PSP Review – Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Here we go again: After saying that Metal Gear Solid 4 was his last Metal Gear game, Hideo Kojima ‘shocked’ the world when he announced Metal Gear Solid Rising and MGS: Peace Walker at E3 09. Ok, so maybe he didn’t shock the world, after all Hideo turning his back on MGS would be like George Lucas turning his on Star Wars; it just isn’t go to happen. Although some fans of the series are still disappointed that Peace Walker is on the PSP, they shouldn’t be. Hideo looked at the PSP as a challenge, a challenge to make one of the best games ever on the Sony’s multimedia handheld. While Peace Walker isn’t perfect, it is as perfect a PSP game that you will ever play, packed to the brim with an unparalleled amount of content that very few PSP games can match. One of the best reasons to buy a PSP is here. Peace walk your way inside to my review and find out why.

For those keeping check at home, this is the third title in the MGS universe that features Big Boss as the main character. First MGS3, then Portable Ops, and now Peace Walker help explain and expand on the MGS mythos to help flesh out why Big Boss is the way he is and it also gives you a different perspective on the rise and fall of his character. He has a damn good reason for turning his back on the United States for what they did, seeing as how they’re crooked any way you look at. Keeping storyline spoilers to a minimum, two ‘representatives’ of Costa Rica show up begging Snake to free their country from the impending invading forces..Of the CIA!?! BB and crew are reluctant at first, turning down the offer, until a tape containing the voice of a legendary mentor (guess who…) is heard and Boss takes the job. For those of you who hated all the insaneness of the MGS2 and 4’s storylines, you’re in luck. Peace Walker features one of the most ‘sane’ storylines in the ‘new era’ Metal Gear games. Sure, there’s a few weird twist and turns, just nothing on the magnitude of ‘Raiden, this is all a program to train another Solid Snake! Hahahaha’ that Hideo is so famous for delivering. While that style of story has become Hideo’s calling card, he controlled his self this time and gives you one heck of a great story that fits perfectly into the series noire.

The storyline is told through a mixture of Ashley Wood’s comic book style cut-scenes and a few in-game cinematics thrown in here and there. For those of you who played Peace Walker’s brother, Portable Ops, you’ll be right at home with Ashley’s unique art style and for those of who you are not, heck; you might even become a fan! Peace Walker goes one-step further as it adds a healthy dose of interaction to these cut-scenes, so keep you trigger finger ready, as you’ll never know when the game might require you to tap the right shoulder button to tackle a guard or use a rocket launcher to blow some drones out of the sky. There’s even a stat for how many times you interacted with Ashley’s cut-scenes after each stage once the stage is complete.

When you see the in-game cut-scenes for the first time, you’ll notice why many people call the PSP the ‘PS2 Jr.’, seeing as how a majority of the triple-A games rival their PS2 series counterparts in terms of graphics. I don’t know how Hideo and the team at Kojima Productions did it, but the graphics for Peace Walker are on-scale with those of MGS3. The details of the in-game cinematics make you forget that you’re playing on a handheld and have you thinking that you are playing on Sony’s 10 year old wonder. Hideo has always been known for pushing gaming consoles to their limits and he does it again Peace Walker on the PSP. From the lush jungles to amount of characters on screen at once, very few people would be able to tell Peace Walker was a PSP game if no one told them any better.

For those of you who love Metal Gear Solid 3, then you’re going to feel right at home with Peace Walker, as many factors are pulled straight from it. Your camo. index is back, though it doesn’t feature the ludicrous amount of camouflage this time around. The gameplay features a good mixture of the stealth from the earlier games and the prime components of the over the shoulder aiming system from Metal Gear Solid 4. The gameplay is always enjoyable (as usual) but there is one major problem with the gameplay that’s hard to handle and that is the spike in difficulty. It’s as if the game demands that you use the multiplayer mode to take down major bosses. But what happens when none of your friends are available to play and you’ve used close to 15 rockets on a boss, have NO rations left, while you desperately wait for your comrades to drop the supplies you need? Frustration, that’s what. Yeah, I know…Hideo has been showing off the co-op player mode of the game since it was first revealed, so you figure it was going to be majorly tied into the overall gameplay, but not to this degree. Your still going to be able to defeat the bosses, it’s going to take some time, patience, and plenty of continues. So make sure you have that wrist-band strapped to your hand when playing PW, because at times the game makes you want to chuck your PSP across the room after investing all that time for nothing.

One of the best and certainly my favorite new aspect of the game has to be managing ‘Mother base’ or as it later becomes in the series, Outer Heaven (!). Given to you as a ‘gift’ early in the game, your ocean fortress allows you to spend countless hours managing your divisions, creating new weapons, technology and even gives the characters you ‘recruit’ on the battlefield a purpose as you figure out what field of specialty they should be assigned too. ‘R & D’ provides you with new weapons, which, in a series first, actually level-up as you use them more and more. RPG-style weapon advancement in a Metal Gear game? YES!

Soldiers in your ‘combat’ group are used in missions that cover from having to save a potential recruit to taking down an obscure base that Big Boss doesn’t have the time to. Your ‘mess hall’ crew keeps your soldiers belly’s full and a full tummy means a happy soldier. When sending out recruits on various missions, they will get injured and that’s where your ‘medic’ team factors in to keep everyone healthy and ready to go. What do you get when you combine all of this? The best new component to the series in awhile and perhaps a hint to the future of the series, as I’d love to see the system return in a MGS title to come.

One of the major improvements from Portable Ops to Peace Walker that pertains to running Mother Base has to be the recruiting system in PW, as its one hell of an improvement over the system that was featured in Portable Ops. No longer do you have to DRAG a fallen foe all the way back to your truck, with the risk of being spotted. Now all you have to do is knock your foe unconscious however you like, and then proceed to select the ‘Fulton’ device and POP! Away they go into the sky, desperately waiting to snatched up by your helicopter. How some of your future recruits fly through the ceiling of certain infrastructures puzzles me, but seeing as how you fight gigantic flying androids that sings a melody of death before it kills dozen of people, I think I’ll give Hideo a pass this time. I’m thankful that Hideo responded to the criticism and complaints the recruiting system received in the first PSP MGS title and decided to revamp it. You saved us all many grey hairs.

Eventually you will be able to send your recruits into their own battles called ‘Outer Ops’ across the world. You don’t see the battles as they are going on, but once you complete a major mission, the team(s) return and award you with everything from new items to new recruits. Be careful though..if a soldier is injured, he could die! I lost way too many good soldiers due to Outer Ops, but earned some mighty fine weapons and items in the process. This is yet another one of the new factors of the game and one my favorite new additions.

I have a few complaints about the game and one of them is the controls at the start of the game. The game offers two different control schemes: The Metal Gear Portable Ops controls and the new ‘shooter’ controls, which are very reminiscent of MGS4’s controls, except without the second analog stick of the DualShock controller. Therein lies the problem, as the ‘PSP needs a second analog stick’ enthusiast are going to continue to pour fuel on their fire about how the PSP ‘desperately’ needs a second analog nub. While it certainly would have helped in certain situations and starting out in PW, you eventually get use to the buttons being the camera/ aim. Does it take a bit of time to get accustomed to yeah? Sure, but it doesn’t ruin the game, it just takes a tad bit of patience and you’ll be popping stun darts into guards skulls in no time flat.

One small complaint is that when you lay down, you can’t crawl. Did Big Boss take a trip to the Halo universe and witness the Spartan soldiers forget how to dual-wield in Halo Reach? My best guess is that the PSP couldn’t handle it and it takes a bit away from the stealth elements of the game.

When all is said and done, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is a fantastic, although flawed, game. Have no fear though, as this is a Hideo Kojima game, so the good greatly outweighs the bad any day of the week. If you’ve been looking for a reason to dust off your trusty old PSP, then MGS: Peace Walker is it. Unlike how some companies take their biggest franchises and try to throw them on the PSP, Hideo realized that you have to build it for the system and in doing so created one of the top 5 games to be released on the PSP, period. Metal Gear fans should rejoice, as this game could easily become your new favorite MG game if you’re not paying attention, because even though it has a few flaws, the game is so good that you’ll easily over look them. $40 is a small asking price to pay for a Hideo Masterpiece. If you’re looking for one best experiences on the PSP, and indeed from the whole MGS series, then Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is it.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

One of the best PSP games available

Packed to the brim with hours of content

Harsh difficulty spike early on

9 out of 10