'Peace Walker' a massive adventure game

Here's a shocker. "Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker" is a major video game release that is available for only one system -- Sony's hand-held PSP.

That's astonishing to me, because the PSP is the master hand-held game system, but pop culture buzz (for hand-held games) focuses on the Nintendo DS and the iPhone -- which are so beneath the PSP, it's pitiful.

Anyway, here is "Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker," a breathtakingly deep game -- featuring a solo campaign, an online multiplayer and cooperative modes -- that can keep a serious gamer playing for weeks or months.

You portray the world's greatest mercenary, absurdly nicknamed "Naked Snake"/"Big Boss."

Here's the story: After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Naked Snake was sent to kill his deadly mentor, because she was supposedly threatening world peace. This made Naked Snake sad.

So for 10 years, Naked Snake disappeared. In this game, he reappears in 1974 and accepts a new contract to go to Costa Rica, to investigate his mysterious mentor's nefarious secrets and to stop nuclear war.

In a regular video game, that story would be merely utilitarian and translate into your portraying a soldier who kills bad guys in a linear narrative that ends like a movie.

But this stealth-action sequel is a much more complex beast.

You do take on linear-narrative missions, where you sneak from jungle to jungle and creep up behind bad guys to choke them, stun-gun them, kill them or kidnap them.

But between missions and intricate movie scenes, you pop into a mercenary-army base and manage it. You assign staff members to cook, to work as medics, to train in special forces or to build deadlier weapons in a lab.

The entirety of all of that (the killing, the management, the movie-watching) is a fluid and intuitive process to play.

The game's creator, legendary "Metal Gear" architect Hideo Kojima, wrote, produced and directed this massive adventure.

My nitpicks: It starts too easy, and sometimes my character doesn't respond correctly to my orders. I haven't finished it yet, but IGN.com reviewer Greg Miller, in a rave, complained he couldn't beat the game's final chapter without the help of a friend joining him in cooperative mode. If I have that problem, I'll be furious.

In all, "Peace Walker" comes with a solo campaign that could take about 20 hours to finish, then gives you more than 100 other side missions to play for scores of more hours.

Its cooperative mode lets as many as four take on every campaign mission.

And you can shoot other gamers in online-multiplayer.

That's a hefty package. What's more, the look and feel is splendid, as the game shifts between third-person action-stealth, to long movie scenes filmed as playable comic book cels.

Frankly, no games for the DS or iPhone could ever come close to replicating the achievement of "Peace Walker." But don't worry, I'm not going on another anti-iPhone rant. Rants are exhausting, and I know you're going to keep playing those elementary iPhone games, anyway.

("Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker" by Konami retails for $40 for PSP -- Plays big and fun. Looks very good. Quite challenging. Rated "T" for blood, drug reference, language, suggestive themes, use of tobacco and violence. Four stars out of four.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.