|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Kojima Productions||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jun. 8, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
This is paramount to your success, and not just because it empties a potential battleground of hostiles. Much like Portable Ops, recruiting soldiers to your cause gives you more soldiers in the field, but this time you're doing more than just getting new blood to join you on the battlefield. Snake's mission to stop Peace Walker is a one-man operation, and new members of the MSF need assignments if the outfit is to function efficiently. Here's where Kojima throws some real simulation (and even a few light RPG) elements into Peace Walker's design pastiche.
Completing a mission brings you back to Mother Base (in addition to earning you experience for your weapons), MSF's shades-of-Big-Shell offshore headquarters, and Snake's own burgeoning Outer Heaven. While at Mother Base, you have to decide where to assign any captured soldiers (who automatically become MSF recruits or are sent to the brig for hostile behavior). Similar to Snake's army in the first core PSP MGS, each troop has stats which can be analyzed for best placement.
So, if some green cadet is ranked all Ds except in cooking, put him on the mess hall team. If someone has a high combat grade, put them in for combat duty. If there's a good doctor in the house, put them on medical. Striking a good balance between each of Mother Base's various departments is important, as it yields new GMP - MSF's currency, essentially - to spend on research and development for equipment Snake can use in the field. Given that weapons and equipment are not on-site procurement this time around (don't expect to find any spare rations or firearms in your travels), developing new technologies is not optional - without new R&D developments from MSF, even the one-man army Snake would be sunk.
Mother Base also expands as the game goes on, making between mission activities just as interesting as the game proper. Eventually you're given a chance to play vs. ops with friends (sadly, I was not able to test Peace Walker's co-op modes), recruit new MSF soldiers (through challenges rather than by force), deploy troops to other armed conflicts (these play out like a mini turn-based strategy game) and even build your own AI Metal Gear.
AI and machines actually play a very large role in Peace Walker. If you were disappointed that the creepy-as-hell Gekkos more or less filled the role of the titular walking battle tank in MGS4, you're in for a treat here. Instead of facing a rogue's gallery of bizarre foes like in past games, all of Peace Walker's boss encounters are mechanical in nature, culminating in a series of encounters with AI-controlled monstrosities.
Even the most seasoned Metal Gear players will be put through the wringer getting through these sections, not just because of the sheer size of them, but because of the precision and skill needed to survive. Rations and extra ammo must be requested mid-battle from MSF, and you only have so many supply drops available. Every bit of equipment must be used at the proper time if you're going to win, especially since these bosses hit hard and require a lot of strategy. It never becomes outright impossible, but you'll probably go through at least a few half hour battles getting pinned down by cluster bombs and rockets (and subsequently dying because you ran out of rations and supply drops) before you can best some of these bosses.
With the amount of controls in the game, the button combinations on the PSP can be a bit slippery until you get used to them (I recommend using the MGS4-style control scheme, although the camera is tough to use at first), and it's a shame that Peace Walker's cutscenes are drawn rather than done in-engine. To their credit, both Ashley Wood and Yoji Shinkawa do a great job with the art, but overall the art direction lacks a little bit of the in-engine game's punch (though the interactions keep things interesting). But these are minor points - Peace Walker's imperfections don't tarnish what's otherwise a superbly-crafted game that's every bit as Metal Gear as you would want or expect. Now, let's cross our fingers for that PS3 version Kojima is considering
CCC Freelance Writer