Peace Walker not only has a great history lesson about the secret wars conducted by the CIA, it’s also a completely badass chapter in the Metal Gear canon. It’s not perfect; the wide variety of control schemes can’t hide the fact that playing an action game on the PSP can never be as fluid as on a console. But the graphics are striking, the story is inspiring, and seeing Big Boss recruit his first child soldier set my heart at ease concerning whether or not Kojima was going to retroactively make Big Boss a “good” guy.
Except for the curious lack of human bosses, Peace Walker has everything that we’ve come to expect from the series: A compelling CQC system, absurd characters, memorable music, powerful narrative, everything. Capturing enemy mercs and creating your own army (the birth of Outer Heaven!) has been refined since its introduction in Portable Ops; gone are the days of laboriously carrying each and every unwilling recruit. In fact, managing your increasingly-complicated Mother Base in between missions is almost a fully-realized game in and of itself. While a few gamers might find the micromanaging tedious, I suspect most Metal Gear fanatics are the kind of gamers who leave no stone unturned, no option unexplored, and will be more than happy to lose sleep wondering if soldier #2317 is pulling his weight in the research department or if he should be sent to help out in the mess hall.
Multiplayer, unfortunately, is more trouble than it’s worth. It’s ad hoc only. If you have three friends close at hand who love both Metal Gear and the PSP, then you’re in luck. Otherwise, you’re going to have to use Ad Hoc Party (free to download) with your PS3 console, connect your PSP to your PS3, and then trick the PSP into thinking you’re playing ad-hoc when you’re really online. If that sounds ridiculous, it is. I have a million DS games that I can hop online and play multiplayer with, no problem – meanwhile Monster Hunter and Peace Walker, two very good reasons to own a PSP, are both limited to ad hoc for reasons that exist far outside the realm of logic and good sense. Game developers, I know this newfangled “internet” thing might not seem like it’s going to take off, but if you think outside the box for a minute, online play via the internet may in fact be the best way for multiplayer gaming to work. Sounds crazy, I know. Otherwise, dear gamers, have fun explaining to your roommates why exactly you need to use the TV and the PS3 in order to play a PSP game online.
One of the greatest things that Peace Walker introduces is the chance to send your mercs out to fight in foreign conflicts. These “Outer Ops” are visually simplistic representations of battles, and are kind of like a nihilistic version of fantasy football where you gamble with the lives of others. It’s a lot of fun, but we’re seriously getting to the point where we need a turn-based or Valkyria Chronicles-style Metal Gear Tactics game where Big Boss can actively lead his elite horde onto the battlefield, with a variety of Metal Gear prototypes to make, and featuring a young Solid Snake to act as the final boss…
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Hey readers! If you liked this post, you should check out some of my books. I’ve got an epic series called Demonworld, which is equal parts Mad Max and Lord of the Rings (think “science fantasy”), and a much-loved gamebook series called Heavy Metal Thunder which is currently a hyperlinked Kindle book but will be a fancy phone app any day now.