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Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker


Snake Returns to the PSP
There are very few franchises on the Playstation consoles / portable machines that put fans into a frenzy as much at the Metal Gear Solid series. Designed to continue the story after Portable Ops, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker for the Playstation Portable picks up four years after the events of that game (and 10 years after MGS: Snake Eater). Snake is building an organization of mercenaries called the Militaires Sans Frontieres, basically a group of well trained soldiers that donít answer to government authority. Snake is brought in to help a brewing situation in Costa Rica around a well-armed group called the Peace Sentinels. While Snake couldnít care less about how much the Peace Sentinels threaten the balance of power in the world, he is freaked out by the re-emergence of The Boss; someone that he killed in MGS3. The presentation of the story is simply superb and the weaving narrative is another interesting tale in the MGS series.



The game plays identically to every Metal Gear Solid game that you have played in the past. At the core, itís a stealth title that values patience over run and gun gameplay. You are rewarded for waiting quietly to choke enemy soldiers rather than shooting them in the head and causing panic among other guards. As an added incentive for stealth over combat, every solider that you incapacitate in the main levels and hook to a large balloon is transported back to your hideout. What hideout? Outer Heaven.

If you played the first games in the series, you will remember Outer Heaven as the large base that you are tasked with destroying. In 1974, however, Outer Heaven is not a place of evil, but rather of gathering mercs, scientists, medical staff, cooks, etc under the mantra of fighting for what is right over political decisions. As you work through the main levels, each captured person returned to Outer Heaven works for you. This allows the player to build up Outer Heaven, while still keeping a balance among the community. Players are encouraged to assign staffers to different tasks. Creating a giant staff of cooks, for instance, keeps the entire base excited to continue working at Outer Heaven. Staffers can be assigned to research better weapons or even gather resources for the base.



You can really get lost in building your base over playing the actual levels. Itís also additive to replay levels to gain more people. Snake has some new close-combat moves at his disposal to take down the enemy. Using the right trigger, you can knock out enemies with various, quick marital arts moves. Itís certainly helpful when surrounded or when rushing an enemy from behind. Similar to the Splinter Cell series, Snake can grab enemies to find our information or choke them into submission.

The biggest change to the gameplay is the near-requirement of finding someone else with a PSP and the game for adhoc co-op play. Some of the bosses are near impossible to beat without the help of friends. The game supports up to 4 players working together on a mission. Each player has their own Snake character that can be outfitted with their own weapons package. Players can also share items during the game as well as benefit from extra health when working together. There is also equipment within the levels that can be used by multiple players. I played a few brief missions with one other player and itís definitely more entertaining with more players. I just wish there was an online co-op mode as getting together with people that have the game is a huge pain. The previous games in the series on the PSP had online functionality, so excluding it from this title didnít make any sense to me.



Graphics

  • This is the best looking PSP title to come out in 2010; perhaps for the entire life cycle. The levels are densely populated with detailed textures and the character models are just as detailed. The animations are all fluid, the physics system works perfectly for a stealth title and the lighting effects are surprisingly widespread.

  • The cutscenes that paint the narrative are just as amazing. The beautiful artwork is presented like a graphic novel and the pencil drawn designs are easily some of the best of the series. The presentation uses this art to tell Peace Walkerís story with speech bubbles and the actual cutscenes have small elements of interactivity as well.

Audio

  • Pair this game with a quality set of headphones / earbuds and the game will continually surprise you with the ambient sounds of your surroundings. The voiceovers are really exceptional as well as Snake is voiced once again by David Hayter. The soundtrack is equally as phenomenal, filled with dynamic moments in the score that heighten the tension at the perfect moments.

Conclusion

The PSP has been a staple in my portable gaming collection for a year or so. Many times I have trouble justifying the purchase of the player based on the slow release of titles for the gaming machine, but then a top notch game like this comes along. Peace Walker is a pretty stupendous example of why the PSP is worth having. Beyond the amazing breadth of content in the game, the game is artistically brilliant and highly entertaining; especially when playing with friends in the co-op mode.

If you are a fan of the MGS series or simply of stealth action titles, thereís no reason that you shouldnít pick up Peace Walker for the PSP immediately. Thereís easily 20 to 40 hours of content in one PSP game, depending on how much of a perfectionist you are.

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