Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker may just be the portable Metal Gear game we have really been waiting for. Only thing is, youâ€™ll have to wait just that little bit longer to play and find out. Youâ€™ll need the latest system update (okay, thatâ€™s to be expected), but youâ€™ll almost need the best part of a gig available on your memory card, which takes a good 15 minutes to install. Make sure you have your charger available and a book to read while this charges. Once you have done this and completed the intro, odds are you will have reached your destination if you bought this game to play on a flight. [Ed â€” That really redefines 'portable gaming'.]
Unfortunately, I only have a 512MB card as I donâ€™t have anything else that uses a memory stick. I thought it would only ever be used for itty-bitty save files. Luckily there is an install for plebs which weighs in at under 400mb. Apparently I miss out on some voice samples and the game takes longer to load. It would be nice if with such a large file the game let you know how much room you had on your memory stick, as if you're a little short you will have to delete some files and then start over.
To be fair, Peace Walker pushes the little PSP unlike anything else. This is a complete and proper Metal Gear outing with all the fittings and trimmings present and more so. Donâ€™t expect a dumbed down portable version for plebs; even the hardest of all Metal Gear fans will enjoy this outing. After playing the game, it really comes as no surprise to learn the team behind this game was the same size as the team that worked on Metal Gear Solid 4.
Set after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, you play as â€˜Big Bossâ€™ (Naked Snake) on a quest to uncover what really happened at the end of Snake Eater. Donâ€™t fret if you havenâ€™t played the third â€” or any â€” game in the series, though, as the story is still easy to follow - but playing Snake Eater and Portable Ops will clue you in to the full sequence of events. The plot is a bit more straightforward than other games in the series, but it will still keep you hooked.
Controls for the most part work incredibly well. True, you do sometimes wish the PSP had an extra button, but the development team did an incredible job with the tools available to them. There are a large amount of combat moves and take-downs available as well as an arsenal that would impress even James Bond. Sometimes selecting your inventory under pressure can be frustrating, but there are no major faults, and certainly none that impact the gameplay. Fighting multiple enemies is made simpler with a very cool chain combo which lets you take down multiple enemies in a row. It looks a little bit like when Jason Bourne takes out the two security guards at the park in the movie â€˜Bourne Identityâ€™. If you are having problems, the game does let you choose from a couple of very well thought out set-ups.
Talking about gameplay, anyone that has played the other Metal Gear games will have a good idea of what to expect here. Stealth is encouraged; go in with guns blazing and youâ€™ll most often be taken out in no time. This is as fun as ever, and in true Metal Gear fashion, the boss fights are a highlight. The bosses are AI instead of characters this time around, which I was a bit worried about. Luckily the AI bosses are huge and very memorable. The fights are pattern based, which is a staple for the series, but very fun.
Everything you have always loved about Metal Gear is here; nothing has been cut or lost in the â€˜downsizing processâ€™. I canâ€™t stress how amazing this is. Distracting guards with magazines, hiding in boxes, sticking up guards with Bananaâ€™s, itâ€™s all here! As well as all of this there are also plenty of new touches such as recruiting an army by attaching balloons to downed soldiers (great way to hide bodies, and hilarious), researching weapons and customising your payload. The only gripe, especially for a portable game, is that checkpoints are rare, leading to a huge amount of backtracking as the difficulty is actually quite high. There's about 20 hours of gameplay here only counting the main single-player missions alone, excluding 'Mother Base'.
If you do get stuck, you can either grind weapons technology or have another player jump in. The whole campaign is playable in co-op. Unfortunately I havenâ€™t had the opportunity to try this, but feedback on this feature is positive. There are also a lot of scenarios designed for multiplayer and even the chance to fight bosses with more than two players! The single-player game is so tight that multi-player is the icing on an already surprisingly huge and filling cake.
This is the first portable game Kojima has really had a hand in, and it shows. The cinematics are beautiful, but not in the way you would expect. The action pans out with hand-drawn frames and voice overs which is a bit different for the series, but it really does work well - even for the more dramatic parts of the game. These are short in Metal Gear terms, but snappy and to the point, even throwing in interactive elements. It would have sucked running out of batteries on an hour-long non-skippable essential cut-scene. Also standard for a Metal Gear game is a stunning soundtrack, and once again studio Koijima deliver. Who would have thought a soundtrack would be developed for a portable system that people outside Japan would want to listen to?
In-game graphics are also beautiful on the small screen. There are a few blocky textures and nitpicks, but the game looks largely like the PlayStation 2 games - well, better I guess in a way because of such a small screen. Environments change too from dense jungles to ruins to sprawling industrial areas, so the game feels nice and fresh the whole way through. Of course, there are a heap of little touches to find as well - the level of detail really is amazing.
Already we are around the standard review length for NZGamer and there is still so much to say about the game. It really is incredible how much gameplay has been stuck onto a UMD. At least as much as one of the game's â€˜big brothersâ€™. Peace Walker has to be the biggest game on the PSP yet. In fact, it's possibly the defining PSP game - essential for all PSP gamers. Of course, also essential is a big memory card and a good set of headphones, not earbuds.
Here's a quote that sums up the entire review - "I forgot I was playing this on a PSP!"