Peace Walking Through Fan Deterrence
Editorial by Ravi Singh, Posted on October 24, 2009; updated October 26, 2009
With the game "40% done" by this year's Tokyo Game Show which took place around a month ago, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is arguably barely half-done at the moment. The good news is that what we've seen in the demo so far suggests that we will get the first "true" Metal Gear game for the handheld since 2000's Ghost Babel (I've never played Metal Gear Solid Mobile so I cannot comment on that). There are of course a few things that with the demo that peeved me. However as this is a demo of an unfinished game, there is always the hope that they could end up changing these things for the final game. This is where the bad news hits like someone opening a car door in front of a speeding motorcyclist—they might not fix these things and perhaps will instead "fix" what isn't even broken!
If there is one way Peace Walker goes back to the basics, it's probably it's AI. The guards are about as dumb as the ones in the original Metal Gear Solid. Actually, it's probably safe to say that they're a bit more dumb. While the camouflage index in the Metal Gear series since Snake Eater has allowed Snake to be barely invisible and still barely get noticed by guards, Peace Walker is far too lenient on the index–most likely due to the inability to change outfit in-game. Observe.
TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Can you find Snake in the above two screenshots?
I mean, seriously, I know Snake's wearing black and those hexagon tires that are seriously straight from Portable Ops are fucking weird as it is, I would think that Snake would get caught like this. Nope. Both soldiers heard Snake knock, paused, looked right at him, then went back to their routine patrol route because a hexagonal tire with a mullet is pretty normal in 1974.
These enemies are also seemingly slow to react as long as there is no ALERT, EVASION or CAUTION mode going on. Take a look at these tactics I was able to somehow get away with during the demo:
Have Snake equip a cardboard box and somehow get the attention of a single guard. Even if Snake is running around in the box within the short distance shown in the first shot above, as long as you have Snake stop when the enemy notices, you will not get caught just yet. Now like a typical Metal Gear game, the guard walks up to the box, looks at it and is tripping balls. I'm not sure if there is ever a moment in the Peace Walker demo where a guard will brush it off as "just a box" and not lift the box up. So the guard lifts the box up and you're probably thinking, "Oh fuck!" The box is now unequipped and Snake's sitting right in front of an enemy guard!
Unlike previous games however, this situation is easily turned to Snake's advantage. As soon as the box is out of your inventory and turned into a rotating tiny black item box, there is a chance for you to instantly have Snake grab the soldier via CQC. Despite the few soldiers that should have noticed one of their comrades getting choked, you are likely to be able to have Snake choke the guy untill he passes out, equip the FULTON SYS and float the unconscious body towards a noisy helicopter made out of parts from Campbell's truck from Portable Ops.
Oh, and don't forget to get that box back so you can repeat this technique. Maybe this is a new way of allowing people to actually utilize stealth… after all, it's slightly similar to knocking on a wall and running around the corner to grab your enemy… that is unless they hear your footsteps. Oh wait, about that…. enemies in the demo do hear footsteps if Snake comes charging after them from behind…
…but their reaction is hilarious. Previous games would have them either instantly trigger an alert or run away. This game has them shoot up a blue "!" as if they simply noticed something out of the ordinary, which gives you enough time to once again have Snake grab them in a choke-hold and knock them out.
Interestingly enough, if you trigger an Alert the enemies then become a tad bit smarter. Thus the tricks above absolutely do not work. Nonetheless, at least from my understanding, Metal Gear games are meant to be played with triggering as few Alerts as possible. While making things ridiculously easy does support my claim, it also makes things boring as there is hardly a challenge anymore. I am hoping that the demo only demonstrated what the VERY EASY difficulty, or it's equivalent, would be like. It's not even fit for "EASY," let alone "NORMAL."
Is it just me, or did they make Big Boss shut his fucking mouth? Like he's afraid of opening his mouth unless he's illustrated by Yoji Shinkawa or Ashley Wood? During Snake Eater he was quite the talkative one. While he isn't exactly mute from what we've seen in Peace Walker, he tends to be completely silent with a pissed of look on his face in-game. I mean, he didn't even say a single word during the entire tank-battle in the demo, instead letting Miller ramble on about how on earth they got a a hold of a tank or whatever it was.
Miller observes the enemy tank and has a lot to say about it. A rough translation has his wondering how the enemy got a hold of such a tank.
Big Boss’s response: his poker face.
Snake has absolutely nothing to say to his comrade until his polygonal body is tranformed into digital ink.
Even the random CQC trainer in the beginning of the demo was quite loquacious, only to get absolute silence upon greeting Big Boss as "BOSS!" How rude. Of course, once everyone turned into a Shinkawa/Wood illustration, Big Boss finally managed to cough up some words.
Now I'm not expecting them to magically make the real-time cutscenes demonstrate Snake moving his mouth. A different facial expression would be nice, but I guess that's the permanent look of emo as he still hasn't gotten over killing The Boss. I guess Kojima is too used to the look of the PlayStation 2 generation and beyond to go back to bobbing heads ala Metal Gear Solid. That would explain why CQC trainer guy is allowed to talk as he's got a balaclava to cover his static mouth, but it's really weird and frankly out of character for Snake to have absolutely nothing to say to Miller or even to himself when it's revealed that CIA agents are patrolling Costa Rica and that they got a huge tank. Can't Kojima at least bring back the classic radio/codec and have Shinkawa/Wood artwork depict Snake talking ala Metal Gear Solid?
I had five minutes, an outdated version of Paint Shop Pro, and a very limited amount of graphics to work with. Give me a break.
Speaking of which, there is no codec. I'm not talking about semantics either; sure there is a radio but it's practically one-way since as I've mentioned above, Snake doesn't say a fucking word; he does not respond to anything Miller says via radio in the demo. Likewise, the player unable to communicate with anybody such as Miller. Even during the in-game codec transmissions with Snake in Guns of the Patriots Snake once in a while responds to Otacon especially in Act 4. Here… all's quiet. It would be disappointing if Snake only talks during illustrated cutscenes. Might as well have Miller be the star of the game.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker seems to take some movement from Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots: mainly the over-the-shoulder aiming and the ability to move while crouching. Possibly due to the process of implementing these things Kojima Productions made this the first Metal Gear game since 1987's Metal Gear in which Snake cannot crawl and the first since Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake that Snake can't move while having his back against the wall.
No wonder he was so easily able to defeat Big Boss!
Instead of crawling, Snake can crouch down and move around or lie flat on the floor which increases the camouflage index. Why is Snake unable to crawl around like this? One could argue it's due to controls–all of this is controlled by one button on the PSP, which doesn't have any pressure-sensitive buttons. Why didn't they instead see how long a button is pushed to determine what action the player would like to do, then? To switch from standing and crouching, the player must push the button once while lying on the floor requires them to hold this button down. Why not have them hold the button for a few seconds to switch from lying down (and allow the player to move like this) to crouching?
While playing the demo I couldn't help but notice that it seems like there are tons of areas that would be open to Snake if only he was able to crawl. Places to hide, places to find items and so forth:
In fact, the ability to crawl would probably be far more useful than being able to stick your back on a wall.
Actually, the back-against-the-wall thing looks cool. Guns of the Patriots had Snake look really awkward whilst hugging a wall because apparently having your back against a wall is unrealistic in a world where bipedal tanks moo and piss everywhere. Peace Walker says "fuck it" and allows Snake to put his back against the wall, which is good but… is there even a point to it anymore? There are only three things one can do while hugging a wall in Peace Walker–knock on the wall, move the camera and maybe zoom the camera in on near-by and highlight enemies which is useless for those playing the game by themselves. Oh yeah, that's right, no more jump shots.
Oh I am so glad they replaced the ability to make jump-shots from corners with this! Wait, what the fuck is the point of this if you're playing solo?
Which brings me to another complaint. Co-op is cool… from what I have seen from some gameplay videos. I know one other person in real life who owns a PSP and they do not have any interest in this game. Getting ad-hoc to work with PSPs around the world takes some advanced configuration as well as an additional program such as a PlayStation 3 application that's currently only available on the Japanese PSN Store. Asking for AI co-op is probably asking for too much, but I don't think asking for single player privileges are. A longer health bar, maybe more items to start with? At least for boss battles? How about the god damn ability to pause the game? Just saying.
There is no better example of the unfair advantage of co-op than the tank battle in the demo. If you watch gameplay footage of two or more players, this battle is very easy regardless of how you choose to approach it. Going solo however requires the player to stealthfully make guerilla attacks or have a lot of Rations because there's nobody to resurrect your ass so expect to see a lot of this:
Enjoy your loneliness.
UPDATE (10/26/2009) – I've been informed that there is another way to defeat the tank. Basically one has to take out all of the enemies until the guy driving the tank actually comes out and upon defeating him you defeat the "boss". This news made me look forward to Peace Walker even more than I already did before. It doesn't change my point though. This additional strategy is still an option for both single and co-op gameplay. There is still an advantage with co-op as long as all of you let each other know what the fuck it is that you're all doing.
Everyone who has played the demo using co-op has stated that the game is far more enjoyable when you're not alone. Some have even suggested that until one plays the demo in co-op mode, they cannot make an opinion because going solo doesn't even count. If that's true, then something is wrong; the game should be just as enjoyable either way.
Heaven forbid one has to pause the game. This applies to weapon and item inventory menus as well. I completely understand why a co-op game would disable the ability to pause a game–nobody has complained about this in any of the Metal Gear Online games. Ultimately it would be annoying to wait for your peers as they interrupt the game like this. However there is no excuse for forcing those who play alone to physically put their PSPs into sleep mode in order to pause the game. What's next? The only way to quit a game and return to the title screen is to turn of your PSP and turn it back on? Fuck.
As of now, Kojima Productions is already tweaking with the controls. Here's a suggestion guys: let them be customized. Why the fuck not? Instead of making multiple schemes they could simply allow the player to determine what button (or how it is pushed) does what action. They should also allow players to determine other things as well. I'm fine with third-person aiming, but often times it seems like half of the fucking PSP screen is dominated by Big Boss' back. Sometimes in cramped situations, it's very impractical.
That's why he's BIG Boss.
If switching from third to first person in game is an impossibility (although I think pushing SELECT while aiming could do this without interfering with anything else) then let the player choose between first and third person aiming as an option. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops had awful controls but it actually wouldn't have been bad if they at least let players customize them. They didn't. The game suffered as a result. The controls for Peace Walker as showcased in the demo is a heavy improvement by all means, but Kojima Productions has nothing to lose and everything to gain by allowing players to customize the way they control Snake.
Ultimately though, the story might be what makes this game worthwhile in the long run. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is an excellent game with few flaws… but it's story absolutely reeks of "scraping from the bottom of the barrel"–if said barrel was disposed of a few years ago and then found by some hungry hobos in the dump who proceeded to use it as their own personal bathroom for about a week. Peace Walker seems more promising by already introducing a ton of brand-new characters (although some of them may end up being relatives of already established characters and who knows, perhaps some of the characters themselves).
There is one sign that dissolves this optimism into a fear of the worst. It's actually one word: "peace." The game is titled Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Based on the trailer shown at Tokyo Game Show, there is a machine called "Peace Walker." The game seems to have a theme of using deterrence to achieve peace. So far, it's fine.
Then comes in Paz, whose name means "peace" in Spanish. Oh, and Miller? Guess he's actually not McDonald Miller but rather Kazuhira Miller… and Kazuhira means "peace" in Japanese! Holy fuck! Oh and Paz hates war and loves peace. She is a student at the United Nations University of Peace studying the Peace Constitution of Costa Rica. She wants Snake to investigate and basically tell the armed force in Costa Rica to get the fuck out so that there can be peace. Peace peace peace. Peace peace. Peace peace peace peace. Peace? Peace peace. Peace peace Peace peace Peace peace Peace peace Peace peace! Holy fuck man. We get it Kojima. Can you imagine if Metal Gear Solid 4 was called Metal Gear Solid 4: Nanomachines of the Patriots and Drebin's name was Nano and Little Grey was Little Machine? Oh and Sunny is currently taking class on nanomachine development online. Ever since Sons of Liberty, Kojima has decided to overstate his themes, from mild repetitiveness in Snake Eater to excessive deja vus in Guns of the Patriots. Snake Eater made a few things seem watered down as far as ambiguity goes and Guns of the Patriots tried too hard while still being too convoluted anyways. This time it really seems like Hideo Kojima wants to hold our hand during the entire game and let us know about things. You even get that from his reasoning behind making Peace Walker himself:
Now in the context of that interview he was talking about the development team, but with the character information revealed by promotional materials as well as the demo itself, it seems like Kojima believes that this storyline would be confusing for us youngins. I'm certainly not insulted as I know quite a few people my age who actually believe Richard Nixon started the Vietnam War, for example, but I am insulted when Kojima feels like the theme of peace with deterrence is not going to hit us in the head until he decides to have that fucking word shoved down our ears. Might as well have Big Boss be called PEACE SNAKE much like they redubbed Solid Snake as "Old Snake" for Guns of the Patriots.
I'll even save you the trouble, Kojima.
There is of course light at the end of the tunnel. Well, actually, we can't exactly see it. It might not even exist. It's the possibility that some of these things I've mentioned above has already been pointed out to Kojima Productions when they asked for feedback from the demo. Maybe it's too late to save the story but the gameplay could turn into something that even rivals earlier Metal Gear titles for the consoles. It certainly was not at that point with regards to the demo.
It is a fucking PSP game and what we got in the demo was already better than the digital sewage on a UMD that was Portable Ops. Maybe we should just let Kojima Productions work on their handheld Metal Gear game and do their best and let them have some peace? I say no. I still felt abraded by some of the things in the demo, and while you might disagree on a few things, there had to be at least three things in the demo that you'd like changed. We should always encourage them to strive to make the best Metal Gear title ever–even on a handheld–and then let them have their peace when they finish development and sit back and later realize that they were a part of something amazing. Consider it "peace through fan deterrence!"There are 40 comments in our discussion thread.