8 things you need to know about MGS: Peace Walker

After the APC, things only got more hairy, as we were attacked by a full-sized tank and a remarkably tough attack chopper. Then it got weird, as we found ourselves locked in inescapable combat with those giant, singing robots we mentioned earlier.

Above: Creeeeeeepy

At the core of Peace Walker’s story are a bunch of autonomous death machines controlled by AI constructs in the shape of black cylinders. The ones we encountered included an eerie, child-kidnapping hover-drone called the “Colibri” (or “hummingbird”) by a band of Sandinistas Snake allies himself with; a massive, tank-like monster that can ramp up walls at high speed and perform acrobatic, deadly leaps around the arena in which you have to fight it; and a towering monster of a treaded vehicle that was bristling with guns and dangerous-to-access weak points. These were all intimidating to the point of being terrifying, but we were able to bring down every last one, both with a partner and by ourselves.

Above: Again, though, it's easier this way

Best of all, defeating them gives you a chance to enter their control modules and start ripping out circuit boards in moments evocative of HAL’s “death” in 2001. The reason for this is also one of the coolest things Peace Walker has to offer.

Those circuit boards, it turns out, can be kept and used to build a giant robot of your own. Dubbed Metal Gear ZEKE, it can only be built once you’ve salvaged enough of the right parts from your robot enemies. Apparently, like the weapons, it can only be used in Outer Ops – although we’re willing to bet that something that cool has more uses than just squashing icons of enemy soldiers. Sadly, we didn’t have time to play far enough into the game to find out for sure; 16 hours is a long time, but it feels like we only got close enough to scratch the story’s halfway mark.

Above: Sadly, we don't have a picture of ZEKE, so here's shot of Snake meetingthe game's namesakeinstead

It’d be kind of a waste if co-op was the only online functionality Peace Walker offered, wouldn’t it? In the Versus Ops mode, you can pit your Snake (along with any weapons and gadgets you’ve uncovered) against up to five other players in four game types across a variety of unlocked maps. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes shouldn’t need any explanation, while the Capture Mission mode is basically capture-the-flag, but with a South American quetzal bird as the “flag.” Finally, there’s Base Mission, which tasks two teams with capturing control points before the time runs out.

Above: In team matches, co-op rules still apply

OK, so they’re nothing out of the ordinary, but they’re still a fun addition, and their arms-race aspect will make them particularly interesting for advanced players. What’s more, they’re one small part of one of the largest, most elaborate games we’ve ever played on a handheld. Even 16 hours into Peace Walker, it still feels like our experience with the game, and our idea of what’s really going on in its story,are woefully incomplete. If you’re a Metal Gear fan with a PSP, you’d better hope you have plenty of time free when this thing releases on June 8; you’re going to need it.

May 5, 2010