Sunday, December 9

Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker Review

Available on: PSP, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Price: PSP = £7.99, PS3 = £9.99, Xbox 360 = £11.99
I played on: PSP and PS3
Notes: Save games can be transferred between PSP and PS3 but not with the Xbox 360 version.

Metal Gear Solid had a mediocre experience the last time it ventured onto the PSP with Portable Ops so does Peace Walker improve on the past?

Peace Walker is set in 1974, Big Boss is setting up his own private army known as Militaires Sans Frontières (MSF). Having left the both Cypher and America two years prior to the start of this story Big Boss finds himself in the middle of a rebellion in Costa Rica. The story is one of the best in the MGS series and shows us the start of the Metal Gear project as well as Cypher and Major Zero's war against Big Boss.

The story is highlighted even more because of the fantastic voice acting from David Hayter as Big Boss. It's not just the voice acting that's fantastic as the sound design across the board is some of the best in the series. This is one PSP game that is best played with headphones on. The graphics are very impressive on the PSP but do start to look a bit muddy when on the PS3 or 360. I had no issues with frame rate or screen tearing makes Peace Walker all the more impressive on the PSP. The last thing I need to mention about the presentation are the cutscenes as they have been done by artist Ashely Wood. The result is amazing and leads to some of my favourite Metal Gear cutscenes of all time. I would honestly urge any fans of this series to check out Ashely's work. He has been one of my favourite artists for a long time. It's his work on the Metal Gear Solid covers, comic adaptations and PSP games that made me fall in love with his rough style.

The gameplay is similar to other Metal Gear Solid games, you have to sneak around enemy patrols without being spotted. You can use a wide variety of items and weapons, some lethal and some non-lethal. The guards mostly have terrible eyesight but will hear things rather well so moving slowly and using silenced weapons is always a good idea. The combat when you get spotted is much better than Portable Ops with the choice between auto-aim that locks on to the closest target and manual aim which allows you to aim yourself. This along with a rather generous lock-on to enemies balances the lack of a second analogue stick on the PSP well. Peace Walker offers 3 different control types. I recommend going with the Shooter control type if you’re playing on the PSP as the ability to control the camera with your right hand and movement with your left makes looking around corners much easier. I never found Peace Walker unfair like I did parts of Portable Ops due to this control type and that really improves the experience significantly.

The boss fights are jaw-dropping at times with Big Boss going up against giant AI controlled machines. I felt constantly challenged but never outmatched during these battles which shows wonderful balancing. What makes them feel so impressive is their scale. The first one you encounter is a rebuilt Shagohod from MGS3. From there, things only get more impressive with my favourite; the Cocoon acting as a mobile base. You can attack it from underneath or climb up on to it and attack it from its own back. If you have played Shadow of the Colossus then you will understand the scale of this battle. While certainly over-the-top and unbelievable that one man could defeat this thing it's Metal Gear at its best. Beating these boss’s allows you to strip them for parts which you can use to build your own Metal Gear.

Being in charge of MSF means you have to recruit enemy soldiers similar to Portable Ops but this time there is no dragging them back to your van. You attach a balloon to them when their unconscious and they get pulled up into the sky to be picked up by your helicopter, it’s ridiculous and I love it. When you have your soldiers you need to assign them to Combat, R&D, Medical, Intel or Mess hall. Your combat units can go on outer ops which reward’s you more weapons and currency to spend. Your R&D team builds you items and weapons. The medical and mess hall units make items such as rations and food for you and your base, the medical unit will also heal injured soldiers. The Intel team will unlock extra blueprints for the R&D team as well as expanding your base. After a certain point, your R&D team starts to build MSF’s own Metal Gear which you do by stealing data chips from the boss fights. The entire base management feels like a far more in-depth and polished version of what we got in Portable Ops and it pays off so well.

Peace Walker is honestly one of my favourite Metal Gear games. The story, gameplay, base management and so much are all near perfected and it’s a masterpiece with only 1 mission I would call bad in the entire game. I can’t give this game any lower than a 9 out of 10 because it may be the best game on the PSP.

Recommendation Rating: 9 out of 10

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