Metal Gear Solid HD Collection PS3 Review

Publisher – Konami – Developer – Bluepoint Games/Kojima Productions – Genre – Stealth – Players – 1-4 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – Xbox 360

Until Metal Gear Solid came along, sneaking about was hardly commonplace in gaming. The release of the game back in 1998 was very highly anticipated, and the game proved to be something very different with its sneaky gameplay and detailed storyline. Metal Gear Solid spawned a number of sequels, some of which have been bundled together for this HD collection.

In a nice touch, all three games included in this collection are listed in chronological order on the menu screen, with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker being listed before Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty despite the latter being released quite a few years before. It’s just a shame that Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 aren’t visible on this menu, instead being present as bonus games on Metal Gear Solid 3’s menu screen.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Son’s of Liberty, released way back in 2001 on PS2, is indeed the oldest Metal Gear Solid game in the package. This sees the return of Solid Snake, as he attempts to find out about a new Metal Gear prototype on a stormy night on a tanker, although in what was deemed to be a major shock at the time; Snake is soon replaced by an effeminate rookie. The rookie is none other than the controversial Raiden who is a severe contrast from the tough and gruff Solid Snake. The story is enjoyable but is also wonderfully nonsensical, with a cast of memorable villains and some rather strange goings on in the latter stages that don’t really make much sense. Solid Snake (or is it?) is meanwhile demoted to more of a supporting role, and the cut-scenes are typically lengthy, with scenes of seriousness, humour and tragedy along the way.

The game itself must be up there with one of the most improved sequels that I can ever remember playing. A new first person view meant that aiming with the brand new tranquiliser gun and aiming at enemy’s heads or radios was a simple task. Sleeping enemies or corpses were left where they fell, and you could move them and stash them away from the eyes of their comrades.  The AI was meanwhile much improved, and during alert phases they’d sweep rooms and work together, while it was no longer possible to escape from the screen to quickly end an alert phase, with enemies still hunting to find you. It still plays well today, with lots of variation and some enjoyable boss fights.

Moving on, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater takes the series back into the 1960’s, in which Big Boss, Solid Snake’s Dad, becomes the focal point, and you’ll even get to meet up with a young Revolver Ocelot. Snake Eater is an important game in terms of fleshing the prominent back-story of the series out, showing how the man once known as Naked Snake and Jack becomes the almighty Big Boss. The precursor to Solid Snake is sent into Russia to rescue a scientist, while also proving that America wasn’t behind a nuclear attack and to take down his traitorous mentor, the Boss (a legendary female hero, who has mysteriously turned her back on her country). The story certainly isn’t short of its silly moments, although it’s a lot easier to follow than Metal Gear Solid 2 was, it’s also very well written and has plenty of memorable moments that may stick with you for a very long time.

The jungle setting is far removed from what had come before in the series. The version on the disc is thankfully the Subsistence version, in which the camera was dramatically improved, although this is still a slower paced Metal Gear game. Taking place in the 1960s, the radar isn’t as state of the art, runs on batteries, and doesn’t show as much information as we all were used to. It’s a game that definitely requires you to take your time, and switching your camouflage can make you near invisible in the jungle, with a number at the top right of the screen indicating to you how well you are hidden. There’s also stamina and injury systems, the former runs down over time through your actions and affects your abilities in various ways, and you’ll have to eat animals or plants to fill it back up, with Snake amusingly commenting on each meal. Injuries sustained can be taken care of through a menu system, and not tending to them will result in slower healing. Snake Eater is definitely a highlight for the series, with lots of memorable moments and crazy boss fights, although, for what is already a very slow paced game, I do still feel that the menus slow the game down.

The last game in the package, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, was first released on the PSP in the Summer of 2010. This one is set in the jungles of Costa Rica in 1974, ten years after the events of Snake Eater, with Big Boss now leading a mercenary unit. The story is told through attractive comic book style artwork, and there’s even times in which you can interact during these sequences.

As it started out as a handheld game, the limitations are certainly there to be seen – you aren’t able to crawl on your belly and sidle along objects or walls that you are hiding behind, most likely due to getting the series to better work on the more limited control set of the PSP. The controls are definitely superior on this PS3 version, and it’s still the same mixture of classic Metal Gear Solid with team building also thrown in. Building a team was a feature that was first introduced in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, also on PSP, but Peace Walker does it a lot better – no longer do you have to tediously drag your captured prey to a waiting truck or cardboard box, with the Fulton Recovery system amusingly shooting unconscious/wounded enemies or prisoners up into the sky via a balloon in an instant. You can then move your new recruits into various areas of the Mother Base such as the combat, Intel or the R&D units, of which will allow you to develop new weapons and upgrade others. Areas are split into missions, none of which will take any great length of time to complete, and the game, for the first time, can also be played in online multiplayer. The faceless mechanical monsters that make up the bosses are quite disappointing in comparison to the boss fights that have characterised the Metal Gear Solid series, and you may also find that you’ll have to match yourself up with other players to defeat them, although, as the difficulty never scales, you’ll make short work of them with three or four others helping you out. There are also some versus modes for those who want to play competitively.

The HD graphical upgrades are definitely welcome. Sure, there are some rather ugly textures, with most of the work seemingly being placed into the character models, although playing in HD is still the best that these games have ever looked. Even Peace Walker, as a handheld game, manages to look very nice, although the blocky looking textures are all the more noticeable.

When it comes to flaws in the overall package, sadly the likes of Metal Gear Solid 2 will make less sense to those without prior knowledge of the original game, whilst the lack of Portable Ops is also a bit of a strange decision, given that this this is another game that details Big Boss’ younger days. I’ve also got to wonder why Konami decided to remove the multiplayer portion from Snake Eater, which was first introduced in the Subsistence version. Other extras are also missing, although the main attractions of the three games themselves are in there and are intact, and, like I mentioned earlier, Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 have been retained, and it’s certainly interesting to go back to Solid Snake’s primitive beginnings.

Metal Gear Solid HD Collection offers a collection of three games, each of which are distinct from one another, and updates them into the HD era. The Metal Gear Solid series is one that is treasured by many, with a fan base that fell in love with the characters, the immensely detailed storylines and the tactical stealth, and it will be possible to do so again with this highly recommended HD collection, while also perhaps earning the attention of plenty of new fans.