If you listen to The Bitcast (thank you, if you answered ‘yes’. If you answered ‘no’, then by all means follow the link!), you’ll know that Sam, Editor and Big Boss (suitably fitting nickname) for The Bit, challenged me to complete the Metal Gear series within the months of Summer. So, on June 21st, I started my very first playthrough. Beginning with Metal Gear Solid 1, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the series as I go on, hopefully having finished by the last day of Summer.
For my musings on Snake Eater, venture here.
Well, that was epic. I’ve got into a sort of routine over the past three games where I managed to reach the credits within 15-16 hours, but Peace Walker? Peace Walker took me 26 hours. This game, originally released as a PSP title (which lends huge irony to what I’m about to type) is probably the biggest game of the series I’ve played so far, it has the widest selection of things to do, a huge story, big gunfights and stomping mech boss-battles. Safe to say, and this is going to hit some of you hard, it is my favourite Metal Gear so far.
Let me try and explain why.
The thing that shook me the most was the scale of this thing. Somehow, Kojima packed the series’ biggest entry onto a portable device back in 2010, and while playing it on the PS3, the thought ‘man, this is so obviously a PSP game’ never crossed my mind. From the massive Cocoon mech battle, to the run through an American airbase ending in a showdown with multiple soldiers and a helicopter, everything seemed bigger than the series had gone before.
So, what exactly is Peace Walker? Well, it’s a sequel to Snake Eater that was released in 2o10, 2 years after Guns of the Patriots. I played it before 4 for this reason. My challenge meant that I play the games in chronological order of the story, not release dates, and I’m glad I did. It made the story resonate a lot more for me having Snake Eater fresh in my mind. Set 10 years after Naked Snake’s showdown with The Boss, we rejoin our hero who is no longer the same person who took down Cobra Unit and his former mentor.
He now leads his own Mercernary outfit known as Militaires Sans Frontières (Soldiers Without Borders) along with Kaz Miller, who I hadn’t seen or heard of since Metal Gear Solid. The game actually precedes Portable Ops, which I didn’t play due to it’s absence from the Legacy Collection, and from what I’ve read, is a bit of a sore point among the Metal Gear Solid faithful and Kojima himself. I’ve read what happens though, so I still got the line “Now we can leave that crap at San Hieronymo behind.”
That’s as far as I’ll go because of spoilers. Like I said earlier, Peace Walker is my favourite and now I’ll justify that shocking statement.
I want to start off by talking about how different this game is to any of the previous entries. First up, the style of the cutscenes. From what I can remember, there are only a handful of actual cinematic cut scenes in this game, the rest of the story was told through comic book-style interactive sections and codec conversations. Obviously, this is due to the limitations of having the game on PSP back in 2010, but it provides Peace Walker with a sense of identity that the other games do not have. Plus, the art style is super cool and straight up fun to look at, and with the scenes being interactive with such things as zoom-ins and QTE-esque button presses I was kept as engaged as a big set-piece would of had me. The return of electrocution torture had me sweating at the palms and the recreation of the battle with The Boss was as exhilarating as it was before, but so radically different enough that it never felt like a cheap piece of filler.
The other change to the way things are in Metal Gear Solid, is the way Peace Walker plays. Again, limitations of the system it was on had an impact on things, but I can’t quite grasp why moving along cover or crawling was removed, if you can provide me with an answer, feel free. But in terms of actual gameplay? This game is by far the biggest Metal Gear so far, and it was on the smallest console. The sheer amount of content available here was outstanding, from the Main Ops to Extra Ops such as Fulton Recovery missions and Item Captures, to recruiting new members for MSF and sending them off to battle. The thing that got me most caught up though was building my Mother Base. This was a requirement of progressing through the story, especially during Chapter 5, but was never a chore.
Organising my soldiers to the teams that their skills best suited was a lot more involving that it seems to be. Each soldier has a bar graph depicting what they are best at, and what they don’t do so well. It was a simple but complex (I know, I’m getting nonsensical again) system that required a good few hours of devotion to perfect. Metal Gear Solid once again gave me something to get addicted to.
The missions themselves were short and sweet, minus a few exceptions such as boss battles, and I can imagine this was purposeful so that people could get a good few missions done on their commute to work or if they just needed a quick Metal Gear fix (something I’ve found myself needing more and more over the past few months). Yet, even with these shorter missions, Peace Walker is definitely the most epic of the series so far. Everything seems bigger than before, the scale of the boss battles, the amount of content on offer and even the story hits a lot harder.
Of course, characters are the best part of this series and yet again, Kojima did not disappoint. Snake/Boss was as engaging as ever, if not more so because of the emotional journey he goes through with coming to terms with letting The Boss go. Kaz took the spot of Ocelot as my favourite in the game, and Huey Emmerich had a tragic presence knowing his ultimate fate. Female characters also had a lot more presence than in previous entries, except of course The Boss from Snake Eater and arguably Naomi from Metal Gear Solid. Paz, Amanda and Dr. Strangelove were our central female roles and, especially in Paz’s case, ultimately turned out to be stars of the game. I won’t venture into spoiler territory just incase, but safe to say I did not see the twists coming and Metal Gear Solid caught me off guard in the same brilliant way it does.
Peace Walker also lays the foundations for the entire series and it was thrilling seeing it all come together. From the formation of Outer Heaven to the creation of the first Metal Gear, everything had a lingering sense of dread over it just knowing how it all ends up and how hopeful these characters are about it all was heartbreaking to see. At the forefront of this was the birth of a relationship between Boss and Huey. Mirroring the bond between Hal and Solid Snake in the future, these two came together with good intentions and create the first Metal Gear (codenamed ZEKE) in order to protect and fight for Mother Base. With Ground Zeroes and Phantom Pain being the sequels to Peace Walker and telling the story of Big Boss’ downfall, I am so very excited to see the rest of the story unfold. Get out of the way, Guns of the Patriots.
Metal Gear Solid continues to impress me with every game, and it’s something I have learned to cherish as much I can. I see now why this series is one of the most important in gaming history, from it’s complex but involving narrative, to it’s ever-evolving gameplay and the sense of excitement that comes with every new start menu. I’ve got two games to go, Guns of the Patriots and Ground Zeroes, and even though this isn’t the end of the series by a long shot, it feels like I’m coming to the end of a journey myself. If the next two are as impressive as Peace Walker, and I’m told they are, then I can safely say – bring it on.