Metal Gear Solid HD Collection

The Metal Gear series is one of the most celebrated and controversial in gaming. Lauded for its stealth-based gameplay, thought-provoking and tense plot-threads, irreverent sense of humour and the myriad of ways it has pushed forward cinematic story-telling in games, detractors also take issue with a supposedly incomprehensible story-line and endless cut-scenes. While there are valid arguments on both sides, those who persevere are often rewarded with one of the most memorable experiences out there. This HD Collection brings three of the core Metal Gear Solid games to platforms that previously had no means of playing them, and it does a good job of cleaning them up too.

Let’s address the elephant in the room right off the bat, and the first game on offer: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. After the universally-praised Metal Gear Solid sparked new interest in the franchise with a comparatively-tight adventure, MGS2 took the plot in a whole new direction. To start with, players are treated to masterfully-executed, yet anger-inducing bait-and-switch, which only continues on into a story about (spoilers?) war orphans, an arm which possesses people, misguided A.I systems and meme-theory. Needless to say, this is where the series lost some of its audience, which is a shame considering all its other merits. The story is, at the very least, a total ride while it lasts and it (eventually) ends up making a lot of sense in the context of all of Metal Gear. The improvements to the third-person gameplay from the first MGS are numerous, and it controls well considering its age. In addition to a greatly increased arsenal of combat-tactics, there’s a particular focus on fun first-person attacks, like holding a guard up at gun-point or blowing up a fire-extinguisher in their face. Considering the game was originally released in the Winter of 2001 in America, it looks pretty damn impressive in this HD re-issue, too; some compressed FMV and blurry textures let it down, but it’s otherwise a stand-out moment in gaming graphics from the last two generations of consoles.

Hideo Kojima returned with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater in late 2004, a fantastical mix of poignant war-commentary and homages to 60s spy serials, such as James Bond 007. Despite featuring a boss who can both shoot bees and fly (take that, Bioshock!), the plot is far more grounded in reality this time (frequently referencing events like the Cuban Mission Crisis), as it details the reasons why the Metal Gear timeline diverged off of our reality so much. It also concludes with an ending that I feel is one of very high-points in all of gaming; if you don’t feel some emotion during the final tragic plot-reveals, you’re possibly a little dead inside. As for the game itself, the HD version is thankfully based on the Subsistence re-release. The gameplay – which takes the basic foundations of Metal Gear Solid and strips out the radar, replacing it with an ever-changing camo-index – is improved upon by a the slick, fully-rotatable camera, though you can click the right-stick in at any time to switch to the “classic” birds-eye camera. Hunting and consuming animals (in part a reference to the title “Snake Eater”) is a fun survival mechanic, though there’s probably a reason it doesn’t turn up in other Metal Gear games (hint: the ration). More successful is the wonderful CQC (Close Quarters Combat), a melee-attack system that gives the player plenty of options when it comes to taking out guards, from slamming them to the ground, to interrogating them at knife-point.

Trophies and Achievements (depending on your platform of choice) are of course supported by each game in the collection, which should keep a lot of players busy across repeat play-throughs. More importantly, I was pleased to find out that the majority of the extras of the “Substance” MGS2 and “Subsistence” MGS3 re-releases made it into the package. Of particular note to more hard-core Metal Gear fans are the updated and re-translated ports of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, originally released on the Japanese MSX2 in the late 1980s. Though the first game is a little hard to go back to, the second Metal Gear in particular holds up surprisingly well, playing something like a 2D version of Metal Gear Solid and expanding its story-telling to better match what the series would eventually become. The plot of these two games are also absolutely canon to the main series, detailing Solid Snake’s first FOXHOUND missions during the Outer Heaven Uprising and the Zanzibar Land Crisis, where he faced former comrades Gray Fox and Big Boss in a number of climatic show-downs. Remember to bring your rainbow-flamethrower!

Sadly, the amusing Secret Theatre (a collection of self-parody short-films by Kojima Productions) and the fourth-wall-breaking Snake VS. Monkey mini-game (wherein Solid Snake hunts down characters from the Ape Escape franchise in a jungle) didn’t make the cut. But more vitally, no, the first Metal Gear Solid isn’t in this collection. The opinion-dividing Twin Snakes remake of Metal Gear Solid will probably stay exclusive to the GameCube and its successors due to agreements made with Nintendo, but I don’t think it would have hurt Konami to include a PSOne Classics downloadable code for MGS from the PlayStation Network, at least on the PS3 – this was the case with the Japanese release.

While it’s unfortunate that Solid Snake’s legendary mission on Shadow Moses is MIA, the HD Collection does offset this by including the latest release in the series, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. A direct sequel to Snake Eater and the PSP-exclusive Portable Ops, it greatly expands the “soldier collecting” mechanic of the latter and deftly balances it with addictive RPG-style leveling. Fully-voiced and supremely-stylish motion-comic cut-scenes complement the experience, as the story explores the ideology of central-character Big Boss as well as some background details that concern all of Metal Gear. It also (arguably) benefits from its HD re-issue more than any other in the collection; the addition of dual-analog camera controls take what was often a frustratingly-twitchy control-scheme on the PSP and bring it more in line with MGS4. A noticeable resolution boost also makes the visual experience much cleaner, as long as you remember this was originally a PSP game. Missed by many in its portable form, I would encourage all series fans to give this hidden-gem a go.







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