June 23, 2010

Peace Walker – The View from Mother Base

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 2:03 pm

Metal Gear Solid - Peace Walker
Even while being bombarded by E3, I was chewing through Peace Walker reasonably quick until hitting the first of the game’s singing robotic superweapons. The massive tank with the unfortunately odd name of Pupa was waiting to attack in the first confrontation within the game that didn’t provide any safe havens for planning strategy or recovery.

Two previous encounters with heavier infantry offered buildings or overturned wreckage for refuge, but this encounter occurs within a large open arena, a bit like a match of Twisted Metal – except that Boss doesn’t have access to a machinegun equipped ice cream truck.

Metal Gear Solid - Peace Walker
What’s immediately apparent about the latest PSP entry to the series is that Hideo and company have mastered the digital comma, creating tightly focused objective based missions that keep the story flowing through connecting map zones, but never stretch beyond what one might accomplish on a bus ride.

It all flows through a menu system offering the plot via truly portable ops, and encounters like the Pupa become a mission, saving repeating the sneaking bits and allowing you to arm up at mother base to pick the ideal equipment for the task at hand. Of course this relies on you having produced the equipment to begin with.

Metal Gear Solid - Peace Walker

I went at the Pupa several times with the same rocket launcher that had gotten me through two previous vehicular combat situations, but quickly got the impression that it wasn’t cutting it this time around, specifically when the Pupa’s sweet serenade kept putting me down for a dirt nap.

Typically this would have caused me to break from the game for awhile before any further attempts, but Peace Walker’s design changes made this the first time within an MGS game that I instead fell into a level grinding of sorts.

Stats rise based on accomplishments within missions and discoveries are made. More importantly, soldiers are abducted and recruited into your personal army, and players can start playing the game sideways in order to get what’s needed to finally move ahead. Players don’t simply find the perfect solution anymore, instead given options to research newer weapons to make the task easier, or proving inventive as always with what already exists.

Metal Gear Solid - Peace Walker
Despite the ability to expand as the game progresses and resources grow, the layout of Mother Base is an example of supreme simplicity, with different units staffed by the soldiers captured in the field. That seemed a bit ridciolous at first, knocking soldiers out and quickly strapping an evac balloon to them from the field, but when the effects started showing on Mother Base I really did get the fever of wanting to catch them all – to sort the best and fire the rest, or stick them in the Mess Hall until suitable replacements could be had.

Sections such as the Mess Hall are straightforward, the player keeping it staffed in order to maintain a food percentage that keeps morale high and prevents soldiers from quitting. Every soldier has a letter grade that distinguishes them for certain tasks over others, with many failing across the board and becoming stock soldiers at first.

The key here is that the presentation of extra ops, challenge missions outside the proper game that ask players to recover documents or capture enemies, becomes something more than an outside addition inflating the scale of the entire game.

The necessities of Mother Base create a place for the perfect marriage of the virtual missions side of MGS, and the mission proper, with the first providing additional resources for the latter. Even the act of repeating story missions becomes less of a grind for stats and cash and more about hijacking the best for your personal army and discovering the secret bonuses hidden around each area.

Metal Gear Solid - Peace Walker
One noticeable element is that com chatter is proving far less essential, and has been given a minor role within the game given that dialogue occurs before the start of each mission and the goals are largely straightforward. Plot sticks largely to unfolding within the game’s comic styled cutscenes, which find opportunities for some player interaction that even early on stick out as something more meaningful than quicktime button presses.

I’ve still got a ways to go before finding out where all the pieces fall together, but so far Peace Walker’s lateral offerings make this anything but a scaled down Metal Gear experience – with the exception of having to use the PSP’s analog nub for sneaking, which may drive me to madness before the end.


  1. Sweet post Jamie! I agree on all accounts! I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed another PSP game as much as Peace Walker… We’ll have to hit up some Co-op missions someday… Adhoc Party on PS3… I finally kissed my Linux goodbye. :\

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — June 23, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

  2. definitely gotta get in on some co-op – sorry to hear about your Linux though, you managed to hold out for quite a long damn time.

    Comment by Jamie Love — June 24, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

  3. Wait, does that mean you’ll actually be able to buy PSN games now? You should get the PS+ yearly subscription to make up for lost time.

    Comment by EdEN — June 25, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

  4. I don’t like rentals. I will however be able to buy games that go on sale now!

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — June 25, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

  5. Well, it’s not much of a rental if you subscribe for a year or two. I don’t usually return to PSN games I finish and thus would be the case with most of them. What I’m looking forward to on PSN is what free “rentals”, as you say, we might plus getting Qore for “free” as well as the discount on any purchase on the PSN store. I just got my only non-discount purchase (Hammer of Infinite Fate DLC for Brutal Legend) and would have liked it if I had a small discount on that and other games/DLC.

    So far the $50 for 15 months comes down to $3.33 a month which does sound like a lot of value for your investment.

    Comment by EdEN — June 25, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

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