Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker – “Redacted”

Hideo Kojima lacks boundaries. His creativity, japanimation roots and desire to please crowds run wild and he always ends up going overboard. “Peace Walker” bears that burden from the get go, for after swearing and promising and vowing never to lay his delicate hands on Snake ever again, Kojima goes on to design yet another “Metal Gear Solid”. Just what everyone needed! Not content with his succumbing, he doubles the folly, and for the first time, creates a game for a portable console. However, in theory, “Peace Walker” could have been the right opportunity for Kojima’s redemption. Here was, by necessity, a technologically constrained videogame, released in a secondary platform, which meant a smaller budget and also less commercial and fan pressure. All would appear to in favor of more creative leeway for Kojima to suck some life into the decrepit halls of the Big Boss lining… but do we get anything more than a half-living recollection of past “Metal Gear Solids”?

Initial impressions are misleading. The return to the time-period and setting of “Snake Eater”, allowed Kojima to remain in familiar territory and to revisit his team’s greatest aesthetic accomplishments. In a technical tour-de-force, the natural environments of  the third “Metal Gear” return once again and are made a delight to simply inhabit in, just sinking in the glorious atmosphere of those opressive hot jungles, barren mountain-tops and eerie dense forests. Exploring them has also become more accessible this time around, for after previous “Metal Gear” debacles, Kojima adopted a very slick control scheme which is only hindered by the lack of a second analog. These were small signs that platform limitations were actually pushing Kojima in the right way – focusing on a more immersive, relaxed, aesthetically evocative experience.

However, past the initial moments, imposed limitations start to push the game to new territories which we simply cannot abide with. It starts when it dawns on you that “Peace Walker” is less of a stealth game as much as it is an action game. Looking to ease in the game design for new players and make it more accessible for byte-sized, on the go gaming, the difficulty level was diminished to the point in which you can fly by the game’s levels by simply crouching and shooting tranquilizers left and right, barely pulling a sweat or employing any degree of tactical reasoning. There are very few penalties for not being stealthy, thanks to the game’s AI’s being as near-sighted as incompetent. Further underlining this contemporary action vibe are the only remnants of a challenge, the game’s bosses: massive beast-like gears, whose gameplay segments feel like grinding battles with mechanical replicas of “Monster Hunter”. “Monster Hunter”. “Metal Gear Solid”. We refrain from further comments. The final blow in this exercise is directed towards Kojima’s remaining saving grace: his narrative antics. For “Peace Walker” all the chit-chat about political intrigue, conspiracy theories, eccentric characters, etc. has been completely stripped of context and side-lined to a generic batch of audio files which you can listen in between missions. People always said they hated codec talk! Even Kojima team’s glorious real-time cutscenes are replaced by Ashley Wood’s handrawn vignettes, which though impressive and worthy of merit on their own right, still feel displaced in a “Metal Gear Solid” game.

Alas, once again Kojima bows down to the mob, and offers everything the masses pray (and prey) for: more action, more combat, less stealth, less talk. If any more proof needs to be put forth of this populist stance, let us end with a mention of the asinine addition of a casual Facebook-like meta-management game, in which you click, click, coins drop, drop and experience blows up, up, with players coming a-back, back for another fix of endless bars filling, filling and numbing pleasure rising, rising. Sure, everybody rants about Facebook and Farmville, but when something like this comes along in a “Metal Gear”,  suddenly it becomes not only acceptable as it is applauded with big cheers by reviewers, for being extremely addicting and fun. This free reward based gameplay – zero-gameplay, as we would coin it – has zero-substance, zero-challenge, zero-narrative, and despite this, it is slowly becoming the new icon for the current state of videogames. Hideo Kojima, who should know better, didn’t fight this new paradigm one bit. He knelt,  begged, and then apologized for ever having wanted to make decent videogames in the first place.  He is defeated, without vision, without ideas, without soul, and above all, without courage, even in the one fleeting moment of his god-forsaken career in which he was awarded a tiny bit of freedom. He is a prisoner of his past and he will never be free.

score: 1/5

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  • Comments (13)
    • Cruzifixio
    • August 30th, 2010

    I agree 100% with your review.

    The Mother base at first seemed like a revival of the fun and awesome «Misadventures of Tronbone» Geselshaft (or whatever was called), where you could actually interact with your minions –captured or recluted soldiers here–, but then it all became clear: It’s just a fad. It is indeed a facebook, a farmville, wich in the end kills every bit of potential it seemed to have.

    I can see the narrative point Kojima had with it (even tho’ I have not finished the game, yet), Outer Haven, the rise of Big Boss, in the storyline all the way to the end its a pivotal episode. Solid Snake ends the dream The Boss started, and yet, the «Fad» kills it by being simple, streamlined, unnatractive, and that is very Un-Kojima.

    The gameplay is almost perfect, for a PSONE game… Right now, Tenchu 2 has better stealth mechanics. It is focused on: «putting caps in their asses».

    The narrative… I never hated the codec calls. To this day I still wonder why would anyone play a MGS game without considering beforehand the lenghty conversations, it’s Kojima perverse style, It’s almost Tarantinesque in its shape. And yet, someone –or himself– conviced him that it was wrong. Slipping tru’ the audio tapes in the game I found out exactly what drove each character, what was of them. Something the old Kojima would have considered important.
    Characterization in the game could be just summarized to a conversation between Snake and Miller, right after recruiting Cecile:

    «We can’t accept another civilian in the base Snake!»
    «Relax, wait till you get a look at this hot –ass– babe»
    «Oh, Is she, like hot? and french? she must be slutty!»

    That’s James Cameron territory right there, sweet zombie god, I’m still half amazed theres no «Nigga from the hood» in order to make this a more politically correct and cliché, mess.

    Overall, I cant wait to see the end of this game, to (finally?) know the whole Metal Gear Story, and, to allow myself to buy Loco Roco or some Patapon…

    Cheers Rui!

  1. I was actually considering buying a PSP to try this, and other titles, of course. Thanks you two! 😀

    Oh, you’re playing Bayonetta! 😀

    • ruicraveirinha
    • August 30th, 2010

    You still have some pretty interesting PSP games – Echochrome, Echoshift, Patchwork Heroes, Patapon, Loco Roco, Lumines -, and the whole psOne catalog to play on the go 😉

    Yes, and quite surprisingly, I think it’s really good. But no spoilers! Come back later.

    Cheers!

  2. Good thing you’re liking Bayonetta. It’s one of the few current generation games I miss playing.

    Not sure about Vanquish. Have you played the demo? How is it?

    • ruicraveirinha
    • September 1st, 2010

    It’s not out yet. I have the highest of esteems for Mikami, no matter how commercial he gets, there’s always something unique about his games. So, while the whole “Gears of War” on speed vibe can be off-putting, I’m sure he’ll make it interesting. Bayonetta is a great example of his team’s ability to turn crap into polished gems. I mean, think about it, Bayonetta, at its core, is still a pretty dumb, accessible, commercial, action game.

    • ckz
    • September 1st, 2010

    But I wouldn’t call it dumb, accessible or commercial.

    Let’s start with the award system, for instance. You really need to master it to get gold and platinum trophies; otherwise you’ll end the game with a portfolio of pathetic stone trophies. The combo structure is infinitely complex, with all the weapons and different patterns. It’s so deep that it scares most people. And it’s so much more than the typical button mashing.

    Then, there’s Bayonetta. Not even Tarantino could come up with such an impertinent female protagonist. She dominates the entire show with her movements and caustic one-liners, and I don’t see the average teenage male gamer feeling comfortable controlling her, especially since she’s fighting catholic imagery and destroying religious confines with sexual power. It’s just something you don’t see everyday. And the goofy, campy story is so over-the-top, as well as its locales, that it will put off less sensible gamers.

    As such, I think that at a surface level it really seems simple and mainstream, but dig deep enough and you find an extremely polished game with an uproarious sense of meta-humour and great taste for Gaudí inspired architecture.

    And what about that Fly To The Moon rendition? Yes, it’s pop, but it feels so leftfield here in the western world.

    • ruicraveirinha
    • September 1st, 2010

    We agree completely. I wouldn’t move one inch with what you say, and could even take some of your compliments to greater heights. However, I still view Bayonetta as a dumb, commercial and accessible title at its core. I simply do not see the two being incompatible.

    Meaning:

    The game is about a ridiculous, anime-inspired she-devil tearing monsters apart. A teenager gets that, I’m sure, and the game is almost offensively dumb in that regard. You can play the game by just mashing buttons and whatnot (though, as you say, that is not the way it’s meant to be played) and the game never forces you to dig deep, neither in its discourse nor its game play, so I would deem it accessible. You’ll find many a hard-core gamers plowing through it with no idea whatsoever on what’s it about, nor where its true value lies. And I would deem it commercial (though sales have been meager), in the sense that it consciously inserts itself in a popular genre, and does not place any difficulty in understanding its core value: killing monsters in ridiculously cool, epic, insane, awesome (insert hyperbolic adjective here) ways. Its proposition isn’t dissimilar to a God of War or Dante’s Inferno. No marketeer would be stumped on how to sell Bayonetta.

    However, its true value for someone like me or you has naught to do with its ostentatious shallowness or lack of depth or potential commercial value. It’s in the virtuoso aesthetic details, the overblown combat system where every possible button combination known to man triggers a different (and always over-the-top) animation, the campy side of, well, everything in it, and its post-modern irony.

    It’s deep and complex in so many ways, but it is subversively so. It is not overt in that regard. It is insidious and provocative, but only to those that keep their eyes open and can spot the sheer absurdity and artistry of it all. Otherwise, it seems pretty much like another off-beat Japanese game about killing monsters. Most will dismiss it as a God of War wannabe. In a sense, that is the only way of framing it in this medium. Like a B-movie, super-hero comic or a genre serial, authors have to be smart on how they circumvent the limitations of their main audience, gift-wrapping a product of the intellectual and the extremely talented in an (superficially) accessible package for the masses of a low brow medium. Which is kind of sad, really, that video games are so far from salvation that this is the best one can do…

    And now, I’ve spoiled my review. THANKS Zé! 😀

    • Coyote
    • September 2nd, 2010

    I was refraining to comment until your Bayonetta post (which would come, I presume, soon enough), but the way the discussion has moved here, I just wanted to add my two cents…

    I, too, was one of the people pleasantly surprised by Bayonetta. Before picking the game, I only saw it as a Devil May Cry with a different main character and focus switch from “coolness” to “sexiness”, which kind of mark me uninterested. Then I tried it, and while I was playing it, one word keep poping up in my head: Unrestrained. Its hard to describe, but behind the standard conventions and the campy and juvenile humor, I kept getting the feeling that the game was exactly was Kamiya was aiming for… the action was intentionally over-the-top and chaotic, the humor was intentionally campy and behind the chaos the attention to details was ever-present. That sort strong japanese sensitivity and precise self-service to himself disguised as fanservice by Kamiya was refreshing, to feel the least.

    Now, about Vanquish, I am not so sure… I played the demo, and while it felt like it has an eastern touch in a western game, it also felt like an attempt from Mikami to reach the western market, and therefore not different enough to many other games in the genre. I honestly hope to be surprised, but didn’t get the unique vibe of other Platinum Games there…

    • ruicraveirinha
    • September 3rd, 2010

    I also was disappointed with the Vanquish demo… but it is only a demo. Perhaps there is something more about the game we’re missing. It’s Mikami. How bad can it get? right? right? ….. please!

    • ckz
    • September 3rd, 2010

    Haha. You’re both desperate. I saw 15 minutes of the demo (I don’t play anymore, only watch videos) and also found it pretty generic. I prefer to see it as a way for him to make enough money to do move to more personal projects. I’m OK with that.

    Remember people, there are no sacred cows in videogames!

    • Cruzifixio
    • September 5th, 2010

    Remember people, there are no sacred cows in videogames!

    I beg to differ. Ahem*…

    Yasumi Matsuno
    Akihiko Yoshida
    Hitoshi Sakimoto

    They could just be Powers Rangers and tstill be awesome… COW-ZORD!!!

    • ckz
    • September 25th, 2010

    I have no idea who those 3 guys are. 😦

    Wow, that new Suda + Mikami collaboration, Shadows of the Damned, sure looks bad. First Vanquish, now this. What’s up with these people…

    • ruicraveirinha
    • September 26th, 2010

    They’re the Final Fantasy Tactics / Vagrant Story / FFXII guys 😉 I wouldn’t place them in such high a pedestal as Coyote, but granted, they are auteurs in a typically auteur-less genre.

    And yes, Platinum strikes out two out of two. This is becoming preoccupying, especially because the early concepts of their collaboration were very promising. Again, another shooter for the masses… these be dark times looming upon us, aye, they be.

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