Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is the first Metal Gear game I've played to completion in nearly 15 years. It also almost became the last.
Style: Despite being packed with a vast array of upgradeable guns, gear, armoured vehicles and walking tanks, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is all about not using them. Stealth is the mainstay of this Playstation Portable take on developer Hideo Kojima's beloved franchise about the threat of nuclear war.
Audience: Game-loving Nietzscheans who don't mind cracking a few skulls when they're caught sneaking around trying to stop the world from blowing itself up.
Why should I care about this game? Hideo Kojima is an artist, his games can feel more like interactive art house movies than video games about special forces operatives. Metal Gear also helped cement the popularity of sneaking, not shooting in games and this nails that mechanic on the portable.
Nails it? The PSP needs more great games. This is most definitely one of them. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker doesn't just adapt the controls and looks of a console Metal Gear game, it puts all of that PSP muscle power to good use.
So it's fun to play and what else? The graphics are spectacular, offering a buffet of high-fidelity and artistic visuals. One moment you're sneaking through a jungle, listening to the birds and hiding in the brush, the next you're playing what looks like hand-drawn comics brought to life.
Is it just a bunch of sneaking around in jungles? Artsy or not, that sounds like that could get boring. Sure, that's a bunch of it, but it's not boring. Adding the need to tread lightly in a game packed with weapons is a unique experience. Also, you've got a base to take care of between missions. That means assigning jobs to recruits and the folks you capture during missions, and conducting research. There are also side missions to hone your skills, to prepare you for the game's most pivotal moments: Your confrontations with the evolving form of the eponymous Metal Gear, a walking army base. Those are the high points, and low points of the game.
Wait, how can it be both? Those boss battles are brutal, brutal moments in the game and not just because they are challenging. Sometimes they seem impossible to beat on your own.
Sounds like someone doesn't want to admit they suck at Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Even the game's developers said that the game really wasn't meant to be played alone. They said they optimised the game to be played with four people and ruled out the possibility of allowing it to become easier when there was only one player. And keep in mind, unless you have a PS3 to connect to, you have to be in the same room to play this game with friends.
So they made it absurdly hard to play alone so they could sell more copies? It kind of feels that way at times. I don't mind the occasional challenge, but when you manage to run out of ammo before dying in a major battle, numerous times, I think it's the byproduct of bad design.
Buy It: Because it's the only PSP game that delivers a true, deep Metal Gear Solid experience without sacrificing on the scope of the franchise's intent, design or aesthetics.
Don't Buy It: If multiplayer gaming doesn't interest you and you don't plan on seeking any help from friends or strangers during those particularly onerous boss battles.
The bottom line? Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is an amazing game, certainly one of the best on the PSP. But its pig-headed attempts at forcing gamers to be social and help one another through the hardest bits of the game make it feel like a seriously flawed experiment.
What they promised
What they delivered
Fine Print: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was developed by Kojima Productions and published by Konami. Released on the PSP on June 8. Retails for $US39.99. A copy of the game was given to us by the publishers. Played through the game alone, until the final boss battle. Played multiple online cooperative matches.
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