all the tweaks and twists present to give me another excuse to play a Metal Gear game. Unlike Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots, this game is exclusively released for Sony's Playstation Portable, and it plays like a refined version of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops - a game that series' creator Hideo Kojima only served as producer. Now back in the director's chair, Kojima takes the entire videogame community back to the past and sets the adventure 10 years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

In the events of Peace Walker, Big Boss has established "an army without a nation" called the Militaires Sans Frontières or MSF in Columbia, which acts as a mercenary group on call to aid and assist anyone in need without answering to a state. This vision has led to their recruitment by a group of visitors from Costa Rica - a man known only as Professor Galvez, and his student, a young girl named Paz. Snake, along with his second in command Kazuhira Miller, are hired by the visitors to take care of a mysterious military force causing a ruckus in their country. MSF initially refuses, but when Galvez reveals his true motives in secret and plays a mysterious tape that has a familiar voice only Snake would recognize, the man now known as Big Boss makes up his mind to help the girl in need, and find out what exactly is going behind the scenes to give him peace of mind.

As with any Metal Gear game under Kojima's supervision, Peace Walker is another amazing adventure that focuses primarily on stealth, action, and subterfuge. Themes raging from the Cold War, Guerilla Warfare, and Nuclear Deterrence are laced into the whole narrative, giving another history lesson to the diehard plans playing this game. However, there are several exaggerated moments that will remind everyone that this is still a pure work of fiction, especially when Kojima inserts a lot of easter eggs that will have fans talking and remembering his name. Story wise, it continues the steadfast and emotional tale of Naked Snake's rise to power and the establishment of Outer Heaven that started in Snake Eater and Portable Ops, but it also has nods to the other Metal Gear games of the series, particularly the future in which the Sons of Big Boss fight and stand out. There are also plenty of supporting characters new to the series, as well as familiar names and faces that MGS affectionados will recognize immediately. Peace Walker also happens to be full of content that serve well into (and outside) the context of the story, with recorded "Cassette Tape" dialogue in the "Briefing Files" that take hours upon hours just to listen to and finish. The game is truly blessed with high production values, and as far as this reviewer is concerned, this is the first Metal Gear Solid installment since the first game to feature something of this caliber that is similar to the Briefing Files in MGS1, only without the animated cutscenes included.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker Characters Trailer

Among its aims to produce such a unique title, the core aspect of Peace Walker is still its stealth based gameplay. Unlike Snake Eater, things are trimmed down to make everything streamlined, to the point where Snake can no longer crawl and carry bodies around like in previous games. The CQC, running, shooting, and sneaking are still intact, and they work well for the most part using the PSP's control interface, save for some difficulties in sneaking and aiming, which takes some time getting used to. Acquiring weapons and gear in Peace Walker has also changed somewhat, since the game also takes a cue from Portable Ops and forces you to play army builder and base manager to your newly acquired Mother Base facility. Those assets come in when you have recruited a sufficient number of soldiers and POWs to your cause, which can be done by incapacitating them and whisking them away by helicopter using the Fulton Recovery System. This is one of the tools players will be using a lot in Peace Walker net to the Camera, so be sure to choose who to kill or recruit carefully. Soldiers hired successfully are then free to be assigned to a number of tasks, including Combat Ops, R&D, or even the Mess Hall. Attributes and levels then raise, allowing the base to flourish and open up new areas and abilities, such as the development of new gear and weapons (even a little secret project later). All in all, Peace Walker is about leadership as much as it is about action. Take note that during certain cutscenes, there's a certain amount of interaction and quick time sequences involved, so be sure not to just put the PSP down and admire the amazing artwork of Ashley Woods.

If most Metal Gear games had the player flying solo to fight a battle that's almost impossible, fear not, for the cavalry has arrived in the form of a new CO-OPs feature exclusive to this game. On certain adventures, 2-4 players can play alongside one another and take on certain missions and bosses together. They can hide in boxes fit for two, recover life together, or revive their partner who's in a temporary state of death via CPR. The possibilities are nearly limitless when in comes to cooperation gameplay, and even without online present, ad-hoc gaming in Peace Walker more than makes up for that absence. Heck, if you have disagreements with your fellow Metal Gear player, you can always take to the Versus Ops feature and duke it out, deathmatch style or otherwise.

If you're a Metal Gear Solid fan and deeply acknowledge that "Kojima Is God", you owe it to yourselves to pick up Peace Walker and play alongside your fellow Metal Gear fans. There is as much fun to it as there is resolution to the story of Big Boss, and while it's not a completely perfect game in itself, it's up there with the best in the PSP's greatest hits list. Boss fights could have been better if they meshed the grand mech fights with some person to person duels, but overall, it still gets the job done nicely. Also, Monster Hunter fans may want to check this out for Kojima's inclusion of the game's elements in certain Extra Ops missions. What that is, you'll have to find out yourselves, so take time to learn more about Snake and Peace and get this one... fast.

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