Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Hoping to restore PSP's fortunes and change handheld co-op play forever

Certainly the cutscenes have come a long way since Portable Ops. From the pen of long-time series illustrator Ashley Wood, these semi-animated cutscenes are Metal Gear by way of Sin City. The editing, use of colour and Wood’s penmanship are miles better than they were in Portable Ops. They’re laden with Easter eggs too. In our demo, a cutscene featuring 16-year-old girl and former detainee Paz saw us able to zoom in underneath her clothes to see the scars of her time spent in the torture room. And in a trademark spot of Kojima deviance, we were even able to zoom in for a glimpse of her undergarments.

Even with our limited time with the demo, Peace Walker feels far superior to its PSP predecessor Portable Ops. Crucially, this is down to the control scheme. Drawing inspiration from Metal Gear Solid 4, Peace Walker maps aiming and firing to the L and R buttons respectively. Movement is controlled by the analog stick, while the camera is rotated via the face buttons. The latter feels slightly counterintuitive at first, particularly the camera’s variable sensitivity when aiming, but this is hopefully something that will be ironed out before release.

That said, punching Select opts you into the game’s Auto-Aim, though if you’re looking for those tasty headshots, you’re going to need to do the work yourself. One decision that has been drawing early criticism is the inability to pause the game outside of putting your PSP to sleep. Yup, there are no breaks for Snake in Peace Walker – even his Codec conversations are now in real time, leaving him open to attack should he fail to observe his surroundings. The reasoning behind this goes back to co-op – the fact that you’ll have nobody watching your back as you cycle through your inventory is one of the many small ways Kojima wants to encourage you to team up with a friend.

But despite the wealth of information drawn from the demo, many important questions remain about the game. Can it be played over infrastructure mode, as opposed to ad hoc mode as featured in the demo? Will there be gameshare or competitive multiplayer? Will the co-op structure see Kojima move away from the series’ infamously long cutscenes? We’ll have to wait for answers to these.

There’s a hell of a lot riding on Peace Walker, as far as the PSP is concerned. Particularly after Metal Gear Solid: Rising was announced for both the PS3 and Xbox 360, we could be looking at the last Sony-exclusive Metal Gear title for some time. But from what we’ve seen of Peace Walker, Kojima’s sunset march might herald a new dawn for PSP gaming.

Oct 22, 2009

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