But with the plot in place, how does Kojima make co-op work? In short, he’s ‘incentivised’ the co-op experience. Sure, Peace Walker can be enjoyed in solitary, but playing with friends unlocks a whole new facet of gameplay. But don’t let the screenshots and early reports of clones featuring heavily in the game’s storyline mislead you: there are not multiple Snakes running around in Peace Walker. Instead, each player will see themselves as Snake in co-op, and the other players as Snake’s balaclava’d minions.
An interesting twist to Peace Walker’s co-op is the four classes you can choose from before entering a mission. These classes feel more like the broad archetypes you might find in an MMO, rather than the highly specialised classes of a multiplayer FPS. The Battle Dress class, for example, with his decidedly unstealthy power armour, is the tank of the lot – distracting enemies and inevitably soaking up their fire so that his friends might sneak about unmolested. But apart from packing different equipment, it’s not clear if these classes possess any specific abilities, though one recent trailer revealed a Battle Dress using his reinforced exoskeleton to hold open a lowering steel shutter for his mates.
In a series that favours stealth over serious gunplay, bringing friends along has certain consequences. Namely, there’s now twice as much opportunity for the enemy to detect the both of you. Or rather, this would be the case were it not for Peace Walker’s innovative ‘syncing’ system. When a player moves within the threat ring of another player, he can press up on the d-pad to join up with them. Doing so sees them hand over movement to the other player, while affording them extra firearm accuracy care of their friend’s steady shoulder. Both players receive a boost to their camouflage index – particularly useful when one of the players has opted for the tank-like and rather unsubtle Battle Dress loadout.
There’s no telling yet just how Kojima Productions plan on modifying each level’s difficulty to accommodate additional players. Though during our time with the Peace Walker demo, we fought a boss battle against a heavily armoured and heavily-escorted tank, which at the time made us feel like we could have done with a few friends.
Peace Walker is the most technically impressive game on PSP to date, far surpassing even Portable Ops. From small touches like the splatter of rain on the PSP screen, to the surprising level of detail on Snake’s face, the game left us trying to recall if the PS2 was capable of such feats.