Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is Hideo Kojima trying to cross a generational gap. Metal Gear Solid 4 was Sony's high-profile exclusive title for the PlayStation 3, but its icky convoluted mess was hardly a good entry point for series beginners.
Where was everyone in 2010? Western kids were screaming profanities down the microphone thanks to Call of Duty, but Japanese children were hitting their gaming maturity with Capcom's phenomenally successful Monster Hunter series on the PSP. Metal Gear: Peace Walker decided it would very much like a piece of that action, thank you very much - it even went to the effort of including some special Monster Hunter levels.
This is a pick-up-and-play Metal Gear designed for a handheld, giving you over 100 (though many are optional) quick bursts of content. There's a heavy RPG-flavour, as you recruit enemy soldiers and POW's into your militia gang and then grind yourself some better weapons and equipment. If you've got a PSP save file kicking around, it can also be imported into this PS3 version.
Controls have been scaled back from previous Metal Gear Solid games, thanks to the PSP's limited selection of inputs, ridding Snake of many of his abilities but ensuring its environments have been designed to compensate. Dual stick support has, however, been introduced in this HD collection.
Metal Gear Solid 3's immaculate sense of direction and authorship are completely gone, however, and in their stead are a plot and context that can politely be described as utter bobbins. The gut-wrenching final twist, awarded if you manage to progress through the entire glut of optional content, completely undoes the game.
Much of Peace Walker has been designed to be played co-operatively, and many Western gamers will likely find this HD Collection (and its online options) their first genuine opportunity to do so. Nowhere is this emphasis on the co-operative more apparent than in the game's boss fights, which are little more than routine wars of attrition as you all stand in a clump and fire off streams of rockets until the target keels over.
The game looks surprisingly good when upscaled on a console, but its blocky polygons are still somewhat lacking when compared to the wonderful job done on Metal Gear Solid 3. Still, it's a testament to the quality of the original work that a handheld title holds up this well under HD scrutiny.
Bluepoint Games has done an admirable job collating one of gaming's most unique, important and frustrating franchises. Metal Gear Solid has always been a complicated beast; a series with a pressing anti-war sentiment that seems to simultaneously revel in bombastic action flicks, set in a world where the cheeky upskirt camera shot is the only thing more important than an elaborate interrogation of the human condition. Kojima's oeuvre is as bold as it is hokey, and for all its faults this is an engaging universe that is never dull except for when it is.
Version Tested: PlayStation 3