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It seems that for once, Metal Gear Solid has presented a storyline that isn't impossible comprehend. There are no bizarre organisations, phone calls or characters. There is just Big Boss struggling to find the truth behind the event that changed him for the worse.
Players will find themselves a member of a PMC of sorts, Soldiers without Borders - an organisation that fights for those who can not fight for themselves. When a Costa Rican professor comes to Snake, claiming his country, with no standing army of its own, has been attacked by the CIA, Snake is hesitant to act. But when the professor shares a recording that points toward Snake's mentor The Boss, whom he killed during the events of Snake Eater, is alive, the contract is signed. The rest of the events of the game follow Snake's search for the truth behind the recording, and whether or not The Boss is indeed alive.
There has never been a poor plot line in a Metal Gear Solid game in the past. Even with the simplified plot line in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, there are still plenty of the series' trademark twists and turns that will keep the player guessing until the end of the story.
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The key thing to note in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is that Snake is not alone. He spends much of the game, building up Soldiers without Borders' stronghold - the same stronghold that will one day become known as Outer Heaven.
At the start of the game the stronghold is a small base with a skeleton crew. However, as the game progresses, Snake is able to capture enemy troops in the field. They are transported back to Outer Heaven, and will join Snake's army. Each soldier has different characteristics, and can be assigned to different divisions, such as research or combat, based on their capabilities.
This is when the game starts to get interesting. Every part of the base has its own positive effect on what Snake is doing. Research teams develop new weapons and equipment to be used on missions. Combat soldiers join Snake on missions to make everything easier. Later in the game teams can also be sent out on Outer Ops - operations that occur in the background, not effecting the storyline, but gaining Outer Heaven extra manpower and technologies.
When a particular scientist is unlocked, Outer Heaven will have the capability to begin work on a Metal Gear. This makes Outer Ops easy as chips, and in another allusion to later events in the series, is actually the Metal Gear which Solid Snake must destroy in the original Metal Gear game.
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The great thing about Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is that it is completely co-operative - if the player has a particularly dedicated (or just plain bored) friend, they can literally play through the entire game side by side from start to finish. In boss battles, the participant rate increased as four players can battle it out to defeat their foe, which can make some of the ridiculously hard boss encounters that bit more enjoyable. The advantages of playing like this are that any spoils of war the players acquire is given to both their games, whether it be soldiers or weapons parts.
There is also a competitive game mode, which in itself is simply Metal Gear Online ported to the PSP. While there's a lot of fun to be had with competitive multiplayer, the cooperative mode is the highlight.
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Manuevering Snake is just as easy as it was on the PS3. Using the right nub Snake sneaks around the map, where he can take position and incapacitate or kill enemy soldiers. The aiming reticule becomes smaller when Snake takes up a more comfortable shooting position, such as crouching or lying prone.
CQC is one aspect of the game that has benefited from simplification. Using the right shoulder button to grab the enemy is all the player must do to initiate an encounter. From this starting position, all CQC moves in the game can be performed, making everything a lot simpler for less nimble players.
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It's hard to believe such polished graphics can come from a PSP game, but then again, there's never been a Metal Gear Solid game that didn't push the limits of its platform. During most of the game it's easy to forget the gamer is playing a PSP game, not a PS2 or at times a PS3 game on a small screen.
Not only are the graphics well made, but the static environments are perfectly blended with the human models. At one stage of the game Snake has to find and kill enemy snipers. They are almost impossible to see, wearing gillie suits and lying prone.
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Playing MGS: Peace Walker is the closest thing a gamer can get to being in the line of fire themselves. The sounds of the game are recreated so faithfully it's hard to believe the game isn't a motion picture or documentary.
All the sounds are well recorded and accurate - an AK sounds like an AK, and and M16 sounds like an M16. As always, the famous "!" sound returns when Snake is spotted by the enemy.
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Peace Walker is one of the best games available on the PSP. It's filled with such depth that it seems almost impossible it can all be fitted on a UMD. The game will have players entertained for weeks and weeks as they battle to complete every little extra op there is - and the game is so compelling that it will make them do it not just to say they've completed the game, but for the immense enjoyment it brings at every corner.
In an even more startling comparison, in terms of quality, Peace Walker is second only to the first Metal Gear Solid game. It is an enjoyable, engrossing game on the scale not many releases even dream of.
MGS: Peace Walker is out on UMD and via Digital Download now.