If Hideo Kojima is to be believed, the working title for MGS Peace Walker included a rather significant 5 numeral. It doesn’t take the imagination of a conspiracy theorist to see why – Having been burned by Acid twice and bemused by the clunky kidnapping simulator that was Portable Ops, PSP owners needed to believe in a portable instalment that would be treated with the same care and attention lavished on the mainline series.
This is however the very same Hideo Kojima that’s categorically stated that he wouldn’t make another MGS ever since 2001’s Sons of Liberty, but in the light of the trivial PSP offerings in the interim, we should forgive his misleading work plans and be grateful that he has once again taken the directorial helm for Peace Walker. In many ways Peace Walker delivers on Kojima’s promise, and in more still, it exceeds it.
Set a decade after the events of Snake Eater (and four years after Portable Ops), the story picks up in 1974 South America where a bitter Naked Snake – still recovering from the betrayal of being duped into killing his mentor at the hands of a deceptive America – has put together his own army; a ragtag outfit of disgruntled soldiers going by the name of the Militaires Sans Frontiers (Soldiers Without Borders). Snake is approached by a young pacifist named Paz telling him that an unnamed military force has overtaken a defenceless Costa Rica and the country needs the MSF to chase the shady bunch away, and being the peace-loving champion of the free world that he is, Snake takes up the gig.
Metal Gear’s labyrinthine story has always been a divisive issue among fans. On one hand it’s littered with crude existentialist philosophy and painfully misguided exposition, on the other it’s home to some brilliantly inventive “what if” political scenarios, captivating sci-fi characters and touches of all-out post-modern genius. Thankfully Kojima finally seems to have imposed a modicum of self-editing in Peace Walker.
Positioned between an origin tale and the Solid Snake chronicles, Peace Walker’s story was limited in its scope, but barring the odd anachronistic advance in AI, it is remarkably restrained (for a MGS game), focusing on Cold War paranoia, political back-stabbing and tying plot threads together rather than unravelling them further. The series calling card cut-scenes are presented in lively comic book style, once again drawn by Ashley Wood (Portable Ops and the Digital Graphic Novel) and they never outstay their welcome, being well choreographed and even cleverly interactive.