There’s something very special about the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Within a few minutes of booting this HD collection up, the memories started flooding back. Triggered by the iconic sound of the codec, it was as if the series had never left. It’s been a long time, but this collection reconfirms the fact that Hideo Kojima has the ability to craft a truly memorable experience. Ladies and gentlemen, Solid Snake, Raiden and Big Boss are back, and boy, they’re as enticing as ever.
If you haven’t experienced Metal Gear Solid before, this collection may be a little confusing at first. With MGS2: Sons of Liberty, MGS3: Snake Eater and the PSP’s Peace Walker outing on offer, there is an odd gap in the time-line that Konami so beautifully present before any of the games are loaded up.
Without MGS1, there’s something of a hole, especially when you consider this was the first MGS game to utilise the power of the PlayStation. While you can download MGS1 from PSN, it would have been extra-special to have a revamped version in this collection alongside its brothers.
Hopping back into Kojima’s ludicrous world, it’s quickly apparent that the two console games are from a completely different era. Long cut-scenes and chats on the codec interrupt gameplay, forcing a slower pace that may be alien to a lot of newcomers. If this is your first time with the series, these kind of interruptions need to be embraced. Sure, the plot of MGS2 and 3 are expansive and thoroughly ridiculous, but the best way to enjoy them is to succumb to the nonsense.
It’s perfectly normal to invest a number of hours into the game without progressing too far, as every manoeuvre has to be executed with precision and stealth. Alerting guards is still one of the most terrifying experiences in gaming, especially if you’re running low on health.
Time certainly has had an effect on each of these games, as they individually show signs of old age. The opening to MGS2: Sons of Liberty is as frustratingly dull as ever, and if any of the games are going to deter players, it’ll be this one. Controls are particularly cumbersome here, often leading towards silly mistakes. Although MGS2’s inclusion of a first-person viewpoint was revolutionary at the time, it has the ability to add to the confusion this time round.
The main problem is the fixed camera in each area. Trying to quietly move past enemies is difficult, as switching between third and first-person batters the senses. It certainly takes some getting used to, as it becomes immediately clear that MGS has never pampered gamers, and never will.
Unsurprisingly, the most impressive port on the disc is MGS3: Snake Eater. The inclusion of a dynamic camera makes a world of difference, enabling you to safely get Naked Snake through his objectives without any unnecessary hiccups.
The addition of the camouflage system is still rather impressive today, as the larger areas of MGS3 can become quite a challenge. Adapting to the colours of your environment with a quick change of outfit and make-up, the constant hunt for cover becomes a little more interesting and subtle. It’s worth noting that MGS3 has some truly memorable boss sections that amount to highlights from the entire series, and quickly eradicates the annoyances of the previous game by evolving the formula in vital areas.
Being the newest of the MGS titles, Peace Walker outlines itself as a more action-orientated title. Designed for the PSP, expect to play through shorter snippets that remove the emphasis away from stealth. Controls are simplified for the handheld user, meaning you’ll have to re-programme yourself away from the crawling and strafing of the other titles.
Instead, Peace Walker offers the chance to move and shoot behind plenty of cover, making it the fastest-paced title of the lot. While Peace Walker is a well-produced and entertaining addition to the series, it never outshines the rest of the collection. That said, it’s great to be able to experience it on the big screen.
Visually, MGS3 stands up particularly well. The lush jungles look vibrant and crisp in HD, while most of the textures are smooth. Despite the upgrade, MGS2 is rather jagged and shows its wrinkles, as there’s a noticeable difference between the console releases. Peace Walker is blocky in HD, but we couldn’t expect much else from a super-sized PSP title. All in all, Konami have done a decent job improving the visuals, giving the series a cosmetic makeover that manages to steer away from Pete Burns monstrosity.
It’s amazing that, so long after release, the sound design of MGS2 and 3 is still so breathtaking. The visuals may be slightly out-of-date, but the backing track is still a force to be reckoned with. Whether it’s the ‘HUH’ call of a confused guard or the epic score kicking in for dramatic effect, it’s still amongst the best in gaming. While MGS2 takes the biggest beating in this conversion, nobody can deny that its soundtrack is anything less than remarkable.
For those looking to snoop out a little extra value, the original Metal Gear games are included on MGS3. These two titles really are worth experiencing, as witnessing the ideas of the series in their early form is quite something. We still have the codec, the need to stay hidden, and most importantly, the silliness that makes MGS so enthralling. They may be a novelty for some, but plenty of players will enjoy these games as a starter to the main meal.
Co-op fans should also rejoice, as Peace Walker’s multiplayer can also be accessed here. Throw in the Virtual Reality and Snake Tales missions of MGS2, and a pretty complete collection comes together.
As with many other HD collections, this triple-pack offers the definitive way to play some truly classic titles. There’s no doubt MGS2 and 3 are extremely difficult, especially going back to them after so many years, but that’s the beauty of it. After a few hours of rewiring your brain, the games flow as they did back on release. Series veterans and newcomers now have the opportunity to experience these games in HD, and it shouldn’t be missed.