Metal Gear Solid: Rising was very sadly absent at E3 this year. It’s been three years now since the last new console release in the series, 2008’s long-in-development PlayStation 3-exclusive, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The consolation prize at this year’s annual Los Angeles trade show was a first hands-on look at the upcoming high-def console version of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, released last year for PlayStation Portable.
The HD Peace Walker folds into the larger Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, which the publisher confirmed earlier this month for a PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 release. The set will be coming as early as this fall and no later than spring 2012. You’ll get the second and third Metal Gear Solid games plus Peace Walker in one box. The original game in the Solid series isn’t included because it was released for the first-gen PlayStation in 1998; the visuals on such an old title will need more than an HD facelift to match the other three included games in terms of quality.
Konami had a hands-on station set up for Peace Walker on the E3 show floor. You probably won’t notice much of a difference if you played the original release on the PSP. The environments look a little sharper and the character models pop a bit more, but HD makeover remakes like this will never compete with the latest releases.
Peace Walker stands apart from most of the other games in the series with gameplay that was clearly designed for a portable experience. MGS games are synonymous with lengthy cutscenes and endless reams of exposition, but the PSP game goes instead for bite-sized missions, the sort of thing you could sit down and play for 20-30 minutes and feel that actual progress was made.
In addition to Peace Walker’s long list of on the ground stealth and combat missions, Peace Walker also brings a beefy metagame in which you build your private army. The play may be designed for shorter bursts, but there’s a lot of game here. It should work well in a console port.
The big surprise, of course, is that the traditionally PlayStation-exclusive series is coming to Xbox 360 with this HD port. That’s the version we played at E3, and it ought to be said…the controls don’t feel quite right on an Xbox gamepad. It’s probably the sort of thing you’d just get used to, as MGS is known for having a complex set of controls anyway, but it’s jarring to pull the left trigger on a 360 gamepad and see an inventory menu pop up. The Peace Walker on the show floor was apparently an early build too, as crouched Snake couldn’t quite make up his mind about whether he wanted to creep slowly or duck-walk quickly as he moved around.
A PS3/X360 release also means one other thing: Trophies and Achievements! Peace Walker and the other two games included in the HD collection will have them. More exciting than that, just like the portable release, Peace Walker will continue to support online co-op play for up to four players. The later part of the game features some giant bosses that pretty much require multiple players. Being able to find those partners over the PlayStation Network will be a lot easier that contending with the PSP’s online capabilities for that game.
There’s not much else to say about Peace Walker, which is the only game from the collection that was being shown at E3. It’s the PSP game from last year with an HD makeover and proper console controls.