Last year, the game announcement that excited me most was that of a new Metal Gear Solid game coming to the PSP. Called "Peace Walker", the game was Kojima's new baby, and I couldn't wait to play it.
Now that I've been able to play it, I can honestly say that this is a true MGS game. It's not a spin-off. It's not a side-story. This game is Metal Gear Solid 5, and though it may not sway the opinions of those who do not enjoy the MGS series, it is a must-play for fans of Kojima's sprawling Metal Gear storyline.
The first thing I noticed about Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is the stunning graphics. Sure, this isn't God of War III, but for a PSP game the graphics are quite good. The maps are detailed, the character models are well-done, and the art style of the menus and the cutscenes is really eye-catching. The cutscenes are something Portable Ops fans would recognize, but for others, the cutscenes are done in a "graphic novel" sort of way instead of in-engine. It works very well and it adds a lot of flavor to the game. I also like the little details in the game, from the word "front" emblazoned on the front of claymores to the MSF icon on your shoulder.
For those wondering about the gameplay, it certainly delivers. I understand that the PSP has an inferior control scheme than the traditional Playstation controller. Boo hoo. We all knew this game was going to be on PSP, so we might as well get used to the controls. I have had no problems with the controls beyond the limitations of the PSP itself.
But back to gameplay: this is a great Metal Gear game. All of the cool gadgets, deadly weapons, and tense sneaking sequences are here. The missions have a lot of variety. One minute you're sneaking through the jungle. The next minute, you're trying to shoot down an attack helicopter while heavily-armored troops hunt you down. Another thing I like is that Kojima didn't just copy and paste the gameplay from his other games. The first big thing I noticed is when I tried to shoot a soldier in the head with my tranq gun (for MGS vets, you know this strategy by heart). But midway through the game, you start running into soldiers with helmets, preventing a one-hit takedown. Another cool gameplay addition is how you can do "group CQC". In other words, if you are surrounded by a group of enemies, you can CQC one and then tap your attack button to automatically grapple the next one and then the next one until all your foes lie around you in a pile. Nice!
To top this off, the storyline is incredibly good. This is NOT a spin-off or a side-story. This is a continuation of Big Boss' storyline, and Peace Walker reveals a lot of new things and further explains a lot of foggy plot points. In addition, there are hours (no exaggeration) of audio briefing files that you can unlock throughout the game. These audio tapes act like a journal of the various characters you meet, as you will learn their hidden thoughts and fears, and you will discover new bits of information about the storyline. For MGS fans who want more storyline to sink their teeth into, Peace Walker does not disappoint.
I would be remiss to ignore the co-op aspects of Peace Walker. I sometimes run into a bit of lag while playing with friends (like, my soldier won't pick up items from the floor right away, or my CQC moves glitch out). However, the lag is rare and 90% of the time co-op works without a hitch. It's definitely fun to play this game with a friend, especially if both you and your friend(s) are MGS fanatics. Another downside is that you can only skip cutscenes if ALL of the players in co-op skip the cutscene, so co-op can be a drag if your friend is watching a cutscene for the first time and you have to wait around for 10 minutes. But if you're worried about playing the same ol' levels over and over again, don't worry: there is plenty of content for co-op.
Speaking of content, I'd say that is one of Peace Walker's biggest strengths. This game is big. It's REALLY big. The storyline lasts 15 to 20 hours, but I can't even list all of the extra stuff this game contains. There are dozens of weapons, dozens of items, and over 150 missions to embark on. You can research better versions of your weapons, sometimes adding silencers and scopes. You can level up your skills with a particular weapon, adding accuracy. You can recruit new soldiers ( by the way, no more dragging soldiers back to your truck, Portable Ops players) and send them off on missions or even play as them during your own missions. You can unlock new camo suits and levels by getting S-ranks on certain missions. And yes, there ARE Monster Hunter missions in this game. Heck, there are TWO endings! That's right. You beat the "final boss", you see the ending credits roll, you hear an after-credits conversation, and then after several more hours of gameplay, you fight the REAL final boss. There's even more beyond what I've listed here. There are countless strategies, countless methods of victory, and when you throw co-op into the mix, this game won't lose it's appeal for quite a long time.
There is no reason why an MGS fan should miss this game. MGS: Peace Walker IS MGS5. It is a crucial piece to the MGS storyline, and you'd be missing out on a lot if you missed this game. For non-MGS fans, you might want to give it a try. Who knows? You might end up enjoying just one piece of one of the most influential and well-told video game stories of all time.