The story of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
is a bridge between the events that took place during Metal Gear Solid 3
and Metal Gear Solid
on the original PlayStation. Actually, more specifically, this is explaining what happens to Big Boss that causes the Zanzibarland incident during Metal Gear
for the MSX home computer console in Japan, which was also included on the bonus disc for MGS3: Subsistence
. I know it already sounds like this is too much of a barrier to entry if you aren't familiar with the series, but I assure you that Peace Walker
is still very enjoyable on its own. These are all new characters and a totally new chapter in the Metal Gear
saga so newcomers should feel welcomed, while fans should be excited!
Big Boss, aka Snake, is seeking a more meaningful life in Costa Rica by creating his own army called "Militaires Sans Frontieres" ("Soldiers Without Borders") when he is approached by a Soviet nationalist with some startling information. It seems the CIA is building nuclear facilities all over Costa Rica and a strange audio tape has been found which contains the voice of Snake's mentor, The Boss. Confused and intrigued, Big Boss seeks to stop the threat of nuclear war and find out what happened to The Boss, whom he believed he had killed 10 years earlier. The Costa Rican government was gracious enough to gift Big Boss on off-shore drilling platform to act as his center of operations during his mission.
Like I said earlier, this experience is much more closely focused on Snake's emotional rollercoaster over his feelings toward The Boss. He is tormented by guilt for killing the only person he was ever truly compassionate towards while also struggling with resentment and betrayal issues over her defection to the Soviets during the Cold War incident. This story is beautifully poetic while also maintaining the same intense action and espionage for which the series is known. And while the story may be grappling with a complicated premise, the game design philosophy is not; this is Monster Hunter with guns.
With the game set up into four separate categories: Main Ops (story missions), Extra Ops, CO-OPS, and Versus; it is clear that the Monster Hunter inspiration is well executed. This is the best way for any gamer to get what they want out of a PSP game. Story lovers get what they need out of Main Ops and Extra Ops for a bit of item collection, while online devotees can still play CO-OP through some very challenging missions or Versus if they feel like shooting each other instead of the bad guys. The level design uses a series of small detailed maps, which open out into an empty arena for boss encounters just like the enormously popular monster game in Japan.
The entire package of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is crammed with content. Outside of the already mentioned gameplay types, there are also strategy and RPG ideas woven in as well. Snake can recruit soldiers he finds during his mission for use at MSF which contributes to his research abilities which creates more items and equipment to use in the field. Managing each soldier's role becomes addictive in its own right, although it is still a streamlined version of the system found in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. There is even an Advanced Wars style battle mission mini-game where you can send teams of soldiers to capture or eliminate enemies across hundreds of micro-missions to capture new vehicles like tanks and helicopters. The biggest, and most important, distraction is the inclusion of a mech customization feature. At one point in the story, a Metal Gear is being built and you have the control over what features to include in its production which should have fans giddy with excitement. There is always something to improve or distract yourself with in Peace Walker which goes to show that when Kojima said there are "over 100 hours of gameplay," he meant it.
It is worth pointing out that the Monster Hunter design goes one step too far and I am not even counting the inclusion of several Monster Hunter crossover Extra-Ops missions. The series is largely known for having some of the best boss fights in the industry. Creative and over-the-top characters are the linchpins that hold the games together, but for Peace Walker, every single boss fight is against an enormous mechanized weapon like tanks, helicopters, and of course Metal Gears which are stand-ins for dragons and basilisks from Monster Hunter and it all just seems a tad uninspired given the franchise history. This doesn't ruin the game by any means, the design of the fights are meant to be taken down with friends, but it does lose a bit of luster for solo players that want more elaborate boss encounters.