I didn't know what to expect from this game. All I knew was that it has been originally a PSP game which received an HD port. For all I know, it could've been a completely different thing like Metal Gear Acid. It could've been bad, even.
But it isn't, it is superb in fact.
The game takes place in the year 1974 – ten years after Snake Eater. Big Boss was been rather restless at this point in his life and decided to create a mercenary group called Militaires Sans Frontières (the series sure loves its French words).
In case you've forgotten, Big Boss would go on to become a sort-of villain whose independent army, renamed “Outer Heaven” starting with Metal Gear 1, would pose too much of a threat with its mobile nuclear weapon. The game shows how the whole thing started and how Big Boss changed from a once lost disciple to one of the most prolific soldiers of the 20th century.
Since the game is about the beginnings of an army, we can enjoy all the benefits (and paperwork) of this: Aside from the usual Metal Gear Solid-type of solo missions, the game offers a second gameplay part which consists entirely of managing your own army.
You start out with just a few soldiers, but before you know it you'll have several hundred men at your disposal. Those are not soldiers either; you have your own team of cocks for the Mess Hall, your own medical team, your own espionage department and, best of all, your very own Research and Development team.
Militaires Sans Frontières is organized this way:
- The normal soldiers provide income due to their contract work. They can be used as soldiers in the missions as well, and at the very end of the game, some of them even surpass Big Boss in terms of overall stats.
- The mess hall team can increase moral, thus increasing everyone's stats as a result.
- The medical team can tend to wounded or sick personnel. The better the team, the faster they recover.
- The espionage department can provide info for missions such as which rank the soldiers in that mission have.
- The RnD team can research weapons and other items for you by using the money you earn. All other departments provide help with related items as well. For instance, an improved Ration can only be developed by the help of a high-class Mess Hall team.
All of this results in a very enjoyable management game. The only bad thing about it is that you have to remove old soldiers with new, better ones, which can become a chore if you do this every single time in late and post game. But aside from that, it's quite cool and gives you a feeling just how big your army can become.
In fact, as the game progresses, your base grows as well. You start with a single off-shore plant on the ocean. New platforms are added until you have 19 platforms, 7 helipads, two piers and a long runway for aircrafts.
As for the missions themselves, they're both different, but also good. Since the game was originally a PSP game, it has a rather mobile-friendly structure: Instead of a lengthy campaign, you have several missions you can start, each of them containing either a quick land traversal through some areas or a boss fight. Each of them take 5 minutes max (longer for the boss fights) for an experienced player, allowing you to play the game in short sessions with ease.
Peace Walker offers your typical Metal Gear Solid experience with sneaking and shooting and all that. CQC, camouflage and cardboard boxes all make a return as well. Another thing that is back, but has been changed for the better, are the codec conversations.
Instead of randomly checking the codec during missions, all conversations are being recorded on a cassette (it's the 70's, remember?). Whether it be informal, funny or thrilling stuff – it's all here, available at any time. Some background stories are available as well, but they must be unlocked first.
The biggest deal, however, are without a doubt the boss fights.
There are two types of boss fights: a military vehicle or aircraft with an escort of soldiers, an unmanned vehicles which are this game's Metal Gear wannabees. The former are challenging because of the number of enemies, and especially for non-lethal fights this is quite a challenge as you even have to lure out the driver of the machines (destroying the machines themselves counts as a kill).
The real boss fights are the unmanned vehicles controlled by an AI. Unlike other games in the series, there is not a single humanoid boss fight, but the robot vehicles make more than up for it.
For starters, they consists of several different parts which can be destroyed individually. Machine guns mounted on the vehicle can be destroyed separately from the main body, for instance. This allows you to slowly, but surely weaken the robot. You can't disable all of its attacks, but some of them.
Also, the AI's all have a voice which appearently uses Vocaloid software. I'm not kidding, the game's credits actually lists Vocaloid. As a result, they burst out “la la la” all the time, and it becomes both unnerving and arrogant at the same time.
Not only that, each of them has some distinct traits on its own: Pupa acts like he's Tony Hawk, Chrysalis doubles as an UFO, Cocoon is a moving fortress on treads and Peace Walker – the final boss in the game – features both the Death Star and butterflies.
Sounds vague, yet awesome enough for you?
And the best is yet to come: The game supports co-op as well as multiplayer. Not only can you fight against other players in deathmatches, but you can also play each mission with other players, including the boss battles.
It is a whole new experience to fight a boss battle with other players. Each player can concentrate on other parts of the unmanned vehicles to destroy all the subsystems faster. Or they can even the odds against the legion of soldiers that come as escort in the higher-difficulty vehicle missions.
On top of that, there exist weapons that are limited to co-op missions. For instance, the Railgun is in the game, but kinda weak when used alone. Another player can use a dynamo to charge it up, however, dealing massive damage with the weapon. Of course, chances of finding a player who carries these things aren't always high, but it's nice to have the option.
Overall, this game features a ton of stuff to do. Aside from the story missions, there also exist optional missions – one third of them are stronger versions of the boss fights. You can complete these both in singleplayer and co-op (and there still are some players online even today). You can build up your army and eventually max it out. You can aim to get the best rating for each mission. You can collect all the weapons. And of course there are the cassette recordings.
I started the game a little over a month ago and I'm still not finished with it – that shows how much the game has to offer. If Metal Gear Solid 5 has even half the stuff Peace Walker offered, it'll be a GOTY candidate for sure.
This game is an underappreciated gem in the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Much like I bought The Orange Box and knew nothing about Team Fortress 2 - only to fall in love with it- this game is a good singleplay game and a secret multiplayer giant contained in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.
The HD version runs in 60 fps and supports a second control stick for easier aiming, so there really is no excuse for you not to play it when you don't own a PSP, and thus skipped the game the first time around.