Metal Gear Solid 4 & Peace Walker Retrospective

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Personally I enjoyed quite a bit of it. Every so often I will crack out a save file from I point I liked or watch a let’s play of a particular sequence and remember that there were some truly fantastic moments in that game. Including two of the most over the top boss fights in any Metal Gear game to date, and that is saying something. The game also has a lot to say about the increasing cyberisation of warfare in particular the use of unmanned vehicles and networked solders. Considering that this game was published in 2008 some of these ideas are way ahead of their time.

But I cannot recommend it.

Sadly by the end of the game too many character motivations add up to: “I was pretending to be like this so you could do that.” It might have been a great switch in ‘Snake Eater’ but when about four characters do it working together makes the whole thing seem like a needless excuse to keep Snake as ignorant as he was in previous games, just so the story can pull the same gotcha moments we have experienced before. But these lose their sting when the scaffolding forcing them into the plot can be so clearly seen.

But I still love this game.

Guns of the Patriots’ is at its best when it is recreating events from previous games. There is a whole act dedicated to revisiting the setting from ‘Metal Gear Solid’ and a chase sequence that comes close to meeting the chase from the end of ‘Snake Eater’. But if you are only interested in playing a good whole experience then you are better off playing other Metal Gear games. However if by playing the other games you become as massive fan of Metal Gear then you might want to give this a try for those precious few moments where everything works and ‘Guns of the Patriots’ gives you a fantastic experience.

So with this being the fourth ‘Metal Gear Solid’ game there probably is not much to talk about until ‘The Phantom Pain’ comes out, yes? Well actually there was one other Metal Gear game that was directed by Hideo Kojima for the PSP… perhaps why so few people know about it. Which will get pretty weird once ‘The Phantom Pain’ does come out because ‘Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker’ is very much required reading.

Peace Walker’ chronicles Big Boss setting up his first private military company and their first big contract with revolutionaries and the KGB in Costa Rica. As this is a Metal Gear game you can bet there is a quirky cast of characters but in one nice change up the focus is on Big Boss’ allies rather than his enemies. So instead we get a whole heap of scenes and cassette tapes of great characters that Big Boss actually works with and because ‘Peace Walker’ was meant to be a less grizzly game compared to other Metal Gear games everyone’s interactions are fun and inform us on their back-story and motives. It is great we actually get character development in a Metal Gear game and it is not in a dying monologue.

This is the reason why everyone who played ‘Peace Walker’ was so much more upset at everything in ‘Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes’ the prologue to ‘The Phantom Pain’. ‘Ground Zeros’ took the two most sympathetic and innocent characters and stuck them in the fridge. To top it off ‘Peace Walker’ had an interesting cast that was approximately evenly split between men and women and now in ‘The Phantom Pain’ the only prominent female cast member is Quiet who is like everything that people have been complaining about in female character design for the last ten years compressed into a single being.

As a Metal Gear game ‘Peace Walker’ mostly plays like ‘Guns of the Patriots’ but bit a bit of streamlining. Crawling is no longer an option and on the PSP the environments are a little easy to work out. It works in its favour, especially as the terrible looking ragdoll system in ‘Guns of the Patriots’ is removed. That is only a third of the game though. The other third is a kind of management simulation where you build up Big Bosses private army “Militaires Sans Frontières” a name so cool yet problematic there is a disclaimer at the start of the game to ensure that no-one could mistake the name for: “Médecins Sans Frontières” the real life humanitarian organization.

This management mainly takes the form of building up your main headquarters: Mother Base an offshore platform that you eventually expand with more platforms and even a runway. Most of the improvements to Mother Base are unlocked by extracting enemy soldiers from the field and bringing them over to work for you. This increases your manpower and allows you more options such as new weapons for Big Boss to use. I am sure this sounds familiar. This is the same system that will be in ‘The Phantom Pain’. Apart from how a few resources are dealt with Mother Base functions the same way in both games. The real advantage of this is it allows the player to maximise on equipment they enjoy; nearly every weapon has several levels to enjoy, that is… if you don’t mind a whole lot of grinding.

Speaking of grinding there is one other third of ‘Peace Walker’ that is wholly unique to it. Fighting the large armoured vehicles that were a staple of Metal Gear is now an even longer and complex event than it was before. Given the rather unwieldy name of AI Weapons; they are the equals in scale to REX or Shagohod, but this time have many different destroyable parts that you must wear down over a very prolonged fight and then after defeating theses behemoths you harvest rare crafting items from them based on the damage you have done.

At this point those of you familiar with the Monster Hunter games are clearly seeing a connection here and you would be completely correct. These segments are not even the most Monster Hunter-esque part of the game as there is an actual Monster Hunter island the player can go to and hunt monsters with up to three other players. Combine this with special weapons that require two or more players to work and you have a very satisfying form of Metal Gear style teamwork that can only be found in this little gem of a game on the PSP or PS3.

It is this co-operative element that keeps ‘Peace Walker’ a must play game. Even the upcoming ‘Phantom Pain’ sadly will not have the ridiculous fun of taking down a giant spider robot with three of your friends firing you out of a human sized catapult. Now that is an experience you cannot get in any other kind of game, none would take the effort to be that silly.