Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker is Disappointing

I would have played Portable Ops for that complete canon. But I’m not gonna find a PSP and a copy of that game just so I can find out how Snake and Kaz met.

Playing this game after Snake Eater may have been a mistake. Going from one of the greatest video games of all time to… this… is a significant downgrade. Not to say that Peace Walker is a terrible game. There are some things about this game that I actually really like! But the problems it has are numerous and incredibly obnoxious. It was a chore to finish this one, dudes.

Ten years after the events of Snake Eater, Big Boss, still going by Snake, has broken off from the United States to form his own army without a nation, the MSF. One day, they’re approached by Ramon Galvez Mena, a KGB agent disguised as a professor at the University of Peace, and his student, Paz. Their request: investigate an army occupying Costa Rica. After taking the mission, Snake soon finds Huey Emmerich, designer of the Peace Walker, a nuclear launching robot that the mad Coldman plans to fire. Now, it’s up to Snake and his forces at MSF to stop Coldman and prevent nuclear catastrophe.

The story here is… fine. The new characters it introduces are fine, if a bit forgettable. It has plenty of twists and turns, as you would expect from the Metal Gear series. But the narrative isn’t as insane and memorable as the first three MGS games.

I do love how the Codecs are all optional side content. They never interrupt the flow of gameplay, like they do in the other games in this series. If you want to get that character and world development, you need to seek it out in the side menus. If you don’t care and you just want to sneak around and be Snake, then you can do that. It’s a nice quality of life choice that would be further built upon in Phantom Pain.

The most interesting thing about the story are the cutscenes. Being a PSP game, it doesn’t present its cutscenes with in-game graphics. Rather, it uses comic book style interactive slide shows. I like the style of these, but I’m not a huge fan of the interactive aspect. Especially when you get quick time events that kill you if you mess up once.

Although the Mr. Kojima Easter egg is hilarious and we wouldn’t have gotten that without the interactive aspect. So I can live with it.

That’s an adequate enough transition to the presentation. This game is… rough. It’s a PSP game ported to the PS3. Unfortunately, the transition did little to improve the graphics. The models are still a bit rough, the environments are muddy, and the music isn’t even half as memorable as it is in the other games in the series.

Granted, it isn’t awful. The animations are fine, I love the comic style of the cutscenes, and the game runs at a consistently smooth frame rate. I’d say the game looks more charming than bad. But the game still doesn’t look great.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t play great either.

At its core, this game still has that classic Metal Gear Solid gameplay. You need to sneak through various locations, achieve various objectives, and blow up giant robots. Between that, you need to manage your team at Mother Base to build new gear, complete missions, and build MSF’s reputation.

The sneaking is my main problem with this game. In the other games in this series, you have the choice between moving while standing and crawling. One is significantly faster than the other, but it leaves you more exposed. It’s a nice balance. But in Peace Walker, you can walk low or stand walk. Both of which have the same speed. So… why would you ever get out of low walking?

Alert phases also end way too quickly. In MGS3, Alert and Caution phases take a long while to wind down. This encourages you to try and sneak through an area where the guards are more actively hunting you. It makes for much more tense and fun stealth sections if you ask me. But in this game, guards will stop looking for you if you remain hidden for more than a few seconds.

Yes, I know that’s how the other games in the series do it. And I’ll probably complain about that when we get to those, too.

This game is broken up into different segmented missions. The locations in these missions are mostly the same, but you’ll be given a fresh batch of supplies between runs. These include ammo for your weapons, increased food supplies for healing, so on and so forth. If you want to go passive, you still can, with the tranq pistol and the tranq sniper and stun grenades and so on. Or you could go guns blazing and leave a trail of bodies behind you.

You may want to consider pacifism, though. Because now, you need to man your base. And the only way to do that is to use the Fulton recovery system to send unconscious bodies flying into the sky for retrieval. I love this. It’s a nice way to dispose of bodies without having to hide them, it encourages pacifism, and it ties into the base-building side of the gameplay perfectly.

Speaking of which: base building. By kidnapping and brainwashing your enemies, you can set them to work at Mother Base. They can fight missions for you to gain resources, build new weapons and equipment, or just perform basic duties around the base to keep it running smoothly. This is basically just a bunch of hopping between menus, but that’s fine.

Look, I play RPGs, okay? I’m used to stuff like that.

My biggest issue with this game are the boss fights. Metal Gear is well known for its bosses, and for good reason. Unfortunately, the ones we get here just kinda… suck ass. They’re all just military vehicles and giant robots. Both of which have way too much health and show up at random points way too frequently. Sure, you can steal them for Mother Base if you play your cards right, which is kinda neat. But when I hate the boss fights themselves, why should I bother?

I find it extremely annoying that Peacewalker is essential to the canon of MGS. Sure, it isn’t a terrible game. But it became a chore to play real quickly. Honestly, you’d probably be better off just watching the cutscenes on YouTube than you would actually playing the game.

Hell, you can just read the plot summary at the beginning of Ground Zeroes. Which… is a whole other can of rotting worms.

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