Despite its clunky controls, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops was one of the more impressive PSP games released so far, so I was dying to see how Peace Walker takes portable Metal Gear Solid to the next level. Peace Walker for those who has been living under a rock, takes place ten years after the events of MGS3: Snake Eater and follows an event in Central America that will eventually lead to the creation of the Outer Heaven mercenary force. The Japanese TGS 09 demo is available for download here. The demo features a tutorial as well as a playthrough where Naked Snake has to infiltrate an enemy complex via a jungle (similar to MGS3).
Visually, Peace Walker is an absolute stunner. If there ever was a game that could give God of War: Chains of Olympus graphical fidelity a run of its money, it would be this. And unlike Chains of Olympus, Peace Walker has fully working player-controlled camera. Peace Walker's visuals are so impressive, they look close to their PS2 cousins, and MGS2: Sons of Liberty and MGS3: Snake Eater were some of the best looking games on a last generation console. Despite the limitation in storage, textures are detailed and are only pixelated when looked at a short distance. MGS5-class title indeed. If there is a problem, it seems to suffer from long loading. This despite the demo running from Memory Stick. Still, once the game loads it seems to run just fine, with no framerate issues. This despite more enemy combatants on the screen at the same time.
The control scheme of Portable Ops has been ditched in favour of a more wholesome and intuitive mode. The analog stick is still used to move Naked Snake. The R shoulder button is used for CQC moves, such as punching and kicking enemy combatants, or grabbing them and throwing them. Pressing the L shoulder button will switch to shooting mode, with R triggering the shot. The face buttons controls the camera, as well as aiming (Auto aiming can be turn on). The d-pad acts as a menu system - allowing Snake to select weapons, crouch etc. Like Portable Ops, controls can be customised to suit your need, though I am liking the default controls enough not to bother experimenting yet.
Unlike Portable Ops 'bite-sized' portable friendly missions, Peace Walker features from the get-go full size missions. This is evident by the demo where Snake has to make his way from the beach to the enemy hide-out via a series of jungles. The jungle is divided into 'zones', similar to how MGS3: Snake Eater and other full-size Metal Gear games are structured. In Portable Ops, moving from one area to another is as simple as going to the menu and selecting the area from a map from which then Campbell would just drop Snake off in his jeep - which works well as a portable title, but it isn't the full Metal Gear experience that many were seeking for. Peace Walker will definitely offer a fuller MGS experience, but whether this will translate well as a on-the-go portable title remains to be seen.
The gameplay is a mixture of Portable Ops and MGS4. An acoustic radar is available on the top right. Players of MGS: Portable Ops will be familiar with the radar. For those who has not played Portable Ops, the radar tracks noises, with the middle circle representing the noise created by the player and the outer ring for enemies. The distortion on the radar will indicate the level of noise made as well as the direction the noise is coming from. I like it as it is far more challenging than relying on the visual radar commonly found on other Metal Gear titles. There is also a camouflage indicator. Unfortunately you can't crawl in the demo. A plethora of weapons and items can be found, including sniper rifle, Snake's standard tranquiliser and his famous cardbox.
The dialogue cutscenes are in the same mould as Portable Ops and Digital Graphic Novel, using the same classy comic book style scenes. They are once again drawn by Ashley Wood, whom some has derided but I actually find pretty nice and refreshing. Short cutscenes are still rendered in real time. It is early days and we may yet see more cutscenes being rendered in real time rather than in comic panels. The demo also contains a local multiplayer co-op mode. Unfortunately I am unable to test this yet. Early impressions on the co-op mode by other gamers seems to indicate that the feature is quite a feat. It should be, considering how much of it was highlighted with the last trailer.
If the finish article has the same quality to attention and more to the demo, then it is safe to assume that Peace Walker will be a great game and one so deserving of its Metal Gear Solid 5-class tag. It is a shame that because it does not have a '5' in its title, many will assume it is strictly a side quest (which was the assumption wrongly applied to Portable Ops). If the people at Konami has any sense, they better stick that MGS5 branding ASAP, because I truly believe it has earned it. Go ahead, download the demo and play it. It even features a certain Master Miller.
If you have no means to access demo, then check out the epic TGS 09 trailer embedded above, of which highlights includes the MGS4-scale of the game as well as Naked Snake still lamenting the death of The Boss.