Since I didn’t get this game for the PSP, it was a blessing to get it in HD on the PS3. Peacewalker takes places 10 years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and 4 years after the San Hyeronymo Incident in Portable Ops. The year is 1974, the month November. Snake, who still hates being called Big Boss, is the leader of a Mercenary group, called Militaries Sans Frontieres, or the MSF, which translates as a Military without Borders, or 1 without a country, who are currently residing and training in the Columbian Coast. One day, a College professor named Ramon Galvez Mena, and a student of his named Paz, approach Snake for his services. Snake refuses, until a tape recording revealed to Snake that his old mentor, The Boss, might still be alive. He then accepts, heads towards Costa Rica. Along the way, Snake has to do battle, no only with soldiers, but also armoured vans, tanks, and A.I. driven vehicles, including the common staple in the series – a Metal Gear.
Lets talk about “the good” first. We need to keep in mind that this game was created for the original PSP – a system that’s designed to act like a Playstation 2 that you can carry around. It came out in 2010, about 2 years before the mini PS3 known as the Vita came out, so it’s not fair for us to complain about it’s dated PS2 graphics when the technology to do so wasn’t around for handheld games. Despite this, for being an HD upscale, it doesn’t look too bad for a game that doesn’t look like a cartoon. It maintains a great soundtrack that is also a common trait throughout the Metal Gear series. And compared to Portable Ops, I’m glad they allowed the option of Metal Gear Solid 4 controls – because anybody who has ever played Portable Ops will tell you how annoying it is to try and move both your character and the camera with your left hand doing all the work! You get used to it in time, but it was bad design that thankfully isn’t a mandatory option in this game. The level design’s pretty good, and it does become quite tough near the end, particularly if you’re taking a stealth approach.
Along with the stealth action aspect of the game, We’re also provided with a slight “business sim” as well. Every soldier you don’t kill can be recruited (with a limited amount in each mission of course) and given work at the home base for the MSF. Based on their individual skills and background, some can be sent on missions to develop their skills, while others can be played in skirmishes. Others can work as medical staff to aid injured soldiers, intel for extra missions/info, engineers for weapons development and the building of Metal Gear (and if you explore a particular level in the game, you can actually recruit the game series’ director Hideo Kojima, who makes an excellent engineer), and of course, catering staff – because what army can function without good cooking? While it’s a business sim so to speak, it provides hidden RPG elements, as better staff makes easier missions (especially if they can make powerful weapons and create a curry that can heal you completely after surviving anti-tank rounds).
The story is as good as most Metal Gear games since 1998 – I would say it’s roughly on par with Raiden’s mission in Metal Gear Solid 2, but not as strong in the character development. You’ll notice a lot of the usual traits in nearly every Metal Gear story, including Snake infiltrating the facility, rescuing some folk who provide exposition (whether they live to the end or not) finding out a pile of stuff, going to jail and eventually fighting the Metal Gear after numerous boss fights before it (it’s common). You’ll also notice a wee bit of deja vu when you meet 1 of the Metal Gear scientists…you might even say they were destined.
Now onto “the bad”. 1 of the main staples of a Metal Gear game is usually its interesting, memorable, developed, and often enjoyable boss battles (especially from Metal Gear Solid 1 & 3). But Peacewalker is different, because every boss battle in this is involves fighting a robotic vehicle of some kind. The boss battles themselves are excellent, but in terms of the character behind the boss, they feel quite soulless, and that includes the unknown soldiers who pilot the armoured truck, tank & helicopter you fight at the 1st 3 boss battles, before everything becomes an A.I.
The recruitment aspect of the game is great, but as far as a 1 player experience is concerned, it isn’t as good as Portable Ops in this respect. In Portable Ops you could bring the other soldiers you’ve recruited into main missions – But here it’s 1 soldier at a time (replacing snake on a mission), and multiple soldiers only really works within an online capacity…and trust me when I say, you’ll be all alone, unless you have a group of mates who are dedicated enough to play this game at the same time as you.
What themes are covered in Peacewalker? Well, the 1 that’s heavily emphasised is “peace”. Paz, the student with Ramon – her name means Peace. Kaz, Snake’s 2nd-in command, his name also means Peace. The Boss (Snake’s Mentor) was looking for peace. And 1 of the main antagonists has the vision that having nuclear weapons is a way to keep peace. Like suggesting that peace is created when everybody is armed and capable of wiping each other out. In its own way, it’s rather overwhelming, but it’s there. Another major theme would be the emphasis on hearing 2 sides of a story. Snake, once a devout American, becomes unsure when he hears and witnesses the evils of his own side. The type of decisions he eventually makes potentially create a villain out of him for later games.
Would I recommend this game? Yes, and it is a necessary play for those who are interested in Metal Gear-Lore in general. It draws closer to justifying how Big Boss/Snake went from being the hero to the Villain as time went on, and it does expand Snake as a character who is becoming less and less of the patriotic American he was in Metal Gear Solid 3 (Experience teaching him the reality of grey area morality). It’s excellent fun playing on the field. Even if the bosses are soulless and at times frustrating, the human characters are still pretty good, though they don’t get as well developed as they would in other Metal Gear games. The Ashley Wood cutscenes look great (considering it helped save space on an original PSP disc), but I still prefer cinematic cutscenes like in the “big console MG games”. As far as stealth-action games are concerned, it plays very well, tells a good story, looks great for what it is on the big screen, and has a lot of extra content to offer, even after you complete the main story.
Overall Rating: **** out of 5