What We Know: Hideo Kojima quitting after Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots? Not so much. Kojima-san is back at the helm of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and, as we revealed in our GamesCom coverage, the game is playable for the first time at Tokyo Game Show – in both single-player and cooperative modes. The sequel to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Peace Walker puts you in the shoes of Snake/Big Boss in Costa Rica where the back-story about Outer Heaven’s formation is revealed.
What’s New at TGS: Quite a bit. First off, Peace Walker will have two control schemes. "Action" type is traditional MGS control, much like Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. But a big improvement is the new control scheme – simply dubbed "Shooter" type. Very similar to MGS4 where the stick controls Snake’s movement, the face buttons control the camera, the left shoulder button arms selected items and weapons, and the right shoulder button fires. The D-pad controls crouches, toggles weapon and item selection, and performs context sensitive actions.
The demo opens as Snake is training his unit of Soldiers Without Borders -- Snake’s new outfit -- which more or less acts as a tutorial level. CQC has also been improved as now you can throw enemies into each other and take them out. There’s also a new CQC move set called Continuous CQC where you can link CQC throws when surrounded by timing attacks correctly. Overall, for someone who struggled a bit with the Portable Ops controls, this new scheme felt quite comfortable and in practice was extremely lethal.
On the story front, while trying to remain as spoiler-free as possible (for more information on the story, check out our Peace Walker interview hitting G4tv.com in the next day) , Snake gets sucked into the conflict by being introduced to Ramon Galvez, who is asking for his help in dispersing a mysterious armed force in Costa Rica. Snake is hesitant to get involved but is swayed due to the fact that Galvez somehow knows his true identity as Big Boss. Kazuhira Miller returns to the franchise to deliver jobs to Snake and a new character, Paz (who might just be the female lead in the game). The story will be told via in-game cut-scenes, as well as animated comic book art from Ashley Wood. Some cut-scenes will be interactive affairs, even more so than MGS4, where the user can move the camera to discover secrets and Easter eggs, or even fire weapons. Pretty cool indeed.
However, co-op is the main dish in Peace Walker, and based on our short hands-on time, it's looking quite promising. When playing a cooperative level, players choose which type of Snake they want to use to tackle a mission – Battle Dress (best armor, yet slow), Sneaking Suit (Snake has a shield, yet if not equipped has weak armor), Jungle Fatigues (balanced), and Naked Snake (little defense, but fast and has a brutal weapons load-out). I initially chose Naked Snake, and enjoyed his speed and vast weapons.
In cooperative mode, players will only be able to use cooperative skills if they’re within the large surrounding circle. By one player getting close to another and pressing up on the D-pad, the two characters will synch, and the lead Snake will control a sort of Snake train. Synching Snakes will also allow for faster regeneration and a higher camo percentage. While guiding the other Snakes, the leader can’t shoot, and the Snakes in tow will follow automatically and will be able to use weaponry and items, and spin around to watch all angles. But just being in the cooperative circle (the large circle surrounding both characters when in close proximity) will allow for cooperative-only actions such as reaching out of the way areas, hiding in the new boxes (hilariously, the first box shown is the “love pack”), and more. Working together with other Snakes felt pretty slick, and while you won’t be able to play all missions with four players (mainly boss battles, apparently), the two player level we tried felt pretty cool. We’ll be investigating this further since we’ve got the demo on our PSP, and will be testing it extensively in the office upon our return.
One final notable mention is the fact that you can go back and replay missions after you complete them. Kojima Productions noted that some areas won’t be accessible until you’ve upgraded some of your abilities or play them cooperatively. This should provide for a considerable amount of replayability.
What I Want to See: Online support for cooperative. Kojima Productions remained tight-lipped on whether or not online would be supported, and promised to have further announcements soon, but if it’s omitted it will be a travesty. If Kojima Productions really wants to step it up, they can add headset support as icing. I know quite a few Metal Gear fans at the office and shouldn’t have too hard of a problem finding friends to play with, but having online support will make the experience much easier.
I’m also curious to find out more about online versus modes -- another feature that’s promised with Peace Walker, but no details are available as of yet. The past few iterations of Metal Gear Online have been a lot of fun, but I hope Kojima Productions does some new and innovative stuff with Peace Walker instead of just cranking out more MGO.
Finally, I’d like to see this demo in the PlayStation Store in North America. Kojima Productions confirmed that a Japanese release on the PlayStation Store was eminent, so I hope one follows shortly for North America. Granted, it’s not too hard to create a Japanese PSN account to download it, but I’m hungry to understand everything that’s going on in English.