Review by Kwing
Surprisingly Humorous, Lots to Do... But Somewhat Repetitive
This game surprised me greatly... I'd played the demo, so I knew somewhat what the game was like, but what I didn't expect was the massive amount of humor in this game. You abduct people with balloons, hold people up with bananas, fight dinosaurs, hide in cardboard box tanks...
Very crisp looking, animation is done very well, and the cutscenes are done in a comic book-like style. I don't really have any complaints... Well, except that all the guards of the same type look the same. None of them have different facial features, so sometimes you feel like you're playing Metal Gear Solid: Attack of the Clones. Other than that, I can't think of any complaints. The graphics are stylish, cool, realistic, sharp, and all around great.
The music is pretty good, with suspenseful and exciting tracks, and some symphonic pieces once you get the Walkman, but nothing ear-popping. Most of the tracks are pretty forgettable because they blend in so well with the atmosphere of the game. I guess that's both good and bad. The sound effects are great, and I especially like how the sound effects are different depending on what you shoot or what terrain you're stepping in. Voice acting is also pretty top-notch, except for Snake's stupidly deep voice (think Dark Knight). In addition to the normal cutscenes, you can also listen to an astoundingly large assortment of radio calls between different characters.
The game takes place in Costa Rica in 1974, with the prime historical focuses being the Cold War and the Iran Contra affair. Snake, the protagonist, along his co-worker Kazuhira Miller, are called to an area of Costa Rica where a Professor Galvez tells Snake and Kaz that extremely powerful weapons have been imported to Costa Rica, and although nobody is certain where they came from or why they're there, both Snake, Kaz, and the Professor speculate the CIA may be involved. Snake is reluctant to do so, but goes to investigate the forces being transported there, and is paid not with money but an offshore operating base of operations. There are some plot twists and all that good stuff, but considering how many missions there are in the game, the storyline is more framework to contain the gameplay, even if it's good. Not enough happens between missions. There's also a lot of talk about "The Boss" whom Snake had killed in events prior to the events of this game, probably from another title in the Metal Gear Solid series, though this is the first one I've played.
The plot is decent, and it carries many political messages relevant especially to the 21st century. However, if you want to experience the best bits of the plotline, you'll want to listen to some of the radio calls. Each person talks mostly about certain plot devices. Some talk about computer AI, some talk about nuclear deterrence, some talk about Costa Rican history, and some talk about the terrain, foliage, and wildlife of Costa Rica. That's where all the thought-provoking bits are.
Lastly, some of the cutscenes are interactive. How fun! These 'interactions' involve icons appearing on the screen and having to tap the buttons displayed on the icon. These range from stupidly easy to brutally hard, and some are just plain annoying (anyone who has played this game and is reading this will be thinking of how they sent their poor triangle button to the grave).
The gameplay was pretty damn good. You run through levels and usually just have to get to the end. You can bring equipment built for stealth, speed, or combat, and you neutralize enemies with weapons ranging from non-lethal tranquilizers to landmines you lure them into to rocket launchers. Usually you get the highest rank for going through a level quickly, without killing anyone or being spotted, but some levels require you to neutralize tanks or helicopters... Or worse... The game requires resourcefulness, lots of hand-eye coordination, and dirty tricks to sway the tide of the guerrilla war. As you progress, you'll also use radars, tools for hiding, recovery items, and other tools to make your missions easier. You unlock weapons by stealing design specs from the enemy, or by getting your teams up to a certain level.
As you go through levels, you can capture enemies and force them to work for you. You can put them to work in the Combat Unit, which gives you money to develop weapons and items, Research and Development, which allows you to research new weapons, Mess Hall, which keeps your men from starving and also boosts their stats if you have a surplus and also helps you develop better recovery items, Medical Team, which helps treat wounded Combat Units faster as well as develop stronger tranquilizers, and Intel, which helps you develop more powerful radars. This is pretty straightforward, as you usually just put units in the team to which their according stat is best in.
You can also start sending your Combat Units and stolen tanks out to fight in Outer Ops, who will come back with stolen ammo, items, or even design specs or uniforms. This will give your units stat boosts to make them more useful, and, if they have a good skill (like close-quarters-combat boosting abilities), you might even want to bring them for a mission instead of Snake!
And on top of that, you can develop your own bipedal weapon! You can't use it yourself, but you can deploy it on Outer Ops missions. Sadly, there aren't many different pieces you can get, and nothing will require you to compromise. There aren't heavier weapons that are stronger or rapid fire weapons versus canons versus missiles... You have the weapons you have, so getting in and really customizing your Metal Gear isn't nearly what it sounds.
You can also play cooperatively with other players on missions, or play against each other in versus mode. I haven't tried versus mode, but co-op is pretty fun and allows different players to assume different rules and so on. This adds tons of replay value that wouldn't be there otherwise.
So what's wrong with the gameplay? Well, there's lots of repetition involved. If you need a weapon or item developed, you might have to redo a few missions over and over to abduct enemies that always have a high rank in a particular stat. This puts a huge damper on the game if you have to replay the same missions, especially if you really need them to beat a mission that you're really interested in. The repetition also rubs off in the 128 Extra Ops missions you can play that branch off from Main Ops. While the Extra Ops have many different objectives, such as recovering soldiers, defending a prisoner, holding up enemies, or destroying cargo, the battles get extremely repetitive. There are tons of tanks, armored vehicles, and helicopters that function and attack in nearly identical ways, and although defeating some require different strategies, the majority have the same ones. If you want to beat all of the missions, you'll go nuts playing what feels like the same mission over and over. You'll also be doing short missions over and over to speed up production of weapons that take a long time to develop. On top of that, many weapons you collect and develop are useless, or you'll go back and find them, only for them to be way behind your latest weapons. You'll stick mostly to a few weapons and rarely move onto a new one, which makes much of your arsenal a waste. For instance, I don't think I've ever found a good use for a submachine gun. There are also tons of cheap gimmicks in the game. Sometimes you can run up and flank an enemy before he has a chance to react, and it doesn't count as an alert phase, but sometimes it does.
There's lots to do in this game and it'll take a while before you have everything, not to mention all of the fun you can have in coop and versus mode, but if you can't play with your co-op buddy all too often you'll spend a majority of the time grinding after you've beaten the game.
This game is a blast at first, but the flaws aren't too hard to find and you'll get pissed at this game a lot. That being said, the gameplay -is- superior to any shooter I've ever played, and it allows for many different play styles, as well as tons of fun in co-op. The humor is spot-on, the graphics are pretty, and dodging guards will give you an adrenaline rush. Well worth the money, especially considering there's probably about an hour and a half of cutscenes, so it's almost like you're getting a movie too, though sadly there's no autoplay function if you want to watch them all.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (US, 06/08/10)
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