I play stealth games for the story

Posted by ArbitraryWater (13854 posts) -
Transfarring Compatible!

Once again you find yourself on the precipice of doom. That, or you accidentally clicked on this blog thing. Either way, you've clearly made the right decision and should probably continue reading. This blog still isn't about the impact of torture in GTA V, the quality of the satire in GTA V, the disillusionment of “Games Journalism” in regards to GTA V, the general quality of Pokemon X/Y (that's next week's write up) my Top 10 Video Games that are also Video Games, or a lengthy dissertation on the relative merits of that Sonic RPG (one day). Instead, let's continue where we left off last week and I'll finish this Peace Walker blog so I can finally be rid of that game. All you need to know is that I've started playing Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, which as far as I can tell is like Assassin's Creed II and also why did it take me so long to play this game. Sold.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Imagine this, but in 720p

Is a Metal Gear Solid game, a series I happen to like. I still haven't played 4 because I don't own a PS3, but MGS 2 and 3 are some of my favorite PS2 games, even playing them years after the fact. While I am firmly on the MGS 2 side of the fence and will always love the part where it's sort of just a giant, upraised middle finger to people who liked the first game, I'm not going to say no to Snake Eater either. And Peace Walker is basically the sequel to Snake Eater, whatever the heck Portable Ops is be damned. There are jungles, camouflage indexes and serious suspension of disbelief when you realize it's supposed to be set during the Cold War but you're fighting unarmed drones, all of which sounds like MGS 3 to me...

Meet the only gun you are going to use 90% of the time. Because it's a Metal Gear game.

But it's also sort of like Monster Hunter? Or rather, it's sort of like whatever Portable Ops was, but made into a legit full MGS game? Indeed, the parts where Peace Walker is a PSP game that I played on a console are fairly apparent. In addition to whatever solo sneaking Snake has going on, there's a base-management mechanic where you build up a private army of mercenaries (mostly by abducting them via balloon), research new weapons and technology (like better silenced tranquilizer pistols. Also Lime Soda) and engage in multiplayer connectivity that seems to only make sense if you lived in a country where people who owned PSPs and rode the train every day. The game doesn't do a great job of explaining why you'd want to do most of this stuff until you realize that every boss battle is against an armored vehicle and rocket launchers (specifically Stinger Missiles) are your friends. I found this base-building mechanic to be pretty cool, even if some aspects of it are also sort of grindy (namely the part where you build your own Metal Gear). The actual missions themselves are compartmentalized, both for the main story as well as for any side stuff (a lot of which nets you new blueprints for stuff). It's all decently fun.

I'll be blunt here: I've never actually thought the Metal Gear Solid school of stealth was very great. Most of it involves shooting guys in the head with a Tranquilizer and then hiding the bodies while struggling against the unwieldy controls. I actually played enough of Peace Walker on PSP to know that I could not live in a world where I had to use the face buttons to aim, and with this HD version I can confirm that having actual analog control makes shooting guys in the head quite easy, especially after playing some MGS 2 and remembering the way you had to aim in those games. You can even play most of the missions cooperatively with other people, which sounds both great and totally unmanageable (I imagine it becomes a shooter at that point). By the end of the game, when there are more enemies with helmets, I mixed up my tactics a bit, inasmuch as I CQC'd them to the ground and held them up before abducting via balloon. There are also terrible boss fights against vehicles! Do you like shooting waves of enemies with overly-generous auto-aim? How about aiming for the AI pod of whatever AI weapon you're fighting, running out of Stinger missiles, calling a supply beacon, rinse and repeat? Boss fights are sort of bad, and the part where you have to grind them for Metal Gear parts is secretly the bane of my existence... which is why I didn't do it.

The cutscenes are mostly in this motion comic form, both to save money and because it looks pretty cool.

Oh right. The story! It's a Metal Gear Solid game, which is to say that it's insane, there are long-winded conversations that don't really go anywhere, and at some point there are strawman arguments about how Nuclear Weapons are bad. I like Metal Gear's brand of crazy quite a bit, and Peace Walker has the crazy in spades. The main bad guy is legitimately and unironically named “Hot Coldman” and one of the main plot points revolves around an AI built to resemble The Boss. The main drive of the story is also one giant after-school special about the flaws of Nuclear Deterrence theory, and I sort of had to laugh when the credits rolled because Kojima still has all the subtlety of your neighbors who have illegal fireworks displays every year. In any case, the “true” ending (which I watched on youtube because I really didn't want to grind for Metal Gear parts) is the brand of stupid crazy that I wanted out of the game the entire time, and it seems to set up what I assume Ground Zeroes is going to revolve around quite nicely. Seriously though, I think the dynamic between Miller and Big Boss is a pretty good one and also Otacon's dad is in the game and voiced by the same voice actor as Otacon. So that's weird.

If you can't really get a read on my opinion of Peace Walker from the preceding paragraphs, it's because I'm still not entirely sure where my opinion of Peace Walker lies. It's safe to say that I like it less than the full numbered installments that I've played, but I'm not entirely sure to what extent I dislike it. Metal Gear isn't exactly known for its sterling gameplay, so I can't decide if I find the story compellingly crazy or cloyingly preachy. Eh. Maybe it's both. If you'll excuse me, I have some pocket monsters to capture or italians to stab. Or lunch to eat.

#1 Edited by Yummylee (24265 posts) -

I'm still completely baffled as to why Peace Walker is (primarily) so beloved. I guess from a portable perspective it's easier to forgive--though there's still the fact that you're sans one analog stick--but I found most of the game to be straight up bad. The boss battles are all just a bunch of bullet-sponging tanks and helicopters--which goes against what is usually one of MGS' most traditionally creative and interesting aspects--the stealth gameplay is pitifully shallow, and the story... OK, Kojima is obviously a bit of a quack, but I think Peace Walker is possibly the most ludicrous, preachy and utterly unbearable he's ever been in the series. Though MGS4 certainly veers awfully close.

Still, while we're thusly on the same page regarding Peace Walker, I at least really enjoy the gameplay of the previous games, even if their controls can be hard to bear with nowadays, especially MGS3's. Sure, you would often rely on your tranq pistol in MGS3, but the environments were so open and the enemy guards eyesight was so sharp, that it still felt like you had to take your time and maybe do a bit of recon before you take action. Peace Walker, however, has enemy AI that rivals the first MGS for sheer stupidity, and that's very obviously because the amount of options you have at hand were severely cut down; you can't even crawl anymore, nor shimmy along flat surfaces! I found a lot of Peace Walker to be ridiculously easy in any case, whereas MGS3 borders on being a legitimately hardcore stealth game with all of its crazy systems and unforgiving AI.

Then there's the fact that camo is borderline useless, not only because the guards apparently decided to rub their eyes with tar before going on duty, but because you can't change your oufits mid-game. And because there's no recommendation for which camo uniform to take into which environment, you'd often just guess and go with the flow. Plus as soon as you unlock the sneaking suit that removes any sound from your movements, then that exhaustively long list of camo outfits is made to be all but useless. Well, besides the combat uniform for boss battles, I guess.

A lot of the missions are all teeny bit-sized chunks as well, which while it makes sense considering its portable origins, only breaks the pace from a console standpoint. Plus there's an awful lot of environmental repeats, and it felt like there was maybe 4 or 5 different environments that have been stretched across the whole 20+ hour game. A lot of the side stuff wasn't especially engaging, either. Just a lot of boring single-player KOTH games, shooting galleries, and more recruitment missions -- all situated within the same bland environments. It's really unfortunate considering that Peace Walker is the one MGS (besides Special Missions) that actually delivers on giving you a sizeable heap of gameplay, but it's all... kinda bad, frankly.

However with all that said, I do think that the a large part of the base management is a lot of fun. Allocating units to different sectors and so on went a long way in making me feel like I'm actually running this organisation. It made uncovering and unlocking rare units, like the never modest Kojima himself, pretty exciting, too. But of course, there's stuff like the tedious Metal Gear building process, and stuff like how to recruit volunteers, you must constantly keep heading over to that damned beach to knock them out. It's fitting enough at first, but it gets boring quick considering they don't fight back, and there's a bunch of loading in between it all.

God, and the story... while I've been on board with a lot of Kojima's craziness in the past, much like MGS4 Peace Walker was too much. Only unlike MGS4, I found myself pretty... bored across a lot of it. None of the characters were especially interesting, maybe besides Dr Strangelove, and Miller's alright, I guess. Hot Coldman was somewhat entertaining at least, but the whole The Boss AI thing and how it ''uses its heart'' to sacrifice itself (gag) and... I just did not care about anything that was going on. While I again also didn't care for Kojima's slushi of everything MGS ever in MGS4, I at the very least couldn't say I was bored by any of it.

MGS has been getting more progressively anime lately, and while I can't deny that I'm excited for MGSV, I do hope that it'll strike the right balance Kojima set with MGS3, in terms of serious story drama and ridiculousness... Or it'll hopefully at the very least be a lot of fun to play!


And seriously, just why does Huey have to sound, look, and act exactly like Otacon?! Are the Emmerichs also a family of clones, too?? Oh, and the coop sucks as well, what with the fact that the game constantly keeps sending all players back to their own lobbies once each 5-10 minute long mission has been completed...

#2 Edited by ILikePopCans (890 posts) -

I probably should not have read that blog first...

And I should play all the Metal Gear Solid games one of these days (when I go crazy of course.)

#3 Posted by csl316 (12263 posts) -

I started PSP Peace Walker but never finished. Then I got the HD collection and never started it.

I need to learn about Hot Coldman! The summary I skimmed seemed intense!

#4 Posted by Draxyle (1978 posts) -

Not entirely sure how I feel about Peace Walker either. It's not a bad game, it just felt.. unnecessary?

The plot just kinda retreads all of MGS3 and smothers itself in fanservice in a number of impossible coincidences. And while the gameplay is perfectly passable, outside of the base building I feel like it's weaker than even MGS1 for all the concessions it had to make to fit on a PSP. The level and boss design in general was just pretty bland.

Not to say that I didn't enjoy my time with it, I just didn't feel like it added anything meaningful to the MGS universe.

#5 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (7474 posts) -

Thank you for reminding me of Hot 2 Cold Coldman

#6 Posted by ArbitraryWater (13854 posts) -

@draxyle: Unnecessary is a good word to use.

@yummylee: Aaaannnnd....Peace Walker has a 89 on metacritic . What. I feel like the controls alone should've bumped that game down a notch or two, but I wouldn't be surprised if the people who cared enough to review that game (given that it came out on the PSP in 2010) are also the ones who seriously believe the series has something profound to say (The Leigh Alexanders and Shane Bettenhausens of the world), a viewpoint that baffles me to no end. I don't think you can use the "It's too anime" argument though, given that MGS has always been some degree of anime crazy (and I liked MGS 2, so clearly I'm into that).

#7 Edited by Yummylee (24265 posts) -

@arbitrarywater: Oh yeah, MGS has most definitely been rooted in anime influences since the beginning; the original MGS revolves around a giant mech robot thing after all, also Cyborg Ninja. But I guess it comes to the MGS & MGS3 vs MGS2 & MGS4 debate that occasionally keeps getting brought up around here. Now while I do love MGS2, I'm still firmly in the MGS & MGS3 camp because of its slightly more... restrained tone when put up against the sheer ludicrousness of MGS2, 4 and of course Peace Walker. MGS3 in particular I think has a really engaging story in there that's good enough to stand on its own, and I'd like to hope that MGSV will veer a little closer to something like that. Instead of being crushed by the fourth wall in MGS2 or wrapping every single everything ever up by proclaiming 'Nanomachines' in MGS4.

#8 Posted by ArbitraryWater (13854 posts) -

@yummylee: I'd be fine with either direction for MGS V, but given the part where really uncomfortable torture scenes seem to play a larger role I wouldn't be surprised if they lean more towards the serious end of the spectrum. But then at some point Snake will accidentally grope a woman or something and you'll sort of shrug.

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