Monday, September 28, 2009

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker | Pointless Demo Analysis

In addition to playing through Thief: Deadly Shadows and Chrono Trigger this weekend, I decided to sit down and yank as much as I could from the MGS: Peace Walker demo. It was released at last week’s Tokyo Game Show and although it’s not translated, IGN still hosted it as a download for those willing ignore that barrier to entry. Of course I was willing to ignore that, so after fiddling around in the vernacular dark, I was finally able to extract what I needed from the next title’s latest sampling.

The will to download this was mainly driven by a recent playthrough I just had of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (as well as Portable Ops +). The takeaway I took from Peace Walker is nothing less than blind hope, but at this stage I’m actually kind of excited for the damn thing. This is saying quite a bit, as even though Portable Ops was a fantastic handheld translation of the Solid series, I still didn’t find much drive to argue with those who wrote it off as a detour only meant to be appreciated by the more avid Metal Gear fans.

So once again, Peace Walker is extremely specious to me as it stands. The hands-on time is definitely encouraging, but I’m not going to shut up until the full release is in my hands. Ideally, I wouldn’t mind having another full ‘Metal Gear Experience' in my pocket (I’m still against the progeny continuing on consoles), but I’d like something that’s a tad more digestible than Portable Ops was. That could essentially mean anything to be honest and I’ll admit that I have no specific demands to cite either.

Anyway, here’s a quick list of things that stuck out to me as I made my way through the demo.

  • Number One | Animation

    There’s a notable difference in the animation for this game, and it’s only a demo build. Of course, it’s still fairly limited, but being that Peace Walker’s predecessor is the monstrous graphical beast Guns of the Patriots, it really demands that one admire the PSP’s power as a handheld. The game looks damn good and the fluidity of Snake’s movement is presented as a better illusion in formidable comparison to pretty much every title but Guns of the Patriots (which I’d still argue for to be completely honest).

    If you’re that curious, go watch any of the trailers released for the game (I included the Tokyo Game Show trailer at the end of this post) and you can compare the various models' movement from everything prior to Snake Eater against something like Big Boss’ crouched movement in Peace Walker; he’s hunched, he looks kind of silly, and it's viscerally engaging to simply move him. Overall, it carries the illusion of ‘sneaking around’ quite individually as a game. Snake’s placement against a wall is just as notable, as he’s not in the traditional static slap-hug position; he’s actually pressed against the surface and his hand is hovering just over his combat knife (though that’s only aesthetic praise at this point). I’m honestly just giddy to see attention being given to animation specifically, as I think that’s themost important aspect of any game’s visuals to be concerned with these days --- let alone my own favorite titles.

  • Number Two | Close Quarters Combat

    The CQC mechanics make a return here and the introductory cutscene is blended into a real-time sequence on a rainy beach, depicting Big Boss as the renowned leader of ‘Militaires Sans Frontieres’ (Soldiers without Borders). The player is taught the basic maneuvers of slamming enemies around (which also looks ten times better due to the animation), and a sort of chaining mechanic has been added to which the player can manipulate in knocking down multiple foes if he/she is surrounded. The mechanics aren’t as deep as Snake Eater's, but given that Portable Ops pretty much transferred all of MGS3’s close quarter mechanics to the PSP, the Peace Walker demo may just be holding back due to time-constraints. Then again, Kojima Productions could be simplifying the often-complained about complexity of Metal Gear Solid’s mechanics here. Either way, I’m at least intrigued to see how far to which the final game’s mechanics will go in this category. The whole mythos of how Big Boss basically designed the technique is a big deal in Metal Gear’s universe, so my bet is that there will be a couple (if not many) more tricks up the CQC's sleeve by the game’s release.

  • Number Three | Enemies

    The guards’ AI in this demo could have been wonky of course, but there are some notable differences to how the player confronts the enemies in this game as well. An example of that is the ability to knock down guards from tumble-rolls has been removed entirely. They just kind of flinch and keep on shooting. They’re also a bit more tenacious and will indirectly ambush the player in alert phases. There were some odd instances however, where I didn’t understand if I had downed an enemy or if they simply decided to lie on the ground for a while. I don’t expect any groundbreaking AI in this game, but I am curious about the design and layout for the missions now. That will determine this title’s affect on the player much more so than the PSP will be able to cope with AI-wise.

  • Number Three | Balloons

    The Fulton balloon mechanic also suggests that the player may not be able drag and dispose of bodies now. If they are, I don’t much see the point in these things, as they basically serve to dispose of downed guards. Perhaps it’s a mere convenience item to acquire, but since the demo didn’t allow me to get rid of them (the bodies that is) in any other way, I have room to form some conjecture here. Anyway, the Fulton balloon is basically an item the player can use with a context button; it allows them to hook a durable balloon to a body in order to carry it away out of enemy sight. I should also note that the ability to shimmy along walls and even the ability to crawl didn’t seem to be in the demo, but more on my take with that here.

  • Number Four | Threatening Taint

    I don’t really want to get into specifics of where Peace Walker’s plot could go, but something that even the Metal Gear layman can surmise from the Tokyo Game Show trailer is that the story will revolve around Naked Snake having to confront his unresolved feelings over The Boss’ death in Operation Snake Eater (in otherwords, MGS3 --- which took place ten years prior to this game’s plot). My immediate response to opening the lock on that story again is that Kojima is risking spilling soot over what many people found to be an extremely touching story in MGS3. I don’t know who Paz is, but whoever she is to The Boss is already pissing a lot of people off and we haven't even gotten an English trailer yet. I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for now, but I won’t hide the fact that my fangs are already bared at a possible tainting of Snake Eater’s experience.

  • Number Five | Ashley and Yoji

    Apparently Yoji Shinkawa has been confirmed now to return as the mechanical and character designer for this game. Also returning is Ashley Wood, who did the illustrating for the digital novelizations of Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2 (he also did the cutscenes for Portable Ops). This makes me happy and I’m actually kind of hoping that I’ll get another high-quality art compilation for this game --- as I still feel slightly buttfucked that one was never released for Snake Eater or Guns of the Patriots. I’ll also be interested in seeing how the two artist’s styles mesh within one title.

    So those are my thoughts on Peace Walker as it stands and I’m sticking to them. I’m now under the delusion that I have less to worry about --- which is good. Now if Kojima Productions could just put my mind at ease with this Metal Gear Solid: Rising business, all will be well.

    ~sLs~