HD collections are becoming the norm at this late stage in the console cycle. They are a rather easy grab at the consumers pockets, but are also useful for people who haven’t picked up the titles before, or for anyone who wants to enjoy a nostalgic trip and who want to utter the words: ‘games were better in my day’. Metal Gear Solid HD Collection packs in three classic games from a well known and well respected series and offers a large bang for your buck.
For fans of the series the first thing you think about is the story, all the twists and turns , the crazy amount of exposition. Then you remember the gameplay and controls. For the most part Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater still play well. If you don’t know, the Metal Gear games are stealth action games, you need to stay out of enemy view, and hide if you happen to be spotted, or you can go all guns blazing, but you generally won’t last long. Bosses are the only sections in these games where shooting is necessary, but the odd kill can be useful from time to time.
Sons of Liberty is the oldest in the package and it shows. Fixed camera angles switch between top down and occasionally a behind the back camera, which if you haven’t played the game before, or haven’t played SoL in a long time it is a quite large thing to overcome, especially for the first few hours. You’ll most likely peek round a corner to find an enemy standing right in front of you who’ll notice your blonde hair sticking out and raise the alarm requiring you to hide until the guards have given up the search. This can be frustrating but eventually you’ll access the area’s map and be able to see the patrols to some degree. Gunplay feels meaty and satisfying with blood spurting from enemies and boss fights will encourage fast movement which the controls, despite the awkward camera easily allow (except for the first person aiming which hunkers you down on the spot, opening you up to shots from the bosses). There are also virtual reality missions in SoL which come out of its expansion, Substance, as well as special side missions which are a nice bonus and distraction when you have completed the campaign.
Snake Eater controls similarly to SoL, except now you have the ability to switch between the games fixed camera angles which seem to do a better job of showing you what is going on than its prequel in conjunction with a moveable 3D camera. This makes the whole game a lot easier as you are now able to freely peek around walls and trees without putting snake in danger. A camouflage system was implemented into Snake Eater demanding more from the player to hide himself from the enemy by disguising himself within the environment, instead of just hiding up behind or under objects. This, makes the stealth feel very rewarding, even though enemies can now hear you sneak up behind them, making sneak kills more difficult. Again gunplay feels satisfying with more varied weaponry at your disposal and a larger amount of clever boss fights. Unfortunately, whilst the game has many of MGS:3’s expansion’s, Subsistance’s, improvements like the newer camera control, the game has left out many of its extra features, such as the online versus and ridiculous extra scenes. Despite the lack of these other extras, the first two games in the entire series, Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake have been included in the package, which is a nice, but odd bonus.
Last in the collection is Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker. While SoL and SE were Playstation 2 games originally, Peace Walker was a Playstation Portable game. Because of this the controls are slightly different and in many ways, better. The controls are very reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, as you now have full camera control and an over the back shooting stance, you can also move while crouching and move while shooting, both, a godsend. Unfortunately you lose the ability to move whilst going prone, which can make sneaky movement and hiding more difficult. PW is perhaps the most fully featured out of the three games as it has an online versus mode, co-operative play for most missions (main and side) as well as over 150 side missions, which get progressively harder as you unlock them.
When the Metal Gear Solid games were released they were often at the top visually. While that isn’t the case here, it is hard not to expect a couple of PS2 games and a PSP game to not look so hot in 2012, but you’d be surprised to know that they actually still look really good despite this.
Metal Gear Solid 2 is over a decade old, and while it doesn’t look like a game from this generation, it still holds up extremely well. The models are detailed, if a little blurry and the lip syncing almost never matches, throughout the entire game. SoL had an almost cartoonish block colour style to the environments and the look great, as you don’t notice any odd texture work like you often see in todays games that try to go for highly detailed textures and look blurry or pixelated. The voice acting also holds up well, even if the dialogue goes off the nuts by the end. The soundtrack is also strong, if not the strongest in the series.
Metal Gear Solid 3 is by far the most technically and artistically well developed. The character models fit the time period perfectly and still look great. At times you’ll notice the slightly blocky models, but the texture work and lightling looks impressive, even today. The lip syncing has ‘improved’, but still hardly ever lines up. Voice acting is superb and you can feel the conviction in specific characters. The cutscenes also are a high point in the experience, often showing hollywood how fight scenes should be done, with believable tussles and camera angles that show off the fights rather than cutting quickly in and out which is often disorientating.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was impressive, if not the best on its platform when it was released on the PSP back in 2010, but it doesn’t fair so well now. The HD puts a lot of emphasis on the extremely flat and blurry textures and the models look very simple though the animation still looks good, especially on the last boss. Cutscenes have been replaced by animated comic strips which do tell the story relatively well, though they often can be hard to understand visually with the low resolution images, which were designed for a screen a quarter of the resolution.
Most of the fun in these games comes out of the story. For the uninitiated the story and cutscenes may overstay their welcome a lot of the time, with a lot of exposition which can drag on for 10 minutes on shorter cases and 30 - 40 minutes on longer occasions. This applies to all of the games in the collection, though MGS:2 and 3 are the main offenders here. It is a shame however that one game that bridges the gap between 3 and Peace Walker wasn’t included. Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops for the PSP explained many story elements that lead up to PW. This will confuse anyone who hasn’t played either of these PSP game, which is unfortunate, so I would advise looking them up on Wikipedia.
It is also disappointing that the first game in the Solid series, Metal Gear Solid, hasn’t been included in the collection, in either of its forms (MGS or Twin Snakes). As, while the stories in the other games may make sense without it, it elaborates more on the characters, and you generally feel more involved and invested in the game’s universe. Again I would advise watching a retrospective, reading up on Wikipedia or going and playing the first game before you play any of these.
In the end, with Metal Gear Solid HD Collection you are getting 3 games in a classic series that will last you a good 30 hours, maybe double if you partake in all of the side activities and extras that the games have. It comes close to the value of the Orange Box, especially considering that it is being sold for less than most retail games. I cannot encourage you enough to buy this collection, go on now, go!