by Ben Lelievre
previewed on PSP
More Metal Gear
At night, the man dreams of the immortal words of Michael Corleone: "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in." Yes ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Hideo Kojima is back on the grind. With the release of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, many in the videogame industry thought that the sun had set on the franchise, and creator Hideo Kojima had moved onto bigger and better things. It turns out fans of the series have nothing to worry about, as another chapter of the beloved techno-thriller will be available for the Playstation Portable as soon as March 18 in Japan. Westerners wonít have to wait too long afterwards, as the game releases on May 25th in North America and May 27th in Europe.
Sorry, not Solid. Just Naked
Metal Gear Solid is one of the most story-driven franchises in existence. The success of Hideo Kojima's games relies mostly on the fact that the player feels like he is an integral part of an espionage thriller. The adventures of lonely hero Solid Snake have stirred the passions of millions of gamers and revolutionized video games in their own way over the past decade. Although Guns of the Patriots showed an old and tired Snake, his adventures were nothing to scoff at. Still, when your protagonist is having back pain from the effort, you wonder how much longer he can stay in the field.
Don't worry; Hideo Kojima hasn't lost his mind. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is not set in a retirement home. The idea behind this new game will, in fact, please the long time fans of the franchise. Solid Snake isn't the lead. Naked Snake, better known as Big Boss, is back in the position he left at the end of Snake Eater. The new chapter is situated in Costa Rica in 1974. An unknown armed force has taken over the territory, Costa Rica being one of the only countries in the world where the creation of an armed force is illegal. The government asks for the help of Naked Snake and his "Militaires Sans FrontiŤres" (Soldiers without borders) organization, in order to clean up that mess. Guns of the Patriots wasn't the end, as the fractured timeline of Metal Gear Solid comes into play once more, giving the fans another turn at being Naked Snake.
Ooh, Naked and Armored!
Though a portable experience, the classic sneak-and-kill approach is still an integral part of the game. The biggest new addition is co-op. Yep, co-op on the PSP. Whenever there is a network in range, you will be able to hop online and go through the main campaign in co-op with a friend or a total stranger. During the boss fights, you can go crazy and cram as many as four people into the same game. The introduction of cooperative gameplay is more than just an addition for Peace Walker. It has opened up a whole spectrum of possibilities for future entries in the franchise.
The players will be able to choose different layouts for Snake. These wonít just be aesthetic choices; the different outfits will give the different Snakes unique abilities. For example, Armored Snake will have heavier weapons, but will be very slow and have low stealth. Naked Snake, on the other hand, will have lower defense, but will move fast and will be harder to spot. The co-op goodies don't stop there. There will be special moves just for co-op. A player will be able to perform CPR on his fallen comrade, or act as a spotter for a partner with obscured vision. The game still has its single player mode (what would it be without it?), but the emphasis has been pushed heavily on to the co-op mode. That's a plus for the replay value. You can play on your own, online, as Armored Snake, Naked Snake, etc. Even if the story is heavily story-driven as usual, Peace Walker is an effort in re-engineering the franchise and making it richer. The balance between gameplay and cut-scenes will be different, giving Metal Gear Solid a new functional dynamic.
Solid/Naked/Armored Ė as long as itís Snake
You donít need to be a Metal Gear Solid fanatic to enjoy this title. PSP owners with a yearning for action-stealth titles should find a lot to love. In fact, if you are looking to get into a new franchise, but are repelled by the notoriously complicated universe of Hideo Kojima, Peace Walker could very well be your entry door. According to Kojima, the plot of Peace Walker is more straightforward than his previous titles. Just as with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (which could also be played and enjoyed as a stand alone title), the events of Peace Walker are situated way before those of the latter Metal Gear Solid titles. You will get to know and appreciate Naked Snake as much as the die-hard fans of the franchise already like Solid Snake. Some might write off Peace Walker as merely a handheld game, but it has the Kojima Productions seal of quality stamped all over it, and it would be a shame to miss it if you have a PSP.