Metal Gear Solid HD Collection ReviewNovember 12, 2011
I’ll get this out of the way immediately: I’m a huge Metal Gear Solid fan. It’s quite honestly my favorite franchise, on any platform, period. Sure, there have been games with less complicated storylines or more refined gameplay, but Snake, in all his incarnations, will always hold a special place in my heart. I’ll never forget the east coast blizzard of 1998, being snowed in and off school for two weeks, and playing through the original Metal Gear Solid in complete awe. It’s not often that a game pulls me in like that, but Hideo Kojima’s PS1 masterpiece redefined action games, and gave us the stealth mechanics which so many games since have borrowed from. It featured the best voice acting in any game at that point, and had all the bullet points of a great Hollywood blockbuster. Now, Konami has bestowed upon us the greatness of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.
Unfortunately, the first game is not included in this collection (man, I’d love to platinum MGS1), but it’s still one of the best values for your money this holiday season. You get 3 great Metal Gear Solid games in glorious HD- the special editions of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, and last year’s PSP hit Peace Walker. Considering how new Peace Walker still is, and how awesomely addictive it is, it’s a solid (heh) replacement for MGS1. I logged about 45 hours into the PSP game, which is by far the most time I’ve ever put into a portable title. Hideo Kojima has come up with a cool system that lets you import your saved data from your PSP into the PS3, so all your hard work wasn’t for nothing. You won’t unlock any trophies this way, but honestly a lot of the fun of replaying these HD titles comes from earning these trophies and playing the games in a new way. It wouldn’t be much fun if half of them popped as soon as I imported my save.
Peace Walker was a seriously beautiful game on the PSP, perhaps the best looking of them all- it’s a close race between that and God of War: Ghost of Sparta. However, the game was made on inferior hardware compared to Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, so I wasn’t sure how it would hold up when blown up into HD. I was amazed to see that the game not only holds up to its predecessors, but Kojima and his team managed to squeeze every ounce of power from the PSP and graphically surpasses them in some ways. Due to memory constraints on the PSP, there aren’t a lot of real-time cutscenes (the game instead employs comic book panels a la inFamous), and the ones that are there don’t feature lip syncing. Despite these shortcomings, when you boot up the game for the first time on the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and take in that Costa Rican beach sunset, you can’t help but applaud Kojima’s efforts. If you haven’t played the original Peace Walker yet, it’s an insanely addictive game; you can collect and trade soldiers online, recruiting and running an entire military staff, assigning them all jobs and watching over their health and morale. You build your very own Outer Haven. Fight other players online and earn badges, and trade gifts. You can build your own damn Metal Gear mech. If all that doesn’t sell you on this game’s awesomeness, I don’t know what will. In many ways it’s bigger than its console brethren- there’s much more to keep you playing after the credits than in any game previous in the series. Also, it should be noted that Peace Walker’s gameplay is greatly enhanced by the PS3’s second analog stick- the controls are infinitely smoother. The added precision is welcome given Peace Walker’s challenge factor if playing on your own- this game is designed to play in co-op.
Metal Gear Solid 2, despite being a remarkable achievement for its time, is probably my least favorite in this collection. I won’t deny playing the living hell out of it back in 2001- hell, I bought Zone of the Enders just to mess around with the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo. I, like many others, was enamored by the beauty of the game when it released back in 2001. I still feel like no other game has matched that feeling of rain cascading down during the tanker mission, and the textures, lighting effects and character models truly showcased the power of the Playstation 2. The gameplay was a huge step up from MGS1 and polished to a mirror sheen. Once you get past the tanker, however, and spend the rest of your time in a boring, large marine decontamination facility, as a guy not named Snake, the game’s flaws start to sink in. Its ludicrous story and insufferable (until his recent badass makeover) hero stop the game from reaching the greatness it strives for. Regardless, it’s still a fun game, and looks better than ever with the HD makeover. It’s also cool that the development team inserted a lot of interesting and funny achievements to earn.
Metal Gear Solid 3 might be my favorite from this release- it’s a close tie with Peace Walker. Peace Walker was made in 2010 and thus had some great gameplay additions. If you’ve been playing Metal Gear Solid 4 and Peace Walker, you’ll likely boot up MGS3 or 2 and try to crouch run, move while in first person, etc. It’s easy to forget these mechanics weren’t in the other games, and it’s interesting how huge of a difference these seemingly minor gameplay enhancements make. You feel almost handicapped without them in MGS3. However, Snake Eater has the better story, one of the best in the series- and some truly epic gameplay setpieces for its time. I’ll never forget my first sniper battle with The End, which probably lasted over an hour, and never once got boring. I’ll never forget my fight to the death with my mentor. Or moving my PS2 system clock forward and killing The End through old age. No other game in the Metal Gear series makes you embody the character of Snake more than Snake Eater. You’ll need to seriously out-think some of the bosses. You’ll have to manually switch up Snake’s camouflage when your surroundings change. When Snake suffers a bullet wound, you’ll have to dig that bullet out, disinfect the wound, suture and bandage it. When Snake’s endurance runs low, you’ll need to kill and eat wildlife for sustenance. And perhaps listen to a little Healing Radio. Or look at Eva’s rack.
Metal Gear Solid 3 also features the best sense of humor in all of the games. It’s perhaps even more ridiculous than MGS2 at times, but it knows it’s ridiculous and has fun with it. Bosses explode when you beat them. Snake constantly makes fun of Ocelot’s noob-ish mistakes, but refuses to kill him; he just keeps whooping his ass and laughing at him. (It may be funny now, but you created a big problem for your clone/ son/ whatever Solid Snake in the years to come.) You can kill people with a fork. You can even shoot Ocelot to create a time paradox (which nets you the Problem Solved, Series Over trophy on this collection). Many of the codec conversations in this game are classic- these voice actors definitely have fun talking about the lifesaving qualities of cardboard boxes, James Bond, Godzilla, sexual innuendos, and more. I was always hesitant to skip these conversations, which could get pretty lengthy, just because I didn’t want to miss anything funny. Somehow the game manages to squeeze in a lot of heart, drama and character development among all this madness.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how well these games have held up over the years, and how great they look on the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. I bought the PS2 MGS Collection a few years back and played it on my HDTV, and I can tell you firsthand that this HD upgrade makes a huge difference. These games all have many hours of fun packed into them, and I haven’t even mentioned yet how you also get the original MSX Metal Gears. That’s five games for $50. You truly can’t go wrong in picking up this collection if you’re a Metal Gear fan like me.