by Keaton Arksey
reviewed on PSP
Fits right in
Iím fairly certain that following Metal Gear Solid 4, Hideo Kojima Ė mastermind behind the series Ė claimed he was finished. Thankfully he lied and we have Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker on the PSP, which is as close to a console Metal Gear game on a portable we have ever seen and one of the best experiences on Sonyís handheld.
Peace Walker takes place in 1974, ten years after Metal Gear Solid 3. Following the death of his mentor Boss by his own hands, Naked Snake has been given the moniker of Big Boss. Abandoned by the US government and left to choose his own path, Snake starts Militaires Sans Frontieres (Soldiers without Borders), a mercenary unit. Snakeís first mission involves a recording of Bossí voice ten years after her death and a mysterious armed force in Costa Rica. Yes, this is a Metal Gear Solid game, so the story can be a bit overwhelming if it is your first game in the series. If not, you will find a story that fits nicely into the timeline and doesnít break too many plot lines. Thankfully it isnít as crazy as Metal Gear Solid 2. Like Portable Ops, the story in Peace Walker is played out through a mix of in-engine cut scenes and illustrated sequences. The style for these sequences is similar to Portable Ops or the Metal Gear Solid motion comic, and they look very clean and attractive.
One of the first prompts when you first pop the game into your PSP is that it asks if you would like to install game data (almost a gigabyte in total). If you have the room, itís totally worth it as it lowers the load times and (more importantly) adds voice-overs for the codec dialogue sequences. It will take around 15 minutes to install the data, so it is a minor annoyance but the payoff is definitely worth it.
At its heart Metal Gear Solid has always been a stealth franchise. Snake is easily visible when standing or running, but is harder for guards to see while crouching, laying prone, or moving slowly. A percentage at the top right of the screen lets you know how hidden you are, so the higher the number the less likely it is to be seen. Of course you can always hide in a cardboard box.
Missions usually involve sneaking into an area or fighting a boss. While you canít freely move around the world like in the console games, you can return to cleared areas to finish Extra Ops. There are quite a few of these Extra Ops, from target challenges and recovery missions to full fledged boss battles. In a strange bit of cross promotion, Capcomís Monster Hunter has a few missions where you fight dragons and dinosaurs as Snake. The process is convoluted to get to these missions and is easy to miss out on. After every mission you will be given a letter grade based on completion time, amount of kills and alerts so you can always return to old missions and try and get better scores.
Like Portable Ops, Snake can capture enemy soldiers who are knocked out, put to sleep or near death and recruit them to his side. These soldiers each have their own stats and skills. Between missions you return to Outer Heaven, an oil platform in the middle of the ocean where you can access your roster of soldiers and place them into various teams like Combat, R&D, Mess Hall, Medical, and Intel. Combat soldiers can be sent to Outer Ops to act as mercenaries and gain valuable experience fighting other conflicts or playable in Extra Ops. R&D recruits are used to develop new weapons and items as well as upgrades for old ones. Mess Hall provides food for all your soldiers, which keeps them from becoming discontent and leaving. Medical heals sick or injured soldiers, while Intel gives information on locations and can help in the development of items like night vision goggles. You can also build and upgrade your own Metal Gear mech, trade items with other players and access stats and other information.
A full Metal Gear Solid game on your PSP.
Minor control issues.