Remastering classic movies is something of a contentious subject for fans of cinema. For every great work of restoration, such as the Blu-Ray release of Casablanca, you get the “re-mastered” versions of the Star Wars movies, which unnecessarily tamper with classic movie moments, adding flashy special effects where they do not belong. It is fortunate then that, to date, the vast majority of gaming HD re-releases have been of exceptionally high quality, allowing those that missed out on decade old classics another chance to experience their majesty. I am happy to report that Konami’s Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is one of these fantastic HD upgrades, and that it belongs on the list with other greats of the HD collection world, like the Ico/Shadow of the Colossus Collection and the God of War Collection.
American and Japanese gamers will have had their hands on this collection since early November, while us poor Europeans have had to wait nearly three months to get our hands on it. Comprising of some of the key titles in one of gaming’s greatest series, and at a budget price, there really is no excuse for not own owning the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. Despite being relatively old these games were instrumental in defining current gen gaming, and as such they still feel as fresh now as they ever did.
This HD remastering collects Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (arguably some of the best games ever released on the PS2), the PSP’s Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, and an added bonus in the form of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake from the MSX. The MSX games, obviously, have not really received much of a graphical upgrade and as such feel more like a curiosity that you’ll spend few minutes playing before getting back to the real meat of the collection.
First things first, these games all look spectacular. Bluepoint Games, who have worked on many other HD collections in the past, have managed to significantly upgrade the games’ visuals, making Snake Eater in particular look graphically on par with some current gen titles.
As someone that played these games when they originally game out, one thing that was never quite apparent is just how different they are from one and other. Thanks to maintaining a similar graphical style, and using the same sort of music and sound effects, the Metal Gear games have always felt very similar when playing them years apart. However, when playing these games one after the other, it is abundantly clear that each subsequent game is a massive leap forward on from it’s predecessor.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty casts the player in the role of series newcomer the bumbling and effeminate Raiden (for the majority of the game anyway), presumably as a stark contrast to remind us all just how brilliant Solid Snake is. The camera angle is at a slightly tilted birds eye view, which can make it quite difficult to see directly in front of you. Thankfully you have a motion detecting radar that informs you of enemy movements. However, in order to reveal enemy locations on your radar you will need to connect to terminals, which are hidden away in each of the main segments of the game world. This not only lets you know where enemies are, but also informs you of the lay of the land, making navigation that much easier.
Of the three main games in the collection MGS2 is easily the most old fashioned. That isn’t to say that it is a bad game – it really isn’t by any stretch of the imagination – it’s just that it has the least impressive graphics and the most conventional gameplay. Raiden’s main mission revolves around hunting down explosives, disabling them, and rescuing hostages, as well as your typical stealthy enemy avoiding sections.
Meanwhile the next game in the collection, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, takes a more conventional third person camera angle and does away with the entire concept of a permanent radar. Now the radar is an equipable object that relies on batteries, and as such cannot be used all of the time. At first this felt quite strange, as the radar is such an integral part of the Metal Gear Solid series’ stealth gameplay. However, once the implications of the adjusted camera angle became clear – you can now see in front of you, so why would you need a radar to tell you what was directly in front of you? – Snake Eater suddenly feels like an entirely different animal. No longer are you simply hiding, staring at your radar and waiting for enemies to pass, instead you are actively watching your environment, flinching at every sign of movement in the bushes, trying to pick the best time to either fight or flee.
This revelation is aided by Snake Eater’s other big addition, the camouflage system. Snake has brought with him a extensive wardrobe, with various outfits and face paints, that will make him harder to spot. For instance, you can wear the olive coloured uniform to blend in with the foliage, or you can wear the desert camouflage to become less visible on the barren mountains. Clothing can be switched on the fly at any point. This is a fantastic feature that really gets you thinking on your feet, and there are dozens of hidden outfits and face paints to find, which encourages exploration.
The final main game in the collection is Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, which was originally released on the PSP in 2010. This is a more stripped down action-oriented version of Snake Eater, with updated dual analogue stick controls. Just from looking at the game, with it’s fewer enemies, and more basic environments, you can easily tell that it was originally a portable game. However, what it may lack in terms of graphical prowess or detail it more than makes up for with it’s fantastically involving addictive gameplay.
As well as your standard stealth action, Peace Walker revolves around tackling a series of short missions, moving from one small area to another. This brings a greater focus on action and combat, as well as a more in-depth hand to hand combat system. In Peace Walker it has never been easier to take an enemy hostage, or perform devastating throws that knock enemies out instantly.
Even during cut-scenes (the Metal Gear series is famous for its lengthy cut scenes and convoluted narrative) Peace Walker manages to add life by making them interactive comic book scenes. Rather than using computer generated cut scenes the game uses animated illustrations by the artist Ashley Wood. At various points you will be tasked with quick time event-like button presses, such has hammering the trigger during a knife fight, or sections in which you must aim Snake’s weapon before firing, in order to further the game’s narrative. While having a fairly large window of opportunity, and thus not being very challenging, these sections definitely keeps you on your toes.
Arguably Peace Walker’s best addition is the addictive resource management mode in which Snake must recruit soldiers to his cause and assign them specific roles in his unit, such as combat, research, mess hall, and medical. The way the army is recruit is really quite ingenious; essentially you kidnap fallen enemies and force them to join your team. Each solider that joins has a series of ratings indicating where their strengths lie. In order to build the best army possible you will need to ‘recruit’ hundreds of soldiers. This encourages a more daring style of play, as the more soldiers you have the better equipment you will gain access to, making challenging missions later in the game that much more doable.
Another welcome feature of Peace Walker is the online integration. As well as featuring online co-op, which is very useful when trying to get through the trickier missions, there are also competitive game modes such as as your standard death match and capture the base modes.
Players are also able to gift one and other items and weapons if they should see fit. If players feel particularly altruistic you can even choose to send out a package over the Internet to a random player. Why would you bother doing this? Who knows, maybe the person that receives the gift will return the favour, perhaps it’ll be the start of a beautiful friendship, or maybe it’ll earn you some good karma. Either way, the sharing system is a great idea that allows friends and strangers alike to help each other out if they cannot get online at the same time and play together.
As this collection is being released on both HD consoles there are bound to be a few little differences. The PS3 version comes on one disk, with each of the three games having 50 trophies to unlock. Meanwhile the 360 version comes on two disks, one with Peace Walker and the other with MGS2 and MGS3 combined. Achievement hunters will be disappointed to learn that MGS2 and MGS3 share a mere 50 achievements between the two them, potentially damaging replay value if you care about achievements.
However, due to the superior analogue sticks, the Xbox 360 version plays far more smoothly. When playing on PS3 I invariably found lining up head shots more challenging due to the massive dead zones in the middle of the analogue sticks. Conversely, when playing on Xbox 360 I had no problem setting up head shot after head shot. Other players may feel differently, after all there is something to be said for the almost weightless smooth quality of the PS3′s controller, but I personally found playing the game on Xbox 360 more satisfying.
Beyond that there are no real differences between the two packages, and you’d be hard pressed to fault either of them. The only thing missing is a HD port of the updated version of the original Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes. If we’re lucky then Konami may hear our prayers and release it someday.
Graphics: 4/5 – Bluepoint Games have done a great job polishing the graphics of these games. MGS2 is a 10 year old game, and at times you can tell. However Snake Eater manages to give a number of current gen titles a run for their money.
Sound: 5/5 – Fantastic music coupled with some very strong enthusiastic voice acting.
Gameplay: 5/5 – There really is something for everyone in this collection. From the retro stylings of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, through to the more advanced stealth based action of Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3. Peace Walker’s online components and resource management sections are a real highlight and ideal for gamers with constraints on their gaming time.
Longevity: 5/5 – The package contains three full games, as well as two retro titles. Metal Gear Solid 2 comes with hundreds of virtual reality challenges, as well as several Solid Snake bonus missions that all need beating. Once the game is complete you earn a ranking and bonus items that can be carried over to a new game, further incentivising replayability.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
Quite simply put, this collection contains some of the best games released in the past decade. At the budget price of about £30 you’d be a fool not to pick this up on your platform of choice. Those that have never experienced Metal Gear Solid should consider picking it up to see what all the fuss was about, while those that have played it before have been given an excuse to experience it all over again.
- Luke Mears