The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
After seven canonical entries in the Metal Gear saga, fans have
little choice but to play each new installment. Skipping a single
chapter in Hideo Kojima’s signature series means that you will miss out
on key character developments, plot points, and the ever-changing web of
intrigue. Given Metal Gear’s tradition, this isn’t usually a problem –
but Peace Walker is the first game in the main series that I have
reservations about recommending.
Peace Walker follows in the
tradition of 2007’s Portable Ops, building the legend of Big Boss as he
slowly evolves into the villain of the franchise’s first entry. This
sounds exciting in concept, but the narrative is disappointingly weak.
The meager revelations are spread too thin across the 20-plus hour
storyline, and the supporting cast members all feel like superfluous
hangers-on (except Master Miller, complete with aviator sunglasses).
Even the series’ hallmark boss fights are straightforward endurance
bouts against robots and vehicles, though the designs of your mechanized
foes are among the coolest in the series.
Peace Walker may not be
everything fans expect from a game bearing the Metal Gear Solid name,
but it is still an entertaining stealth/action experience. The missions
themselves are better across the board, with more diverse environments
broken up into smaller areas. Big Boss sneaks through forests, research
labs, and excavated craters, completing equally varied objectives.
You’ll also find no shortage of content; dozens of story missions and
extra ops can keep you busy for hours, and new incentives and mechanics
surface after the first (!) ending to hold your interest until the true
On the battlefield, the game feels smoother than
Portable Ops in almost every respect, though the PSP controls are still
too clumsy to make the action sing. You have an even wider array of
options to finish your objectives, and various types of guns, grenades,
and non-lethal alternatives make every playstyle viable with the right
equipment. I just wish it were easier to select your items on the fly;
expect to eat some gunfire as you scroll through menus looking for your
rations or rocket launcher. This is especially unacceptable during the
boss fights, which already push the control scheme beyond its
Peace Walker’s most significant feature is the
addition of cooperative missions. Co-op adds a fresh spin on the classic
stealth dynamics, allowing you to play through almost every mission as a
two-player team (boss fights accommodate four). The ability to flank,
distract, and overwhelm your foes is a sensation the series has failed
to capture until now. Unfortunately, you can only engage in local
multiplayer unless you also own a PS3, since the home console’s Ad-Hoc
Party application is the only way to connect with people not in your
line of sight. If you’re more of a lone wolf, you can still play through
the game solo, though I found that a couple of the boss fights were
inordinately difficult (and poorly balanced) without at least one
Accomplishing missions is only part of Peace Walker’s
gameplay. A large amount of your time will be spent managing the
offshore military complex Big Boss and his army use as a base. It’s not
nearly as dull as it sounds – in fact, just like with Portable Ops, I
became obsessed with collecting skilled soldiers (which are now
extracted with hassle-free Fulton balloons), deploying them on missions,
and assigning them to teams in order to optimize my intelligence and
research. Even better, you’ll eventually start production on your very
own Metal Gear, though it doesn’t pay off until the final chapter of the
Peace Walker has a lot to offer, including tons of
missions, cool multiplayer, and the sense of establishing your own
mercenary army. Even so, a few critical shortcomings in the narrative
and control departments keep the game from truly capturing the Metal
Gear spark. Despite the fact that Hideo Kojima was directly involved in
the game’s development, Peace Walker doesn’t feel like a fully realized
chapter in the saga – but it still completes the mission.
Email the author Joe Juba, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.