Review by caprimode
"As a story sequel to Snake Eater, how does this game stack up to that gem?"
Welcome to my first review!
I have been an active member on this site for nearly a decade, and so far my only real contributions have been on the message boards. However, that will change now; as I feel it is time to give back to the community. My first review is of the game that is a sequel to the 'past' timeline in the Metal Gear series; a direct sequel to Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops. However, the storyline is much more closely related to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, thus I consider it a much closer sequel to MGS3. Snake Eater just happens to be my favorite of the entire series, and in my Top 5 of all-time. How does this game stack up to that wonderful piece of gaming history? Let's find out. Without further adieu, here is Capri's first GFAQS review... Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker:
Let's start with one of the most famous aspects of the MGS series, the story. As either a selling point or a detriment to the series, Kojima has always been known for his long-winded telling of stories - that often times sway into absurdity. It is what it is, and to me that's always been a strong point of the series; its what keeps me coming back for more. Here the presentation of the story is excellent. There are very lengthy briefing sequences that give you all the backstory for virtually every environment, character, event, etc.; and then actual cutscenes during the game. The cutscenes are pretty minimalistic, and serve only to advance the story; while the briefing is completely optional and exists for those of us (me, me, me!) that want to see and learn everything the MGS world has to offer, in 100,000,000 words or more. The way they interact is picture perfect, you can get whatever you want out of it. As for the story itself- in order to stay spoiler free lets just say its a very Metal Gear story involving characters both old and new. It packs a great emotional punch, and stacks up with the 'core series' as far as story goes. A-
Characters (Good Guys)
As I indicated before, this game deals with the 'past' timeline in the series, which means we get Big Boss back as our hero. Big Boss just so happens to be my favorite character in the series, so I was sold on the main character before I even undid the shrink wrap. But what about the supporting cast? Well, its pretty large, and consists of characters that you will and will not recognize based on your prior experience with the series. That being said, this could be your first MGS game and you wouldn't miss much, as all loose ends are re-introduced here. The cast is diverse, and there are only a couple of dud characters. But the love for the hero is ever strong, he is as great as ever in his third game as the main character. A
On the other hand, the villains are instantly forgettable. They are cookie cutter cliches, and not very strong. In fact, every other game has had a stronger 'main' baddie. However, this doesn't even matter in Boss Fights. Peace Walker does something different from its predecessors in that every single boss fight is a vehicle battle; pitting Big Boss against tanks, helicopters, Artificially Intelligent beings, etc. Its a new direction for the series, and is it ever welcomed. After MGS4 I don't know if I could have stomached another 15-minute speech after killing a boss about their backstory and why they turned out the way that they did. Big Boss is all business, and while the fights all naturally will have their similarities (spam rocket launcher attacks!), the battles are a fresh direction. Its just a same there wasn't one good character out of the lot of bad guys. C-
The other most important part about a Metal Gear game, or any game really, is the gameplay. More specifically, in the world of Metal Gear, its about stealth gameplay. The last game of the series that I played, MGS4, lost its focus on stealth interaction; and became a game that you could run-and-gun if your heart desired. I didn't care for that new direction, and am glad that the ability to be very stealthlike was revived. They bring back the familiar gameplay design of third-person sneaking and shooting. Most of the missions involve getting from Point A to Point B without being detected, and there are a variety of routes to take in order to get there. As always, there's more to the game than that... as there are bonus missions that have a variety of tasks to complete, from finding objects to killing [x] number of guards in [y] amount of time, target practice, and a variety of other tasks. In fact, there are over 100 of these bonus missions that you can take on at any time. There's plenty to do here for those that like to be quiet and get through killing as little as possible, and there's still the ability to run-and-gun if that is your preferred method. A-
While the gameplay as a whole are strong, the controls leave a little to be desired. You're given a few options on customizing the controls. I opted to go for the default method, where the joystick moves you, the D-pad controls which way you look, and the buttons are your action buttons. This was okay... the biggest drawback is that where the nub on the PSP is placed you have a pretty hellacious time moving your other fingers to the D-pad to look around and aim. It takes some getting used to, and never feels perfect. The option that people rave about on the game boards, however, is to set it up so your action buttons are the D-pad, and the buttons on the right half of the PSP are to look around and aim. I tried it for a couple minutes before abandoning this. Perhaps I'm a stubborn old man, but using the D-Pad for my actions just never feels right. So the default was the lesser of the two evils for me; and it was serviceable... it just never clicked right. You also have a ridiculous time occasionally trying to get the camera to point in the right direction. 'L' gives you the view directly behind BB's head, but if you're circling around to flank or avoid gunfire and you push 'L' it doesn't always work optimally the way you would like for it to. Overall the controls are okay to deal with, but there is certainly much room for improvement. C
For the first time that I remember, they don't give the option of what level you want to select to play. I don't understand why they would leave that out, as I think that more options can never be a bad thing. That being said, I stick to 'normal' on my first playthrough and everything about this game felt 'normal'. It was balanced, there were some difficult fights that take a couple of tries, but nothing that makes you throw your PSP through a plate of glass, or spike it on the ground. Some say that the gameplay on this equals 'Hard' mode on other games, but I can't say that I saw much difference between this and 'Normal' modes on the earlier games. So either I'm getting better (not likely) or it was just closer to normal. B
Such an important and underrated aspect of gaming, is menu interaction. Nearly all games have menus of some form that you have to live and hopefully love, or the game can become a complete chore. Peace Walker has AMAZING menus for the 'Mother Base' aspect of the game. I could have covered this in gameplay, since it really becomes the 'game within the game'. An important aspect of PW is that you have just founded your 'MSF' base, which stands for Militaires Sans Frontiers. This means something to you if you're a Metal Gear vet, and its a very integral part of the overall storyline. In this game you are founding it, and it is your job to recruit soldiers during missions, assign them jobs, and make your base the biggest and baddest independent military base the world has ever seen. As the game goes on you are given the option to create teams to go and complete various tasks to benefit you. You also get to design new weapons, level up what you have, cook for everyone, gain intel, etc. Its one of the strongest parts of the game, and it really builds the atmosphere for PW. A lot of times subquests like this can be tedious and boring, or insanely difficult, but it never becomes either in this case. Its relatively easy, sure, but it is endlessly fun; and the menus are simple to navigate. As the game goes on there is more to do, but it is introduced at such a pace that you're never lost, and always able to do whatever is asked of you. A
This is where MGS:PW is head-and-shoulders above every other installment in the long-running series. In every game you never actually feel like you are in the country you are supposed to be in, you never feel like you are part of the world (okay, the latter works in Snake Eater, but that's part of the reason why its the best one). The aforementioned Briefing Sequences create the atmosphere where you feel like you are actually transplanted into 1970's Costa Rica/Nicaragua struggles. You meet people from the area, who give you all the rich history, and for the first time in the history of the series you actually care about the environment and let it become a character of its own. These tapes are lengthy as hell, but they add so much to the feel of the game that I would passionately recommend watching and listening to every single second of every single tape. A+
Not much to be said about graphics... as to be expected Metal Gear Solid is capable of giving among the best graphics on the console/handheld system. Peace Walker has great in-game graphics. A majority of the cutscenes use the artistic comic book feel that was first used in PO, but it just works better here. Maybe that's because I'm more used to it, or maybe its because its actually presented better, or maybe its just because there's actually a meaningful story this go round. I'm not sure, but it just flat-out works. A
I don't remember too much of the music from the game, but there are flashes of brilliance. During the final boss fight, for one, the music is just wonderful. I'm sure people who care about soundtracks more than I do can weigh in heavier on this, but I have watched/listened to Youtube vids since completing the game to hear more of the music. Very good. B+
Another staple of the series is the better-than-most Voice Acting. David Hayter does Big Boss/Snake, as he usually does; and remains among the best in the business. The supporting cast is all above average, as well. The cutscenes are fully voiced, as are the lengthy voice acted briefing sequences. I feel like this game really pushed the limits of the system in more ways than one. B+
As mentioned before, the game boasts over 100 side missions/side quests. There is also a strict grading system for each mission with the ability to gain 'S' Rank on all of them. And then the menus, and building your MSF... the possibilities go on for miles. I know that some players are playing into the 200+ hour range to get 100%. Will you be able to stay entertained long enough to get that far? I think that for those with attention spans that can reach those levels should be able to, I probably put in a good 50+ hours myself and never got bored. There's still more to do, and I plan on going back to do it; that's always a good sign, right? A
In closing, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is an absolute must-buy for people who are fans of the series, or have a PSP in general. Through nearly endless content, a great story, and ultimately good gameplay, this game should be in most people's collections. As far as the series goes, I feel strongly enough about it to call it the second best Metal Gear game I have played... which is sound endorsement. Go grab it!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/31/10
Game Release: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (US, 06/08/10)
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