Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was released in 2010 for the PSP, though was later ported to the Xbox 360 and Play Station 3 as part of the Metal Gear Solid HD collection. Normally I wouldn’t bother reviewing a spin off game for a portable console, since the purpose of the Things I Remember series is to analyze how sequels evolved and grew from one another. Usually Spin off games for portable consoles won’t add anything to a game series, with story events rarely referred to outside of the game itself and gameplay elements which are pretty much an adaptation of the existing gameplay rather than an advancement.However Peace Walker is not only an important title in the series, but an essential one in regards to Ground Zeroes.
I’ll break tradition here to talk about gameplay first.
The game is essentially a simplified version of MGS4’s control scheme, though there are some changes to help the game work on the more limited portable console. First of all you can’t move while lying down, which is a huge departure from how you can usually move in Metal Gear games; its purpose is only to take cover and get closer to the ground to raise your camo index. The same goes for pressing against a wall, though both have the option to look at nearby enemies, highlighting someone who you probably missed.
The walk speed also feels very stiff; it’s difficult to explain but essentially you have two speeds depending on how far the stick is pressed, being run and sneak. In the home games you feel like you have more control over the different speeds, which makes this difference especially disconcerting when playing it as part of the HD collection; I can see how it works on the portable system but it isn’t optimized for the more powerful home console. There are some improvements however; slamming an enemy into the ground can be chained together to take out multiple enemies one after another, which was later adapted into Ground Zeroes.
This time around gameplay is broken into missions, though the story follows a linear path from location to location, much like Snake Eater. Each section is accompanied by completing a single task in that level, be it a boss battle or simply moving to a location to trigger a cut scene. There are also bonus missions which take place in the same maps as the story missions, but have different tasks with a decent level of variety. The big difference here however is how you choose your gear; before missions you have the option to change which weapons and items are equipped, as well as your uniform.
The way you choose your uniform before missions is a bit of an inconvenience, since you won’t know what the terrain is like until you visit the map itself. You can talk with your support team before hand, taking the place of codec calls, in order to find more about the area, but it’s rarely all that useful. The idea of having an Intel team was interesting, perhaps letting me know about the enemy gear or numbers, but without proper implementation you just have to take a wild guess on which uniform is best. Though later you unlock the iconic sneaking suit, and a battle variant which gives you a sort of samurai look.
You have a lot of weapons this time around, but each one seems to have a purpose and actually feel different, as opposed to in MGS4 where all the guns felt the same. You do develop your own weapons this time out, by investing in either R&D, Intel, Medical or Kitchen, to develop different items and weapons, or advanced versions of existing gear. So by investing in your mess hall you can improve the standard ration so that is heals more of your life for example.
This base management system is the most interesting, as it lets you earn money by sending teams on missions and builds this idea of having your own militia group. You can also capture tanks and helicopters in bonus or story missions for your ground forces to take on missions as back up to improve their chances. You can even develop your own Metal Gear in this game, and then send it out to back your guys up in the field.
This brings me to the importance of this game, which lies in it’s story and theme.
The story follows Big Boss after the events of Snake Eater, which he is now leading a Mercenary group known as Militaires Sans Frontieres (Military Without Borders) or MSF alongside long time Metal Gear supporting character Kazuhira “MacDonald” Miller. MSF is hired by an agent working for the KGB to help force the CIA out of Costa Rica, with the help of a Guerrilla faction. However they soon discover that the CIA operative in charge is secretly developing a new version of Metal Gear (big surprise), designed to use AI in order to provide the ultimate deterrent.
Story wise the game is important for the character of Big Boss, bridging the gap between him being a hero in MGS3 and being the villain in the original Metal Gear. Over the course of the game he must over come his loyalty to the Boss and explains why in MGS5 he is no longer wearing the trademark bandana; it was a memento from his mentor and when it’s gone it helps separate him from the hero, Solid Snake. Think of the bandana as being what signifies the hero in the series and now that it’s gone Big Boss is on his way to becoming the villain.
In fact the whole base management thing essentially puts you in the role of the villain; building your army and developing your own secret Metal Gear weapon.
But there’s another reason to note this game on the site; IF YOU HAVE ANY INTEREST IN GETTING INTO METAL GEAR SOLID 5, THIS GAME IS A MUST!
The plot of Ground Zeroes is pretty much banking on your emotional attachment to the characters and to MSF as a whole. There are audio files to listen to in Ground Zeroes itself which do help, but this can only take you so far.
To put this another way, I hate the villain of MGS5, and am looking forward to kicking his ass in the Phantom Pain for what he did in Ground Zeroes!This is all dependent on if you look way too much into games as I do and can actually become invested in these characters. I can’t say for sure how much this will affect the story of Phantom Pain, but in relation to Ground Zeroes this game is essential reading (so essential that Ground Zeroes even includes an interactive comic of Peace Walker’s story).
So in conclusion, Peace Walker is a vital step in the development of Big Boss, as well as being a solid entry into the series in its own right, if a little limited on the home console versions. I recommend this as your introduction to the series if you’re looking to getting MGS5 and haven’t played any other games in the series, though it’s always worth getting a hold of the original game and working through the whole series if you can get into the long cinematics and complicated plot.
But if long stories and sneaking around aren’t your style, then join me next time for the game’s Spin Off sequel, Metal Gear Rising.
And yes I know Rising has a subtitle, but its so ridiculous that I refuse to acknowledge it…