Review by isoprphlx

"Padded with extraneous gameplay elements, but still quite a joy"

Micromanagement sucks. In strategy games, it's understandable. But why the developers chose to have players manage a base consisting of more than a hundred crewmembers in an action game like Metal Gear Solid is beyond me. Feed and pamper them, or risk their desertion. To feed them, you'll have assign recruits to manage the mess hall. To keep up with the costs of feeding them, you'll have to send squads of mercenaries to the battlefield. To keep your soldiers alive, you'll have to recruit medics. The list goes on. All this feels unnecessary, and only hinders from the overall experience.

The campaign itself is mission-based, which wouldn't be such a bad thing provided the missions were fewer in number and larger in scope. Gameplay is divided into several bite-size chunks, most of which can be completed within fifteen minutes. This leaves the player feeling unsatisfied, yearning for fewer breaks and more sneaking. In-between these segments are the optional "Extra Ops" missions: exercises that usually have the player shoot at targets or retrieve objects. Sadly, the minor emphasis on multiplayer cooperation leaves those of us looking for a strictly single-player experience somewhat alienated.

Boss fights are of particular disappointment. The majority of these battles have the player expose a vehicle's operator and promptly dispose of him. Other engagements have you mindlessly fire upon a mechanical adversary. The difficulty and formulaic nature of these encounters often left me bored and terribly frustrated. Much to my dismay, confrontations are frequent. Opponents seem to absorb incoming fire, and I'd frequently find myself repeating boss fights numerous times.

But when you get down to the meat of Peace Walker, it's really quite enjoyable. It's always a thrill to slide past unsuspecting guards unnoticed. The adrenaline rush felt upon successfully ambushing watchmen is a feeling unsurpassed, and the alarm felt upon your character's discovery is unadulterated. While the camera can be rather awkward to maneuver, the controls are intuitive and work well—you can even choose from three different control types.

Weapons can't be found in the campaign as was the case in past entries. Instead, you'll have to search for the blueprints in order to be able to develop them. The only way to get stuff made is to pay your Research & Development team to make them. But if you take the time to search for blueprints and are willing to blow some credits, Snake can have a lot of toys to play with. Everything from handguns to rocket launchers are at your disposal. The various gadgets Snake can obtain or develop serve as useful tools or fun distractions during gameplay.

The environments are impressive and the character models are top-notch; I'd often find myself stopping mid-mission just to appreciate the visuals. Music is kept to a minimum, used only during intense moments. The voice acting is first-rate, and the inclusion of Steven Blum (best known as Cowboy Bebop's Spike Spiegel) is exciting to say the least. Of particular note are the cinematics, presented in a visual novel style and executed quite well. The ability to occasionally interact with cutscenes is an interesting aspect, and coupled with the orchestrated soundtrack makes for an engrossing storyline.

While the game adds several unnecessary elements and stumbles in many respects, it brings in many other positive elements that enhance traditional gameplay. Peace Walker could do without the micromanagement and the emphasis on multiplayer, regardless of its handheld platform. But behind all the clutter, at its very core, it's Metal Gear Solid and that in itself is enough for most of us.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 06/14/10

Game Release: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (US, 06/08/10)

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