By dankempster 6 Comments
I bet you thought you'd seen the last of this, right? You thought I'd retired this silly blog series to the confines of my profile's archive, where it would sit unfinished and forgotten by all. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but much like a stealth agent past his prime, it's been coaxed out of retirement for one final mission. That's right, folks - it's time for the final episode of Metal Gear Madness.
It's been a long time since I wrote one of these, so I'll frame what's to follow with a little context. Back in May of this year, I began a ludicrous endeavour to play through every main canon Metal Gear title back-to-back, over the course of just thirty-one short days. Originally dubbed 'Metal Gear May Madness', the plan flopped spectacularly as I only made it through the first five titles in the series. Determined to see my crazy ideas through, I dropped the 'May' segment of its moniker and carried it over into June, in which I managed to complete the next two games. However, with one game remaining, the inevitable happened - I burned out on tactical espionage action. I put the final game to one side, hoping to return to it before year's end and complete this ridiculous octet of blogs. After a few months' hiatus, I finally wrapped up the last game in the series last week, and I'm here to tell you all about it.
If you want more information on the series as a whole, I'd advise you to read through the introductory post I put together at the end of April - it's essentially a foreword to everything that followed, and it should answer any questions you might have (except, perhaps, those regarding my sanity). If you'd rather dive into the series at a specific point, I've embedded a helpful table of all the previous episodes just below. If, however, you're here to find out exactly what I thought of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, then I urge you to read on.
Episode .08 - Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
My history with Peace Walker is a pretty colourful one. I originally played the game on PSP back when it first released in 2010, and had a blast with it, in spite of some maddeningly fiddly controls. I reached the game's first ending, but for reasons I couldn't quite remember, I didn't push on through Chapter 5 in pursuit of the 'true' ending. Fast forward to 2013 and I opted to download the HD Edition of the game to my PS3, mainly so as not to have to struggle with those infuriating controls a second time round. I made it halfway through the game's story missions before becoming burned out on the Metal Gear franchise as a whole and electing to put the game down for a while. I came back to it in late October and quickly brought myself level with my old PSP save file, before pushing on through the final chapter and seeing the true ending on November 2nd. I just wanted to clarify my history with the game before pressing on, because if any of this blog ends up seeming a little disjointed, it's probably a reflection of the on-and-off relationship I've had with Peace Walker.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is, at its core, a spiritual successor to the first Metal Gear Solid title on the PSP, Portable Ops. As a result, a lot of what I said about that game holds true here as well - the stealth gameplay is confined to bite-sized missions better suited to its handheld origins, and there's a lot of emphasis on unit recruitment and resource management alongside the actual sneaking. Peace Walker doesn't so much differ from Portable Ops as it does expertly refine the foundations laid out for it. Recruiting soldiers was a bit of a chore in Portable Ops as you had to drag your target over to a truck. Peace Walker streamlines the process through the introduction of Fulton Recovery balloons, which you can simply attach to a KO'd soldier and have them whisked away to Mother Base. The squad-building is also much more involved in Peace Walker, especially regarding research and development. Recruiting good soldiers adds to your stock of GMP points, which can then be spent researching new and improved weapons and equipment. The better your squads are, the more research possibilities will become open to you. Throw in the additional 'Outer OPS' mechanic, not dissimilar to the Assassins' Guild dispatch missions in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and you have a much more robust and fully featured system than Portable Ops (and consequently, one that's much easier to get lost in).
I also want to draw attention to two major positives of playing the console-based HD Edition over the original PSP release. The first of these is the aforementioned improvement to the control scheme, thanks to the increased number of buttons offered on the PS3's controller. For those of you unaware, Peace Walker on PSP maps its camera control to the face buttons by default. Yep - Triangle, X, Circle and Square move the camera up, down, right and left respectively. This is sensibly moved to the right analog stick in the console versions, freeing up the face buttons for more conventional commands like crouch and context-sensitive actions. The second pair of shoulder buttons also serves the game well, taking over the item and weapon windows from the PSP's d-pad. In simpler terms, Peace Walker on the PS3 (and presumably the 360) plays almost exactly like Metal Gear Solid 4, as opposed to the PSP version's crude approximation. The other improvement comes in the game's frame rate, which was choppy on the PSP but seems to run at a silky smooth sixty frames per second almost entirely throughout on PS3. It may not be the prettiest Metal Gear game, but the smoother frame rate goes a long way towards making up for the lower-fidelity textures.
The game's not without its faults, though. Remember earlier on, when I said I couldn't remember why I'd given up on Peace Walker on PSP without reaching its true ending? Well, my push to the end of Chapter 5 this time around has given me a pretty good idea why. There's no kind way of saying this, so I'll put it bluntly - the final chapter of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is garbage. Its story missions consist of a series of games of hide-and-seek, in which a prisoner repeatedly escapes from Mother Base and must be found and brought back. This trick was tedious by the third time the game pulled it, but it actually happens a total of seven times. The final time, the game doesn't even give you the courtesy of a main mission in which to find him - it expects you to hunt through the numerous 'Extra OPS' missions until you find him (I actually ended up turning to an internet guide on this one, because I just wanted the damn thing to end). The final boss fight is suitably challenging, but the narrative twist that frames it (namely Paz being a triple agent and commandeering Mother Base's own Metal Gear ZEKE at the behest of Big Boss's former ally, Major Zero) feels contrived, even by Metal Gear standards. To be frank, I'd have been happier with the story if the game had called it quits at the end of Chapter 4. That first ending might have been a bit of the preachy side, but it seemed an appropriate enough dénouement for a Metal Gear title.
Peace Walker is the only game I played through this challenge that doesn't actually give you an end-game statistical break-down. I can kind of understand why - the game doesn't shy away from encouraging the player to be a little more bloodthirsty than they typically would be in a Metal Gear title - but it's still a little disappointing not to see that final rank pop up, not to mention the empty gap it leaves at the bottom of this page. I'm pretty sure I'm done with Peace Walker for now - although there are quite a few Extra OPS missions I'm yet to touch, I'm not feeling any burning desire to jump back in and take them on. This is, in all probability, the last bit of Metal Gear I'll be playing until MGSV finally rolls around. It's been an interesting ride, and a very fun one at times, but at this point I'm glad to put the series down for a while.
Outside of Peace Walker I've been spending most of my game time these last couple of weeks playing Pokémon Y on my 3DS. I'm hoping to put out a blog about it in its own right later this week, so for now I'll just say I'm really, really liking it and leave it at that. Besides that, I've also returned to Crimson Shroud with a view to clearing that from The End-Of-Year Agenda in the next couple of days. As soon as that's done, I plan to throw myself fully into the last few episodes of another serial blog that's long overdue a conclusion, so be sure to look out for that. In the meantime, thanks very much for reading, and I'll see you around.
Currently playing - Crimson Shroud (3DS)