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'Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker' Review (PSP)

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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MGS Peace Walker PSP Screenshot

MGS Peace Walker PSP Screenshot

Konami

This is one very, very deep game. And not deep in a confusing, too-much-choice sort of way (like, say Armored Core Last Raven), but in a you'll want to keep going back to it sort of way. There's obviously a lot here for a diehard Metal Gear Solid fan, but it's also not inaccessible to newcomers. If you don't like co-op, though, you may run into a problem, as some missions are just about impossible to get through without help.

Title: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Publisher: Konami
Date: April 2010 (Japan), June 2010 (North America/Europe)
Format: UMD and download
ESRB Rating: T (Teen - Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence)
Other Platforms: none

Pros

  • comic-book-style cutscenes feature gorgeous art
  • lots more to do once you complete the main story
  • stealth gameplay nearly perfectly rendered
  • good storytelling, if a bit convoluted at times
  • great for MGS fans, but lots to offer for those new to the franchise, too

Cons

  • some controls not as intuitive as they could be (like aiming)
  • suddenly difficulty spikes pretty much require co-op to complete missions

It seems like I've said this a lot in my reviews lately, but I've never played a game in the Metal Gear Solid series before (gasp!). I suspect it's because I tend to favor fantasy, adventure and puzzle games, (though it's not an FPS, which I avoid because I'm really bad at them). I have, of course, heard many, many, many good things about Metal Gear Solid games, and I knew I'd try one eventually, and now I have.

My reaction? Maybe I should have played Metal Gear Solid sooner.

One reason I should have played sooner is because there's so much story behind this game, and I felt a bit like I was coming in in the middle of things (though the game does a pretty good job of laying out the necessary information for those unfamiliar with the MGS franchise). But mostly I should have played sooner because this game is really, really good.

Welcome to Soldiers Without Borders

MGS Peace Walker PSP Screenshot

MGS Peace Walker PSP Screenshot

Konami

I'm not really all that good at this game, but it's the sort of game that I didn't mind too much not being good at, because I was having enough fun to keep trying and get better. And Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is designed in such a way that each mission is fairly short, so that even though you can't save mid-mission, it's not too taxing to have to play one over (and over) again. Even better, the boss fights at the end of missions are structured as separate missions, so you save before you go in, and don't have to repeat the lead-up mission if you fail in the boss fight. And you can switch out your equipment before you meet the boss, if necessary.

Peace Walker is a third-person game, where you play Naked Snake (aka "Big Boss") in 1970s Costa Rica. Part of your mission is to build up your base (the base that Solid Snake takes out in the original Metal Gear game) with new weapons and technological advancements. Your motivation, though, is to find out how the mentor you were forced to kill can still be alive, and what she's up to now.

Naked Snake is the leader of Militaires Sans Frontieres (Soldiers Without Borders), and one of the tasks in the game is to "recruit" new soldiers by capturing your enemies, and build up your organization. This aspect of the game adds a bit of RPG or strategy to the game, but at its core it's still a stealth action game, where you sneak up on people and take them out en route to sneaking someplace else to find out information or meet a new boss to fight.

Graphics: Designed for the PSP's small screen, so you could see all the detail you need. Cutscenes and flashbacks are presented as lush drawings and comic book panels that are gorgeous to look at.

Sound: Good voice acting, good sounds effects. Just plain good sound.

Gameplay: Sometimes awkward controls, but mostly easy to to get the hang of. Challenging, but not too frustrating, until you hit missions that are impossible without co-op.

Multiplayer: Nearly every mission can be done single-player, or 2-player co-op (ad hoc), and boss battles support 4 players. Unfortunately, some battles just don't seem possible without help. There are also head-to-head co-op modes for up to six players.

Replay Value: Very high, especially if you have friends to play co-op with. Once you complete the main storyline, there are tonnes more optional missions to do. RPG-style elements may also tempt some to re-play from the beginning.

Recommendation: Whether you're a MGS fans looking to find out what happened with Snake during this time period, or a newbie wanting to try a MGS game for the first time, absolutely play this game.

A Little Help From Your Friends

MGS Peace Walker PSP Screenshot

MGS Peace Walker PSP Screenshot

Konami

For fans of co-op, Peace Walker should be on your must-buy list. It's ad hoc only, so your friends will have to be close by, and most missions can only support 2-player, but taking out a boss with 4 people playing is just cool. On the other hand, if you're an anti-social gamer like me, preferring to play alone, you might run into problems.

While most of the game is playable alone, there are boss battles that are really, really hard without help, and there are some that are (or at least seem to be) impossible alone. And that's my main criticism. It's fine to make a game that encourages co-operative play, and it's cool to include multi-player-only missions as optional, but if a game is playable as single-player, then the whole thing should be playable as single player. Even if you're not the best MGS player in the whole world. It makes me a little bit sad that I'll almost certainly never finish Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, because I almost always game alone. It's a great game, though, and I'll no doubt keep trying to finish it, just because I really like playing it.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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